It was one of the rare occasions that I left the building more distressed than I was when I had walked in.
The warm, summer air felt nice after sitting in the cold, air-conditioned room that evening.
My vision was blurry as I walked back to my car. I ducked my head as someone walked past me in the opposite direction, just in case.
I remember just wanting someone to hug. Someone to wrap their arms around me and hold me as long as I wanted.
The last thing I wanted was to return to my dark, empty apartment where there was no one to grant my request.
Just me, alone . . . with my thoughts and this restless, yearning heart.
As convincing as countless sitcoms and even your own social media posts can be, the reality is that singlehood is not nearly as glamorous as we’d like. In fact, it can be infinitely challenging. Not in the same way as married life or being a parent, but difficult nonetheless.
1. WHAT IS IT
Whether you like it or not, we are highly relational beings.
First your parents and immediate family, then your friends and teachers, then your coworkers and significant others, and then the new family you start as an adult: these people help you define your identity and teach you what it means to love and be loved. They are meant to be your school of love and to keep you grounded in this crazy, upside-down world.
Your state in life doesn't determine your happiness.
The awkward thing is that between your first, immediate family (the one you’re born into) and the second (the one you choose), there’s typically a long, big gap called being single—or as I have endearingly named it, The Gap.
During this time, you go to work, maybe exercise, maybe go out with some friends, maybe go on a date with someone you met through yet another dating app . . . and then you go home.
You keep yourself busy, going from one activity to the next, taking pictures and posting about how much fun you’re having. You plan a trip, buy a thing, have a drink . . . and so it goes.
At all costs, you likely avoid thinking about The Gap; the aching for something that doesn’t seem anywhere to be found; the distinct feeling of waiting and hoping for something you have no idea if or when it will finally show up.
And I don’t blame you, honestly. It hurts. It’s painful. So many times I have wished this desire away. I have begged and bargained, stomped my foot and cried out of sheer frustration; all because I don’t want it.
The more joyful and alive I can be now, the more joy and life I can bring into my next stage of life.
The worst is when you get close: you meet someone, you like them—maybe even love them—and then once your defenses are down and your hopes are sky high, something happens that causes your heart to sink right past its normal spot and settle somewhere in your navel.
It doesn’t work out (yet again), and you are then left with your dashed dreams and a heart just a little more bruised than it was before.
So, whether we like it or not, we have it: a desire, a longing for intimacy and love which no number of dates or concerts or drinks or promotions can possibly fill.
2. WHY YOU HAVE IT
It has taken me a long time to fully grasp that this desire is good. Painful? Yes. Frustrating? Incredibly. But good.
The longing is good because it is indicative of what we are called to. We have a calling to love and be loved, deeply and intimately. This calling is revealed in the longing we feel so strongly . . . especially during The Gap.
As much as you may wrestle with this desire, resent it, and feel bitter about it, it is there for a reason. Not to taunt or torture you, but to lead you to fulfillment.
3. WHAT TO DO WITH IT
There are a plethora of articles and books written about being single, none of which I have found particularly helpful or encouraging when it comes to harnessing this seemingly insatiable desire. Some make it seem like a disease (“5 Ways to Survive Singlehood”) or like there’s something wrong with you (“Here’s Why You’re STILL Single”). And others try to convince you it doesn’t get any better (“Why Being Single Is the Best Thing Ever”).
Is this time of life something we merely survive? Do we settle for getting by until something better comes along? Do we try to convince ourselves the desire isn’t there?
As much as The Gap can be painful, I’m determined to enjoy this time of my life!
To be honest, The Gap is something I continually grapple with (to put it mildly). But I have realized a few things that help. Firstly, I want to live life to the fullest. I don’t want my state in life to determine my happiness. As much as The Gap can be painful, I’m determined to enjoy this time as much as I can. Yes, sometimes it will hurt. Sometimes it will feel like “my life is buffering” as I wait for this ache to be soothed. But I suspect that the more joyful and alive I can be now, the more joy and life I can bring into my next stage of life.
For that reason, I will go out with my friends and cherish their company. I will travel and appreciate the experience. I will go to concerts and kickboxing classes and try new restaurants, knowing it’s not enough to fulfill me, but making the most of it nonetheless—because life is meant to be lived, not survived.
In any case, a person who is making the most of life is a lot more attractive than someone who is sulking and angry at the world.
Secondly, if I have this desire, it’s for a reason. I have to believe that. This angst and turmoil and heartbreak we experience must have a purpose. Maybe it seems naive to think that way, but to me, it makes more sense that a desire this strong exists to be fulfilled rather than to make us miserable. I hope that’s true.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by this longing or angry that it exists, I think of all the couples who experienced this same feeling before they met their spouse. How else would we really know this is what we’re meant for if we didn’t long for it? As painful as it is, I am convinced The Gap exists for an important reason.
Finally, if The Gap ends up being lifelong, if for some reason this dissatisfaction is never resolved, I don’t want to be a bitter person because of it. I want to be better: more compassionate, more empathetic, more loving, more patient, more kind, more understanding . . . a better woman, a better person.
— Dynamic Catholic (@DynamicCatholic) September 20, 2017
That night I got into my car more angry and frustrated than I had felt in a while. I was mad at The Gap, angry that it exists and that I feel this yearning so acutely. I so desperately wanted someone to be there, someone to hold . . . someone. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking; it just hurts.
Yet in spite of my anger, confusion and sadness, hope prevailed, and here I am writing this article.
I haven’t given up, I am eager to love and hungry for life. And if this desire serves nothing more than to make me a better person and encourage others, I think it’s done more than enough.
Stay open, single friends.