The division between single and married remains a difficult barrier in the modern church. Though both sides are well-intended, many married couples act as if they don’t recall the difficulties of singleness. In turn, singles feel as if married people are only interested in the status of their love lives – and little else.
I see this theme recurring in emails from readers, comments on my Instagram and even on the blog. Singleness has trials like any life stage, and waiting for a relationship is one of them. What message do we send singles when our first question is, “So – anyone special in your life?” In essence, we’re affirming the idea that their lives are incomplete without a relationship. We say “there’s more to life than marriage!” then express interest in only that very narrow aspect of their lives. And they’re sick of it.
So if you’re married with single friends, or a single who wants your married friends to get a clue, here are five questions you can (and should) ask instead of “How’s the love life?”
What’s Keeping You Busy These Days?
I love this question. I first heard of this phraseology from Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite authors. She suggests this question because it opens so many conversation doors while avoiding those that might make a person uncomfortable. Asking someone about their relationship when they just broke up is, well, awkward. But if you ask, “What’s keeping you busy?”, the person can answer however they please.
This is a launching point for further discussion of their work, goals, dreams, or ministry.
How are You Enjoying Your Job?
Work, and the pursuit of it, is a big part of the single journey. For most singles, work and school are their most time-consuming responsibilities. They often have more time and energy invested there than they do in relationships (which can contribute to longer term singleness – something marrieds should recognize before seeing long term singleness as a “problem”).
Since they’re in this stage, take time to acknowledge that! Their work is a big part of where God is leading them. It is molding their character and opening doors of opportunity. In many ways, it takes a place of greater significance than the latest boyfriend. Learning about their work attributes value to a part of their lives that may feel like the only thing progressing toward the future.
Do You Have Any Upcoming Travel Plans?
Singleness is a fantastic time to travel (though I firmly believe in traveling post-kids as well). Whether a single person travels domestically or internationally, they’re eager to share what they’ve seen! This is a great way to exchange personal experiences and travel recommendations. It also encourages the single person to enjoy this season of freedom and consider new places to visit.
Missions trips are a great topic of conversation as well. Ask what they learned during the trip, their favorite experience, who they met, and if they’re going back.
What is Your Favorite Thing About College?
For singles in the pre-career stage, college is their most time-consuming duty. Summer break is full of work and friends, but the college season finds them scheduled tightly between classes, internships, and homework assignments. There is so much fodder for questions here!
- Are you playing on any sports teams?
- What is your dorm life like?
- How do you like your roommate?
- What is your favorite class?
- What surprised you about college?
- What do you love most about your major?
Many students – especially those in demanding majors like nursing and engineering – don’t even have time to date. When well-meaning friends only inquire about their relationship status, what does that say about their academic dedication? If the ones who care about them most only care to hear about the one thing they don’t have, it’s discouraging. Ask about their college journey – it’s an important part of their lives!
What Would You Love to Do in the Next Five Years?
This question is a little deeper, and yes, some singles might answer “Be married with kids.” But more often than not, the singles in your life will share some big, surprising dreams. They’re thinking about the future. They’re considering where their careers might take them. Engaging in their long term vision provides the attention and accountability necessary to keep them striving for their goal.
It’s not wrong to desire a godly relationship for the singles in your life. But just remember: most are hyper-aware of their own singleness. The message they need from friends and family should be the same as what Scripture says: you have a purpose greater than marriage, and you’re living it out right now. Ask them about that purpose. Ask them about their calling. And when the boyfriend appears? They’ll tell you that too.
Singleness is a gift - but it's also a trial.
If you're struggling with singleness, look at your prayer life. Are you struggling there too? Jumpstart your prayer habit with my 30 Day Fruitful Singleness Prayer Guide!