Back in the day, there was a wife who, when it came to the subject of marriage, she used to talk to me like I was in junior high school. What I mean by that is, after she got married, she suddenly started acting like she had to either speak slower (like I wouldn't "get it" otherwise) or walk on eggshells when it came to topics like romantic relationships, sex and the day to day demands of her life, as if my being single somehow meant that I couldn't even begin to comprehend such matters. Lawd, that was draining. It's literally like when some people's tax forms switch over from "single" to "married" (no tax form says "dating" by the way; some of y'all will catch that later), they start acting like they should automatically be elected to the role of mentors — sometimes even "second parents" — to single folks…whether we asked them to do that or not seems to be completely irrelevant.
I've had this conversation far too often with other single people to know that this is actually an issue that should be addressed on an en masse level. Because while I know that a lot of single people will agree with me and say that marriage is a beautiful thing, that doesn't mean that there aren't times when we don't feel like we should be given more respect than we are oftentimes granted, by the married folks in our lives, while we in our single state. And so, if you're a married person reading this and you're not quite sure what I mean when I say this, I've got seven examples of where I am coming from.
1. ASK Us What We Need
I'm pretty sure that much of this particular point stems from Black church culture because, in spite of the fact that two of the biggest influencers of the Bible (Christ and Paul) are single, for some reason, a lot of Christians seem to think that marriage is an elevated relational status. Listen, I am a marriage life coach and a HUGE fan of marital covenant relationships. At the same time, I know that singleness is also a huge blessing and so, there is no hierarchy when it comes to who deserves more respect.
With that being said, is it just me or does it seem like some married people can't help but speak with a patronizing and condescending tone? It's like they automatically think they know more or better and therefore, many tend to tell us what we need (or need to do) rather than ask.
Look, I've dealt with a lot of husbands and wives who rank really low on the self-awareness tip. At the same time, I know many singles who thrive in this lane. Besides, a key component to any healthy dynamic is asking more than assuming. So, when it comes to what we need — emotionally, relationally, personally, or otherwise — ask us. We know more than a lot of y'all tend to give us credit for. Especially about ourselves. Geez.
2. Don’t Assume That We Have More “Free” Time than You Do
I've shared before that, while I don't tend to attend a whole lot of weddings (because I see them as sacred events; not just "something to do" on the weekends), when I do go and if it's a really close friend of mine, I have absolutely no problems with sobbing like a baby. A part of the reason is because I am thrilled that they are in their new season. Another reason is because I know that a part of our relationship is going to shift (check out "Your Bestie Just Got Married. Here's What You Should Expect From Your Friendship.") and while I'm happy for my friend, that is still something that I need to grieve. That said, though, just because my friend will need more time to focus on her marriage, that doesn't mean that I'm a single person who's just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs.
Lawd, if there's one thing that drives, just about every single person up the entire wall (just ask them), it's when there's an assumption that if we're not married (and/or have kids) that somehow the demands of our own lives aren't just as pressing. The only difference is your priorities and ours are different; however, our world can still be just as full. So, to assume that we can talk when you can or that we're available on a dime because you are— that is not only delusional but pretty presumptuous and arrogant as well.
3. On the Flip Side, Make Time for Us (Like We Make Time for You)
On the flip side to the point I just made, there's this one. A while back, I wrote "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'" for the platform because…it's the truth. For example, I try not to call my married friends at night or on the weekends (even if it's so much easier for me) because I want to be sensitive to them using that as an opportunity to spend time with their family. I also get that sometimes I have to be a little bit "on-call" when it comes to us making dates because when someone is accountable to another human being, sometimes their schedule can't be as "firm" as mine is.
At the same time, though, my married friends know that sometimes, they need to be open to being a little bit inconvenienced too because, just because I'm single, that doesn't mean I've just got a wide-open schedule where I can just show up on a whim whenever they happen to have some free minutes because their spouse suddenly has something else to do. Just like I have to accommodate their time, they need to make time for me. That's how relationships work and marriage isn't the only kind of dynamic that requires compromise along with some old-fashioned give and take.
4. Be HONEST with Us About What Marriage Entails
A couple of weeks ago, two different wives commented about how they wished I would get married soon. Because both conversations transpired over the phone, they couldn't see me rolling my eyes. However, they did both hear me say, "Girl, for what? Do you hear what you say about your own marriages on this call? I'm in no rush" — and I'm not. It might seem weird to say that one way that married folks can respect singles more is by being honest about their own marriage yet here's where I'm going with that — some of y'all paint marriage like it's some sort of real-life version of a fairy tale or rom-com. And because you don't tell the REAL STUFF, you get some of your single friends all hyped for the good side of marriage without them being mentally and emotionally prepared for the challenges that come with it too.
Personally, I appreciate the married people in my life who are more in the lane of "Look, I love my spouse; I still have moments when I really miss my single days, though" because they are being upfront about the fact that there are pros and cons to both relational statuses. At the end of the day, you are honest with the people you respect. Be more honest with us, so that we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into when it comes to marriage — that way, we can make a far more responsible decision…if/when the time comes.
5. Honor Our Special Days…Like We Honor Yours
Hands down, one of my favorite episodes of Sex and the City is when Carrie lost a pair of her shoes at a married friend's baby shower. When her friend initially refused to pay for them (citing that they were a frivolous expense; see, there goes that "cocky" thing that I was talking about), Carrie said that she was throwing a party for herself and registered the shoes. Her friends got the point and made the purchase. Checkmate.
Have mercy. There is one married person, in particular, who I can't tell you how much money I've spent on all of their special occasions that have centered around their marriage and their kids. And yet, over that same time, I can't think of one present I've received from them. Ever. Talk about a hustle above all hustles. Birthdays matter to some of us. Promotions matter to some of us. Reaching certain goals matter to some of us. As a married person, your job isn't to decide if a day or situation is worthy of celebration in your eyes. As our friend, if we say that it's to be honored, you should follow suit…just like we do for y'all…just ask our bank account.
6. Acknowledge Our Accomplishments Outside of Our Relational Status
If there's one thing that a lot of us church-going (or used to be church-going) singles can agree on is that many churches could stand to do A LOT better when it comes to singles ministries. I once wrote an article for the site entitled, "10 Words That'll Make You Totally Rethink The Word 'Single'" and so I'm well-aware of the fact that with words like original, exclusive, and special to describe what it means to be single, we've got it going on, on a few levels. That's why it's beyond shallow (and a little condescending) to think that the only thing that we should be praised for or you should get super excited about is the guy we're seeing or if/when he decides to propose.
Ask us about our job or career path. Ask us about what our plans are over the next several months. Ask us about what makes us tick outside of our hearts and libidos. Just like I'm pretty sure that you don't want anyone to treat you as if your only identity is being someone's spouse, at the same time, we don't want to feel like the only accomplishment you will ever fully and enthusiastically acknowledge is if we're "officially" with someone.
7. Don’t “Demote” Us
Listen, we're not stupid. We get that as you get deeper into this thing called "marriage", you are going to accumulate some more/new people in your life who can relate to what you are going through. All good. Still, just like I tell the cynics who somehow think that just because I'm single, I have no insight into how to make a marriage work, "50 percent of marriages fail, so don't assume that a lot of married people know what to do either." Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of the source. And so, if you saw value in us prior to you jumping the broom, why in the world would that change, just because you are married?
We're still smart. We can still provide some pretty profound ah-ha moments. We can still offer up some support and encouragement. You being married and us being single doesn't change any of that. Respect what we still bring to the table and watch how it continues to only enhance your life — like it always has. Right? Exactly.
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