I often hear that single people want to be married and married people want to be single. Life seems so much easier on the other side of the fence. We often only see the other sides’ finished product or the public appearance, not what really goes on behind the scenes.
Singles are often isolated in a church of families. Feelings of isolation and rejection can be distressing, and potentially even deadly. And when you are a single person living in a ward of families and couples, you may deal with that nagging feeling of not belonging, even as you are participating in a group that preaches love and acceptance. You may feel you have nothing to contribute because you have nothing in common, or even feel rejected because of your situation. I’ve even had people tell me that they feel that they have been overlooked for callings because they are single. These feelings of loneliness originate from our perceptions but are you truly rejected?
There is no perfect solution to fix these feelings of isolation other than to remember one simple truth: no matter what our situation is, happiness comes from within, not from someone else. Dependence on others for happiness generates an unhealthy relationship for both persons, effectively stunting spiritual growth.
Here are four strategies to help you find personal happiness being single in a married environment.
1. Recognize and Adapt Expectations
Your expectations more than anything else in life, determine your happiness. Expectations not only impact you, they impact how you treat yourself and others. Even though many people have been told—and probably believe—that life isn’t fair, we still find ourselves devastated when life doesn’t end up the way we planned. None of us have every part of our life turn out exactly as we expected.
A story of two brothers starkly shows the importance of managing our expectations:
The older brother is slow in cognitive abilities, emotionally and physically; so much so that he often leaves a horrendous mess in the restroom. This is a constant issue for the younger brother, who expects poop to be in the toilet not on the walls. Because his expectation that whoever makes the mess should clean it up, he screams and berates his older brother constantly about the mess. The big question in this situation is, whose problem, is it? The answer is the younger brother’s. He is angry and irritated about something that his older brother has no control over. Though the older brother could possibly learn more about how to better care for his bathroom cleanliness, if the younger brother could develop a more realistic expectation, that his older brother will always leave a mess in the bathroom, they could both avoid some heartache.
So how does managing expectations work for singles in a married ward? Find something that fits you and your situation.
- Be the first to be a friend. Look around and see if someone needs help with children or if the elderly need assistance. Who else is sitting alone?
- Let the Bishop know you would like to serve and remember the ward is large; find those you can connect with in similar interests.
- Don’t take things personally, even if they were meant that way. It really is a choice.
- Don’t always complain about your emotional struggles; this chases people away. Listen to others also! Most of us want understanding for our pains and we bond in our struggles and we can still help others to rise above them.
Remember, we all want connection. Be open for healthy connections in your ward family. We all have a different purpose in life and a different road to travel. We should not expect all people to act and think like we do. There is great and beautiful variety in people, let’s celebrate that variety.
To read more about expectations and how to manage them click here.
2. Acknowledge and Address Fears
Our fears can cloud our perception and distort our expectations, especially in relation to our happiness. Neuroscientists tell us 95% of our choices are made subconsciously. Throughout life we have experiences that our minds must interpret and understand. We often interpret those experiences very differently than was intended whether we are children or adults; we see the world from one perspective.
For example, a 2-year-old used a red marker to scribble all over his mother’s couch and when she saw it she, of course, reacted. She may have yelled at him, or tore the marker away from him or spanked his hand. How does a small child interpret this incident? He could think his mother is afraid of markers, or he is a bad boy, or that markers are bad or scary. These interpretations are stored in his mind as scripts. And possibly, when at elementary school, his classmates start having a marker fight for fun, throwing markers around the room, and he screams and hides under a desk. This may sound bizarre to us, yet to him it is real. We all have those teaching moments in our lives where we learned response or behavior according to our perception, but is that really what we should perceive? Could we view our experiences from another perspective?
One fear some singles have is that they won’t be able to connect with those who are married, and so in response, they avoid talking to married people, or may think that married people are avoiding talking to them. Sometimes those who are married may actually be the ones who fear talking with you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or may not know how to act around you; they may have forgotten what it is like to be single and can’t fathom a way to connect. But perhaps using interests outside of children could be a starting point, such as exercise, trying new foods, hairstyles, a love of reading blogs, etc. Visiting Teaching is a great time to get to know these things about the single and married people in your teaching route. We can find common ground for both single and married persons at church to bridge the gap and overcome a fear.
How many of us are apprehensive when we try something new? How many of us have changed our subconscious script and take on new challenges? It is possible to change our natural subconscious reactions. It is possible to change fear into love. We need to choose to reach out to others.
If you would like to read more about life and its paradox click here.
3. Keep Moving
When we give in to our unrealistic expectations and keep our incorrect perceptions, we are stuck in a path of life that is preventing us from becoming our best selves and can greatly diminish our ability to remain happy. Accepting what has happened or not happened to you is a large part of being healthy, happy and whole. You need to be healthy emotionally, spiritually and in your career. You can move forward not upset over what didn’t happen. Or you can choose misery and be the victim of the world or you can take a breath and move forward. Yes, this process hurts and it is hard, yet the harder you work the quicker you will find progress.
Instead of viewing yourself as the victim look at life as a school. You have opportunities to learn and you have opportunities to make mistakes or learn from others’ mistakes, or experience things that others cannot. Life is not like a test that you take and you’re done and if you fail you are out. You are living in this classroom and it gives you a lot of opportunities to keep moving forward. Try working in the temple, gaining a new skill, or putting more effort into magnifying your calling. There are many ways to move forward.
Life has a past, present, and future. How much misery do you want to suffer over an unmet expectation? It really is a choice. Learn from the past, make changes in the present, and accept the future as it comes. Many good people and tremendous global contributors (Mother Teresa for example) have been single yet engaged. Don’t wait for something to happen and lose good opportunities. It is important to accept yourself and your situation.
Take an inventory of your life. What is the next right step spiritually, emotionally, physically, and career-wise? One step at a time.
If you would like to read more changing your perspective click here.
4. Learn to Accept and Interpret Emotion (EQ)
The strongest and surest way to control your happiness and possible frustration of being single is to manage emotions. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. All of us have what scientists call intelligences. Some have kinesthetic intelligence—they make a lot of money throwing a ball into a hoop. Others have spatial intelligence—they can walk into a room and have it organized in their mind within a few minutes. Many have musical intelligence—we are enthralled to listen to their gifts. There are also less tangible forms of intelligence or “giftedness.” We all know those people who seem to make friends with everyone. They are endowed with emotional intelligence, and they use it. Others of us, however, need to learn and practice it.
If we struggle to see the emotion or understand emotions (ours or other’s), we tend to be excluded in many areas of life. The ability to be more emotionally intelligent is learnable and has three main steps:
- First, be aware of how you treat others.
- Second, be aware of how others treat you.
- Third, take what you have learned and either change your behavior or learn to understand other’s behavior.
Christ was a great example of emotional intelligence. He loved all of us and wanted us to reach our potential. He had unconditional love and also taught us how to love ourselves as well as our neighbor.
When we are feeling the most alone is when we need to have the greatest faith, and single members of the Church frequently face this decision. Choose faith now and believe things will work out in time; especially choose to react in happiness to your situation. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it.
Get a free download on how to be more emotional intelligence: corelivingessentials.com/are-you-emotionally-intelligent