Single at Midlife

Single adults make up over half of our nation's population. Right now there are over sixty million unmarried adults whose interests and concerns have often been overlooked or handled poorly by their family, friends, the church, even by the singles themselves.

Single Again Because Of Divorce

The most common midlife single that I meet as I travel around the country is the divorced single.

The divorced person never really planned on being single again. So, the sudden rejection causes a loss of self-esteem and loneliness. Sometimes they are disoriented because of the loss of their "home." They feel like people without a country. Divorced women may find themselves lacking skills to earn the income they need. Divorced men may find themselves supporting two households or, if their wife has left, trying to fill a strange new role of being mother to the kids.

The divorced person also has a social dilemma. Most of their friends have been couple friends and suddenly those friends become former friends--sometimes out of fear but often out of inconvenience. "Singles just don't fit in."

Sometimes the problems of the divorced person are made greater by the church as subtle judgment or outright condemnation--instead of healing love.

On top of all of these problems there is a loss of physical touch and sexual expression.

It is common for divorced people, in deep discouragement, to ask, "Where is God? Doesn't He care about what I'm going through?"

Single Again Through Death (Widow/Widower)

I'm one of these people--my wife died in 1997 after a 7 year battle with breast cancer. The person who is single again because of the death of their mate experiences many of the same feelings that the divorced person feels such as loneliness, a loss of home and family, disorientation, social dilemma of being a single when most of the friends are married, a loss of sexual closeness, and financial stress. I know all of these feelings.

Singles begin to feel that their opportunities for marriage, if they should choose to change their singleness, are greatly reduced by midlife.

The widowed person, like the divorced person, may also wrestle with guilt or remorse wishing that they had done more with their mate or had said more--that they had taken that extra trip. They had wish they spent the time to be with their mate when instead they choose to be preoccupied with things that now seem insignificant.

The church's response to the widowed person is generally positive but it is generally negative to the divorced person. People are not blamed for death but guilt is often associated with divorce. The deceased person is generally glorified--while the divorced mate is continually vilified.

Never Married

People who have chosen not to marry or never met the right mate experience many of the same feelings that the divorced or widowed person experiences.

Perhaps the anxieties that I hear most expressed are the feelings of loneliness and thinking of themselves as misfits. Yes they struggle with sexual problems, a sense of feeling temporary in the world, but it's the feeling of rejection because "I am odd. I am not married."

The church, as well as society, has not really figured out this problem. Singles often are viewed as inadequate persons to hold major leadership in the church or society. It is unconsciously thought that something is wrong with them because they were not able, thus far, to get married.

The church is structured for couples, families--then the strange single activities. We have not figured out how to integrate singles into the life of the church as normal people. We continue to isolate singles into groups by themselves. As a result many singles, who have never married, do not have deep relationships with the coupled section of society.

Midlife singles have all the problems of early life singles in addition to the midlife reevaluation stress. They also begin to feel that their opportunities for marriage, if they should choose to change their singleness, are greatly reduced by midlife.

Areas To Be Considered/Developed

Let's look at some of the common problem areas that midlife singles need to improve.

It is possible to be in a room alone--and not be lonely. Or you can be in a room with many people and still be very lonely.

A. Look at yourself as a valuable and worthwhile person. You were created in God's image. Think about it. This is the same God who created the earth, caused mountains to be moved, and flooded the earth for forty days. You are created in the image of this powerful God. You were created for His glory and He is pleased with His creation of you. Is it right to put yourself down and say to God, "You made a mistake. I don't like your image." Mistakes are one thing that God is not able to perform. There is a purpose for your existence. Discover your purpose.

Your self-esteem can improve as you develop your gifts and abilities, and as you forgive yourself, and focus on the positive, things you do well. Remember also that the Scripture says that we are to "be honest in your estimate of yourself" (Romans 12:3). Focus as much attention on the positives of your life as you tend to focus on the negatives.

B. Loneliness. Loneliness is something you create. Read that sentence again. You may say, "No, someone made it happen to me." But think about it. Loneliness is not what has happened to you or whether there are a lot of people around you. Loneliness is a state of mind.

It is possible to be in a room alone--and not be lonely. Or you can be in a room with many people and still be very lonely.

Being married does not suddenly fill the lonely gap. We are in touch with hundreds of lonely people who are married.

Take responsibility in your life and initiate friendships. Make yourself available and begin to care for other people. What are their needs? How can you minister to them? (See the article we have written entitled, "Building Friendships.") Invite people into your home. Take them out to dinner. Look for opportunities to be hospitable--to minister to other people. There are hundreds of ways to serve other people--and serving will break the loneliness grip on your life.

C. Feelings of being a misfit. Remember about half of the population is single. Numerically you are not alone.

Most of the feelings of being a misfit or feelings of loneliness quite often are linked with a sense of low self-esteem. Having a positive sense of who you are and what God has gifted you to do will improve many areas of your life. It's worth any work you put into developing your self-esteem.

Singles who have been sexually active may feel the loss of sexual closeness very keenly. It's best not to ignore the problem, but to acknowledge your basic human desire for touch and closeness.

D. Loss of family and or "home." The Swiss Psychaitrist Paul Tournier says, "One becomes a person only if one has a place . . . and that place is no abstraction. It is . . . the fireplace, the photographs on the mantelpiece, . . . the books on the shelves, all the little details with which they have become familiar."

Singles frequently lived temporary lives. "Later, when my life is more stable I'll bother to fix up my apartment the way I want it to be." My wife died in 1997. I have to force myself to accept my singleness. It's easy to think I'm living a temporary life until I get married again. But I can't put my lie on hold--I need to serve and be involved now!

Start now by compensating for any loss of family or home that you may experience. Make your living quarters really an expression of you. A place that is comfortable--a place that feels like "home." Build your family from friends around you. Shake off the sense of temporary relationships. Think in terms of life-long commitments with people. Make those friendship commitments to people--don't look for a partner.

Develop your own traditions and rituals--special holiday experiences. Plant a garden or a fruit tree. Make each season special with your creative touch.

E. Sexual loss. Singles who have been sexually active may feel the loss of sexual closeness very keenly. It's best not to ignore the problem, but to acknowledge your basic human desire for touch and closeness.

You do have that need. Now how can that be met and still not violate the clear teaching against fornication and adultery. Remember, even married people must use self-control, they are limited to only one mate.

Emotional and verbal affirmation from a group or individuals such as "I like you" or "I value you" can meet part of our sexual drive. Godly hugging and touching can also meet some of our needs, but remember don't deliberately stimulate the juices that may put you into conflict with the Scripture and your conscience. By Godly hugging I mean, limited frontal hugging with the opposite sex, and no fantizing during or after hugging. Try side hugs or touches on the shoulder.

Talk to God honestly about your needs. Focus on building your own self-image and developing your gifts and then realize that some things in all of our lives will never come to pass, but those things can be trusted to God for his sovereign solution.

Petula Clark sang a song several years ago. Some of the words said, "Today is mine. What shall I do with it? Throw it away, that's what I do with it, nine times out of ten."

Your life is a gift, a trust from God. "I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress" Psalm 32:8.

Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~


The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.