My beautiful friend Meredith Evert in Malibu, California
Used With Permission
"'Have you not read that he who created them
from the beginning made them male and female, and said,
'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother
and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?'"
Matthew 19:4-5 (ESV)
Being single when your heart wants to be married is difficult at best, devastating at worst. Each decade of singleness has its own distinct characteristics (Part I). Each decade also garners different reactions from family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even strangers.
In your 20's people are likely to say:
- Do you have a boyfriend?
- I know some great guys and would love to set you up.
- You're young and have your whole life ahead of you. Go have fun and when you're not even thinking about it Mr. Right will come along.
- Girl, you're too young to be tied down with children! There is plenty of time for that in your 30's.
- Are you dating anybody right now?
- Most women wait until their 30's to have kids these days anyway!
- Where are you going and what are you doing to meet the right kind of guys? Are you in a singles Sunday School class?
- Have you thought about e-Harmony or Match.com? My cousin's best friend's sister met an awesome man online and they got married in less than six months.
- I bet your parents are thinking they will never have any grandchildren!
Words uttered to an unmarried woman in her 40's:
- I'm so sorry.
- The Bible says singleness is a gift. You should be honored God has chosen you for this gift!
- Statistically speaking, you have a greater chance of being hit by lightning and/or winning the lottery than you do of ever getting married.
- No words. Just a pity-filled stare.
However unintentional it may be, the message is pretty clear: you are less of a woman without a man. Your worth is diminished if you never marry or have children. You are to be pitied, especially if you are over 40, because your life will never really have meaning without the experience of marriage and family.
Adding insult to injury, single women of all ages are apt to hear:
- Pray and ask God to reveal what is wrong with you. When you fix those issues God will bring you a husband.
Really? Are you kidding? Most of the married people we know (including the ones making that statement) are screwed up way worse than us, but we've gotta fix ourselves so men will want us?
- You have a strong personality and you're too independent. That's intimidating to men. If you could tone yourself down some, guys would flock to you.
So we're supposed to alter our God-given personalities in order to attract men? When did confidence and healthy self-esteem stop being sexy? What about all of the strong, independent women we know who are married?
- A husband doesn't complete you; only God can do that. If you're empty now, you'll still be empty in marriage.
Deep in our hearts we know you are right, but we don't want to hear that. Would you be able to say that as confidently if you weren't married?
- When you give up and quit looking, that's when the man of your dreams will find you.
Do you have any idea how many times we have quit? How often we've begged and pleaded with God to please take the desire for marriage away if He never intends to fulfill it? How we've given up only to have the desire hit us again out of nowhere, leaving us feeling crushed and defeated all over again?
Then there's the taboo topic discussed only in whispers - SEX:
If you're in your 20's, your youthful hormones are raging, understandably, but you have the opportunity to die to self and honor God by practicing self-control. If you're in your 30's, your married friends discuss their sex lives openly. Assuming your self-control is still strong, you listen and learn and, of course, blush at the appropriate times. If you are currently making ungodly choices (and your friends know it) you still do not participate in the conversation. Outwardly everyone pretends you're handling abstinence well, while inwardly they judge you a little for your lack of purity. But they don't envy you and have no idea how they would handle themselves if they were in your shoes. If you're in your 40's, it's assumed that you don't really need or want physical intimacy. Besides, by this point many married women you know are busy figuring out how not to have sex and assume you understand that it's a necessary evil that you've been spared (a sad, but pervasive view of sex embraced by many older married women in the church who are passing this unhealthy, ungodly perspective on to single and young married women alike).
The Bottom Line
I'm certain that married people don't intend to make singleness more difficult. They're mostly unaware that they communicate to single women that we possess a tragic flaw rendering us essentially unattractive and unlovable. But we don't and we're not.
From the woman's perspective of singleness last week, to the common platitudes we often hear from those wanting to help us this week, I hope you'll hang around for one more week as I wrap up what began as two-parts, but has grown into a three-part post ending in the most amazing love affair imaginable!
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)