DO NOT Take Advice From Married People.
Take Advice From These People Instead...
Wise people. For the love of God, take advice from wise people.
I'm single. And I'm good at it. The old folks say, "If you ain't married, you single," so by that definition, I've been single my whole life.
My status as a single person isn't the thing that makes me good at it. Simply being a thing doesn't make one good at a thing. Like being a lawyer doesn't make a lawyer good at lawyering.
The length of time that I've been single doesn't make me good at it either. I recently hired a construction services company to make some improvements to my home. The company boasts about having 20 years of construction experience and as I found out the hard way, they're absolutely horrible at what they do, even after 2 decades of doing it.
Here's why I'm good at being single: I worked to get good at my singleness. Not yours, not theirs, but mine. I've traveled solo, experimented with vulnerability, and dated for fun, for starters. I put in work to be this skilled at and content with my life as-is. I don't equate my single life to anyone else's.
So, what does all this have to do with not taking advice from married people?
I've been consistently vocal about no one knowing anything about relationships, except for their own, and even then it's pretty shaky. I wholeheartedly include myself in that. Yet, there seems to be a societal myth that married people are wise about romantic relationships solely based on their having gotten married.
Let me say this right away. This is not to bash married people, marriage, or how the world sees them or it. I maintain my desire to one day marry, so this is not a criticism, but a critical look at the lack of logic in taking (or giving) advice solely based on marriage.
This is an important conversation for two reasons:
1) Whether it's a married individual crowning themselves as a relationship expert or society-at-large propping up married people as most qualified to extol relational virtues, the false message this sends is short-sighted and illogical. When you factor in that roughly 40% of these couples will be unable to maintain their marital relationships, it makes the idea absurd.
2) Superiority plays heavily into the divide between single and married. The same way that superiority is troubling based on gender, race, and socio-economic level, it's troubling here, too. It begs the question what an individual might feel about themselves if they are stripped of the things that make them feel better-than. The delusion of superiority creates a false sense-of-self that I know firsthand when I judge parents of badly-behaving children because my children would never behave like that...if I had any. Nevertheless, I walk away feeling pretty good about myself and my imaginary well-behaved children. The lies we tell ourselves about our superiority are just as damaging to ourselves as they are to others.
The way we deal with singleness and solitude, and maybe even individuality, in our society matters. The discussions we have about it matters. We can't continue having the usual reductive conversations about "getting chose" or playing predestined roles and thinking we're advancing humankind. We cannot act as if a certain marital group has all the answers. And we can't act as if wisdom isn't above it all. The advice we give is important, especially if that advice views oneness as a treatable condition rather than a place in life with purpose--just like all other places in life. It's important because our opinion about singleness is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.
But what about the wise people?
You know them in your own life. Wise people tend to glow a little. You want to hug them because they make so much sense. They rarely have answers for you because they want you to answer it for yourself. They don't tell you how it is because they don't know how it is for you. They know how it is for them, so they tell you their story and allow you to take away what gives you perspective.
For me, that person is a lady who's like a second mother to me who's been married for 40 years. I don't listen to her because she's been married for 40 years, but because she's wonderful at relationships. All relationships. The grace she shows to her family, neighbors and friends is what I aspire to.
You know who ALL people should take relationship advice from?
Wise people. Wise people who are married, single, widowed and divorced. But most important, wise. Wise people who are good at relationships. Wise people who share your same values, moral and ethical codes.
People who are in relationships are not good at relationships because they're in relationships. Wise people who are good at relationships are good at relationships. I observe wise people who, regardless of marital status, have good relationships with their spouses, children, friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. They have good relationships without compromising themselves.
I have an admission to make: In my twenties, I belonged to the part of society that thought married people had it figured out. You know what changed my mind? I did what my elders told me to do: I kept living. I've lived long enough to see the dysfunction within other people's relationships. I've lived long enough to know not to blindly take advice from a person whose only distinction is getting married. I've lived long enough to meet all kinds of socially intelligent people who have healthy relationships, and not just because they walked down an aisle.
For the love of God, if you're single and seeking out perspective, don't take advice from married people. Take advice from wise people.
Photo credit: Brian Wolfe via CC Flickr