As a single person, sometimes my friendships with married people can feel a little uneven. My friends don’t have a lot of time/emotional energy left over after caring for spouse and kids. I, on the other hand, have time and FEELS in abundance that I’m only too eager to offer my friends. But when my efforts aren’t matched, that often leads to me feeling like I like them more than they like me, or that I need them more than they need me. That can hurt, and it’s … embarrassing somehow. In love or friendship, we don’t want to be the needier one in the relationship.
So my inclination is to pull back, to deliberately not love my friends as fully as I’m able, and to match what they bring to the friendship, all under the guise of “guarding my heart.” That way, I’m not the needier one, and I’m not expending my emotional energy on someone who can’t return it. Sounds sensible, until I consider a couple of uncomfortable truths:
- Jesus loves me freely and generously, even knowing I cannot love him back with the same intensity or to the same degree that he loves me (he will always love me more than I love him, because he is perfect, and I am not). Our Bridegroom is lavish in his love for his Bride.
- He commands us to love each other the way he loves us (John 13:34)—that is, to love each other “more,” without keeping score.
Marriage is not the only way to learn to love selflessly. Even in our awkward, one-sided (or what can feel like one-sided) friendships, God is calling us to holiness, to imitate Christ. He is working our singleness for our sanctification. He has freed us to love others lavishly and without reservation. And when you think about it, a lot of our relationships are “uneven.” Parents generally pour more love into their offspring than their children return. Dating couples may find that one person is a little more invested in the relationship than the other at different points. Even married couples may have seasons where one is more eager and ready to do the work of marriage than the other is. We should not be surprised, then, when married-single friendships follow this typical pattern.
Friendships, like anything else, endure seasons—times to pluck up, break down, mourn, refrain, lose, cast away, or keep silent (Ecclesiastes 3). Singles, we may not necessarily be called to “over-love” our married friends in every single season, and certainly some friendships and acquaintanceships require discretion and discernment in how much we give of ourselves. But by and large, fellow singles, take heart. Be like Jesus: give and love the most in your friendships, even knowing it won’t be returned “evenly.”