Single for a Season
Emily Stimpson offers advice for joyful living until wedding bells ring.
Emily Stimpson is the author of The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years, in which she shares her firsthand advice for Catholic single women who hope to get married one day. She recently spoke about her book, the impact it’s having, and why joyful singles are a needed witness in the world today.
What prompted you to write this book? How did your own experiences affect this work?
Mostly, a growing recognition that more and more single women were wrestling with the same issues I’ve wrestled with over the past 15 years, and there weren’t any practical resources from a Catholic perspective to help them in that wrestling. There were books that talked about how to find a spouse, books about how great the single life can be, and books that were memoirs of the single life — but nothing that addressed many of the concrete challenges faced by faithful single Catholic women wanting to get married, still hoping to get married, but trying to live the best life they can now.
So my book attempts to give them that resource, addressing not just questions about dating and chastity, but also careers, finances, housing, friendships, coping with depression and more. I address those issues both through explaining what the Church teaches, then offering practical applications of the teaching based on my own and other women’s experiences.
What is the most important message you want to give to single Catholic women in terms of them having hope in God’s plan for their desire for marriage?
To trust God. He really does know what he’s doing, and this time of singleness is not unaccounted for. It’s part of his perfect plan to lead us to himself and make us the women he’s calling us to be. Likewise, to never give up hope. It’s never too late to get married. Probably the only expiration date on a vocation to marriage is death.
What response have you gotten from your fellow singles?
Probably the most common is: “It’s so good to know I’m not the only one struggling with these issues.” It's hard for most women to admit their struggles with singleness, and, because of that, they can end up feeling very alone in it.
What more can the Church do for singles in terms of helping them find their spouses?
I’m not sure what more the institutional Church can do. Praying during the General Intercessions for singles discerning their vocation, struggling with loneliness or seeking a spouse would be a start. Offering events at parishes that aren’t just for families or couples, but for all adult parishioners would also be great. But the most helpful thing might just be individual Catholics welcoming single people into their homes, introducing singles to each other, and just encouraging us and guiding us as we navigate the dating scene.
What practical tips would you give your fellow single Catholics?
To set aside the world’s opinion of what you should be doing or what’s impressive and discern as best you can what God has for you in this moment and do it. Also, to take advantage of all the opportunities singleness brings: traveling, serving, learning. Spend time with married friends and their children, learning as much as you can from them about the nuts and bolts of family life. Above all, spend time with God. Learn to go to him in all things, and depend upon him for everything. Let him mold you and form you into the person he made you to be so you can live the life he wants you to live.
This book is for women, but what does it offer Catholic single men?
More insight into the feminine mind than is probably fair. Besides that, it has some practical advice on vocations, dating, chastity, finances, career decisions, marriage and suffering that I’m hearing some guys are finding helpful. That surprised me, as the book was written for women, but I guess if it works, it works.
Is there a special saint you’d recommend single Catholics seek the intercession of?
I’ve dubbed St. Catherine of Siena (a lay consecrated virgin), St. Edith Stein (a philosopher and religious) and St. Gianna Beretta Molla (a wife, mother and doctor) as my book’s three patronesses. I figure between the three of them I’ve got all the vocational bases covered, and, more importantly, each I believe has something very important to teach single women today. Two of them actually were single women for a time in the modern era — St. Edith and St. Gianna. Accordingly, I think they understand a bit what we’re going through and can offer some particularly powerful assistance to us in our struggles.
How can families support their single children/grandchildren, etc.?
The most important thing they can do is pray for them. It also helps if they make an effort to understand just how hard it is right now for most Catholic singles to find someone who is willing to date chastely and who practices the faith (or any faith for that matter). Be supportive about their decision to put God and the Church’s teachings first and stay hopeful for them. In other words, don’t encourage them to compromise what they believe to be right and true, but also don’t consign them to “permanent bachelor” or “old maid” territory just because they’re not married at 35 or 40.
You have an upcoming column for the Register about lists vs. standards. Can you elaborate on what are the non-negotiables when it comes to looking for a good Catholic spouse?
Well, I like to say that love, among other things, means never asking someone to commit a mortal sin. So, in terms of dating, that means only dating someone who loves you and respects you enough to remain chaste while dating and remain open to life after marriage. Also, someone who — if not already a Catholic or a strong Catholic — admires and respects your faith, is interested in learning more about it, and has demonstrated that he desires to grow in both faith and virtue. Our spouses are our life’s companion on the journey to God. They’re supposed to help us grow in holiness, so we want to make sure that the person we marry is going to be a help in that journey and not pull us in the opposite direction.
Modern culture is very much opposed to a good single Catholic’s way of life. How can Catholic singles best live their singleness in this world we’re living in?
By being joyful, hopeful, uncompromising witnesses to the truth of the Church’s teachings about femininity, sexuality, vocation and holiness. For anyone, married or single, those teachings are the only path to peace, wholeness and joy. But if no one in the culture sees people walking that path, it’s going to be awfully hard for them to believe that or walk it themselves.
Amy Smith is the Register’s associate editor.