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?

Comments 8

  1. I was married 18 years before my wife called it quits.She was and is unfaithful. I simply asked God what do you want me to do now ? But let me reclairify, I sensed Jesus asking me in my prayer time , What do you want to do? I said to The Lord ,I think I would like to try being single so I could serve You. Clearly I heard, somewhere inside me , I could use you. It has been two years and I am suffering , but i believe a breakthrough is around the corner, as i surrender this singleness as a badge of courage. May humility become a birth of a genuine ministry.

  2. Thank you for this! I’ve been saying this for a while now, but it’s so hard to explain to some people who are stuck in this mindset. I’m looking forward to the series!

  3. I believe we are struggling because of other people!s fears. There are a lot of people who donT enjoy their own company or are afraid of joining a Bible study or something by themselves so they look down on singles. Our job is to not let these people get away with looking down on singles but call them to face their own fears.

  4. Author??? (By the way, I don’t think singleness is a problem; I think it’s a blessing. It allows me to serve God whole-heartedly.)

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Chris,

      The authors for each of our posts are credited at the bottom of the posts in the tags section, just above the comment section.

      Thanks!

      -BH

  5. Bravo, finally, and thank you for addressing this. Singleness was never an “issue” for me in my younger years, but now.. well, “future” gets closer when you’re older! lol. (I think). What hurts the most is from the pulpits. Almost never a word about singles in any sense other than the idea that is assumed that we are all looking for a mate. We live in a Couples Culture, and the “Family” is paramount to the church… I agree, however, it minimizes singles terribly. I mean, really hurtful. I agree: “Here is my proposal: Christian culture makes single people second-class citizens, which dehumanizes, devalues, and disempowers them.”

    1. I’m single 59 year old. Came to Christ at 40. I was engaged and dumped at 25 during a painful period in my life. That’s when The Lord saved me. I totally agree with the authors assessment. In my church marriage is everything and if your married your ministered too. I’ve never heard a message on singles issues, struggles ect. I’m always seeking information about how other older singles do in the Christain community. It’s never been addressed. I too find my awkwardness in church, as I’m a only single. I can’t relate to married people’s life, and find myself outside looking in. Being a female makes it harder. I struggle immensely with fear of being alone. I struggle too with discontentment because I want to be accepted by my church n most often feel like I’m an oddball … social is the same, have nothing to talk about and Relate to with married peeps.I know it’s the Lord who directs our path and does give and do for my good and His glory. I also understand serving whole heartedly to Lord is key to finding contentment and true joy. It’s hard to do when u feel resentment and rejection from a church who seems blind to the struggle of singleness, being outside all the time. I’d love to know the answer to survive n find joy in church instead of depression and awkwardness. Anyone else find the same thing?

  6. I am married but I work with survivors of domestic violence who often find themselves in these relationships due to their unwillingness to be alone and live a thoughtful (and hopefully God-lead) life first. I would like to follow your blog to gain more insight for those with whom I work. Thanks for your willingness to share.

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