January 13, 2010

Marital Status Denial

I grew up thinking if you weren't married, you were single, and if you weren't single, well, you were married.

Silly me.

The world is full of people who are not married, but who are unwilling to admit that they're single. They have lots of rationale behind their denial. Here are the big ones:

I'm not single, I'm just not married yet.

I'm not single, I'm dating someone.

I'm not single, I'm looking...sometimes actively.

I'm not single, I have kids.

I'm not single, I'm divorced.

I'm not single, I'm widowed.

Really? Does your 1040 have all those boxes? Mine doesn't. You can tell the IRS that you're single, but you can't tell anyone else?

There's obviously genuine pain behind the denial in many of these cases. I understand that sometimes people deny that they're single because they don't feel single. But I don't believe that singleness really has a feeling. Loneliness has a feeling, but singleness and loneliness are not interchangeable terms. Some of the loneliest people in the world are married.

Often I think people deny their singleness because they're afraid of how others will see them if they admit to singleness. It's not just in the church that people sometimes think singleness is something that needs to be fixed. It's in our culture, too, even a culture where the percentage of single adults is quickly approaching 50%.

A lot my readers are married. When you run into a single friend, how often is your first question along the lines of, "So are you seeing anyone?" Do you have any idea about the message you're sending when that's your first question? You're telling your friend that their value is found in another person.

I wish I had bookmarked the comment so I could put the link here, but I saw something a few months ago a woman had written about that line of questioning. She said when she was younger, people would ask, "Who are you dating?" Then it became, "Are you seeing anyone?"  Later it became, "Have you met anyone yet?" Now it's more like "Wow, cute shoes!"

While I didn't write that, I do seem to get complimented on my shoes a lot. You know what? It's liberating to reach the point in life where you don't feel apologetic about singleness. And it's always nice to be complimented on cute shoes.


  1. Of course there are those who say you must have the gift of singleness. When they say it they sound like that is the worst gift you could be given and they are glad it isn't them. I'd rather they compliment my shoes or my hair.

  2. It would be interesting to take a poll, but I suspect there are more married than single who believe there is a gift of singleness. I think as we learn more an more to rely on God's grace, we do learn to accept our singleness. Even though we may be hoping that it is only for a [sometimes prolonged] season, we learn over time that if our singleness is, indeed, intended for a lifetime, it's OK because God will be there for us. So perhaps it is the peace people see when we reach that point that gives them the perception that there is a gift of singleness.

    In reality, the peace comes from maturing in Christ, and recognizing that the power of God's grace is absolutely sufficient to see us through anything.

    "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

  3. Another perspective to the dating/seeing/met someone line of questioning is that some of those asking sincerely believe that you are such an awesome person and he/she would like to see you teamed up with an equally awesome person. These family members & friends know that you want to be married and in their love for you, simply want to see that desire fulfilled.

    On another note, I won't extensively address the "gift of singleness" concept as brought up by Anonymous because I can't think of a nice, diplomatic way of expressing my thought on it(it amounts to one expressive statement).

  4. I love your line of thinking - singleness and loneliness are not the same thing! I am quite single and have been for my entire adult life; however, I am only occasionally lonely - not the same at all.

    So glad to have found your blog!