How Can the Church Handle Singleness Better?

by | May 15, 2020 | Uncategorized | 63 comments

Why does the church handle singleness so badly
Merchandise is Here!

We had a great discussion the other day on how we talk about singleness and God’s will. 

Tons of comments, and lots of really insightful back and forth, and I want to continue the conversation today.

I wasn’t that involved in that conversation at the time (or any of the comments sections this week) because we’ve been finishing up The Great Sex Rescue, our new book that’s coming out next spring. Rebecca, Joanna and I wrote it together, with Rebecca and me doing most of the writing and Joanna doing all of the stats (which was likely the largest part of the job). We had 22,000 people answer our survey in the fall, and that gave us so much data, and it’s incredible.

But best of all–the book is done! Seriously, I’m so happy, because I’ve been working so hard. It’s not done-done, because there’s still the editing process after the publisher gets back to us, but we’ve at least got something written, and I actually really like it!

We had one of those moments yesterday afternoon when we were just losing it. Rebecca and I were looking at our notes for a chapter and we came across this gem:

Great Sex Rescue Ridiculous Edits

I thought the bit in blue was the funniest (and I have no idea what we were originally trying to get across), but Rebecca thought the last line took the cake–we couldn’t find a metaphor for a metaphor.

Anyway, because of how busy I was, I missed out on the comments section. But several people brought up some interesting things I’d like to highlight. And if I don’t highlight your comment, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate it! It’s just that I’d like to pull up sections from comments that all brought up a new point or looked at something from a different angle!

Be careful not to get smug if you’re married

Becky made a great point:

I always hated when well-meaning Christian ladies would toss that verse about “it’s better not to marry” at me, as if it was somehow sinful for me to wish to marry. I honestly had to go to counseling in my later 20s, because I really was questioning whether my singleness was either a punishment for that bad college relationship that I mentioned last week, or whether God somehow loved me less than the majority of my friends who did marry in the couple of years within finishing college.

Those of us who are married need to remember how hurtful it can be to tell people, “well, God says you’re better off anyway the way you are!” My rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t want to walk in their shoes, then I shouldn’t try to convince them that they should enjoy those shoes, either.

What happened to all the men?

Several people got into some interesting conversations about where all the men are, too, and why there are so many more single women.

Why are there so few good Christian men? This is not an American problem. I majored in religion studies and this is something that is very common all over the world. What is it that make men less interested in faith and religion?

Anon

It’s a relief to know that it’s not God deliberately making me single

This comment made me so sad, although I do believe Arwen is at peace about her singleness now. But I just read this and I so want to set her up so badly, especially because I feel like  know her from all her comments over the years! I really hate it when people are single and they don’t want to be, and I hate the rejection that she still is feeling, even if she finds it a relief to know it’s not God doing the rejecting:

I just find it odd when pastors preach that maybe it’s not God’s will for someone to get married but when you look around the Church all the good looking people are married, you start questioning God. Instead what we need to realize is that marriage is one of the many areas God has given us free will in. So instead of blaming God let’s face the harsh truth, someone deliberately chose not to sacrificial love you.

I think that’s harder to accept because it’s easier to just say, i’m waiting on God’s timing. Part of living in a fallen world is living with the bitterness of sin. It was such a mind shift for me, i read it on a singles blog where she explained it in detail! I actually feel vindicated and a burden was lifted from me. Now i know if i never marry it wasn’t because God favored other women over me it was because all those single Christian men didn’t want me. And that is far more freeing to me. Because i would much rather be unloved by a man than to be unloved by God. 

Arwen

Are we treating marriage like the meaning of life?

Bre brought up this great point that many debated afterwards:

“It’s as if Christians can’t see marriage as part of the Christian life and there’s a reason for it: they see it as the meaning of life and as such, they see as transcending the rest. It’s utter foolishness….When we finally realize that marriage is just a part of life instead of the meaning of life, we have a far more holistic, positive view of life.”

Bre

She goes on to say that between her mental health issues and ASD issues (which we had a great discussion about a few weeks ago) she thinks she’d be better off single. I think that’s noble, honestly, to realize that you weren’t really cut out for marriage, and so you’d rather pour yourself into service. I don’t know why we think that’s a bad thing, or that we have to talk anyone out of it. I sometimes look at couples who are really struggling, where one person was honestly never cut out for marriage, and I think to myself, “if they were given permission to stay single, maybe they would have and then their spouse may have met someone else.”

Women have a timeline that men don’t

The sad thing is that women are definitely at the disadvantage here, and not only in terms of raw numbers of single men vs. single women. We have a time line that men don’t:

Also, a lot of Christian guys seem to be commitment-phobes until they’re much older – by which point, although they can start a family with a younger woman, it’s too late for women their age to have kids.

Anon

But then Catherine also gave this interesting perspective, which I wholeheartedly endorse! I know a single woman in her 40s who just adopted a lovely sibling group from foster care, and I’m so happy for her!

As far as the woman’s biological clock ticking and a deep desire to have children and being single……I personally see no reason why adoption isn’t an option. Yes, it’s difficult as a single mom. But some are in positions to do so or have extra family help etc. and if so, then we are called to care for orphans. Plain and simple. Is it ideal to being a child into a fatherless family? No, not ideal. Fathers are so important. But life isn’t ideal, and many of the situations orphans are in are even less ideal. So perhaps you won’t be getting married at all or in time to have biological kids before menopause…..I think this is a legitimate option that some singles should consider. And for those who get married later in life, adopting older kids in need of homes is also an option!

Catherine

Are women too picky?

And Anon also raised this point, which I’ve talked about as well:

I also know women who are single because they are way too fussy – I’m not talking about women who want a husband who loves Jesus, but women who reject a potential date because he has a beard, didn’t go to the right college, is 6 months ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ or a couple of inches ‘too tall’ or ‘too short’.

One of my friends is desperate to get married, and has expressed envy that I have ‘found a man’ – yet my fiance has at least 4 things ‘wrong’ with him in her eyes that would wipe him off her list of possible future husbands! Her list is literally pages long and has really specific height, weight, age, hair (no beards or baldness), education, career and income requirements.

Anon

Check out a post I wrote answering a woman asking if she was being too picky!

Finally, it’s not only singleness where the church says really hurtful things. It’s infertility, too.

A few women brought up how hurtful the infertility discussion and issue can be as well, when people talk like God planned it, or ignore the fact that you’re struggling.

How about infertility? What do you think that’s all about? There’s a shortage of single men in the church, so that explains why some Christian women remain single. That’s not God’s plan, but it is a fact in a sin-stained world. What about infertility?

Also, can we talk about how the church has a bad habit of idolizing marriage and child-rearing, creating very little space for those that are single (beyond their 20s) and those that are infertile?

Andrea

My last ladies event I attended there was my last because I was the only one at a table of 10 not joining in on the pregnancy/labour stories. I’m not exaggerating when it went on the majority of the night and I couldn’t join a different table without causing a scene because we were in groups. As the evening went on I didn’t have the ability to attempt to causally change the subject because I was knew if I opened my mouth I would completely break down. I eventually made a lame excuse to leave and bawled as soon as I got to my car. I was incredibly hurt because of my struggle and hurt that no one seemed to care about the one person who remained silent the entire evening and no one seemed to give thought to why I wasn’t joining in the conversation.

Please. Take a look around the group next time you’re with a bunch of people. If someone hasn’t said a word, reach out to them. It doesn’t have to be deep. It doesn’t have to be related to the subject that everyone else is talking about. Just be considerate and make them feel included and important to the group.

A

I really appreciate all of you in the comments, especially this week when I haven’t been replying to very many!

And I just want you to know that if you’re struggling with not wanting to be single, or with infertility, I am sorry. I wish I had something better to say to you. I won’t pretend to understand. I married early. And while I have had miscarriages and my son die, I also never had trouble getting pregnant (and I even got pregnant right after Christopher died, too). So I haven’t walked in those shoes, and I don’t have any great words of wisdom or comfort, and I don’t want to insult you by giving you false comfort.

I’m just sorry if you’re hurting, that’s all.

But here’s my question for YOU if we can keep the discussion going, and it’s a two-pronged one: If you’re single, how do you feel about people trying to set you up? And if you’re not single, have you ever tried to set anyone up? How did it go? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Is Someone Stepping on Your Air Hose?

So many women--and many men as well--honestly feel like the church is hurting them. I do not believe that it is Jesus that is hurting them, but the things that the church teaches, especially around sex and marriage, do cause harm. Our surveys have shown that...

Can Sex Be Hot and Holy at the Same Time?

Can sex be hot and holy at the same time? One of my big picture passions that I want people to understand is that sex is more than just physical--it's supposed to be deeply intimate too. And maybe to understand that, we need to take a step back to see what God thinks...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

63 Comments

  1. Mary

    I was 28 when I got married. I married a non-Christian. None of the Christian guys wanted me. I had never been on a single date. Suddenly a non-Christian popped into my life and he wanted to marry me after the first time we met. I prayed and fasted and was so confused why the first person ever interested in me wasn’t a Christian. I decided to marry him and basically felt like a horrible sinner because all my Christian friends and family told me i was sinning by going against “being equally yoked” and I was compromising. They claimed I’d have a horrible marriage and put doubt and fear in my heart about this decision. I don’t know why God put this man in my life. He was willing to honor me and my principles about waiting till marriage for sexual intimacy, yet I had dishonered that one scripture. 8 years later, we have a good marriage. If we were both Christians it would be better. Do I recommend single Christian girls marrying non-Christians? No. But I also don’t recommend other Christians to judge. It is a very painful time for older single women in the church and while the church is silent on the subject because you are the minority. But when you meet someone they disagree with, they aren’t silent. When I get to heaven Jesus will set me straight on my potential sin for marrying a man that loved me even if he wasn’t a Christian. I don’t like the fact that sometimes I still doubt I made the right decision because of this one scripture I blatantly disobeyed. That is not fair to my husband. People say I would have been better off marrying a Christian. My husband may have been better off as well by not marrying me as well. Sometimes I think the church is clueless and irrevelant but they think they aren’t.

    Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      If you have a good marriage and you both give each other honor and love, then its not a sin. There are many Christian couples that dont follow their vows so listen to your heart and cherish a good man, even if hes not a Christian. Good Non-Christians do exist people. I’m one of them, always honored my marriage even thiugh my Christian husband did not. And after divorcing to save myself I now have a wonderful man in my life who cherishes me like no one ever had before, not even family.

      Reply
    • Susanna Musser

      As a woman who has experienced and been witness to countless stories of abuse in Christian homes (backed up by Biblical teachings that enabled the abusers and silenced the abused), I seriously question whether your marriage would be better if your husband was a Christian. It sounds to me like you found an absolute gem, not second best in any way, and I am so thrilled for you. ❤

      Reply
      • SLMc

        Here here! I agree!! I was a faithful wife for 20 years to a ‘Christian’ man. I honored and cherished him but he was unapologetically unfaithful and abusive to me and our children in every way. The church just stood by and fed his ego. I believe that no matter what, the Lord wants us to be happy and the ultimate choice of salvation is up to the individual. By setting a Godly example as the wife , the unbelieving husband may come to Christ!

        Reply
        • A

          Thank you so much for this, I’m single I think I’m going to be single forever I don’t really like it but I’m not great at relationship and kind of don’t desire one anymore mainly due to my past. But I have desires I have no idea what to do with and blogs on sex and marriage pretty much ignore singles all we get is don’t. So sorry it sucks for you, but why do I have a desire at all if I’m just supposed to be a nun and a get a job or serve somewhere. I have questions about sex, whether I’m being punished by God and why would God bless some with such an awesome gift while others made to feel life somehow our life has no meaning we are just waiting to die while we watch married people have real life. It’s true if heard of people saying to single ppl well there is no marriage in heaven so just be patient. For real…so singles are born to simply watch others ‘have all the fun” .I’d like to know another perspective I’m cool with being single but I’m not cool with being second best.

          Reply
    • Arwen

      Mary, i want to give you an encouragement even though i don’t agree with your decision, as a fellow single woman at 29. Just know that you will not lose your salvation for marrying a none believer. The Bible makes it VERY clear that NOTHING can snatch believers out of the hand of Christ. Nor is divorce the unforgivable sin, contrary to what the Church would have us believe. Now that you’re married make the marriage the best of it and so far you’re doing just that. Do not and i mean don’t allow the bullying of fellow believers to get in the way of your union. Life is always between you and God. Always listen to the Holy Spirit and ONLY do what He tells you to do. Not humans. He trumps all of us. May you have a wonderful marriage going forward and i send a prayer for his salvation.

      Reply
    • Matilda

      Mary, maybe God brought you two together because your love & prayers is what is going to lead your husband to Christ! How exciting! Be blessed and Yes being equally yoked is best Christian practice, but remember God even used a donkey so…you are now married in the eyes of God so enjoy it!

      Reply
      • Anna Primrose

        I am single and about to be 31! I really wish singleness in the church was seen as the default and not marriage. I have no desire to be “set up” or to be married unless it is very clear that God has set me apart for that calling. I’m reading a book called ” breaking the marriage Idol” by Kutter Callaway and would highly recommend it to any single Christians or people who are wondering how to love their single friends well.

        Reply
    • Sarah

      I dated a Christian guy who came from a catholic background rather than the evangelical one that I came from. He had a very different perspective on “unequally yoked”. He looked at couples where one spouse was a hard worker and the other kind of lazy and considered that an unequal yoking. Or if one spouse was very dismissive or unkind while the other wasn’t. This opened my mind up a bit on how to think about that verse. That’s not to say the interpretation of it being about Christians marrying non-Christians is wrong, but just that you could have two Christians that are married and unequally yoked.

      Reply
      • JILL

        You’re so right Sarah, I’ve never thought of it like this before.

        Reply
  2. Kristen

    Single 25-year-old here, so I’ll answer your first question, Sheila! 🙂
    Through the years, especially in my late teens and earlier twenties when I was actively serving God, I had many friends and older women try to set me up with guys. I’ve lost count. I’d go out with some of them, and text most of them, and I would try really hard to be open to the possibilities, but every one of them fizzled.
    I suppose part of that is my fault. A lot of those guys wanted a traditional relationship or marriage, where they do the leading and all the providing. And for some couples, that sort of dynamic works. But I know it hands down wouldn’t work for me.
    I’m very career-oriented, always have been, and I know that can sometimes make it hard on a relationship. That’s why I know if I ever do marry, it has to be to someone who isn’t threatened by my dreams (because a lot of men are). I also think where I live (southern West Virginia) has a great deal to do with it, too; people here value the traditional.
    As for people trying to set me up, I used to always dread it, because to me it was just so awkward. In my experience, it has never been pleasant; it just made me feel pressured, by the guy and by the party that set us up, to try to make “sparks” or something. I always hesitated to say no, though, because what if this was how I met “the one”? But all in all, I personally hate being set up. That’s just my two cents, however.

    Reply
    • Doug Hoyle

      Kristen,
      I have to confess that I am a it taken aback by your comment about men being threatened by your dreams. I find your assesment of them to be somewhat disingenuous akd frankly hypocritical. I suspect you didn’t mean it to be.
      You have your own dreams, and you are entitled, and should even be encouraged to follow them. If a man doesn’t share them and in fact feels they are in conflict with his own it doesn’t mean he is threatened by yours. He is simply exercising his own right to follow his own dreams. In short, he is recognizing that there would be a conflict that likely couldn’t be resolved without one or the other letting go of something important to them. You have stated pretty clearly that you are unwilling to surrender yours for a relationship. Why is it that if a man does the same thing, you apply an unfair motive to it.

      Reply
      • Kristen

        Hi, Doug,
        Thanks for your thoughts. In retrospect, “threatened” was probably not the most appropriate choice of words and, as you pointed out, assigns blame where there shouldn’t be.
        I think the issue for me is the culture I live in (and am hoping to move away from this summer). When I mentioned my experience with men, I should have been more clear that they were all men from my hometown and the surrounding communities, which place a high value on traditional, complementarian marriage in which the husband is the primary breadwinner and the wife stays home. And in no way do I condemn that (and I apologize if my wording made it seem like I do). As I said earlier, if that dynamic works for a given couple, I support that. My own parents have been married for 26 years in a similar dynamic, and I would be the first to say it works well for them. However, I know that I would not be content with that dynamic. I think you’re right – it is a collision of values, and not entirely these men’s faults. Perhaps by using the word “threatened,” I was projecting my own insecurities onto these men, and that is unfair.
        I do realize that relationships and marriage require compromise and sacrifice. And I hope that once I broaden my horizons and find more like minded people, I might be fortunate enough to find a man who values more of the things that I do, and vice versa. A man who not only supports my dreams, but whose dreams I might also support, because relationships are all about give and take. But I’m also open to the possibility that I may never marry. As you said, I’m not willing to fully surrender my dreams, and I realize that that is my choice.
        Again, thank you for your response. It made me pause and evaluate my perspective, and realize that I have some responsibility, too.

        Reply
        • Doug Hoyle

          About the only advice I could give you there, is just let things happen and don’t rule anything out. I don’t say this to put you down, but you are young (compared to me anyways) and you will change in a lot of ways. Some of the changes will be what you place a high priority on,
          When my wife and I married, I was a young enlisted man, and she was pursuing a career. It even delayed us being together for awhile because she was attending school in another state and had to finish the semester there. Once we were married, she continued her schooling, and I supported it and payed for it. Once our son was born, I stayed home and took care of him while she attended evening classes and finally got her degree. We were both younger than you are now, and we managed to make it work. Once she graduated, which was a real goal for her at the time, I don’t want to say she lost interest in her goals, but she sidelined them and was a SAHM. Much later, she reassessed, and found some volunteer work that put her schooling to use. She volunteered at institutions for troubled boys, most of them sex offenders.
          I don’t think she outgrew her dreams. The fact that she returned to it later and the passion she had for it would tend to show that they were still alive and well.
          The truth is that there were times that what I wanted to do was subordinated to her desires, and there were more times that her dreams were subordinated to the demands of my career. A military career doesn’t allow a lot of compromise, unless you are willing to add in even more separation than is already required.
          Just don’t rule anything out. It may well be that you meet someone along the path that alters your perspective, or it could be that you meet someone in the course of you following your dreams.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            We’ve done something similar–for a long time my dreams took the backseat while I supported Keith in his career, and paid for his medical school, and raised our kids. And now he’s gone more part-time to support me. It’s worked out really well.

      • Sarah O

        I think there is a difference between laying down dreams for your own life and accomplishments and laying down dreams about your future spouse’s life and accomplishments.
        When a man dreams of a complementarian marriage with a stay at home wife/mother, he is putting limitations on someone other than himself. He is dreaming of being served. That dream can only be made or broken by his spouse.
        When a woman dreams of having a career or vocation, she is putting ownership on herself. She will have to make that happen, her husband can’t do it for her.
        Both these views are defining an identity for the woman, nothing changes for the man. Who gets to define the woman’s identity?
        A fair comparison would be a woman who has always wanted to marry a doctor, or a missionary, deciding to date a man inclined to a different profession. Ultimately it’s not her place or responsibility to drive her husbands chosen work. She is only responsible for her own. I think the same is true of men who want to limit a future wife’s occupation.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Actually, Doug, I think that’s a pretty fair characterization. I think many men do feel threatened by women who are ambitious. They don’t want to be outshone. This is actually a pretty measured phenomenon which has been written about at length in the literature.
        This is why so many girls learn to “play dumb” when they’re younger.

        Reply
        • Doug Hoyle

          I’m sure there are men out there like that, but I question if they are the majority. I think the majority are brought up with a particular vision of the future, and accept it as correct, but again, assigning motive “threatened by” doesn’t really accurately reflect what they feel.
          Holding onto a particular value or world view doesn’t mean that you are threatened by alternate views. It just means I won’t embrace them for myself.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Doug, I do know what you’re saying, and it may be true in some cases. But the fact that girls do better at math and other subjects in same sex schools than they do in co-ed schools has long been documented, and the reason is that girls learn that they must “play dumb”. This is a big almost universal phenomenon. Please do not downplay it. It is real and many women experience it, especially those who go on to higher education. A better question might be to ask, why is it that men don’t want to marry highly accomplished women? Sure, it may be that they have a certain view of the future. But why is it that so many men have a view of the future that excludes someone who may be more accomplished than them or more intelligent than them? Especially when women don’t mind marrying men who are more intelligent than they are.

          • Jane Eyre

            Hi Doug,
            I encountered a lot of this when I was younger. “Intimidating” was the word often used to describe me. Men tried to break me down or undermine me because they did not like that I was more ambitious than they were.
            I found a man who is different, but I also found that men tend to back off that nonsense as they get older. When you’re 35, having a smart wife who brings home the bacon makes retirement a lot more feasible.

        • Anon

          Sheila, I’m sad to say that I think you are right – I’ve been deeply disturbed by the anger I’ve encountered in young Christian men when talking about single women who are getting a good education or who have a good job. Their remarks definitely indicate a sense of feeling threatened, and indeed, it’s hard to see otherwise why they would be so bitter about women having a fulfilling job or being excited to study.

          Reply
    • Bre

      THIS. I’ve actually been on very few dates, but a big part of why I’m so apprehensive about dating is because I’m very much an egalitarian/ Christian Feminist and I know that, even in my christian community that ordains women and stuff, lots of people are still big into the traditional ‘male as head and leader’ thing. Like you (Even if our reasoning may be a bit different), that’s not what I’m into. That’s actually part of why my mental health stuff and ASD acts up; the idea of cultural expectations/ Christian expectations and how people will react to me not wanting to follow them (especially in the church) makes not marrying and having to deal with that stuff super attractive and is a part of why I’m happier single. BUT, I definitely get your feeling of wanting someone who’s not threatened by your dreams (and in my case, my personally, beliefs, and how outspoken I am about my those beliefs).

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        This….. Can Sheila do a post about Dreams and following them or giving them up? Women have dreams and aspirations too and I think we are usually given the belief that we have to put ours aside especially after marriage.

        Reply
        • Bre

          Yes! The churches/communities I personally have been a part of never gave off that idea, but I’ve read enough books and blogs to know that it is an silent assumption in many circles (and in a few crazy corners, even explicitly taught!)I think that it would make a interesting discussion!

          Reply
  3. anon

    I am married. I didn’t marry young, in my group of friends, I married at the halfway point (half married, half single). I have never set up a date for anyone because my single friends are single for a reason. The reason is hands-down being WAY too picky about what they want in a mate.
    It goes beyond Jesus-loving, drug-free, and faithful (all good qualities!). I’m talking specific age, weight, height, level of education, career, hobbies, and cup size requirements. When I suggest the list practically ensures they will remain single, the response is, “well, that defeats the idea of Mr./Ms. Perfect!”
    My husband is NOT perfect. He’s not a perfect husband or a perfect father (though he’s VERY good at both). He can drone on for hours about computer systems I have zero interest in. I am NOT perfect. Not a perfect wife or mother. I can talk his ear off about a new recipe, or my latest craft project. We could bore each other to tears if we wanted. But we love the theater, home improvement projects, dogs, being outdoors, and anything to do with our kids. What if I’d written him off because I’m not interested in computers and he’d not willing to sit and crochet with me? Marriage is compromise. You never compromise on big things, but nitpicking a partner you haven’t even met seems like dooming every relationship before it starts.

    Reply
  4. Wifey

    3 of my closest friends are single. The other 2 closest friends are married. One of this married friends has faced 9 years of infertility. One has been married a very short time. I’m the only one with kids. I feel like it’s important to have a wide range of friends in different stages of life to be well balanced and well rounded, more sensitive to other women and compassionate whether we know their story or not.
    And of my single friends, each has a different story. One has seen her parents walk in major conflict her whole life and rather thinks marriage is not worth the risk. One is in her mid 30s and longs for a home of her own even though she knows, given her health history, adopting is the best option for her to become a mother, single or married. The 3rd is a energetic and sweet young lady who has simply been overlooked time and time again.
    I’ve learned so much from these friends and their experiences. I can ask them individually- how can I encourage you in this whole marriage/singleness/life goals arena? The 3rd friend would be fine with me setting her up if I happened upon a young man I think she’d enjoy getting to know. The first friend would NOT be happy with me for doing the same. And the 2nd friend would think I’m crazy! 😂 These friendships remind me Yet again how one size does not fit all. And how the church needs to stop treating singleness like it does.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      I love your point about having a wide range of friends in different stages of life. It shows intentionality on your part, and I agree with you – it’s important. I’ve always had an eclectic group of friends, of varying ages and stages, too, and it does lend different perspectives that I’d otherwise not have.
      Also, I loved how you pointed out that one friend would welcome a bit of matchmaking, but the other friend who abhor it. That’s why, when I mentioned my own distaste for being set up, I tried to convey that that is just my preference, and certainly does not speak for everyone. You are right – there is no one size fits all formula!

      Reply
  5. Gem

    I married young. So I also often feel like I don’t have much to say about singleness. I don’t really know what it’s like to be single so I don’t want to speak for others and am worried that I’ll be insensitive. Please tell me if I am.
    I worry that we put too much of an emphasis on getting married and having kids as the ultimate steps in life, as if they’re the only true way to maturity or happiness. I think our society (and often churches too) can put so much emphasis and expectation on it (especially for women) that it’s bound to make people who are still single miserable, because we pin so much on those things. It’s not wrong to want them but it cannot be everything.
    Maybe if we all learned to value deep friendships more, and lived more as wider communities and less as insular family units, it would be less of an issue.
    I don’t judge who people choose to marry (or not marry) but if being single was considered a viable option, women could worry less about whether they should “settle” for a Non christian, or for a guy whose values don’t align with yourq in other ways.

    Reply
    • VdL

      Gem,
      I really appreciate your comment! So often, my pastor will asks families to gather together and pray in a church service. I’m usually “adopted” by people sitting nearby, but I still feel incredibly conspicuous as a single adult! Our language in the church is often geared toward the family unit as well. I nod in my pew then head home to my cat (singular- I haven’t started accumulating multiples yet!).
      I’m 26 years old. Recently, while speaking with an older woman in my church, who married young, I was asked, “You get married, and then what? You have a kid? Then, what? What’s your next milestone? Why do we make people hurry up and get married?”
      Her questions encouraged me. What’s the rush?

      Reply
  6. Becca

    That article was the most encouraging article on singleness I have ever read. I get told so often that “it’ll happen when God wants it to happen” or “God will bring you the right one” or “you just have to have faith.” But this is the first article I’ve ever read which points out that undesired singleness can be a result of a fallen world and that it is okay to grieve being single and that God grieves with us. It’s like we’re sometimes expected to just be happy all the time about being single, or else we don’t have faith and we’re desperate. For the most part, I can find joy in my singleness, but it is difficult sometimes. I am the only unmarried, childless one out of all of my siblings. I have never had a serious relationship, and all if my siblings were married by my age. My dad is getting older, and I have this fear that he will never walk me down the aisle or see any children of mine. I currently cannot foster, although I plan to do so as soon as possible.
    I had one friend try to set me up with her brother in law. It failed miserably. For one thing, her entire family made it far too obvious that they were trying to set us up, so it was incredibly awkward. We might have been able to overcome that, but he did not seem to be able to control himself around alcohol, and I will not marry a man who cannot be self controlled.
    I would be open to being set up, but I really would prefer it to be done subtly! Just invite the both of us to the same event and introduce us….don’t make a big production out of telling us that we’re getting set up before introducing us! So awkward. LOL

    Reply
  7. Lindsey

    Handing someone the standard “it’s Gods will” answer does absolutely nothing to help in ANY trial of life.
    I have a friend who’s husband committed suicide. A woman told her that it was God’s will/plan. How absolutely horrible. She told me “I can’t believe in a God like that – so I reject the idea that it was His will”.
    The acceptance of something being a part of God’s plan for your life (or deciding that it’s just a part of living in a fallen world and He will see you through it) is a deeply personal experience for each individual to reach – on their own – through God’s prompting. Everyone else needs to remember that they don’t speak for God.
    The fact is, compassion acknowledges and validates the pain of others . While responding with a comment about it being “God’s will” invalidates and brushes aside their pain…and that is 100% NOT God’s will.

    Reply
  8. Bre

    Yay my comment made the article! (BTW, in case anyone missed the actual discussion, I was quoting a lady from another place online who I agreed with because her words were better than mine😊)

    Reply
  9. Catherine

    I think the church would be better off doing away with adult groups based on age or marital status altogether. (e.g., Singles Group, Young Marrieds, etc). I just can’t imagine Paul in the early church dividing up the Christians into age groups or groups of singles. The Word of God only makes sense in the context of community – and when we compartmentalize the Church as we currently do, we essentially cut off our interaction with the hands or the feet of the Body of Christ. Small, intimate Bible study groups that have wide age ranges and both married and singles would ensure wisdom is passed on by the elders, singles have a chance to hear about real marital problems (and joys) and decide if that path is truly for them, and married couples and families would be able to join in community with the singles in the group. I know there are some churches that function like this, but they are few and far between.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Good point, Catherine! It’s one thing when those groupings happen organically, but it’s another when it’s designed that way.

      Reply
  10. David

    I’ve been going to church for nearly 60 years, first growing up Catholic and then going to mainly a Baptist Church for the last 40 years and I have heard very little about the criteria about getting married, other than the couple should be evenly yoked.
    Nothing about, “if you don’t love the person, then you shouldn’t get married”.
    What defies what it actually means to be in love? Some might say (even leadership in some churches) that living together and having sex is enough reason to get married, which is the worse reason in my view.
    In fact I would even go so far as to discourage a couple from getting married if they are “shacking up”, because typically “shacking up” is a safety valve of getting out of a relationship with no strings attached.
    I’d encourage them to stay on the pill or even break up, because marriages don’t have safety valves and divorce is devastating occurrence that is typically caused by premature bad choices of marrying someone that one (or both) didn’t truly love..
    They don’t realize the euphoria of infatuation doesn’t have the same definition as love.
    To me, it matters how they talk and treat each other, putting their own desires, needs and goals to merge with their spouses. To focus on having thought provoking discussions and communicate in civilized ways, instead of yelling, saying mean things or force feeding one another’s “will” on the other, lacks real evidence of love and that is something that occurs in many relationships even before the couple decides to get married.

    Reply
  11. D

    I’m almost 40 and have had one romantic relationship that lasted all of two weeks. I don’t want to be single, and yet I can’t find a man willing to be with me. I’m so terrified of being used and discarded that I make myself hard to date. I’ve been working on myself for a while and have overcome a lot of personal issues, but I’m still single and have no prospects. It’s hard not to be mad and look for someone to blame, be it God or myself.
    I’ve just discovered this site and look forward to reading the articles.

    Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      The best dating book I ever read was How to Find a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s written from a Christian perspective, based on the principles from their book Boundaries. It really teaches how to get out of your own way and a) meet new people, and b) choose and let go of people using your values rather than your emotions. It helped me a lot during my single years!

      Reply
    • JILL

      Be careful with your decision to continue reading articles on marriage and lifestyle blogs like this. It’s an excellent resource for many, but for some, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and possibly resentful. I have become very selective and often avoid them all together. I’m obviously being ‘selective ‘ today.

      Reply
  12. Marcy

    This whole thing is so hard.
    I am a 32 year old Hungarian girl who just got married a few weeks ago.
    I was single till i was 31. Never asked on a date, never been kissed, never even recognized by any of the guys i was constantly surrounded by. I was actively involved in youth groups, choirs, youth camps… anything you name i was part of. Still somehow it just never happened. I have been told EVERYTHING under the sun, all the ‘useful’ quotes from the Scripture.. and as all the still single girls know.. it never actually helps.. because you still are the one who goes home alone, who has to make grown ass decisions alone, who does not have anyone to hang out with on a friday because by the age of 25 all of your friends got married.
    I have to tell you that i only was focusing on surviving those years. Yes, I had guys i really liked, loved even.. I became super close to a few still they never wanted to see me. you can say i was the one in the ultimate friendzone… and then there were the guys who seemed like they wanted something but never actually put that much effort on the table… but enough to keep you hanging on and hope for that message that they sent once in every month… it is just tiring, filled with so much pain and heartache and tears. you start to question God, yourself, the whole universe.
    I was just after my 135 pound weigthloss, just before my skin correction surgery and after the biggest heartbreak i have ever had, when I met my now husband through Tinder … the MOST Christian dating site ever.. NOT!!!! We were from different cities so for us to be able to meet he had to travel half the country (luckily hungary is not that big 🙂 ). And he was everything i prayed for. He had clear intentions , he was straightforward with his decision about dating me, he was not scared away by my beliefs about purity and dating and boundaries. He is just not a Christian (yet). And it is a good thing.. I was so fed up with the christian guy s feeding me hope and then leaving me hanging.
    Now i have a wonderful man in my life… who without knowing it makes everything by THE Book… and it is great.
    As i see we don’t talk about how to handle your singleness as a young adult. what happens if you not marry by 23…. how to make big life decisions all alone. and the ones usually speaking at dating seminars or whatnot are woman who were married by 20.. and those ladies I am sure they want good but they dont know anything about being single.. they know a lot of thing about issues we dont. But please please please dont ever give singles the usual lines… ask out the single ladies for a coffee or anything.. just listen to them… hug them.. love them because they most of the time are so hopeless and lonely.. i know i was.. and i only showed it in the very very hard times…

    Reply
  13. Emily

    I’m 28 and single, so I’m answering Sheila’s first question 😉 When I was college-age I had several people try to set me up, and I turned down most of those offers. It felt like so much pressure and was very awkward and stressful for me. I also didn’t want to get married or have a serious relationship in college, and I often felt that people were insensitive because they never thought to ask if this was something I actually wanted. I prefer to find a date on my own.
    In addition, my church community was *very* traditional/complementarian, while I am an egalitarian. I eventually decided to stop dating altogether while I attended that church, because I didn’t know any single guys who would be okay with my dreams and career goals. The expectation was that the wife will quit working when a couple starts having kids, and that just isn’t the lifestyle that every woman wants to have, including myself.
    (To be clear, I am all for moms who choose to stay home with their kids–I simply believe it should be a choice, not an assumption going into a dating relationship or a marriage. At the very least, it should be a discussion as circumstances change in the relationship. )

    Reply
  14. Ina

    This was really good and humbling to read. Thank you to the ladies that posted with vulnerability about this. It makes me think of one of my favorite Ted Talks by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “The Danger of a Single Story.” All about how we need to broaden our horizons and perspectives to hear many different stories. I totally relate to other commenters saying we need to have a broad group of friends. Some of my most influential friends are women not in the same season as I am.
    As to why the church gets it so badly… I think part of it is that it overreacts to the world. The world has started to look down on both marriage and motherhood, so the church tries to elevate those but goes too far and thus does the same thing to singleness and infertility. To my sisters in Christ, I am so sorry that you have felt unseen, judged, belittled or that your feelings have not been validated but treated with ‘pat answers.’ I would love for my posts on ways we can be inclusive or things that do help!

    Reply
    • Ina

      That should say, “more posts” not, ” my posts!” I have no posts on the matter!!

      Reply
    • Bre

      Thank you so much for your kind words! For me personally, it helps a lot just to know that I’m being seen and heard. And as someone with a disability, I also see the value in being surrounded by different types of people who are in different stages of life.
      I agree with your comment about the Church basically panicking about the world and swinging the pendulum all the way in the opposite direction. In the discussion yesterday, I mentioned seeing the same thing in the Pro-Life circles I work in/with (again, disclaimer for all people reading this; these are just my personal beliefs and views please don’t judge). The world does devalue marriage, family, and kids, but some people I’ve met tend to turn around and go “Marriage and family are awesome and the pinacle of all existence! I don’t get WHY people wouldn’t want it! If everyone would just quite being selfish and marry and have tons of babies, everything will be perfect in the world! That will fix everything because it’s what God intended for everyone and everything will improve once we go back to his will!”
      ….umm, show me the scripture where it says that you are a sinner if you don’t marry (even though that isn’t what they meant and they weren’t even realizing it could be taken that way), or the part where Jesus said that our purpose for existing was to marry and have tons of kids? Oh, wait…being married and having family isn’t a guarantee that things will be good for you all and the NT says that both marriage and singleness are good… (pardon the snark)
      And a lot of these people DON’T hate singles or think that you are a subpar believer if you never get married and they are horrified when they realize that that is how people hear it; they just get so carried away on a good thing and trying to defend God’s way that they don’t realize how harmful they are being to many people or that they are elevating things to a status God never intended. I think the Church/Christian culture in general (Not just the Pro-Life movement that I’m involved with) needs to take a closer look at scripture and pray and ask for God’s guidance in these things because, in some things, the middle between two extremes is where you should be, and jumping right in automatically with a knee-jerk reaction isn’t a good idea because humans, even with good intentions, are prone to error and we really need to see what God is saying WITHOUT tying our own related assumptions to it.

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        Bre, you’re completely right and I know exactly what you’re talking about.
        It was extremely uncomfortable for me when I got married and literally, at the wedding, people started talking babies. It was my husband’s friends and family, and it made me feel so devalued and angry. Like, if what you wanted is some random woman to squirt out a pile of babies, then you did not need to take me away from my friends, my home since the early 1980s, my job, my political activism, all of it. Find some woman down the block. Don’t have some woman upend her life and move halfway across the country for you.
        Actual comments I have made are “please tell them that I am more than a baby factory” and “if you just wanted a baby factory, you didn’t need to drag me into this.”
        Ironically, it has strained my marriage and is one of the reasons that I am not having more children.
        If you want to “sell” marriage and children, talk honestly, not smugly, about what they add to your life. Talk about how marriage helps you with all the things you love and enjoy. Talk about how life is long and you can spend five years raising infants/toddlers and have another 60 adult years to work, study, play, travel, and those things are also fun with kids.

        Reply
    • Mary

      This is so true and I never thought of it that way…how the church overreacts. Which is probably why the purity culture movement became so popular and polluted. You are spot on with this!!!!!!

      Reply
  15. Amanda

    Another factor that needs to be examined is the tendency to lump singles together with “single-agains”. I was single until just before my 35th birthday; my husband passed away almost 6 years later, a couple of months before I turned 41. Nearly 3 years later, being single is very different than it was not even 10 years ago! And even within the single-again population, it’s very different for someone who has been divorced than for someone who has been widowed. My church is good about a lot of things – special needs populations, race relations, lovingly engaging in conversations with the LBGTQ population… but they still have a lot of work to do in ministering to singles.

    Reply
  16. Anon

    In my single days, I was regularly ‘set up’ with single guys, to the point that I stopped accepting dinner invites from people in my church, because I knew they would end up either as extremely embarrassing ‘set ups’, with the couple making constant excuses to leave me & my ‘date’ on our own together, or else I would end up being used as a free baby-sitter, despatched to the kids room straight after the meal so that the couple could enjoy some time alone (just to be clear, I had no objection to babysitting – what I objected to was inviting me to dinner under false pretences)
    I asked people SO often not to set me up, and they ignored me. I even asked one couple straight out if they were trying to set me up and they told me that no, I would be their only guest – and then walked in to their house to find a single guy on the couch! I was even ‘set up’ with a new guy at church – it was his first week there and he was SO embarrassed to realise they were match-making because he had a girlfriend in his hometown!
    I got so sick of the constant messages, explicit and implicit, that my only value was as a wife and mother, and that if I ‘failed’ to fulfil those roles, then I was worthless. It had a very damaging effect on my mental health, and I ended up becoming very anti-marriage for a number of years as a reaction to this.
    Setting someone up on a date is fine IF THEY BOTH WANT IT – and that means if they have either expressed a desire to be introduced to someone OR you have asked them and they have agreed – DON’T just ‘assume’ that they ‘must’ be happy to be set up. And if they don’t want to be set up – don’t do it. Just carry on treating them as a brother or sister in the Lord whose value is not dependent on their romantic relationships! We should treat people in the church as individuals who are valued by God regardless of their sex, age, marital status or whether or not they have kids.
    (I’ll just climb down off my soapbox now! Sorry for the rant, but it’s a subject I feel passionately about – in fact, when I got engaged, I felt a bit like I was letting down all the other single girls out there! I just hope that I can continue advocating for single women to be treated with respect after I’m married)

    Reply
    • Emma

      I was married fairly young, at 21, but I was blessed to grow up around a rather wide variety of Christian women: divorced for various reasons (and some remarried), single because they never married, single because widowed, married to unbelievers, and married to abusive “Christians”. It really helped shape my understanding that marriage doesn’t guarentee happiness, nor does singleness guarentee loneliness. So even though I married young, it wasn’t because of pressure, but because I found someone I was happy to spend the rest of my life with, who valued my dreams as much as his own.
      I remember one of the most horrifying things I have heard out of a Christian’s mouth was “the highest calling of a woman is to be a wife and mother.” WHAT??? Not “to glorify God in everything they do”? You know, like Paul urged? The same guy who stated that singleness (with no gender specifications) was valued because it allowed you to better focus on God??
      I do agree with the others who have pointed out that we also need to work on our language about infertility. Right now I am childless by choice (due to life situation and finances), but I have health problems that are likely to cause problems getting and staying pregnant in the future. Am I failing God because the flaws of the world has resulted in a body that may never give birth? Absolutely not!
      Like some others have pointed out, I doubt that most people even realize they are communicating less value to those who aren’t married or are childless. Unfortunately, we tend to repeat what we’ve been taught, and we don’t see hidden attitude behind the ideologies.

      Reply
  17. Wild Honey

    How can churches do a better job of serving singles or those struggling with infertility? Put them in positions of influence within the church.
    One of the reasons we choose a previous church was because one of the deacons was a single woman. The church had a small group leader who was a single man. Compared to other churches we’ve belonged to, this church had a large percent of singles, and I think one reason is because the church respected the status of singlehood, while many churches (unintentionally, I hope) only confer status on the position of marriage.
    I attended a woman’s retreat two months after a miscarriage. I had no other children at the time. The entire weekend felt as though it was centered around women as wives and mothers. Sitting through the talks and activities was excruciating, and I felt badly for the two single women who were there. The only person who asked how I was doing was someone who was infertile (with an adopted child). The intentionality of her question warms my heart and makes my eyes water even now, 7 years later.
    I think intentionality is lacking, because it’s hard. Deliberately seeking out and placing singles in positions of leadership, whether on staff or as lay people (elders, deacons, small group leaders, Bible study teachers, etc.), would go a long way, I suspect.
    While I think the stigma can be double for single women (as a woman and as a single), I think men experience the singleness stigma, too. When we first met, my husband was a 29-year-old, never-married seminary graduate. He’d been looking for a church position for over a year, unsuccessfully, and I can’t help wonder if his singleness was a mark against him. I’ve heard church folks before say that a pastor should always be married. “What about the Apostle Paul?” I ask. Or, “So what happens if a pastor’s wife dies? Is he out of a job then, too?”

    Reply
  18. Arwen

    Thank you Sheila. And yes i’m at peace with my singleness, i was not for a long time. But as time goes on and i get older, my peace is increasing. Your simple heart felt understanding is sufficient. I know you understand. And in the end i think that’s what we all deeply desire to be understood by others. To answer your question, for me i would prefer not to be set up. Do to my circumstances i have seen it fail a 100% of the time. I prefer it to happen or not happen organically. Keep prospering.
    P.S. I can’t wait for the book to release and read the articles and responses to that book. I think it’s going to be a hit like your Love & Respect articles. Exciting times ahead! Woohoo!

    Reply
  19. Angela

    Shelia’s first question: If you’re single, how do you feel about people trying to set you up?
    Years ago, one of my aunts and her partner tried to set me up with two guys on two different occasions. Neither guy was interested in me. After that, I turned down any offers on being set up.
    I have another relative that I am close with. Over the years, if she believed that some boy was interested in me, she would tell me and I’d believe her. I was interested romantically in some of them. But the truth was they didn’t like me that way. After the last incident about 9 years ago (involving someone I went to church with), I ignore this relative’s belief that so-and-so likes me romantically and I do not pursue the guy.

    Reply
  20. Sarah

    As a single 27 year old woman, I’m happy to be set up with someone IF the person setting me up has asked me in advance and genuinely thinks the guy might be a good match for me.
    As for how the church can handle singleness better, I’d say one way is to stop treating singleness like a brief stop on the way to love, marriage, kids, and happy ever after. If the young adult ministry does a dating series (inevitable, but needed), the message on singleness assumes everyone will get married, wants to get married, and needs to be reminded to serve Jesus and work on being their healthiest selves in the meantime. And it’s mostly addressed to the young twenties adults, not the adults who are fully settled into adulthood with careers and homes and responsibilities.
    I’d also appreciate if the church preached a sermon on singleness for every sermon they preach on marriage. I’ve heard plenty of sermons on marriage, and I don’t care that they think I might need it someday. Besides, what about all the divorced or widowed or older singles who keep having to hear the marriage sermons? I’ve never once heard a sermon on singleness in a non-young adult ministry context.
    I think a lot of this would improve if the church stopped putting marriage on a pedestal, stopped assuming that everyone will get married and stay married, and clue into the reality that there are more single people in the pews than there ever have before. If people don’t feel that they are truly part of the church while they are single, they will eventually leave.
    Being single bothers me in waves, coming and going – I just really want a partner to share life with, both the joys and the burdens. The biological clock ticks louder some times than others, and while I’m usually okay with being single in my full and happy daily life, sometimes I just feel really sad that I haven’t found my person yet, and that sadness might grow as I get older.
    (And I second the How to Get a Date Worth Keeping recommendation! Written by someone who married in his thirties and is not written for college kids or early career adults – super practical, no purity culture or soulmate theology included, nor is dating overspiritualized.)

    Reply
  21. Rogue

    So as of about a week ago, I became officially single. We were a long distance couple who mutually decided things weren’t going to go anywhere. Thankfully things ended under very good circumstances and we are both still very very good friends.
    My church demographic is 40’s plus married couples for the most part. My better friends there are the older folks who love to have a “young handsome man” to talk with.
    I won’t publicly advertise my singleness to them, because I don’t want to be match made or end up in people gossip.
    Besides my therapist thinks I need to better work on my relationship with myself before running after another person. And I totally agree with her. I’ve been looking for a mate before I was even old enough to date.
    Now to be honest, I may ask one couple I trust there to set me up with someone later, but that’s not here nor there yet.
    So prayers for me as I explore this new life season and work on my own personal growth.

    Reply
  22. Ashley

    I was single day longer than I hoped or anticipated. I don’t recall what it was, but I read something about allowing others to be a part of the search for a mate. I’d been so against being set up! Yet in short order through a series of many events God made it clear to me that I should allow others to help me. As soon as I made the decision to do this, I had 5 offers to set me up within 2 weeks! It was because of mutual friends that my husband and I met. Our friends are married and the guy in that relationship specifically really talked each of us up to the other. They found ways for us to spend time together and get up know each other. My husband is everything I didn’t know I needed. Almost 6 years and 3 kids later we’re still good friends with them.
    I think being set up is a great thing, specifically when the person doing the setting up knows both people well. Often others can see things that we’re too close to see–which can be very beneficial!

    Reply
  23. Jane Eyre

    I met my husband through a setup! My friend twisted our arms to friend each other on Facebook. We got to know each other; he flew up to meet me (I called it a three-day long blind date); we fell in love and are now married with a really adorable baby.
    My view on fixups is that there should be a solid reason why the person thinks the people would get along, and they should be good people with similar values. I went on several blind dates with friends-of-friends in my late 20s and early 30s, and always found it to be fun and a nice way to spend the evening. It was often very obvious that we weren’t the right people for each other, but when you date smart, kind, fun Christians, it’s easier to believe that it’s a matter of finding the right smart, kind, fun Christian. You’re not wading in a sea of whackadoodles and jerks, wondering if you should just throw in the towel and acquire a few extra cats.

    Reply
  24. Elizabeth

    I think churches just focus on families too much. The church was designed to BE a family. I think we should encourage marriages and families, I really do, but it is overkill in the vast majority. What if we all just were Christians and focused on being like Christ every day? What if we worked together for the advancement of the Gospel first and foremost? What if we teamed up with different people across the lifespan to serve and love our communities? What if we spent our corporate worship times adoring Christ, encouraging one another and loving each other instead of breaking off into the “singles class” and “marrieds” and “moms only groups??” What does the Bible say will happen when we do that? Secondary roles as spouse, parent, single, employee, friend — We will be better in these roles by proxy.
    I think this frequent segregating also robs those who are married and have kids- because they lose the perspective of others. They lose the richness of full, diverse relationships. It reminds them that even though marriage and parenthood can be hard- it is all secondary to their role as Christian. Because spouses die and kids grow up.
    The hardest times for me as a single were the differentiating. The feeling of being second class, not reaching the highest class of what it means to be Christian. I’ve grown from that since, but the wounds are deep and painful.

    Reply
    • unmowngrass

      This is an excellent point, and I just had a supplementary thought.
      I think it would work a whole lot better if the families did not sit with their other family members. Obviously small children need to be with someone they know, but if y’all mixed up a bit then it would give us all a chance to get to know you as individuals too, instead of as parts of each other. I think some of the emphasis on families in church is because that’s the biggest swathe of society, too, so it’s either just representative, or it’s structured that way in order to entice new families in, as the biggest potential mission field. But part of it is also, I think, we singles project things onto the families we see that they are not intending us to. But if y’all mixed up a bit more, it would be clear that you’re just separate individuals pursuing Jesus, just like us. What do you think?

      Reply
      • Christian Markham

        After college, it has been frustrating to be treated like a child because I’m not married and I figured I’d just meet somebody while I was serving or even trying the many different things that I’ve tried over the years. I’m 31 now and I’m just wondering if I missed my opportunity and I don’t have a high opinion of online dating but I have attempted it more than once. My little brother just got married this last week and I’m thinking that I just really wanted to spend time with somebody in a high school or college setting but that’s not an option for me anymore. There are definitely a lot of things I’m grateful for that I’ve learned about myself or developed over the years but I guess I was wondering if you have any advice Sheila. I guess sometimes I just try to move on and just try to focus on other things but I don’t want to forget about the pursuit of marriage if that’s in God’s will for my life.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s so tough! I’m so sorry. I will say that online dating, while fraught with potential problems, can also be a great tool. You likely have to weed through a lot of people to find someone good, but there are so many people online right now that it may be a good option. And I do think that the busier you keep your social circle, the better. Most people meet spouses through friend groups, so just having friends does help. So I’d just say don’t be afraid to be intentional in using online dating or in seeking out churches with large college & career programs or a big singles demographic. But other than that–just likely keep doing what you’re doing!

          Reply
  25. A

    Also, I’ve had pastors make declaration that singleness isn’t God’s best but a concession but Paul seems to say the opposite so if the Garden of Eden was the ultimate state in life how are singles not made to feel that their lives somehow fall short. I definitely feel like something vis missing, but yet we are complete.

    Reply
  26. Sadie

    My cousin set me up last year, and now he is my fiancé! I didn’t really expect anything to come from it, but I agreed to it largely because I wanted to demonstrate to my family that I was open to being set up. Also, my cousin did it very well. She & my now fiancé knew each other through a meetup group that watches Bundesliga at a local brewery. So after checking that was he was single/interested, she invited me to start going to that with her. We saw each other there for about 6 weeks before he asked me on a date. It was nice to be able to get to know each other in a low-pressure setting rather than just going on a blind date.

    Reply
  27. YaGirl

    Single 27 year old woman checking in. I always thought I’d be married by 23 (no idea why 23, I just thought it would be a good age to marry at.) I’ve noticed that my friends who did get married in their early twenties were and are very mature ladies who were ready to marry. In my early twenties, I wasn’t. I’m grateful for the opportunities to grow, to take on responsibilities such as house ownership alone, to realise that it’s important to become the kind of person you would want to marry, and not hold a sky-high checklist for the other person, as if they exist purely to make you happy. Jesus-loving, clean, enjoys travel and books, and is open-minded about adoption and mission in the future is pretty much my list. 🙂
    I think where the church could do better is addressing sexual frustration in singles. There are times when having a cold shower or going for a run doesn’t cut it, and in any case exercise actually ramps up my sex drive. For me, masturbation is not an option, and I usually have no choice but to pray and wait for the feelings to go away, as I’ve noticed they usually coincide with ovulation. I would consider myself to have a high sex drive and am quite honest in my prayers about wanting a husband. I have even prayed about the ‘it’s better to marry than burn’ advice St Paul gives. That being said though, I do realise marriage is about far more than just being an outlet for sexual frustration and I know God is working on me in my singleness. I get the feeling that if I do marry it will be some time from now. I know it’s not an easy question for church leaders to answer though, and idk if there is an answer, really, beyond what I’m already doing.

    Reply
  28. Anna

    Dear Sheila,
    As a single woman, I wish you had not attempted to start this conversation while in the middle of launching a book about marriage. I understand that that’s what you do- marriage stuff – and that’s wonderful. Truly. The church needs it. However, these two blogs about singleness were so short sighted and marriage-centric, it bothers me that they still haven’t been retracted. Your words about the patriarchy and equality in marriage are so important and needed, but the words about singleness are misinformed and unhelpful in these blogs. I hope that when it comes to these things in the future, you would pass the mic to women who are living in a season of extended (maybe even lifelong?) singleness and who know how to speak to it and engage with it.
    -Anna

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *