It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day presents an idealised view of love. Even the happiest couples can find it stressful trying to reach the dizzying heights of romance seen in movies. For others, however, it’s a completely different story.
For women trapped in the cycle of domestic abuse, February 14th can be yet another tool for an abuser to control them. Instead of heightened love, it brings heightened fear. Meanwhile, women who have managed to leave are painfully reminded that the person who was supposed to love them the most actually caused them the most harm. They’re also faced with a new dilemma: how to be single.
If you’re looking at a Valentines’ Day without romantic love, you’re certainly not the only one. You may well have had singleness thrust upon you, whether that’s through abuse, bereavement, an unexpected break-up, infidelity or divorce - not to mention a year of lockdown!
Whatever your experience, we hope these four encouragements help you get through the mid-February blues:
1) Your identity is more than your relationship status.
Think about how you’d describe yourself in 30 seconds. How many different labels could you use? There are so many elements that make up who you are, and most of them are temporary! Some labels we wear for a long time, others are replaced as life goes on and situations change. They’re useful descriptors, but too unreliable to pin our self-worth on. Your relationship status is not the most important thing about you.
If you’re a Christian, you have an identity that lasts forever: you’re a child of God (1 John 3:1), you’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), you’re chosen, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). February 14th could still be a bad day, but it’s temporary; it’s just one 24 hours among many that will fade away. Remember who you are in Jesus, the wonderful person he has made you to be. He loves you without conditions - that’s what endures forever.
2) You’re in good company: Jesus was single and perfect.
Not only did Jesus willingly become a human, with all the pain, vulnerability and embarrassment that comes with a body made of flesh, but he lived life as a single man. Sam Allberry, author of ‘7 Myths About Singleness’, reminds us that this was no accident. Jesus’ singleness ‘shows that none of these things - marriage, romantic fulfillment, sexual experience - is intrinsic to being a full human being. The moment we say otherwise… we are implying that Jesus himself is only subhuman.’ Wow. Isn’t that both comforting and challenging?
Jesus walked the path of singleness, knowing its pain and its joys. How can we go on thinking that singleness equals imperfection when Jesus was both single and the perfect example of humanity?
'He is the most complete and fully human person that ever lived.'
— Sam Allberry, '7 Myths About Singleness' —
Let’s challenge our own thoughts and the culture of our churches - the subtle (or not so subtle) undercurrent of ‘single bad, marriage good’. Remember that romance, however thrilling, is not the ultimate goal of our lives. Singleness, however painful, does not mean you’re missing out on the full human experience.
3) There’s more than one type of love and relationship.
The Bible does say it’s not good for us to be alone, but singleness doesn’t automatically mean loneliness. Jesus had a family, a large following, a close group of twelve, and an even closer inner circle. Despite being unmarried, he was surrounded by a loving, supportive community. Even when Jesus managed to escape to some solitude, he wasn’t alone; he was spending time with his Father in heaven.
Think about all the connections you have. You are not alone! If you’re a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit right there with you and you are part of a church family stretching across the globe. Singleness is a great opportunity to invest in some of these other relationships. Instead of a cheesy card, why not send an encouraging message to a friend on Valentine’s Day? Sometimes it’s up to us to take the first step and reach out when loneliness creeps in.
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’
— Romans 12:15 —
4) You don’t have to pretend you’re okay.
So, you accept that you’re loved, valued and not alone. You know that you have a purpose, that life isn’t on hold, and that Jesus shared your singleness. Great! Does that mean you’ll always love it? Probably not.
Being filled with truths that counteract the myths of singleness is so important, but it won’t make you immune to sadness. It’s only natural to have down days and it’s okay to express those emotions. Find someone you trust and be open with them, allowing them to get alongside you in your struggles. Authenticity is a key part of true, intimate friendships.
It can still be intensely difficult to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’, there’s no point pretending otherwise. Sam Allberry writes of the temptation to ‘compare the downs of singleness with the ups of marriage’. Both singleness and intimate relationships have dark moments, as survivors know all too well, but social media only shows us the good bits. If you’re feeling miserable after a long scroll through other people’s displays of affection, it’s ok to take a break.
So, as February 14th approaches, be kind to yourself. You are worthy of love. You are loved, today and always. Don’t let singleness tell you otherwise.
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