I remember when I was younger, I used to dread Valentine's Day. For singles, it ends up being a day where you're reminded that you're alone. All alone. What's worse is you're reminded through social media that your friends are not. Days like this transform even the most masculine of men into Disney princesses longing for "someone" out there to rescue them from this state.
In other words, Valentine's Day awakens something that most singles try to suppress 365 days of the year: they're lonely. Sure they have friends and family, but there's still a desire to find that someone whom they can be intimate with. So they often look at married couples with envy and long to find that special someone in their own lives.
Well I'm married now and I want to dispel this common myth that marriage will take away your loneliness. From my observation and experience, this just isn't true. In fact, it's quite the opposite: married people are often even more lonely than single folks. Why so? Let me explain.
Isolated on an Island
I know from the outside most married couples look great. After all they have a spouse and kids. But believe me, most of them are freaking lonely. I mean, what do most married couples post pictures of? That's right - their kids. It's never pictures of friends anymore. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with this. But it reveals something: Married couples don't often experience friendship.
Don't get me wrong, they have friends - but their definition of "friendship" is different now. They'll have double-dates with other couples or play-dates wth other parents. However the type of friendships where you feel intimately connected with someone and get to share your deep struggles? Those are rare. And for most married couples, such relationships are non-existent.
It's not like this happens on purpose. It just kind of happens. As a student, you get to hang out with your friends any time you want. After you graduate though, you have less time for this because of work, so you hang out mainly on weekends. Well after you get married you have even less time for friends and your weekends are now "date nights." As a result, married folks often find themselves isolated on an island together.
Singles may think, "Well at least you have each other." But there's more.
The Deep Struggle
As mentioned above, singles feel lonely because they want that special someone in their life - but they just haven't found them yet. They long for somebody who will understand and connect with them. But what single people don't realize is this: What if you find that special someone but you realize they don't understand you? What if you find that somebody but you often don't feel connected to them?
You see, this is where being married can be lonelier than being single. In marriage, you supposedly found that special someone - and yet you often experience moments where you feel they don't get you; you have times where you don't feel connected. At least when you're single, you still have that hope of one day finding that "someone."
But in marriage? This is it. There is no other person "out there." They're supposed to be right there in front of you. And yet you're not satisfied. You still feel like that lonely Disney princess waiting to be rescued (even though you've already been "rescued"). What do couples do when they experience moments like this? They feel alone - even more alone than when they were single.
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
Notice I didn't say marriage is lonelier than singleness. Rather it can be, which means it doesn't have to be this way. So how can couples escape this lonely fate? Well, there are some practical things. One is finding friends. Not social buddies but like real friends (same gender) whom you can share intimately with. Sure this takes sacrifice, but it's something that's desperately needed.
Another thing is to manage your expectations. Talk to seasoned married couples. Get rid of the cultural narrative that you'll always feel connected to your spouse. It's like Californians moving to the East Coast - we shouldn't be surprised by the seasons. Marriages have seasons too - but rather than question our marriage we should perhaps question our expectation of our marriage.
But above all this, there is more. To escape the deep loneliness we experience in marriage, couples desperately need to learn contentment i.e. a deep satisfaction in the marriage despite the marriage (paradox right?). And for Christians, this is where all those sermons about needing Christ in our marriage begin to make a little more sense. It's Christ, not our spouse, who's meant to fulfill the lonely chambers of our hearts. Our longings actually point to Him.
And it's when we lose sight of this that the same lonely feelings we had as singles begin to seep into our marriages.
Conclusion: A Final Word For Singles
This is why I believe the single years are so important in shaping the marriage years because singles can get a head start in this. They can prioritize deep friendships now so that they won't find themselves on a lonely island with their spouse. They can manage expectations now by mingling with married folks and discovering what marriage is like.
And most importantly, singles can learn contentment now. I've always found this principle to be true: If you're not content in your singleness, you won't be content in your marriage. The reason is that both look to the marriage partner to fulfill them - but both need to see that no one can live up to this expectation. It's just too much pressure.
And I think the more someone realizes this, the more ready they'll be for marriage.