Sunday, September 28, 2014
A hug for the third wheels:
One of the challenges of extended singleness that’s not often discussed is the idea that you are no one’s special person.
I realise, even as I write, that this seems glaringly obvious.
But there is a subtlety to this idea that I’ve not seen explored in the singleness discussions that I’ve encountered. There can be a loneliness to being alone, sure. That much is obvious. But there is a unique, entirely other kind of loneliness to being alone when everyone around you has their one person – that person who is their responsibility, their care, their focus. It's the one they check in with, the one whose opinion they will defer to, the one whose schedule they will shape their lives around.
It is lonely to have nobody, but it is another kind of loneliness to be nobody’s somebody.
As nobody’s somebody, you become the dispensable variable in relational equations. It is you who might have to change your intended meetup time to fit better with what your girlfriend’s boyfriend wants. Your sister might need to pause in the middle of a deep and meaningful conversation with you to take a call from her husband at work. Your plans with a friend will fall through because her toddler is teething. If you don’t know your guy friend’s new love interest, chances are you won’t know your guy friend for much longer, either. You will grow accustomed to being the third person, or fifth, or seventh in gatherings where all the other attendees are pairs.
All of this is good and fine. It’s healthy, even. It’s sanctifying and humanising to be reminded that our own needs are not paramount. It is good to be adaptable, and to learn to hold things loosely. It’s good to know that others’ lives don’t carry the same freedoms that singleness does.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt to be reminded that everybody you care about most is aligning their lives closely to another person’s, moulding their days and hours and moments to fit another’s, but that person is not you. You are loved by many but not at the top of anyone’s priority list.
Is it selfish to mourn that a little? Is it greedy to even notice? I don’t think so. It is a genuinely difficult thing to be nobody’s main priority and to have a multiplicity of primary priorities yourself. It’s even harder to talk or write about it without seeming small-minded and petulant. But the sorrow is real, I think, and it is okay to acknowledge its existence.
What’s more important, though, is to acknowledge how significantly you (me, we) are loved in spite of the fact that we aren’t anybody’s significant other. We are surrounded by people who care, and if their care must be broken into pieces and scheduled around parents and children and spouses, that does not make the love any less genuine; it just makes it real.
And in reverse, we can treasure the opportunity to pour our own unfettered love into the lives of others, with all the freedom and creativity that the unattached life gives. It brings its own challenges, this season, but there are also some very cool pluses. We need to remember those in the moments when the other stuff aches.