Life in 21st century America is brimming with contradictions.
The divorce rate remains at a staggering 50% of married couples.
The number of single mothers is rising.
But our society continues to value pairs. There are discounts for people booking two seats. There are no single tables at restaurants. You are charged more for a single room at a hotel than a double (per person).
At Christmas couples kiss under the mistletoe. New Year’s Eve is a celebration for couples. Valentines and Sweetest Day round out the couple holidays. But let’s not also forget the tax benefits for married filing jointly or the stares as you enter the movie theater alone.
Why is it important to answer the question . . .
Who is happier? Single or married?
It is not a secret that I’m a Christian, follow Jesus Christ and call myself a Christ follower.
I believe in the sanctity of marriage, the joy of uniting for a lifetime. I look forward to the day when I might also be equally yoked with a good man, who has a good heart and looks forward to a future with me.
But, for now, the reality is that I’m a single parent. I’ve been a single mom through most of my married life, so it wasn’t nearly the shock I might have otherwise expected when I became a legal single mom after the divorce.
This question of being single or a couple has come up more and more in our home as my oldest daughter (one of twins) has married and the older two boys are casting about, trying to find their significant others.
I remember the same angst in myself and my peers as I was entering mid-20s. What would the rest of my life look like? Would there be someone at my side?
It might be my perspective, but today it feels a bit more frantic.
Today, it seems that hooking up is more important than a future together. A night of romping is better than a lifetime commitment. And, while being single no longer implies looking forward to a future with husband, wife and family – the desire for the warmth and comfort of another human being has not disappeared.
The difference seems to be in the amount of time we want to be attached to this other human being. Instead of finding your anchor, your soulmate, the person you can love for the rest of all eternity, more people are looking for the person they can love for the rest of the night.
Apps are making it easier to satisfy the flesh and more difficult to enjoy the deeper satisfaction you get when you know someone and you are known.
It reminds me of the theme song to the TV sitcom Cheers:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
The idea is that the people in this small Boston bar were KNOWN, loved and appreciated. But, even when they were disliked, their loss was still felt and mourned.
At some point I think that some of us have lost that desire. Or maybe it’s that we’re afraid that people will really know us – and in knowing us, won’t like who they see.
Married people are using excuses to seek comfort and pleasure outside of their marriage. It’s become the “in” thing – or at least until Ashley Madison was hacked!
On the surface of it all married couples may appear to have it all, or at least all of what single people imagine is the Holy Grail. But underneath the façade boils a cauldron of witch’s brew and eye of newt, brought together to fill a void they perceive would be filled if they were single. More variety, more spice, greater excitement . . . CHANGE.
So, who is happier? Single or married?
How do you answer that question? Why is the answer to that question so important?
Whether you are happiest single or married is a question only you can answer for yourself. But, it’s how you live out the days between being single and married that your children watch.
They are watching you. Every minute of every day.
This point was driven home to me the other day in a way that surprised me. My sister keeps telling me that my 12 year old daughter hears all. I think I believed her, but it was today when my daughter asked me about something her older sister is going through, that I realized she was hearing EVERYTHING.
With the door shut, the music on and while she is playing on her PS4, she is hearing everything. She told me today that I don’t whisper very well.
It might be that the acoustics in our home are conducive to listening. But, that wouldn’t make sense because she never hears me when I’m calling her. . .
I’ve had my hearing checked and it’s fine. I don’t think it’s the volume of my whispers.
It’s just that they hear everything. They know what we do and when we do it.
It’s how we live our lives as single mothers in front of our children that demonstrates for them that happiness is not a product of our circumstances. It could never be a product of our circumstances, because as humans we always want more, want something different than what we have.
Instead, our happiness and joy comes from who we are and how we choose to live our lives. Only you know the answer to whether or not you would be happiest single or married.
And only you can demonstrate to your children how to live happily no matter what your circumstances.