What NOT to say if you’re single

I sat at the foot of the bed with crossed arms and my mind made up while I ugly-cried: “I will never meet another guy who likes me.” I was 20 and mildly dramatic and my path—one I briefly walked with a blue-eyed, black-haired bass player—had been pulled out from under me.

By text message.

On New Year’s Day.

Single, and I didn’t want to be. Perpetually, too—I was certain. My sole shot at someday becoming a spouse had expired because a boy who smelled like smoke and wore eye liner said so. I grieved, which is natural and good. But then I threw a pity party.

The same pity party I threw when I had never dated before and worried I never would, which I also throw when I am periodically tired of how single I am, again. At the foot of the bed, I told stories to myself about my relationship status. The stories I told were a lot of things (sad, frustrating, neverending). But the stories I told weren’t true.

I snapped out of it (for reasons that include but are not limited to “my mother is a therapist.”). But my heart hurts now, because in real life and online, I have interacted a lot lately with unhappy single people.

Single people who are telling stories. Sad, frustrating, neverending stories. Stories that aren’t true, that we who are single for who-knows-how-long or forever, ought not say to ourselves anymore.

Stories like these:

1. “Nobody wants to date somebody like me.”

If you have met all the people, asked all the people if they want to date somebody like you and all the people said no, then you’re right. But you have not met all the people. You have not asked all the people if they want to date you. That story isn’t true. What is true is that whether you are dating does not determine whether other people exist who want to date you.

2. “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards.”

If you are a time traveler or a psychic or a prophet, then I guess that by virtue of having done your homework, you could be right. But you are not a time traveler. You are not a psychic. You are probably not a prophet. Science says it is impossible for you to know right now all the things you’ll know at the end of your life. So does math. And religion. And logic. The point is stop it. I know a lot of people who once said “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards” who are now married to somebody who meets their standards and have four children.

3. “Single life is not a calling from God.”

Except it might be, and if it turns out to be yours, telling yourself it isn’t is going to unnecessarily disappoint you. “Some people must accept that, in the Providence of God, they have been called to a single life. Worse things could happen!” (Fr. Benedict Groeschel). Neither I nor Fr. Groeschel are asking you to decide today to be single forever. I am, however, asking you to decide today to tell yourself a different story about single life from now on: that if your vocation involves it, that isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.

4. “I’m unlovable (or unattractive, or boring, etc.).”

If you are not a human, then maybe. But you are a human, and humans are of intrinsic, infinite value, on the neverending receiving end of authentic love and unabashed affection from the creator of the universe, in whose not-unattractive, not-boring image you are created. You are not just lovable. You are loved.


profile pic summer 2014 2Arleen Spenceley is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.




  1. really really, I really needed to read something like this.
    Thank you very much.

    By V. Fowl | 6 years ago Reply
    • So glad you got something out of it. Thanks for reading!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 6 years ago Reply
  2. The last paragraph is the zinger. Good job.

    By Tom Quiner | 6 years ago Reply
    • Thanks, Tom!

      By Arleen Spenceley (@ArleenSpenceley) | 6 years ago Reply
  3. I needed to read that. Thank you so much

    By mayra | 6 years ago Reply
  4. I haven’t read too many of these blog posts since I followed on facebook after Jason spoke at my school but this hit the nail on the head! I recently was dumped very ungracefully by my boyfriend of nearly 2 years. We were both still virgins at the end of the relationship so that’s good but it was still a heavy blow (obviously). I started reading How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul and it was definitely what I needed along with this post. Love it!

    By Jennifer | 6 years ago Reply
  5. I’m from brazil and I ‘ve just prayed for all those questions, at the foot of my bed, saying exactly those sad things that a single person can’t say, one more time. I really needed to read this. Thank you for being such an instrument of God!

    By Aline | 6 years ago Reply
    • Oi Aline 🙂 Deus sabe exatamente o momento certo de por ou tira pessoas das nossas vidas. Cabe a nós a paciência e a oração para saber esperar o tempo Dele. Certeza que terá um lindo futuro com seu futuro esposo. Fiquem em paz!

      By Vanessa | 6 years ago Reply
      • Obrigada, Vanessa! Deus te abençoe! =)

        By Aline | 6 years ago Reply
  6. Thank yoy for posting this! This is something i really needed to read!

    By Emily Crawley | 6 years ago Reply
  7. Yeah…I’ve said all these things…and recently, as a matter of fact. Thanks for writing this.

    By Molly | 6 years ago Reply
  8. Thank you for writing the article. I do have to share that number 3 does break my heart a bit. Thinking that I have an ardent desire to have a mutually loving marriage and imagining that God would not fill the desires of my heart is discouraging. While in reality, worse thing can happen, yes. I would always like to believe better things can happen. I was once told that your true vocation would bring you God’s Peace. I wonder how to experience peace with being single, when your desire to share your life with another. I suppose it’s a season, I do hope it’s not a lifetime. For now grateful for the journey and your encouraging words.

    By April | 6 years ago Reply
  9. Thanks for writing this, it hits home for me at this time in my life!!!!!!

    By JJ | 6 years ago Reply
  10. It’s almost winter 2014, hope to read your book soon! Good article 🙂

    By Nikki | 6 years ago Reply
  11. Good points, but I do take issue with #3-being single is not a calling. Married life and the perpetually celibate life are, but “being single” is not a calling. It MAY be what happens in your life and I think you make a good point about not being disappointed if your life turns out that way. But for heaven’s sake-singlehood is not a vocation. It’s a tragic result of a lot of things (pornography, abortion, crazy feminist man hating movement), but vocation/calling it aint!

    By Jen B | 6 years ago Reply
    • Please do your research first, there are definitely 3 vocations, single hood being one of them.. You are correct that you can’t just be single by default. You should read the book The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide by Emily Stimpson, she explains it very well in there. Cheers!

      By Emily | 6 years ago Reply
      • I have done extensive research on the vocation of the laity. No where is there a “vocation to the single life”. Even Emily points out that there is such a thing as “consecrated singlehood” – priests, religious sisters, brothers, women who are “consecrated women” (ie choose to remain single and live under the direction and authority of their local bishop) are all part of the “Big V Vocation”, ie married life or consecrated life. And each of these has someone else that their live is ordered towards: for marriage men for their wives and wives for their husbands. For priests, for the Bride, the Church. For consecrated women of all stripes they serve Christ the Bridegroom.

        However, the average single, baptized guy or girl is not a vocation in and of itself. In that all the baptized have a vocation on their call – ie a particular reason why they were put on this earth and given particular spiritual gifts called charisms to be carried out – is true of all of us, married, religious or single.

        However, just the state of unconsecrated singlehood is not in and of itself a vocation. That is why I object to what Arlene wrote. Single life – apart from consecrated life – is not a calling. It’s a reality, but it is not a calling.

        By Jen B | 6 years ago Reply
    • I agree! So glad I’m not alone with this! ; )

      By Anonymous | 6 years ago Reply
  12. Thank you so much for posting this!! As a chronically single woman, I’ve said these things to myself quite a lot… you basically read my mind. Time to break the negativity and start embracing my singleness! God bless! 🙂

    By Cat | 6 years ago Reply
  13. Tears! Funny how things happen to come along right when you need to hear them. Thanks for the wise words!

    By Taylor Telken | 6 years ago Reply
  14. Thank You! This Is Such A RefreshinG Read.

    By Kelly | 6 years ago Reply
  15. Thank you!! I have been struggling with this!!

    By Faith | 6 years ago Reply
  16. I needed this thank you especially the self pity part. I just started to tell my self to stop wallowing in self pity and start praising God because without having a relationship with God how can we truly love someone without first feeling the love of God?

    By Heather Warner | 6 years ago Reply
  17. What a wonderful article. I especially love that last paragraph. I really enjoy your articles, and archive many of them for our four daughters to read in the future. Keep up the great work!!

    By Donna | 6 years ago Reply
  18. Wow∩__∩

    By cari | 6 years ago Reply
  19. I liked it, but would add:
    addendum to #2: Don’t lower your standards. This is the one thing that upset me, when women would compromise their morals to go out with another guy.
    4a. (If you can afford it) If you have acne or warts or…, don’t be afraid to see a dermatologist. It helped me feel better about myself. If you feel you are overweight, consult a doctor, but don’ go crazy – plastic surgery is unnecessary.
    3a. Be active and out there. Meet new friends and be active at church – doesn’t have to be just youth ministry. Join or make a singles/young adult group. You do not have to pay a dating service to meet someone.Things can happen when you aren’t over-obsessing about it.
    3. Don’t do a Mega-date where you are trying to do everything possible in a day. Do shorter dates like just lunch or just dinner or mini-golf…
    Also in line with 1 & 4, if you are of a certain age – for me it was 25, it is okay to cry about it. But get over it. The hook-up and “have to be married by age x” cultures put expectations on you that are unrealistic. You should marry the right person, not because it is the “in thing to do” of the thing you need to do.

    By David Fischer | 6 years ago Reply
    • Completely agree with you David!
      I also hate the “have to be married by age x”. This is so annoying. My exboyfriend used to press me saying that he wouldn’t marry with or after 30. But he forgot that I’m younger and didn’t think like him.

      By Vanessa Dini | 6 years ago Reply
  20. THANK YOU for saying that esp about it actually being a real calling. I actually really enjoy my season of singlehood but not everyone gets that. A few of my great aunts are single and they have lead such amazing and fulfilling lives living out their calling. I don’t know what God has planned but I know it will be awesome!

    By meli | 6 years ago Reply
  21. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. It’s so hard to remember that I am loved when I am spending my life sacrificing to ensure that others feel loved.

    By Someone | 6 years ago Reply
  22. It is a good article. Do you have an article about discernment and process of looking for the right spouse? You’ve mentioned that you know friends married to someone who meet their standard and happily married. Do you know how they get there?

    By Ian | 6 years ago Reply
  23. #foreveralone

    By pontifex | 6 years ago Reply
  24. I like this post. I myself am 21 years old and have never had a girlfriend. But I do believe that until I do, I wouldn’t be able to discern what my true vocation is, whether it be to be married or to be a priest. I believe as you start becoming more of yourself and holy and get closer to the person that God made you to be, then your vocation starts becoming clearer even in your heart.

    By Juan Hernandez | 6 years ago Reply
  25. Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate it

    By Kevin Sambula | 6 years ago Reply
  26. Number 4 really hit home for me. This is something I really needed to read today. Thank you for sharing this!

    By Mary | 6 years ago Reply
  27. Wow! A lot of value in such an article! I’m single and very happy as one. I do indeed see single-life as a calling.

    By Art | 6 years ago Reply
  28. Thank you for this, it re-assures me that there is nothing wrong with me. I have been looking for my soulmate since ages, i guess it is the wrong time to do so or I’m looking in the wrong places.

    By SHayne | 6 years ago Reply
  29. Guess I should take note on that!

    By Richel Panicker | 6 years ago Reply
  30. this article was a little bit helpful-honestly, I don’t agree with some of it.

    I understand that God loves me for me (i don’t but thats a different story) and I know that “you can only know god’s love for you by first loving yourself”, but how can you if no guy (or girl) want nothing to do with you?

    I know for a fact that I am not called to religious life (never happening), but I see my future in two ways

    1. Die alone (whether at the age of 22 or when I’m older)
    2. Be alone forever with only 7 cats to keep me company.

    I’ve come to the difficult conclusion that, while you say not to “say it”, I firmly believe sentence 1 and 4 of this article

    By Jupie | 6 years ago Reply
    • Jupie,

      “Even for a tree, there is hope. Cut it down and it will sprout again. It’s new shoots will not fail.” – Job 14:7. Jupie, I’ve been active in 3 Catholic divorce ministries. I’ve seen 60-something year old women with kids and grandkids fall in love all over again. If they can do it, so can you. Stay strong!

      By Andrew Lind | 6 years ago Reply
      • Thats the thing – i dont want to have kids when i’m 60 – I dont want to be like those people. I want to have kids BEFORE i go through menopause-so pretty much when i’m in my late 20’s, early 30’s.

        Ive honestly come to the conclusion that I’m never going to be good enough for any guy – i’ve been used, toyed with, thrown away like a piece of garbage (my ex of one year dumped me over skype with his little bro and entire family in the room).

        I’m the kind of person that needs not only spiritual affection, but physical as well.

        By Jupie | 6 years ago Reply
        • JUUUPIEE!!!
          I too, have the fear of being a cat lady, and never having children. However. I am still cute, not dead, and I am sure you are too. Our emotions are VERY powerful, and one day I can obsess over my eyes looking tired, and the next wonder what was my problem. My point is this. Your fears and emotions can drive you, and prevent you from relaxing, being happy, and being who God meant you to be. I have decided that I am not looking for anyone right now, because I cannot and do Not want to deal with the anxiety that comes from having low self-esteem, brought about by being in a relationship” and stressing about time running out, while trying to be normal at the same time. oh, I wasn’t just thinking about marrying the guy I JUST met in the grocery aisle, huh-uh, I’m cool. When I am better, feeling good about myself, THEN, perhaps it will happen, But, like you, I have been used, treated badly, and I need to heal from that, be secure in myself, and pray for the right man to come along, the right one for me. Yes, I am most likely older than you, and I thought when I was 27 that by 30 I would have met the “one”, and be on my way to a family and happy home. Guess what? I am 35, no boyfriend in sight, and…happier than I have been for years. My happiness depends on my relationship with God, my willingness to trust Him in all that I do, and to be myself! Do what you love. God has a plan, do not give up hope. Ever! Be not afraid. May God bless you, may Mary cover you in her mantle of loving protection, and may you always turn to Him to console you.

          By Rachel | 6 years ago Reply
  31. thank you so much I needed to hear It!

    By Paulina | 6 years ago Reply
  32. So glad that someone just raised me up today! Last night I was so thinking of how lonely I am, how sad is to be lonely, and then this text showed up! May God bless you for your truthfull words. Just loving. 🙂

    By Maysa | 6 years ago Reply
  33. Arleen,

    This is awesome. I love reading your stuff. Believe it or not, even guys say statements like the 4 you listed. Unfortunately our actions after we say one (or more) of those sentences aren’t the most positive. Some go out drinking, others try to hook-up with the 1st woman they see, and some go to even more extreme actions than that. I guess what us guys need to do after we lash out and say something negative like these “fatal 4,” is we need to do something to better ourselves. After all, “To be her man, you first gotta be a man.”

    By Andrew Lind | 6 years ago Reply
  34. This is a great article. I’ve never really been in a successful long lasting relationship, and these things are exactly what I tell myself all the time. I appreciate the clarity. It helps a lot.

    By Mary | 6 years ago Reply
  35. Wished more of the faithful recognized the single life as a vocation.

    By J | 6 years ago Reply
  36. I’ve been single for 5 yrs (I’m 21) and I’ve told myself all these stories. I really needed to read something like this especially because of everything I went through with my ex-boyfriend. These last few years I started to become closer to God and I have told myself that if God wants me to have a boyfriend He will send me the right guy. So far I’ve been impatient but I know that God will do His work with time so I HAVE to wait. Once again Thank you for this article! 🙂

    By Lupe Cervantes | 6 years ago Reply
  37. this came to me at the most perfect time – I am 30 and have never been in a relationship and constantly – especially with some experiences that have happened recently – repeat all of these things to myself. I have bookmarked this and am sure I’ll return to it again. thank you so much!

    By johanna | 6 years ago Reply
  38. Thanks for posting, I need to hear this too! I’m 21 and I find myself at times saying things like the ones posted in this article.
    God bless<3

    By Brenda | 6 years ago Reply
  39. Thank you for continuing to share your experiences about single life and being a light to others. I turned 40 this year, never been married and by God’s grace still a virgin. Waiting hasn’t been easy but it has been a grace filled time of falling in love with our ultimate bridegroom – Jesus. There is always hope…

    By tina | 6 years ago Reply
  40. I am 20 years old and have never been in a relationship – dated, yes, but never gotten to the relationship stage. For a while I was a bit frustrated about it, but not too long ago I had the opportunity to talk to one of my favorite priests about it, and what he told me was beautiful:

    “When it comes to relationships, you must first focus on forming yourself as an individual. Once you learn to be comfortable with yourself as a unique child of God, then you are ready to share yourself with a man, and the two of you can work together to bring each other closer to divine love in Jesus Christ.”

    This has really helped put things in perspective… just thought I would share his words of wisdom 🙂

    By Gabrielle | 6 years ago Reply
  41. Good article except the third point. I agree with a comment below regarding that the single life is not a vocation. (And I’m a bit surprised this was approved to be on this site.) A vocation (either marriage, priesthood, or consecrated life) consists of proclaimed public vows and a complete gift of self. So this needs to happen in order for the ‘singlehood’ (aka consecrated life) to be a vocation. To be a perpetual bachelor is not. There are no vows or complete gift of self.

    To be honest after reading that point it made me feel hopeless, not hopeful. It’s true that singlehood gets a bad reputation and we should have a more positive outlook on it. Which is most likely what was trying to be conveyed. I think there is a lot of misconception regarding this. Please consider revising or clarifying. Thank you.

    By Tiff | 6 years ago Reply
    • Sorry! I meant the comment above, not below.

      By Tiff | 6 years ago Reply
  42. THANK you for writing about the singles! Sometimes I feel like single people are an afterthought 🙂 Appreciate the humor too~

    By Rachel | 6 years ago Reply
  43. about the meeting the person of your standards:
    how do you even know if your settling?

    By Kathryn | 6 years ago Reply

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