Seven Reasons Why Single People Become Cynical

I think cynicism may be the great vice of single people. It’s been such a struggle for me, especially in the past few years, that I’ve begun to think of it as part of the universal single experience. I may be wrong on this; I’ve certainly known singles who’ve seemed to avoid this path, and goodness knows I’m trying very hard to do the same.

In any case, here are my seven reasons why I think single people, particularly those over 25 or so, have a tendency to become cynical.

1. We become cynical because the world is a funny place. (Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.)

I had to read the odd-but-funny short story “Orientation,” by Daniel Orozco, in multiple short story writing classes, and the following excerpt always stuck with me:

Amanda Pierce, who tolerates Russell Nash, is in love with Albert Bosch, whose office is over there. Albert Bosch, who only dimly registers Amanda Pierce’s existence, has eyes only for Ellie Tapper, who sits over there. Ellie Tapper, who hates Albert Bosch, would walk through fire for Curtis Lance. But Curtis Lance hates Ellie Tapper. Isn’t the world a funny place? Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.

I, like most single people, am very aware that the world is a funny place, but not in the ha-ha sense. The guys you like never like you back, and the guys who like you (or an idealized version of you) are guys you just can’t muster up any feelings for.

In fact, based on my own experiences, it seems strange that enough people have liked each other at the same time for so many marriages to have taken place in the world. The odds of that just seem pretty slim.

2. We become cynical because we are rarely forced to be vulnerable.

Learning vulnerability as a single person vs a married person is sort of like trying to learn French from an app vs taking classes. Doable? Sure. But it requires so much discipline and intentionality and choosing to keep on even when you feel stupid and could just stop if you wanted to.

Also, it’s worth noting that it’s hard to be vulnerable around people who don’t understand what you’re going through. At a ladies’ retreat last year, I decided that the time had come for me to learn vulnerability, and I told my prayer group that it was hard for me to admit that being single was difficult for me.

“Oh, don’t rush into marriage,” said a kind, well-intentioned older woman. “My daughter is 20, and I just tell her, ‘don’t rush into marriage.'”

Should I, I wondered, inform her that I was 27, not 20, and could hardly be accused of “rushing into marriage?”

I just kept quiet. So much for vulnerability.

3. We become cynical because we’d rather be single than married to your husband

There’s a certain stripe of married people that like to tell single people they’re being too picky. They should lower their standards. Give that guy a chance, even though he was boring and had a bad taste in music.

There’s another stripe of married people that like to tell single people we idealize marriage too much. Marriage is hard, they say. Some even whisper in our ears that, “don’t tell anyone this, but I should never have gotten married at all.”

So maybe we’re cynical because we feel like married people give us advice without even understanding what we want. We don’t want marriage for the sake of marriage. We’d rather be single than married to your husband. We just want to marry someone we really like. We don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation.

4.We become cynical because we’re tired of our problem being more noticeable than your problem

My friend Dolly was born with short arms and only three fingers on each hand. Recently, I was talking to her about her experience having a very visible disability, and how this made other people treat her.

Dolly told me that in reality, while having short arms was somewhat inconvenient when she wanted to load a top-loading washer or put a pie in the oven, it’s nothing compared to the depression she’s always dealt with. But no one thinks to feel sorry for her because of her depression. Everyone always feels sorry for her because she has short arms.

The noticeable problems are not always actually the bad problems.

I think we single people feel a little resentful that our problem is more a visible problem than it is a terrible problem. Yes being single is hard. But while many married people have it even harder, no one notices and bombards them with unhelpful platitudes, visibly relieved that they’re not in their shoes.

5. We become the cynical single because we don’t want to become the sad single.

Once, in my very early 20s, I happened to be in a car with two older single women who were very sad about their marital status. They talked about singleness for the whole car ride, bemoaning the fact that the older single men they knew never seemed interested in asking girls out. And then one of them said the following:

“I learned that I need to have an open hand for God to give us gifts, but I can’t close my hand around that gift, because God might take it away again. Like once several years ago, the guy I liked was on the same volleyball team as me. That was a gift from God. But then the next time we played volleyball, he wasn’t on the same team as me. That was God taking the gift away again.”

I sat there in the back seat, completely baffled that someone could take their romances that seriously.

“Do you want to get married?” one of them asked me.

“Sure, if the right one comes along, but I don’t mind being single,” I said.

“See, it’s girls like you that always end up getting married,” she said resentfully.

I determined then and there that even if I didn’t get married, I was not going to become the sad, pathetic single.

Cynicism is, in a way, an overcompensation.

6. We become cynical because you got married at 22 and still think you know what it’s like to be single.

Single Mennonites and married Mennonites like to argue online about who has it harder. But the married people come across as having an extra inch of smugness because, since they were single before they got married, they think they understand both sides.

Don’t get me wrong. We singles have no idea what it’s like to be married, and are full of false assumptions. But unless you were over 25 when you got married, you don’t understand the older single experience either.

7. We become cynical because we’re tired of being treated our lives are incomplete because of something we can’t control.

At a recent ladies retreat, the ladies all stood up and introduced themselves by stating their name, who they were married to, and how many children and grandchildren they had.

They also said how many of their children were married, and how many were “still at home.”

A woman and her husband came to visit our home. The woman mentioned her three daughters, and then proudly said, “they’re all married,” as though that were their greatest accomplishment in life.

A single guy I follow on twitter once wrote, “So I taught an adult Sunday School class last Sunday. An older visiting brother was in the class. His 3rd question after class was ‘who are you married to?'”

Maybe this is a Mennonite problem more than a society problem. But when marriage becomes such a defining factor of who you are, those of us who never even had that option become a little cynical.

I realized, after I’d already composed the majority of this post, that if I consider cynicism to be a vice maybe I should have written a post on how to combat it instead of a post about why it happens. On the other hand, how can a problem be fixed if it isn’t even understood?

I hope that this post helps you understand the single experience a little bit better. Please leave your insightful thoughts in the comments, and your platitudes at home.

P.S. There is still time to enter my book giveaway

P.P.S. This was day 22 of the April Blogging Challenge. Amy posted yesterday here. Tomorrow, Mom will post here.

33 responses to “Seven Reasons Why Single People Become Cynical

  1. This is a really good post. It’s given me a lot to ponder. I have a number of “older” single gals in my life whose friendship I value.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you read Party of One by Jo Beth Smith? It’s a great conversation on female Christian singleness. I think you’d like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Last paragraph in #6…you nailed it. I was 32 when I got married. It always bugged me how girls would talk about their singleness…when they had got married at 22. Bless you. I loved my single years.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. And then we also become cynical when we discover that the skills we developed for a happy, independent single life are going to make it pretty difficult to fit into the Mennonite wife box. I’m thrilled to finally be dating someone I like, but I have a business, a profession, a house, and several ministries that I love dearly.
    I think a marriage and family is worth the trade offs, but now I wonder if the stay at home model is best, and I might go on feeling different from the majority.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I think that the reason that most singles get cynical is because the married people around them make them feel that only marriage will complete them. Marriage is not a culmination of all things good. It actually is just another stage of life for some people, full of learning experiences a little different than what the singles face. Neither life is roses nor is it all thorns!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I find it very gratifying to hear of singles wanting to be married and grieved because it is not happening. Why so? I have worked at a Crises Pregnancy Center for many years and have met many singles who want a baby but do NOT want to be married because the fellows they know are so irresponsible – the desire for marriage is not there. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Emily. I’m so glad you wrote it. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, a lot of this hit my empathy button, especially 1, 4, 5 and 6. I have come to the conclusion that every good marriage IS a miracle. I’m glad to know the Miracle-Worker, even if He doesn’t have the same time-table I do. (Yikes, no, as I’m umm, several years older than 27.) 🙂 Praying for courage for you and me and all of us to fight the battle against cynicism.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoyed this post! I’d like to add one of my own. 🙂 I think one factor in single people being cynical is that human touch tends to be rare for them, and I think we underestimate how much effect that has on us.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Loved it! Especially number 1 and 5… In my younger years I used to be dead set against marriage because I didn’t want to become a staid married woman tied down with a lot of children, yet at the same time terrified that I would become one of those sad spinsters who wear their glasses on their nose and look sternly at little children and tell them to get busy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I met my husband when I was 32 (and finally enjoying being single!), got married at 33. Happy to be married, I then wanted children, but I didn’t get pregnant and the adoption process is long. We adopted a baby when I was 41. Looking back, I wish I could have been content enough to enjoy my singleness more, and then content enough to enjoy my childless years more. Who knows what God has in store for you — I’d just encourage you to enjoy wherever you are in life and know that if you are doing what God leads you to do, if you’re going to meet someone, that’s where he’ll be.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I can resonate with the reasons you listed.
    Two more reasons I’ve seen for cynical Mennonite singles is the empty promises of evangelical purity culture (the purity rings and associated rhetoric) and the modern courtship movement that were reiterated in Mennonite groups
    The purity culture promise is “Follow our formula of chaste singleness and receive a happy marriage” That may sound logical to a teenager, but it turns all of singleness into preparation for marriage. If the formula fails to deliver….cynicism may result
    The modern courtship promise is “Follow our (overly complicated) formula for a painless transition into a perfect marriage”. Several problems: 1. the Bill Gothard/Jonathan Lindvall courtship formula fixed a problem Mennonites didn’t have 2. relationships are messier than formulas suggest, and 3 if the formula to begin a relationship is overly complicated, inertia will win out and nothing will happen. The last problem is especially pronounced in introverts. Again, if the formula fails to deliver….cynicism may result

    Thanks for featuring my tweet. The exact link to the tweet is https://twitter.com/Kennethtechguy/status/967417641404116993

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Lisa Yoder de Villatoro

    As someone who got married at 36, I agree with every word!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Amen to everything! Especially number 4. Thank you for putting into words what the single crowd is feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Here’s a twist,” Seven Reasons Married People get Cynical.” 1. Get married, they said, it will be great. 2. Get married,they said, you’ll never be lonely again. 3. Get married, they said, all your dreams will come true. 4. Get married, they said, you’ll have someone who romances for you the rest of your life. 5. Get married, they said, there’s nothing like creating offspring to rise up and call you blessed. 6. Get married, they said, you’ll finally get to manage a household and develop your cooking skills. 7.Get married, they said, and you’ll have someone to provide for you and protect you. OK, so this is said by a middle aged wife of a loving husband and three delightful children.:-)… I think those were the things that I believed I would get out of marriage, and I have. But they come at the cost of “Self” sacrifice.

    Like

  16. Do I count as one of those “older singles”? 😂 I was a month away from being 26 when I got married. But honestly, I loved being single, just as much as I love being married! I never did understand those people who seemed to think it was my duty to get married just because I was a pretty woman! It annoyed me so much! I went to college, held down a job, and volunteered in various capacities. Now that I’m married, not much has changed, except that I have a husband to do it with. I’m still a volunteer EMT, am checking into colleges, and I teach school. I’m super thankful for all the adventures I could have between the ages of 16 and 25 before I started dating.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for being willing to be vulnerable (#6). I’ve been thinking about singleness more in the last year since there is a very real possibility that my husband won’t live long enough to grow old with me. I (mostly) loved my single years (I married when I was 26) but wonder if it will be harder to go back to single life after having a great marriage. I don’t want to be a cynical (or pitiful or pathetic) widow any more than than I wanted to be a cynical single. I just keep asking God for grace to find joy wherever I am.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
    Gina

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Thank-you 🙂 this is really interesting, and though I come from a rather different Church culture where some of this isn’t as bad, I resonate with a lot of it.

    As someone about the same age I’d add bitterness and self-absorption to the particular vices/temptations of being single and living alone as someone in my late twenties. (Not sure how different bitterness is from cynicism, actually). There’s no one to make little everyday sacrifices for, or to rub up against in daily life to keep things in perspective. I’m deliberately single for the sake of vocation (yeah, the guys I like might not like me, as well, but I haven’t found out because I haven’t tried) which is probably a different experience in some ways, but I still find some aspects of singleness difficult. And the particular temptations that stem from singleness are the most puzzling difficult aspect when it seems to be a vocation.

    Perhaps it is difficult to strike a good balance between valuing marriage and the family, and including single people? To value family life deeply probably does mean treating marriage as a great accomplishment. But the side effect of that may be that it is easy to then feel that those who haven’t married have “failed” in some way, or at least, not succeeded yet. Achieving the one without the other is probably rather difficult.

    I like “hearing” someone commenting on when and why they don’t find platitudes and proposed solutions useful. I think much of Western English-speaking culture is not very good at allowing people space to feel as they do about a certain situation which will end in God’s time, rather than trying to treat it as a problem to be solved. I suppose it takes a lot of judgement to know when to acknowledge and accept someone’s emotions, and when to try to help them find a solution, or at least, to feel less bad about things. But I think we usually err on the latter side as a culture. I certainly do personally. It is good to be reminded that it isn’t always the right thing to do. At least, that you need to make sure you understand the problem very well first!

    Like

  19. Amen to every one of these! Especially 5 and especially 6. Although even people who marry at 25 probably started dating at 24, and “single” at 24 is an entirely differant ballpark than single at 29.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Girl yaaaaas.
    #1. Yes, and it sucks.
    #2. I’ve been thinking so much recently about learning to be vulnerable in friendships, so much so that I’ve been questioning my ability to be a good friend. I recently found myself in a teary conversation with my mom: “Am I bad at relationships? Mom, AM I A BAD DAUGHTER?” Lol.
    #5. Right? Like, we don’t want to become it, so sometimes if sad-ish thoughts come in, we immediately stuff them down because it’s *so lame* to be sad about being single. But I think that in your late 20s, the meaning of singleness hits you in ways it doesn’t earlier, and there is a sort of grieving process that you have to deal with (I mean, at least, once you realize you just aren’t really going be the “young” bride that a lot of women dream about being). #turnstwentyninethisweek
    #6. Or kids talking about being single in high school. Barf. Vomit.
    #7 is tricky because the older you get, you realize there can be a lot of financial and emotional benefits of marriage. So even once you finally shake the culture’s expectation, letting them wag their tongues, you still have to come to grips with what is your own theology of marriage and singleness. And of living in community in the midst of *both* of those statuses. And then the frustration that exists when you realize that God’s plan for a new heaven and a new earth hasn’t quite made it to, well, earth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Thanks Esther! I was hoping you’d chime in here 😊

      Like

    • Single and cynical…yes! Cynical is a word I’ve been coming back to again and again when self anylizing. I’m coming to realize that it is an attitude I use to cope with disappointment. I don’t think it’s always a bad thing, but I wish it wasn’t my default. Kindness seems to vanish when I’m feeling cynical.

      I’ve thought the conclusion of #1 so many times!
      #2 – I wonder sometimes if I’m even capable of being completely vulnerable with another person. It really is a scary thing.

      #3 – yes…I always feel a little bad thinking it though…

      #5 – I like what you said about grieving the loss of dreams.

      #6 – I think I find this more funny than irritating.
      #7 – yes! I often fight myself more than others when it comes to the whole being enough thing.

      Like

  21. I really like reading your posts. I’m a few years older than you but you often write so well what I am feeling.

    Like

  22. Thank-you for writing. I would like to see a post on how to combat cynicism. When I was a younger single looking up to the older singles I determined I never wanted to be like them. Now that I’m getting there somehow that’s not as easy as I thought it would be!

    Like

  23. Girl, I want you to stop being cynical.

    I also want you to find a nice guy- so many benefits!
    Guys appreciate gals who can show them the “beauty in the flower”. I know you can do this- so start trying to get your head back there 🙂

    About finding that perfect guy you like- I admire that you aren’t willing to settle. Glad you realize you don’t have to accept who ever chooses you. Have you ever found a guy you like? You might just have to go after him.
    I went against tradition and pursued the guy of my dreams- I don’t think he would have reached out had I not reached out first. My dad always told me “if you like a smart guy- you’ll likely have to make the move.” I followed his advice, and it panned out in my favor.

    When finding the guy of your dreams, try not to base him off “interests” alone. Some common interests are important, but they aren’t everything. Interests come and go.

    Also, maybe consider going for the guy who is far from the idea of the perfect guy you have idealized in your head. Usually the people furthest from us are our best complement. The only exemption are people who don’t share our values /morals.
    Common values and morals, however, are most important because values and morals navigate every aspect of a relationship.

    There are a LOT of nice guys out there. Keep your head up 🙂

    Like

  24. I was at the same ladies retreat! I’m Liz and I like penguins and orange and dinosaurs. That was me. Thanks for being a voice and for being so honest and raw.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Yaaaaaaaaas I totally remember you! (See, that’s what happens when you introduce yourself in an interesting way, LOL)

      Like

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