I don't know if it's something in the air lately or if it's just the typical awakening that happens after a long winter, but suffice it to say that I've had more talks recently with women about their singleness than I've had in the entire past year combined.
Maybe it's tied to the colorful spring blossoms magically popping up from the ground that are activating the not-far-from-the-surface desire in women to see love blossom for them in a similar way. All I know is that regardless of the impetus, there are a lot of women with aching hearts due to feeling alone now that spring has sprung.
If you could sit where I sit, you would see and hear passionate women with incredible gifts and amazing dreams who don't feel fully alive or empowered to reach toward those dreams due to the fact that they are single. You heard me right; there are myriads of women who are blocked and stuck and stalled out in their life pursuits all because they don't have guy pursuits in the works.
Just this past week an adorable 16-year old, with tears streaming down her cheeks, told me about her struggle with not having a boyfriend while most of her friends are coupled, leaving her to conclude that she's not thin enough to attract a guy. In another conversation, a 33-year old successful career woman with current job promotion potential expressed her hypothesis that there must be some looming deficits that keeps men from pursuing her. She shared how hard it is when those first dates repeatedly fail to turn into second dates, leading her to believe she's undesirable and not worth the effort.
You see, we as women most often conclude that there is something lacking in us when we're not the one being chosen. Rarely do we think there's something wrong with the guy.
I know too many women—from their teens on up—who are less than enthusiastic about the incredible opportunities directly in front of them and instead are fixated on the one thing they don't have: a boyfriend. And it really doesn't help when the questions keep coming by well-meaning inquirers that focus primarily on our dating lives as opposed to other aspects of our existence.
Truth be told, it's never easy to repeatedly report that there's not much happening in the romance department.
To make matters worse (and I speak from years of experience on this one), although we love attending wedding showers for our girlfriends and are honored to stand next to them as a bridesmaid when they enter into holy matrimony, there's a bittersweet reality that accompanies these shindigs.
As single women, we always secretly wonder if our forever soulmate might be waiting for us at these events, especially at weddings. Maybe he'll be standing on the groom's side of the platform and we'll unintentionally exchange glances, only then to have the matchup seem obvious as we exit, walking down the aisle, arm in arm (because the bride made sure that we were paired up). Or we dream about Mr. Right possibly being at the reception where we'll inadvertently bump into each other on the dance floor and sparks will instantaneously fly. And on it goes.
We can't help but wonder if our forever story is waiting to be written at these celebrations. Try as we might not to think ahead, the whole idea of longing for a guy to notice us and choose us so that our fairy tale can begin seems to be constantly present (even though we rarely admit it publicly). Dreaming and wishing and hoping is half the fun...until nothing happens...again.
Someone told me this week that she and her mom agree that I'm the most vibrant single woman they know. As nice as that was to hear, my immediate thought was: Why aren't there more women who are thriving in their singleness?
Dads, I believe you are more of a solution to the problem than you may realize.
Way too many women are inadvertently believing the lie that they're not a success unless they're dating, engaged, or married. That message is being perpetuated...everywhere...and it needs to stop.
Your input into your daughter's life has the power to carry a counter cultural message---which is that she has vibrancy and purpose beyond her marital status.
Here's what your single daughter needs to hear from you—today:
1. She needs to learn what guys think--particularly when it comes to romance. You remember what it was like at the age where your daughter is right now. Tell her where your head was, especially the part where you were distracted or lazy, selfish or unmotivated to pursue a girl because you knew the work it would take to commit and were focused on figuring out your own life. Let her know it's not something wrong with her that has guys doing what they do.
2. She needs you to tell her that she's beautiful and competent, qualified and "enough" just the way she is, right where she is, whether or not there's a boyfriend in the picture. Your daughter needs more encouragement, more support, and more validation from you in extra measure if she's single. And even if she's dating someone or already married, she still will thrive when hearing that you believe in her, are proud of her and that you love her fully and completely (as a work in progress, just like you).
3. She needs to hear that even if she never gets married, you are not disappointed in her and are fully proud of her. Focus on highlighting what she is doing, not what she isn't. And I don't know why it is, but a lot of women believe that their parents will be happier if we have a husband and give them grandchildren. So when we feel we've failed to make our parents happy or proud of us in those areas (even if it's never been communicated directly), we feel like a failure. The reality is that it's our "stuff." But that's why fathers are so important when it comes to communicating their affirmation of their daughters at every age regardless of marital status.
So what do you say, dads...will you join me in spreading this message to your girls?
Let's join together in emboldening single women to enthusiastically live their lives to the fullest while encouraging them to focus on using their unique gifts to make a difference in the world.
Let's stop asking mostly about their love lives and instead spend more time asking about the latest opportunities they're embracing and inquire about the new things they're learning.
Let's deepen our conversations to celebrate and highlight that which single women have to offer their communities rather than carelessly and needlessly directing the conversation to the one area where she may feel less confident or successful.
Let's celebrate all women, not just those who are dating or married. All of us together have the power to change the way we interact and today is the day to broaden our focus so we're talking about all things life-breathing, not just about boys and dating.
Dads, before I close, here's one practical idea for investing in your single daughters in a creative, not-for-any-specific-occasion way:
What if you bought a quality ring for your daughter just to let her know she's valuable—to you? Then every time she looks at it, she will be reminded that you love her and that she's a treasure.
Can you picture it? Single women across the nation showing off the rings they got this spring—from their dads!
P.S. Just in case your daughter might need a little spiritual encouragement, here is one of my favorite passages because it's all about passionately embracing life as a single woman:
Sing, O barren, you who did not bear a child. Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child. For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your habitations;
spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall spread out to the right hand and to the left, and your descendants shall inherit the nations and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Do not fear, for you shall not be ashamed nor be humiliated; for you shall not be put to shame, for you shall forget the shame of your youth and shall not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He shall be called the God of the whole earth.
Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon, and has served in that role for the past 17 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a nine-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to help them focus more intentionally on consistently pursuing their daughters' hearts. She released her first book titled, Dad, Here's What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter's Heart. She invites you to visit drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero he wants to be and his daughter needs him to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.
This article originally appeared at drmichellewatson.com.