The Problem of Christian Singleness

I’ve been single my whole life, and I am so good at it. I didn’t date at all in high school and didn’t care much. I went on a few dates through college: I weathered a little heartbreak, went on a few dates that I didn’t realize were dates until too late, went on a sort-of-blind-date with a professor’s son (it’s a long story), but nothing turned into a relationship. And I was mostly relieved: I was an English major with an insane book list, two jobs, and a social life. I was happy reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, drawing cat cartoons, and drinking coffee with homies.

 

Occasionally, I wish that I was in a relationship. I wish I could relate to my dating, engaged, and married friends and understand the little unspoken nuances and intimacies of that mutual deepening of love. At Christmas parties on my mom’s side of the family, I always had a few well-meaning relatives ask if I had a boyfriend, and I always felt a little disappointed to say no. And the longer I go without a boyfriend, the more I feel that people don’t know what to do with me — every year, I have a little less in common with a lot of my friends, family, and acquaintances. I feel like many of my loved ones are moving on without me.

 

I’ve read the singleness blog posts before, and I’m sure you have too: singleness is a gift, there are benefits, and it probably won’t be permanent. But why do we need these reminders that singleness is good? Doesn’t it seem dishonest to claim that singleness is good if we’re so desperate for this particular state of “goodness” to end? Why don’t we need reminders that marriage is good and also technically temporary?

 

The more I consider the nuance of the difficulties, the more I realize that the way we Christians discuss singleness — and marriage! — is inherently reductive and flawed. The rhetoric of our speech in mainstream Christian culture always seems to shift the blame onto the dissatisfied individual: the problem is with the single person desiring a significant other, and the person must surrender his or her desires to God, and say, “Please help me to — oh God, but please, not for forever, please — accept and maximize the gift of singleness.” This false gratitude seems like self-flagellation. What if the problem is not wholly with the single person’s desire for romantic love? What if the burden of singleness is also a result of an unhealthy elevation and idolization of marriage in Christian culture?

 

Here is my proposal: Christian culture makes single people second-class citizens, which dehumanizes, devalues, and disempowers them. I know it sounds a little extreme. I know that this marginalization isn’t necessarily on par with racism or sexism. And I know this is a very general statement to make about an extremely diverse religious tradition.

 

But I think that the emphasis on marriage in Christian culture is pretty ubiquitous, and I think it creates generalized expectations. I realized that I wanted a boyfriend because everyone around me wants me to have one. I want a boyfriend because a relationship gives me greater access to Christian culture and eliminates some of the ambiguity of my life path. These are both terrible reasons for wanting a relationship — and these fear-based motivations are partly the result of external social pressure.

 

So I’m gonna be writing a series of blog posts unifying two of my greatest passions: thoughtful and passionate critiques of Christian culture and the meticulous psychoanalysis of my own life and that of everyone in my vicinity. I’m hoping to crush some fallacies, validate some feelings, and brainstorm some better ways to be one person functioning in many communities. We Christians should have the most direct access to the joy and satisfaction found in community — so why are singles struggling?

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