Questions You Should Never Ask, Part One

This three-part blog miniseries has been rolling around in my head for a few months now. I should state up front that I realize people who ask these questions are rarely asking maliciously. My intention is not to condemn or complain; I simply hope to shed some light into murky corners. Consider this a dual-purposed public service announcement. Should any of my dear readers ever find themselves tempted to ask one of these likely well-intentioned yet inappropriate questions (Part One and Part Two), I hope they’ll remember that there’s a much better choice (Part Three). For those who’ve found themselves on the receiving end of such questioning, may you suddenly feel a little less alone.

Part One: “When are you going to get married?” (variations include “Why are you still single?” and “How come nobody’s snatched you up yet?”)

married

courtesy Benjamin David Photography

When I used to get asked this question I wished for a very snappy reply. The best I could come up with was “I don’t know.”

Not very snappy.

Being married was my number one goal in life, the first thing I always asked God for, and remaining single into my thirties was never my plan. This question, though, makes it sound as though getting married is one hundred percent within a person’s control…like deciding when to get the oil changed in the car or when to pick up fresh eggs at the store. There is no Spouse Store, Amazon does not stock husbands and wives in their massive warehouses, and although one can probably be ordered from somewhere online the idea seems sketchy at best. Every time that question was posed to me it was like rubbing salt in an open wound because it reminded me of a yet unanswered – and very dear to my heart – prayer and how it was completely outside my ability to make it happen.

Then there’s the more subtle undertones, the second half of the question that’s never actually voiced: “Why are you still single…is there something wrong with you?” Single folks so often seem normal; perhaps even wonderful. It’s perfectly okay to marvel to yourself why someone besides you hasn’t noticed this fact and made their move. However, the moment you give voice to that wondering in the presence of that single person, it sounds like you’re trying to figure out the hidden flaw that keeps others from committing. What sort of answer is possible here? “I’m probably too…” What, strong-willed? Skinny? Talented? Intimidating? Short? Clearly, if there was some magic thing that needed alteration and the single person knew what that thing was, they’d have fixed it by now.

Unless, of course, the thing that is wrong is that they are single because they choose to be single. But why on earth would someone ever choose that?! /sarcasm

Thankfully my prayer was eventually answered; when we were ready for one another my husband and I began dating and the rest is (recent) history. There was sweet freedom in knowing I would never have to face this particular question again.

But then, they started asking about children.

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21 thoughts on “Questions You Should Never Ask, Part One

  1. Good work on this! Although some people might be rubbed the wrong way…we all think about this stuff, so we might as well talk about it. My brother recently said something that makes a lot of sense, but it is still irritating that we all do thing type of thing from time to time:

    “As far as people talking, people talk. Most don’t really know what to ask so they ask the most obvious question. We live in a comparative society, I am married why aren’t you, we have kids why don’t you?” …However, one cannot get caught up in this, you have to be good with yourself and be prepared to either jump into marriage or as a couple decide we are going to try for children. Both require an amount of selfless action that many are not willing to give.”

    What is frustrating and what Alana and I experience a lot is that everyone wants us to be like them. One of our huge goals/struggles is to make sure we are okay with where people are at…just as they are. (Maybe we need to learn to be okay with where WE are at first). I think this is what Jesus was great at. “Hey you…yeah you….over there, the one that is nothing like me. You are great just as you are.”

    • I totally agree. It’s lazy. Rather than taking a genuine interest in another person’s story and their hope for the future, we try to figure out why they aren’t in the same exact place in life we find ourselves. It’s very alienating to the person who finds themselves in a different place. I remember spending a season actually avoiding people who were at a certain place in their story just so I could stop feeling like a weirdo for not being there with them.

      Maybe I’ll fix all these problems in Part Three!

  2. my goodness, children-you just got married! But I am excited for you and little sprout! There is nothing wrong with you, Amanda! You are a beautiful, Godly woman and God has and had your whole life all planned out! Follow Him and you will have a great life, challenges and all!

  3. I can TOTALLY RELATE to this! While I was single I even got sarcastically phrased questions like, “Why aren’t you seeing anyone? You’re not a lesbian, are you?!” One of those “jokes” where you know they have really wondered if that was true. I also had someone say to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone to cuddle up with on the couch to watch a movie on this rainy night? Too bad you don’t.” Those questions were ridiculous and insensitive, but no more painful than the frequent, “Are you seeing anyone yet?”
    Whenever I tried so desperately to find a relationship on my own (without waiting on God) I found myself in relationships with crazies (ugh) that were NOT God’s best for me. I probably wouldn’t have been so desperate to find someone had it not been for all the voices around me questioning why I was single, and telling me there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t in a relationship.
    All that to say, Amanda this is an amazing blog post! It brings awareness to a very real frustration shared by many awesome single folks. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. 😉

    • Yup…so horribly rude. Which is why I wanted to be able to think quickly on my feet and come up with some amazing retort that put the asker in their place – “Well, I’m seeing YOU at the moment, but when we’re finished with this present awkwardness I’m sure I’ll be ‘seeing’ someone else. Hopefully they’re a bit more thoughtful.”

      See? Now that the pressure’s off and I don’t need the quick response, it’s at my fingertips.

      • That right there is an AMAZING response. I hope someone sees that and has the opportunity to use it.

      • Ha! Well YOU didn’t say those things. No worries, I didn’t let those things sink in too much. Once I was perfectly content and happy with who I was, that’s when Jacob came along. 🙂

  4. Woman. I love this post! Your approach is fantastic. Interestingly enough, although I recently posted on a similar topic (When are you going to have kids?) I have definitely been one of the people who have asked OTHERS this question… and, I am that girl who will ask a young mom who just had her second child, when she plans to have her third. After writing my own post on this topic and receiving people’s comments and then after reading your post, I am realizing even moreso my OWN insensitivity as I have talked with others and asked my probing questions. I am thankful for you, Amanda. 🙂

    • Definitely don’t give up on asking probing questions, Alana – that’s a wonderful part of who you are! What sort of probing questions, or rather the phrasing chosen for said questions, is where the tweak could possibly fit. Hopefully I’ll have some useful, God-breathed ideas to share in Part Three!

  5. Hope you don’t mind my weighing in… As a recently-turned-60 single woman, I have had to contend with this question off and on for many years. I agree that most who ask the question don’t intend to hurt the one being asked; they simply can’t believe how someone so wonderful isn’t married – as if that’s the be-all end-all to a single person’s life. When I was about 40, I received an amazing revelation that I already had a Husband – One Who would be with me forever, even if I were to be given an earthly husband. My Husband gives me beautiful sunrises and sunsets; He loves me when I’m at my ugliest and always thinks me beautiful. I purchased a wedding ring with Isaiah 54:5 engraved on the inside as an outward reminder of His unfailing and enduring love for me. Yes, I get lonely – married women get lonely too. As I have gotten older and am finding more women my age who have been married and are now single – or who have never been married – the question doesn’t come up nearly as often. Nancy Honeytree wrote a song called “Still Single” that speaks to this very thing, and reminds all single women that there’s nothing wrong with not being married to an earthly husband; we have the Ultimate Husband!

    • Barb, I have a dear friend and mentor who says God told her early in her marriage that her earthly husband was her training ground…that she could only love, respect, honor, and cherish Jesus to the extent that she loved, respected, honored, and cherished her earthly husband. Ultimate Husband indeed! So glad to hear you are walking in your identity as the Bride of Christ. He truly is always generous, loving, and wise.

  6. Pingback: Questions You Should Never Ask, Part Two | girl in process

  7. Pingback: Questions You Should Never Ask, Part Three | girl in process

  8. I have found personally and in observing others that many ask these questions because they are at a state of unrest within, wondering if the choices they’ve made are “ok” and looking for that approval in finding others who will follow suit. A twisted game we all play, searching for and demanding approval of others. I like what Josh says above, learning to be ok with where WE are at this moment in the gift of the present, and learning to see that everyone’s journey plays a telltale part in their choices and decisions about THEIR lives.

    • That is an interesting perspective, Monica…rather than the asker wondering why the answerer isn’t more like them, the asker could be looking for validation that where they’re at is “normal.” Oh, to be present where we are now without losing sight of our dreams for the future. Such a balancing act can be quite a challenge!

  9. So so soo true. The response I often give when people ask the question, “you’re so (insert positive trait), why aren’t you married yet???” question, in trying to make a awkward situation better, I generally laugh and say, “I don’t know but when you figure it out, let me know!”. .Can we also say how wonderful (note the sarcasm) it is when people say, “oh, but you’re so young!” Of course, the person making the comment often times married when they were like 19 and/or has never been single any significant time (greater than a year) as an adult. Sigh. My grace with those types of comments is incredibly thin to say the least. Wen people hit me with these comments, I often pray that The Lord further sensitizes me and gives me grace so I don’t accidentally say something equally offensive to others.

    • I certainly can empathize with you, especially when it comes to having a short supply of grace in those situations. Your response to pray for extra sensitivity to avoid becoming the offending party is wonderful (and admirable!). I love that idea.

  10. Pingback: When Are You Having Kids? - Alana Mokma

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