Everyone Starts Out Single

by Leigh

I sat on a stool next to the kitchen counter and drank a glass of water, while their dog perched in my lap. The almost 4 hour drive left me thirsty. It had been a full two weeks back in my Illinois hometown. I could scarcely wrap my mind around the trip’s conclusion but here I was at my friends’ house in Urbana. My road trip oasis. A respite before driving the rest of the way to Nashville.

Kristin put away the dishes in the dishwasher while Jason cleaned up from dinner. It was a breathtaking dance to watch, their seamless habits not thrown off in the least by a late night guest. We chatted about our respective Christmas celebrations and caught up on life. I love spending time with Jason and Kristin for such simple reasons. Fancy drinks, stimulating conversation about politics and religion, sharing books we’ve read and music we’re listening to. Each time I leave, I wish we lived closer. They are my people and I am theirs.

We adjourned to the living room and discussed writing while Kristin folded laundry and Jason read a magazine. I was pleased we could be these kinds of friends. I was welcomed into lives well lived, the chores and Kristin’s daughters trading bedrooms upstairs and the usual Saturday evening routine.

Eventually, after a lively discussion on gun control, we retired for the evening. I tucked myself away in the spare room and emerged in the morning not overly bright-eyed but rested nonetheless.

3493571403The kitchen dance had resumed itself. Jason was preparing pumpkin pancakes, using a pumpkin puree he’d made. Kristin made the coffee and then brewed tea for me. They embody give-and-take. Their relationship is beautiful to witness, perhaps all the more knowing this is a second marriage for each. My bleary morning mind took in this egalitarian scene. I thought, “I want that some day.”

And then I thought, “I probably wouldn’t be here if I was married.”

I sipped my breakfast tea and talked about pie pumpkin preparation with Jason. I sampled a pancake and it was so delicious, I wished I was more of a breakfast person. All too soon, it was time to drive onward.

I don’t hide the fact I want to get married or that I’m reveling in my life as an unmarried person. Each side has its gifts and perks. Each side takes work, some ways more obvious than others. Neither is a prescription for automatic happiness.

I look at Jason and Kristin’s marriage and it speaks to me of my own possible future but I can’t ignore that which allows me to see them in the first place: my singleness.

Sharing my life with someone means exactly that: sharing. My schedule will no longer be entirely my own. Decisions will be filtered through the lens of our relationship. Not everything will change and I will work hard to maintain my top priorities but there will still be an impact.

If I was married, would I have been able to go home for Christmas for two weeks? If I had, would we have flown or driven? And if we drove, would we have taken turns driving back to Nashville instead of staying the night with friends? Would said friends be able to accommodate a married couple, instead of just me?

Let’s back up even further than that. During those two weeks, would my husband want to hang out with a lifetime’s worth of friends? Would all of these friends want to share their only time with me with someone else?

{Theoretically, yes. However, friendships need solo time interspersed with significant others and children. My trips back home are rarely long enough to do that with everyone.}

Everyone starts out single. We don’t question if people are called to marriage and we’re not always at the top of our games if and when marriages end due to divorce or death. We need to be good stewards no matter what our marital status is. One is not better than the other. Both statuses are good and to be treasured.

Because I’m single, I’ve focused on developing a rich community. My family extends far beyond those related to me by blood. Friends in my hometown, friends here, friends all over the country. My freedom as a single woman allows me to pour into these relationships even still. I don’t always do it perfectly- after all, there’s no one helping me with the dishes or paying the bills. I don’t have more time than those who are married; I don’t have to factor the needs of anyone else when it comes to making plans. Relationships are my calling.

I’m taking advantage of this gift, according to God’s purpose. And it is good.

38 Responses to “Everyone Starts Out Single”

  1. Chelsea February 1, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Amen. Your post reminds me of 1 Cor 7. Love it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Thank you, Chelsea. Glad this resonated with you.

  2. Luke February 1, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    1) It took you four hours to get to Urbana from Chicago? Are you riding in a horse-drawn carriage?

    2) How could you not be a breakfast person?!? We’ve talked about this, Leigh. Only time you can eat dessert and call it a meal? Hallmark of adulthood? Any of this ringing any bells? :)

    I kid, I kid.

    All joking aside though, I think this is a really important post. I think we tend to idolize marriage as this kind of ideal state (and having kiddos as well), forgetting that there are very real compromises that come with the whole package deal. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we’re not realistic about the kinds of sacrifices that are made to make a marriage work, so I really enjoy thougtful pieces like this one that take marriage off of its pedestal, so to speak.

    I think a similar parallel for Jill and I was when we decided to have kids. The difference between being married without kids and being married with kids is probably about as drastic as that between being married and single (although my memories of singleness are getting a little stale, as this year marks a FRIGGIN’ DECADE of marriage, so I could be wrong on that one).

    There are real tradeoffs in any kind of change in relationship status, and those changes don’t necessarily result in a situation that is better or worse, just different. I think when we privilege one particular relationship or life-situation or whatever-we-want-to-call-it over another, we’re probably just setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

    Great thoughts here, Leigh.

    • the Blah Blah Blahger February 1, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Luke Harms is FUNNY!

      And Leigh Kramer is WISE!

      Great post, dear friend!!!

      • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:10 am #

        Thank you, lovely. (And don’t tell Luke such things. His ego is big enough as it is. ;) )

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      1. First of all, I left from the family farm, not my hometown. From my hometown it takes 2 1/2 hours. From the family farm, about 3 1/2. It took longer because…I was pulled over for speeding. Luckily, he only gave me a warning. The full story is kind of funny. Now.

      2. Well, of course I’m a breakfast person in the sense of eating dessert for breakfast! But typically, I don’t want to eat anything for the first hour or two that I’m awake. Next time I see Jason and Kristin, I’m going to ask them to give me a cupcake for the road. ;)

      You made me laugh. Bonus points to you for that and for completely getting everything I tried to convey here. I agree when we privilege either state, we set ourselves up for failure. Singles who believe marriage is the answer to all their problems will have a rude awakening. Those who are married may very well be single again someday so it helps for them to be aware of the perks of that stage, too. But also because singles and marrieds need each other. We have so much to learn from and give to each other. That’s what the Body of Christ is all about.

  3. hootenannie February 1, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Great thoughts, Leigh. Just the other day, I was loving the silence of my house – silence fills me up – and I thought, “If I get married and have kids, I’ll have a lot less silence.” It made me so thankful to be in that quiet moment, all by myself.

    “Both statuses are good and to be treasured.” Amen.

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      Ah, yes, the silence. During my crazy fall travels, I finally had a free weekend and told my parents I wasn’t going to make any plans and I’d be happy if I didn’t see anyone at all. I needed to rest. They asked me what I was going to do when I got married and had kids. I paused and said, “It’s a good thing I don’t have to worry about that right now!”

      Love how we’re on the same writing page this week, friend.

  4. Kelly @ Love Well February 1, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    This is wisdom, Leigh. It is a gift to be content in the now, to see the beauty in what we have today and not to always long for tomorrow and the not yet.

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      Thank you, Kelly. That wisdom has been hard won in this area and I’m grateful for it.

  5. kim February 1, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Leigh, you did such a good job relaying the benefits of both singleness and marriage, lot’s a awareness and wisdom here. Those pumpkin pancakes look great!

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Thank you, Kim! I wish I’d had the foresight to take a picture of the pancakes Jason made but that’s just a picture I found on Wylio.com.

  6. Katie February 1, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    This really touched me. I am recently single after a 16 year marraige ending. Your writing really opened my eyes and made me look at it in a different light. Thank you!

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      Thank you for sharing, Katie. I’m so sorry to hear about the end of your marriage. I’m glad this encouraged you and I hope your community will surround you with love during this time.

  7. Brenda February 1, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Thank you for this!

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      You’re welcome, Brenda.

  8. Melissa February 1, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Just the other day, I found myself overwhelmingly grateful for the times of stillness that being single affords me. (Not to mention the flexibility) I love my cozy efficiency and how it feels like home whether its welcomed in a few others, or whether it is just me and Jesus. I hope for marriage, I ask for it, but I can’t see myself regretting or complaining about these years.

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      Yes, I can’t see myself regretting these years either. Thanks for weighing in, Melissa!

  9. Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa February 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Excellent, Leigh. I can very much relate. My single life was full of relationship and accomplishment into my thirties, and I couldn’t have done what I did if I had been in a relationship. At that time in my life I knew I was living my vocation of discipleship through being single.I didn’t know if that would be my state forever or not – I just lived a life I could be proud of and didn’t worry too much about it.

    It probably helped that I live in a big city in the northeast where being single is not treated like a disease.

    And I too remember the first time I looked at two married friends and thought “I want that”.

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      I love how Catholics think in terms of vocation. It’s sorely missing from the evangelical dialogue on these matters but it’s so helpful to keep in mind. I know this is how God is best growing and using me right now so even though I hope marriage is in my future, I can’t argue with the blessings of being single.

      It’s interesting to consider regional differences when it comes to marriage and singleness. Living in a city definitely helps!

  10. Louise February 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Love this! If I was married now (and I’m only 23 so it would be highly unlikely!) I doubt I’d be living in Paris and spending every evening and weekend exactly as I like. Definitely enjoying this season :-).

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      And who can argue with living it up in Paris? Glad you’re enjoying this season, Louise!

  11. Diana Trautwein February 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Beautifully and honestly done, Leigh. I am so grateful for your perspective in this place. We all need to be reminded that there is no ‘perfect’ status in this life. Whether married or single, there are plusses and minuses. And where you are right now? Content? That’s the very best place to be. Period. Somehow life looks different when we can find our way to that center point. Thanks for this, friend.

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

      Thank you, Diana. I appreciate your encouragement so much.

  12. Sherri February 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post. As a 40-something never married, no kids single person I resonated with what you said… and you said it all SO well! A part of me wonders at my age how I would adjust to married life – I am so used to being able to do what I want when I want… and yet I long to have that partner. I, too, see friends like your friends and long for what they have. Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Leigh February 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Thank you for letting me know, Sherri. I’ve wondered what the marriage learning curve will be like at this point. In some ways, I think we’ll be better suited because we have a better sense of who we are and approach marriage more realistically, especially when I think back to my ideas about marriage in my early 20s. It’ll be different but I figure it’s something he and I will figure out together as the relationship progresses.

      • Sherri February 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

        You are so right – just another area I have to trust God in. When/If God brings a mate into my life – I have to trust that He will help us to figure it out. I definitely know that due to a lot of healing that God and I are working on in my life that I am better suited now than I would have been in my younger years. When/If God chooses for me to be married I will have to rely on God to guide us in our relationship. :-)

  13. Robin Dance February 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    You know what I reeeally like about you, Leigh? You see the green grass that grows on both sides of the fence. That’s a gift, too :).

    • Leigh February 3, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Thanks, Robin! That perspective didn’t happen overnight but I’m grateful to be able to see both sides. It’s a healthy place to be.

  14. Kristin T. (@kt_writes) February 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m so honored and blessed to be a part of your life, a part of your story.

    • Leigh February 3, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Love you so much, friend.

  15. Lucky Girl February 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Not only do I think about this every time I get to make lovely weekend plans all by myself. I am currently relishing every single time I get to sleep in until my heart’s content – since I’m also hoping to have a baby/child in the house (through foster care) soon. Every time I sleep in, I think “oh gosh, what will I do when I have a kid??” Every season has its pluses and minuses! :)

    • Leigh February 3, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Love this perspective, especially as you prepare to welcome a child to your home. Good on you!

  16. Michelle February 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Leigh, what a beautiful, honest post that looks at marriage and singleness alike. I was single until a year ago- and for as wonderful as marriage is- there is something pretty big you give up. You’re right on… that the sacrifice in sharing is that I can’t just decide what I want to do for the holidays or hop on a plane to visit friends. A few years ago when it seemed that all of my friends were married, I remember vividly, when one married friend told me that…SHE envied ME. I was shocked. I didn’t know that a married person could envy the freedom, flexibility and choices that I had as single person. I think now I get it. I admire your perspective and choice to invest in relationships, whatever season you’re in.

  17. Renee Ronika February 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I love the title of this piece–its persuasive truth. That your perspective is so genuine, so real, that you understand your present in relationship to your past, your future, is indicative of the maturity God has breathed and birthed in you. You will usher others into the same freedom, friend. I love you.

  18. Manda February 6, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I definitely agree about not making assumptions. Someone being single doesn’t mean they have total freedom, someone being marrried doesn’t mean thay have total support from another. My single sister told me that above all she envied me having someone around to change the plug on the toaster, move the bins, and look after me when I was sick – that made me laugh, my husband of the time had never been that guy!

  19. Stella Lee May 21, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Chanced upon this article today and I must say, you write really well and succinctly! more to my point, I really relish in the thoughts presented. I find myself pondering over these issues more often these days, questioning moments of singleness on what was previously unbeknownst to me to be singleness-moments. Nonetheless, great journey to be undertaken and probably a few more years to go for me :)

    Just wanted to say thanks for your articles, do write more often! I greatly enjoyed your pieces and find myself identifying with you on several. It’s such a joy to find identification on the same frustrations, or rather wandering avenues of thought, and to know that these thoughts are not alone :)


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