A single person in their 20s explores and wrestles with different questions to someone in their 40s. Sounds obvious right? But how often are single people all grouped together and treated the same in our churches? Too often! It’s important to not only discuss the issue of singleness but delve deeper into how our ages and stages affect our outlook.
By our guest authour, Jen Baker
At the (tender) age of 25 I wanted to write a book on being single because I thought I understood it well. At the (slightly more experienced) age of 47 I now realise I had much more to grasp.
What I’ve learned in those 22 years as a never-married single adult is that, as in much of life, seasons change and we can choose to change with them, choose to fight them, or more realistically … choose to do a bit of both.
We can begin to identify more specifically what to expect in our 20s versus our 40s
So by exploring not just the general topic of being single, but the age and stage of our lives, we can begin to identify more specifically what to expect in our 20s versus our 40s, for example.
So let me share my journey and observations as we explore the seasons together. Think about if you can identify with these observations, or perhaps you have further observations of your own?
In our twenties, I believe we tend to think ‘I want to enjoy myself and these single years … but not be the last one married’. We’re still trying to figure out who we are so the chance to date, explore different personalities, and hang out with a group of friends is what often characterises this age group.
Most people want to get married, but the pressure to get married isn’t particularly strong. Desire yes, but pressure – not so much.
I think this low-level pressure is key to setting this season apart from the other age groups.
In our thirties, FOMO (fear of missing out) is increased.
Once we reach our thirties there is a definite shift; it’s a mindset which says that it’s time to begin thinking more seriously about a relationship and about if we want children. In this season we think: ‘I need to get serious now, I hope it’s not too late.’
So our thirties is when we (often) journey from pressure to panic
Some friends are already married and started having children, our friendship groups have changed and (as women) we’re thinking more and more about the (blessed) clock.
So our thirties is when we (often) journey from pressure to panic. We may even start asking questions like: Is my list too long? Should I throw away the list?! Would I sacrifice a career for a relationship if it involved moving? Etc …
The Late Thirties
Quite possibly by the end of our thirties we have also received labels (chosen or not): divorced, widowed, never dated, a broken off engagement, and much more.
If we’re single at this age with a desire for marriage, then we tend to do a bit more self-questioning and realise that potentially we need to look at relationships differently than we have in the past. We may need to grieve how things have turned out and re-adjust our expectations for the future.
If navigating the thirties was particularly challenging, then I believe entering the forties can be surprisingly freeing.
We’ve navigated pressure to panic and – ideally – we now find ourselves landing on peace.
The key question asked now, in the forties, regardless of our relationship history is: ‘Am I willing to compromise my comfort zone for this relationship?’
By now we’ve got into a routine or landed in a pattern, which (unless a relationship change happened very late in your thirties) often has a tinge of comfort around the edges.
We aren’t willing to compromise in a way we might have when we were younger.
We know what we like, who we are, and what we want from our lives. Perhaps by now you’ve realised you can enjoy life as a single adult. There is a natural ‘rhythm’ to our work and social lives. And although we may deeply want to share that with another – we aren’t willing to compromise in a way we might have when we were younger.
It is at this age where children often enter the equation too, as we may have our own that we want to protect or we’re deciding if we want a relationship which leads to us becoming a step-parent.
These are deeply personal and difficult questions to explore which probably weren’t necessary to ask in your twenties, but it is the peace we find within yourself which helps us address these questions differently than we might have at an earlier stage. (Read 5 Cliches Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)
Our season of singleness will be affected by our season of life.
Imagine if we could remind ourselves and each other that knowing these questions ahead of time, and hearing that others have also raised these questions, could help us view singleness through different lenses and with a different approach. (Read What I Rediscovered From A Group Of Single People)
It will also help us clarify disappointments we’re facing, opening the way for healthier relationships in the future. (Read Jen’s other post: 2 Fears Every Single Person Should Confront!)
Do you have further observations of your own? Comments welcomed below
Jen Baker is an itinerant speaker, author, and leader who loves seeing the Holy Spirit and the Word change atmospheres and impact hearts. She has been a Pastor, Director, and Consultant working within the local church. www.jenbaker.co.uk.