I recently read an article in which a counselor was addressing a 30 year old single woman who was feeling bad about still being single. As I read it, I was once again blown away by how lost we are in dealing with the new reality of singleness in our culture. Essentially we are in the midst of exchanging old lies for new ones. Worse, the Church is spiritualizing the whole process.
The old lie (which this article said was still the lie being told in the “evil” western culture), is that if you don’t get married by about 21 then you are in trouble, and if you hit 30 you are an old maid. Now this has never been as hard as a man. Women in general, and for sure historically, faced much more pressure to marry early. But even as a guy, there is some pressure. The message to the 30 year old woman was/is that you must be unwanted, and the message to the 30 year old man was/is that you must be immature.
There is no doubt that no one should be pressured into marriage. I also don’t doubt that many people have compromised to get married by a certain point. It was a sign of adulthood, really a sort of right of passage.
The truth is of course that many things can contribute to not being married early, and you can for sure be an adult without being married.
However, this is not the most current lie from our culture about marriage.
The new lie is this. You can get married whenever you want and you will still get to do and experience everything the way you would if you got married earlier. After all marriage is a huge decision and it should only happen if you are 150% sure. This counselor literally said “the thirties are the new twenties”. Um no.
The idea now is that you go and live you life for you during the twenties and then maybe get married later. Secular society has totally bought in. Now they don’t mind having sex, living together and having children, but marriage can wait. Get everything you want, then get married.
But the truth is that this is also a lie. There are costs to getting married later. You don’t get to start out life together. You build a life that you don’t get to share. You decrease your chance of having children together. (Sorry friends, biology is still biology). From a purely secular point of view this lie is even worse for women. Like it or not women and men age and mature differently. A 40 year old woman does not have the same chance in the “singles market” as a 40 year old man. The truth isn’t what we want it to be no matter how much our culture wants to tell you that.
In Christian culture we have joined in the lie. In attempt to run from pushing early “irresponsible marriage” that leads to our greatest fear – divorce, we end up telling people to wait. We still tell men to man up and ask women to marry us, but we aren’t in a hurry about it. And to “guard our women’s hearts” we only encourage them to marry the perfect Christian guy. Do you see a problem here?
But even worse, because we don’t want to actually walk with people and help them navigate dating, marriage and celibacy, we tell them not to fret. Enjoy this season of singleness, be closer to God and then God will bring you the person when and if He wants. He is after all writing your love story. If you are 35 and single, that isn’t your fault – it’s God’s.
You see it isn’t that our culture has gone off the rails. It’s that God has decided that in the 21st century, as opposed to all the previous ones, people will get married 10-15 years later than ever before.
So the message ends up being – you should seek only marriage, don’t have sex, but if you aren’t married it’s not your fault – God is just asking you to wait a decade or more for it. It’s all part of the plan! Really?!
Now let me make a couple of huge clarifying points. You are not less valuable single than married. No matter your age, situation, or past, you are not disqualified from marriage. You can still have a great marriage. I got married at 41. I love my wife and my life with her. There’s hope no matter what. You are both lovable and capable of loving.
But we need to stop pretending. We need to stop blaming God and start looking at ourselves and our culture – including our church culture. We need to stop reacting out of fear and actually help people overcome their wounds, arrogance, and fear. We need to be proactively thinking about how we teach, encourage, and walk with people through the whole process and every stage.
Telling single people they are less because they aren’t married is wrong. But so is offering spiritual platitudes as a way of avoiding hard conversations and putting band aids on obvious wounds.
The whole dynamic of human relationships has changed which can’t be ignored. The bible doesn’t mention the iPhone. Technology has changed everything in regards to how we meet, interact and eventually settle down. I’m not convinced it’s for the better, I think we are far worse which is why many are still single. It’s very difficult to explain unless you’ve been in the trenches dating in 2014. Technology has not only changed our lives especially over the last 5 years or so, but it has changed people. And if you don’t want to play the game of modern dating, you will be single. I don’t blame any of those people. I’m one.
Although I don’t agree with your entire message I do completely agree with your statement:
We need to stop blaming God and start looking at ourselves and our culture – including our church culture. We need to stop reacting out of fear and actually help people overcome their wounds, arrogance, and fear. We need to be proactively thinking about how we teach, encourage, and walk with people through the whole process and every stage.
As a newly single Christian who really wants to date with a Godly attitude, I feel lost. I’m trying the online dating situation and doing a fairly good job of it so far but it leads me to the huge question: How/when do you broach the subject of sex? After a lot of thought and prayer I’ve realized that I must remain chaste until marriage. Our secular culture says it’s perfectly okay to have sex after date 3 but speaking from experience (oops…) there’s usually no discussion about entering into a sexual relationship. It’s sad but it’s true. If that’s our culture’s mindset how does a Christian woman tactfully broach this subject? As a man (Christian or otherwise) how would you like the subject brought up?
I hope I don’t sound bitter because I’m not, I’m just confused! The church has let us singles down when it comes to this. They tell us not to have sex and even do a great job of explaining why but no one offers help when it comes to talking about this to someone you’re dating.
Here’s a short answer to the sex question – not a complete one – so I don’t write a whole new post. 🙂
First, put Jesus in your online profile – put something about how He is most important to you and that you only want to date someone who feels the same. This will eliminate a lot of people. But if the point of dating is to get married and you want to marry a person who loves Jesus. . .
As far as when to broach the sex subject – I’d say early. Like the first or second date. I’d just say, something to the effect of “I’m waiting until I get married for sex”. You don’t have to be mean about it. Just somehow say it. How he responds to that will tell you a lot about whether there should be another date.
Good guys don’t mind being told the truth. We like when we don’t have to guess. Secondly, the guy you want should have that same standard anyway.
Hi five, Justin! This is the type of response I was looking for. Just needed some simple, practical tips!
Interesting article. But, I think not just the Church but parents have a role here. Too many parents, yes, even those who married and had children later in life, do not talk to their children at the appropriate times about sex and about relationships. Studies, and common sense, tell us that parents still have much influence with their teenaged children.
How about getting the hormones out of the foods our children consume in the US and cutting back on dairy products that contain cow growth hormones? Why? This would help move the age of physical sexual maturation back up to the early to mid teens instead of 9 or 10 years old for girls and 10 or 11 years of age for boys. As well, have the children go to school year round so that they can be out of high school at age 16 as in many nations today. Then they can go to college or a trade school and be out in the adult world and workforce by 20. This would allow for earlier marriages.
I disagree with your premise that delayed marriage is God’s plan for the 21st century. It seems to me to be more of a cultural thing in the US. And, expecting chastity of young adults with raging hormones is expecting a bit much. Christianity needs to start talking of the beauty of sexual love within marriage.
For sure parents have a role. A big role. It’s not my premise that God’s plan has changed for the 21st century. Exactly the opposite.
Oh my gosh. You blog is refreshment to my SOUL!!!!!!!
“But even worse, because we don’t want to actually walk with people and help them navigate dating, marriage and celibacy, we tell them not to fret. Enjoy this season of singleness, be closer to God and then God will bring you the person when and if He wants.”
“Telling single people they are less because they aren’t married is wrong. But so is offering spiritual platitudes as a way of avoiding hard conversations and putting band aids on obvious wounds.”
So so so good. I am thankful I found this resource as much of what the church has to offer is…infuriating.