Married People Need Single Friends Too

And why single people need married friends just as much.

Can married and single people be friends? It seems simple enough in theory. But as many of us know from practice, these kinds of friendships can carry a lot of emotional baggage and jealousy—and not just about sex. How can we understand one another when our domestic lives look so different?

We’re two friends: one single (Katelyn), one married (Bonnie). Believing that it’s important for single and married people to push past these awkward barriers into transparent friendship, we’ve had many conversations on this issue, grappling with what it means to learn from one another and embody love within our unique contexts.

How do we know what our friends need from us? By simply asking and listening, by having tough conversations. But there are a few key needs that are fairly universal, important for singles and married people. We wrote this article as a conversation, in the attempt to show the ways we try to navigate those needs together, as friends and in the context of community.

(One disclaimer: Lifelong celibacy is a high, honorable calling. We realize that not every single person desires marriage one day. This conversation is for those who do have that desire.)

We need to stay active in each other’s relationship

Bonnie: There’s the famous African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In the same way, it takes the whole church to raise a marriage, to grow a family. The notion that we’re supposed to do it completely on our own, or that marriage is a personal affair, is damaging to couples because we believe we can’t share our struggles. This belief causes us to turn inward, instead of admitting our need for others to walk this relational road with us.

Obviously there’s intimacy in marriage that cannot and should not be shared. For example, it would be weird—for everyone—if we discussed the details of our sex lives with you. But overall, we need to share this journey in community, which can and should include our single friends. We crave your insights, concern and prayers. And in the long run, if you take part in the marriages of your friends, it will hopefully benefit you as you prepare for the possibility of your own marriage.

Katelyn: For singles who want to be married, having married friends simply keep you in mind as they move through their various social circles reminds you that you aren’t alone. When Bonnie and her husband have mentioned men who they think I would like, it makes me feel cared for and known. It helps that I know they are doing so to encourage, not to control my future or “fix” my singleness.

But more important than getting set up, singles need married friends to simply ask how they think of their own unmarried state and life course. Such questions might include: What is it like being single in a church oriented around families? Is it strange to hang out with all couples? Have you seen God at work in your singleness? And most importantly, how can I pray for you? For those who experience their singleness as a burden, having friends carry the burden with you reminds you of Christ’s presence and perfect law (Galatians 6:2). Married friends of singles sometimes don’t know how to broach the topic, afraid that it is too personal or painful a topic. Indeed, it is personal. But what are friendships but ways of knowing another person?

Overcome jealousy

Katelyn: Few things annoy me more than single Christians who feign pious disregard for the thought of getting to have sex, and a lot of it. In God’s wisdom and biology’s urging, we are compelled to unite ourselves to another, to know and be known, to bring forth life from love. No, not all believers will have their desire for intimacy and union met in marriage. But writing off such desires as “worldly” risks downplaying the imago Dei. We are humans, not angels. It is a sign of health to want to have sex (with a future spouse).

Having said this, it is easy for Christian singles to fixate on what they don’t have—all the sex—and start resenting married friends who presumably do. Sadly, this fixation often leads to jealousy and blindness to the ways God might be meeting a desire for intimacy in non-sexual ways. It also is naïve about married life; as Bonnie notes, marriage requires time and commitment that limit the married person’s opportunities and freedom. So you are not having sex—but are you able to travel halfway around the world to serve Christ?

Bonnie: We get jealous of you, too. A single friend of mine just spent six months in Amsterdam working at a Christian hostel. I love her adventurous spirit, but as a new mom, I found myself envying her alluring life phase. With a husband and a toddler at home, it’s rare for me to spend a few stolen moments by myself at Starbucks … or even the bathroom.

Marriage often requires unique sacrifices that most single people don’t have to make, like alone time or certain freedoms. Even if we don’t want to be single again, the single life has appealing aspects. So, just like a married person shouldn’t constantly prattle on about how great sex is, single people should also exercise sensitivity with issues like freedom.

We need friends who aren’t like us

Bonnie: There’s an unhealthy assumption that when someone gets married, they don’t need or want to be with anyone but their spouse. Relationally speaking, they’re set. What I discovered, however, was a deep need for friendship outside my marriage, even if I had “married my best friend.”

Now, my husband and I are intentional about inviting friends, married and single, to share our life with us. We need one another. Singles need married friends because marriage, as a symbol, should point us to Christ. When singles hang out only with other singles, they miss out on this rich symbolism and its meaning for them as members of the body of Christ.

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Likewise, when married people cloister themselves, they miss the irreplaceable perspective of the single person. In my relationships with single friends, I have learned much about serving without hesitation, patience and healthy male/female friendships. These lessons may only be gleaned in relationship.

Katelyn: The assumption that leads some singles to envy married friends also leads them to slowly exit their married friends’ lives: “They are relationally fulfilled. They don’t need my friendship anymore.” This assumption is not only false, as Bonnie makes clear. It is also unChristian. The New Testament speaks of the body of Christ, not the couple, as the basic unit of Christian identity (borrowing an idea from Lauren Winner’s excellent book Real Sex). And belonging to the body means being connected to people with radically different life circumstances. Just as there is neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female ... ” in Christ, there is neither “married nor single.”

Beyond theological reasons, singles should also actively maintain friendships with married couples to learn what marriage and family are about. When I spend time with Bonnie, her husband and their daughter, I find myself saying things like, “If marriage ever comes, I want to treat my husband like that,” or, “Oh—that’s how couples should navigate disagreements!” Their Christ-centered marriage both points me to Christ and awakens desire for the best marriage, not just any marriage.

Katelyn and Bonnie live in the western suburbs of Chicago, and are both writers and active in their churches. They both like good food and long dinners with friends.

Top Comments

Raquel Torres

1

Raquel Torres commented…

I dont think married couples need single friends. At least the ones I knew did. They did just fine without me. Not to sound angry or bitter but in my experiences, married couples dont purposefully forget about their single friends but their minds are more concerned with making their spouses happy and being in like-minded relationships, i.e. other married couples. Maybe this sounds bad but to say that married couples need single friends sounds alittle selfish to me. So married couple get to hangout with single AND married friends? I feel the opposite. Singles know a days (at least in my case) have found it VERY difficult to find other quality singles to hang out with. Not being a part of the bar scene and other worldy endeavors, I find myself more and more alone.

MaryGrace Godfrey

3

MaryGrace Godfrey commented…

As a single, I have lost some of my best friends to their marriages. I can't say I've ever really understood why that happened. Those loses were extremely painful. I hope they perhaps have a chance to read this and maybe I have the courage to express the loss to them.
Thank you for an excellent article and some very practical advice. I hope that the church as a whole will come around to meeting singles were they are, not waiting for our status to change.

37 Comments

90,684

Nosingleleftbehind commented…

As an older single (never married, no kids) over 40--it gets even tougher to hang out with married friends. Typically, singles and marrieds keep company with their "own" kind. I would LOVE to be in a serious-heading-towards-marriage relationship! Sometimes I even get jealous of my parents--kind of sad, but they have a great marriage (not perfect, but great). My BFF is in the same situation and she's "drop dead gorgeous" and a year older than I am (no kids either).

Most pastors focus on three groups: Babies/Children, Teens and Married Couples. Singles (20-40's) are usually left out--no wonder most of them are not active church-goers! Some pastors refuse to have Co-Ed Singles Groups because of the possible "sexual factor" involved. Big mistake! Oh, and I also advise having a SINGLE "Singles Pastor" leading the group--a strong person but one can definitely relate to our struggles. Sorry married couples, but you can no longer relate to "our" current problems anymore. The world revolves around you and when you're both "feeling amorous"--it's okay to have sex. Singles are to remain celibate.

Another issue, older married men need to mentor and encourage single men to stop searching for Christian women who look like magazine models. Back in my parents and grandparents' generation, guys were serious about finding a female partner who was honest, faithful and had a love for God. Yes, some of the girls were skinny or overweight--gorgeous, pretty, and considered "ugly" by some...but WOW--when that man found his "special gal", he hurried up and wooed, courted and married her! (P.S. For those of you who "think" you're ugly--you're not.) Like my dad says, if a good man wants you--it's because he WANTS you...period! :D

Raquel Torres

1

Raquel Torres commented…

I dont think married couples need single friends. At least the ones I knew did. They did just fine without me. Not to sound angry or bitter but in my experiences, married couples dont purposefully forget about their single friends but their minds are more concerned with making their spouses happy and being in like-minded relationships, i.e. other married couples. Maybe this sounds bad but to say that married couples need single friends sounds alittle selfish to me. So married couple get to hangout with single AND married friends? I feel the opposite. Singles know a days (at least in my case) have found it VERY difficult to find other quality singles to hang out with. Not being a part of the bar scene and other worldy endeavors, I find myself more and more alone.

90,684

Frank Bicycle commented…

It's lines like this that made me stop going to church. 100 years ago a pastor never would have said something so corny. I bet your church is a utilitarian building with a drum set on stage. Ya blew it.

90,684

Liz commented…

I agree with this article that overcoming jealousy is a major hurdle in any friendship, but here is my biggest frustration: I feel like any time I develop a close friendship with another female, and she meets a man, she stops investing into my life. I am one of the more single people I know in the church, and I've had this experience both in an out of church friendships.

I've seen this happen with men as well, but I feel like it usually happens with female friendships. It goes from spending a great deal of time to spending time in between boyfriend time to overhearing your "coupled" friends talk about all the double, triple and quadruple dates they are planning right in front of you. Not that I want to be around tons of couples ALL the time, but why is it that once people get into relationships, it seems as though they no longer know how to just work their single friends "into" their lives? I'm pretty sure I don't have the plague, I just think that it hasn't been God's time for me at this point when it comes to men. So why is it that maintaining my close female friendships becomes so difficult?

I will say that one of my closest friends and her boyfriend are a huge inspiration to me in terms of what I look for in any future man/relationship I have, but the closer they get to marriage, it seems the further away she and I become. It makes me wonder, "is there really something wrong with me? Am I a bad person to be friends with?" It's a huge spiritual struggle for me, as this has been a pattern over the last few years of my life when it comes to friendships. Any time I begin a new friendship and it develops, my friend will meet a guy and then adios to me. On a positive note: I think I'm a good luck charm for other females!

Eileen Hume

3

Eileen Hume commented…

Thank you, and Thank you for this article. I am encouraged to change my perspective in spending time with my married friends and those who will soon be married as a part of the Body of Christ. I have been so discouraged hearing married people and single people comment that when married it's 'unhealthy' for them to hang out with single people much. They have said it 'distracts' them from their marriage or learning about being a good spouse. I feel encouraged now to continue, revive and pursue having healthy friendship with married couples.

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