As a single guy who is old enough to be pondering questions such as, “Am I contributing enough to my 401(k)?” or, “Does my potential new job offer dental benefits, because I might need dentures soon…?”, I have been around long enough to have witnessed the marriage of many of my best friends. Heck, most of my friends are on their second or third kid and are worrying about which school district has the best honors program for their supposedly gifted offspring!
Single adults often have to act enthusiastic in uncomfortable social situations, but perhaps the most painful and awkward act we have to perform is putting on a big smile and offering a heartfelt “Congratulations, that’s awesome, I’m so happy for you guys!” when our best buddy or childhood friend finally decides to tie the knot – and we have no prospects on the horizon whatsoever! Maybe you have “made your peace” with the whole Being Single thing and are content with where God has put you in life – good job, great friends, nice place to live, a church you feel really plugged into, etc. – but, to my mind at least, there is nothing that will challenge this state of contentedness more profoundly than the news of a close friend that’s getting engaged. Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much – we’ve all had those friends who were mainstays of our social group and who we hung out with all the time, but as soon as they found and began dating their soul mate they immediately vanished from the group and were gone from our lives as suddenly as the flip of a light switch.
Now don’t get me wrong – as someone who hopes to be married someday myself, but more importantly, as a Christ-follower who, in my better moments, attempts to treat others the way I would like to be treated – I am definitely not saying we should not or cannot truly rejoice with our friends when they come to us with the news that their lives are going to be permanently changed – far from it! But if we are painfully honest with ourselves, we will admit that sometimes it is like attempting to grin cheerfully during a root canal to try to be as sincerely happy for our soon-to-be-married friends as we hope they would be for us if it were our turn.
So what to do? First of all, acknowledge that it stinks – not that you necessarily need to tell them that (and if you do tell them, pray long and hard beforehand that God would give you the right words, the right time, and the right spirit in which to have that conversation). Just be honest with yourself and with God and admit that, yes, you are losing someone, at least for a while. In fact, it’s almost like someone close to you has died. For a romantic relationship to strengthen into a God-honoring, rock-solid marriage, the couple has to enter into a much more exclusive relationship than any they (and you) have ever experienced. Know that your engaged or newly married friends are not (99% of the time, at least) intentionally trying to leave you, their single friend, behind – they just need to spend a lot of quality time together in order to enter into that intimate relationship that God desires for them to have so that they can truly become one. But none of this changes the simple fact that you’ll miss having them around like they were before!
And of course, as a single adult, having a friend get engaged and married is just another not-so-subtle reminder that we are not. It’s not that we mean to be childish or jealous, it’s that our minds are being bombarded with thoughts like, “Why not me?” “Am I going to be the last one standing?” and on and on it goes… So yeah, just say it, “It stinks!”
Having said that, know that genuinely rejoicing with your friends while at the same time mourning the passing of an era and the permanent alteration of your friendship is not only possible, it’s also not “wrong,” so you shouldn’t feel guilty or weirded out about being in this seemingly conflicted state of mind. As a guy, I’m not too proud to admit something like this, but let’s face it – God also made men just as capable as women of feeling loss. We men probably don’t express it the way the ladies do, but yeah, we’ll definitely miss not being able to spontaneously call up our buddy to go skeet-shooting on a Saturday morning without him having to first check with his “social planner.”
Finally, remember that your “couple” friends still need you! Yes, they will withdraw into themselves for a while and yes, your relationship with them will never be exactly what it used to be, but just because they are getting married doesn’t mean they don’t want or need your friendship any more. It may take them a few months or so to realize it, but they will wake up one day and realize that their husband or wife, however wonderful he or she is, cannot satisfy their every human need – and God made each one of us with a deep need for friendship. They need your friendship as they enter their new romantic relationship, and they will still need your friendship months and years after they get married and start having kids.
God is not the author of pain, sadness, or loneliness – His word tells us that all these things are the by-products of our fallen and broken world and will one day pass away with the coming of the new Heaven and Earth. Sometimes, though, I believe God allows us to deal with the “loss” of a good friend so that we will be reminded that He is, indeed, truly enough. He and He alone is our constant companion, and in a world of constant turbulence and change, we need this reminder often. He always has a way of providing exactly what we need at just the right time – and sometimes He has to take away what we think we need to show us what we really need. Thankfully, His wisdom and timing are always perfect, and when nothing else in the world makes sense, we can trust His heart and know that, as a gracious and loving Father, He will never fail to provide for our needs in ways that are far greater than we would ever imagine!