A few weeks ago while out on a walk, my precious 4-year-old niece, Tizi, looked up to me with her smiling brown eyes and asked, “Who’s your husband?”

“I don’t have a husband honey.” I answer. Needing more information to understand my response she continues,“Then who do you have at your house to love you?”

“I don’t have anyone at my house.”

Perplexed, Tizi turned around in her stroller, faced forward, and we continued on our walk.

With Valentine’s Day this month, I’ve began to wonder: what effect does having CP have on marriage and dating? I did some digging, and I can’t say that I loved the results.

Consider the following statistics:

• Research has consistently shown that adolescents and young adults with CP date later in life than their peers and have fewer social relationships. 

• An analysis of six different studies found that 10-15% of adults with CP were married with the mean average marriage rate falling around 12%.

• Marriages are also affected by those who parent children with disabilities. One psychologist noted that many studies do point out higher divorce rates; for families with children with autism, there have been rates quoted as high as 85-90 percent.

The implications of these statistics can be discouraging. I can’t predict the future, but I do sense, by reading these stats and by knowing myself that I am probably going to experience a period of sustained singleness.

If this is true, then here are three things that I wish people would understand about singleness:

1. Sometimes my adult responsibilities are going to look different than my married peers.  I get a little frustrated when people say to me, “You don’t have any responsibilities because you don’t have a husband or children. You can take on… (fill in the blank: an extra committee, project, volunteer opportunity etc).” I’m starting to learn that instead of being hurt by these comments, I should take time to listen harder to those speaking to me, realizing that I don’t fully understand the commitment and sacrifice it takes to raise a family, and perhaps don’t always appreciate the freedom I have in my life right now to accomplish some of my goals. On the flip-side, I wish others would understand that I feel a strong sense of accountability having large amounts of unchoreographed time, and with this freedom comes responsibility. It’s allowed me to take on tasks such as drafting a manuscript for a book, pursuing my dream of obtaining a doctorate degree, working full-time, loving my nieces and nephew, and owning my own home.

2. Sometimes being single is glorious, and sometimes it is lonely. Like I’ve often heard about marriage, being single is both hard AND great! At times the quietness of my house greets me like a friend, offering rest at the end of a draining day. Other times, I experience the stillness of my house like someone who is giving me the cold shoulder. This can be hard to embrace, but I’ve found that being alone sometimes makes the interactions I have with others richer and deeper. I savor it.

A few weeks ago I came home feeling a little under the weather, wishing that someone was around to offer comfort, but 4:30PM is the wrong time to bother people as they transition from work to home. However, a few moments later I checked my voicemail to discover that a friend had called on her way to home to see how I was doing. We ended up talking for a delightful half hour. I felt remembered and she got a chance to vent about work-related stressors before picking up her son from daycare. It was just the TLC we both needed!

3. Finally, and most importantly to me, I need consistent, appropriate, non-sexual physical touch from family and friends.  I know we all receive and give love differently, but touch is my tip-top love language. Even though I may have the opportunity to be around many people throughout the course of a day, it’s easy to go without being touched in healthy ways: a pat on the shoulder, a touch on the arm, a hug. I’m trying to get better about communicating this need to my family, and I find that my friends who know me best offer a hug voluntarily. This is particularly important to me because, as one blogger said,“Some researchers have described the need for touch as “skin hunger,” suggesting the desire and need for touch is an actual craving, much like hunger for nutrients and water, exist in our physiology.” I’ve experienced this hunger and also the relief that comes when someone holds me in their embrace.

Singleness is a mystery that I have been asked to hold. The question of “Will I ever get married?” is one I will continue to frequently ponder, but like Tizi, I want to intentionally face forward and continue on my walk.

This Valentine’s Day, whether single or married, I hope you can realize that the single most important thing a human being can know is how much they are truly loved. Show love for someone today! Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you’re married…. What do you wish single people understood about marriage?

If you’re single…. Are you content in your singleness, or do you long for marriage? How do you meet your needs for human interaction?

If you’re human….. How do you feel about giving and receiving touch to others?