I’m not going to lie. Being single and overseas is fantastic… but not always. And, on the flip-side, being married and overseas is fantastic… but not always (so I’ve heard).
My perspective is limited to singleness. Maybe you can relate or maybe my account can give you a deeper understanding of the singles you know, whether or not they’re overseas.
Either way, I feel vulnerable as I write this, knowing that my voice is only one voice. But if my one voice can strengthen understanding and relationships, then it is worth speaking.
Below is a rough sketch of what it’s like to be single and overseas:
Most singles I know don’t feel called to a life of singleness. Once, a young lady was asked whether or not she was called to be single. Her response was, “Today I am.” Although I heard the story 2nd or 3rd hand, I’ve carried that phrase with me for years now. No matter how long or short my single life may be, I have both calling and purpose.
This next point may come as a shock: singles aren’t deadened to desire. (I guess that’s why so many of us end up getting married!) Sometimes, we act deadened out of self-defense to hold back the entourage of married people who want to “fix” us.
Each time the siblings in my family entered an amorous relationship or got married, we would joke, “Well, at least everyone knows you have hormones!”
Desire comes on varying levels at varying times, but it’s true: married or single, God created us with hormones.
One of the strongest downsides to being single and overseas is the loneliness. Not that you can’t be married and lonely. Yet, there is something particularly lonely about leaving behind the entirety of your former life.
I brought no one with me. There has been no carry-over from my one world to this one, unless you count the few knicknacks and leftover articles of clothing now worn thin.
Ideally, singles on a small team or in a small group will get along. However, being single doesn’t make you compatible with everyone.
Once, a friend helped me count how many people I have lived with in my lifetime (not just overseas). We came up with 30. 30!? That’s a lot of new people to adjust to and to find that this one is a germ freak and this one might come into your room at 9 p.m. and not leave even though you have a deadline and that one leaves hairballs in the sink (or was that me?).
“We’re not married!” one friend told her teammates when they assumed that two single team ladies should make a life decision together.
Singles don’t always want to be paired together as an entity whenever a team or small group meets. They might want to be together, but they also might enjoy the space to relate to those in different stages of life. (They may be tired of each other!)
Along with this, some singles feel incredible pressure to live together as roommates just because they’re single. Sometimes, they want to and that’s great. But, as unorthodox as it sounds, maybe living together isn’t the best option after all. Singles need a safe space to voice that.
After all, few people in Western culture would expect two people to marry and be compatible if they hardly knew each other. So, why do we expect those of us who are single to be more relationally adaptable than those of us who are married?
A friend was called overseas. Some of her teammates seemed to take her calling as a coupon for free babysitting. (This has not happened to me, but it is an unfortunate reality for some.)
Unless they have agreed to be a nanny, singles are not babysitters. Oh, they might babysit and love babysitting too. But they shouldn’t carry the load of raising someone else’s children. That’s not why they’re there. Ideally, singles are ready for mutual service, not a lopsided “you-have-more-time-than-I” guilt trip.
Speaking of time, while a husband is filling out financial reports, fixing the leaky faucet, and sorting out visa paperwork, or a wife is cooking, scrubbing the floors, and doing laundry, the singles are doing all of that themselves. There is no division of labor. Fortunately for singles, the tasks tend to be on a smaller scale, but they still must be done and no one shares the load.
Well, I could continue to write about the bad–the local men who want to marry you, a entire week of horrid leftovers, etc. But I think this is enough rambling for one day. I won’t strand you here forever in this pathetic lament. There is an upside to nearly everything and that is what I’ll write about next time. Promise.