May 19, 2010

It's a Touchy Subject

Rant Alert: It has been a long time since I had PMS, but I feel like I've had a bad case all day. One of my favorite bloggers did a post on Being Lazy for the Lord. I love Jonathan's blog. Absolutely love it. Most days he pokes fun at things Christians do, say, and believe, and he manages to be hysterical and convicting at the same time. On Wednesdays, his posts are always serious.

Today Jon talked about people who want change in their lives, but aren't willing to do anything to help make that happen. It's not unlike the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about those open doors that God provides in our lives. He went into much more detail, though. He made some excellent points. I really liked what he had to say about Nehemiah.

For the  most part, the post was well received. Most of the negative comments - heck, maybe all of the negative comments - came from single women. I was one of them.

What did he say that was so offensive? Nothing I haven't heard before. That's why it offended me. And it wasn't just what he was that I felt that it reinforced stereotypes about singles that are not helpful.

He was talking about singles who want to get married without putting any effort into meeting people. Yes, I know such people exist, but I also think they are the minority, and do not represent the rest of us. Some singles want to marry, some don't, and others of us have honestly reached a point where we have given this to God and said - and we mean it - "Not my will, but Thine." We manage to remain emotionally healthy despite our singleness - some might even say because of our singleness. We get out and are involved in our communities. We are not living in our parents' basements. Really, you would think Christians would understand this concept, but no, Christians can be the worst when it comes to accepting another's singleness.

Jon's comments reminded me of an Ann Landers answer to singleness - you know, "Get out and join a singles group at your church." That's not exactly the way Jon put it, but that's how I read it. And I know that's not what he intended. But the comments in his defense only served to validate why it bothered me.

I have run into this for years decades. "Decades?" you ask. Yes, decades. Everyone has advice that they want to offer to those of us who are single. Rarely is the advice solicited. Joining a singles group at church is typical of the advice that is given.

First of all, as I said in my comment to Jonathan's post, single people go to church for the same reasons married people do. They are looking for fellowship with other followers of Christ. They are looking for a deeper knowledge of the Bible. They are looking for a stronger relationship with Christ. They are looking for the same things that married people look for in a church group.

Yes, there will always be some who are at church looking for a mate, but  - particularly in groups over the age of 30 - they are the minority. (Which works out nicely because after 30, the ratio of men to women typically drops each and every year.) So could we please stop perpetuating the myth that singles go to church to get married?

Secondly, the responses directed to those of us who were offended echoed too much of the advice I've received over the years.

"You'll find someone when you quit looking." I don't even remember when I quit looking, but sometimes God's answer is just, "No." Sometimes it's "Not now." I don't need people who don't know me to tell me what God's plan is for my life. For that matter, I don't need people who do know me to tell me what God's plan is for me.

"I met my husband on eHarmony." That's nice. I'm thinking I could make money selling a t-shirt that says "I joined eHarmony and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and a boatload of gun-toting redneck matches." WE KNOW ABOUT eHARMONY. (Sorry, I didn't mean to shout.) I know a lot of people seem to think singles are living on another planet, but really, we have heard all about online dating.

"Get out and meet people." Excuse me, but most of us are not single because we're in hibernation. Again, it's assigning a stereotype to people that doesn't fit most of us. We are a "living, breathing, vital part of society," thank you very much.

And then there were a few suggestions that weren't posted, but ran through my head when I read the comments:

"You know, at this point in life, you just can't be picky." You're right. Set me up with that guy who you wouldn't set your own sister up with (for obvious reasons) because I can't be picky. I'm sorry, but when it comes to marriage, I think a little more discernment is in order, not less.

"You're not listening to God." This came from a married guy who was offering to "help me out" and the man wasn't offering to fix my faucet. He gave me the story about the guy sitting on his roof in a flood who turned away a life preserver, a boat, and a helicopter, saying he was trusting God to save him. Then the guy drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God why he let him drown, and God replied, "I sent you a dingy, a lifeguard, and a helicopter and you refused them. What else could I do?"

Trust me. I know God's voice. And in this case, God told me to tell that guy to take a hike.

"God doesn't have a 'right person' for you. You just have to find 'someone' and make it work." The implication here is that just anyone will do...and yet we wonder why the divorce rate is so high. Again, I have to go back to that discernment thing. I understand that there is no perfect person but at the same time, you can't just find anybody and expect to make a marriage work. I once heard a pastor of a church I visited preach a sermon about how you just have to find someone and make the best of it. I later learned that he was cheating on his wife. Interesting how much of the bad advice seems to come from people who aren't happy in their own marriages.

There has been other bad advice over the "something" with your hair, wear contacts, pretend to be someone you're not, you spend too much time with singles (?)....the list goes on.

Really, I love Jon's "Serious Wednesday" posts, but marriage advice for singles is a bit of a touchy subject.


  1. My brother is 38 and "still single" and he faces this as well. I think it is easier for men than women to deal with singleness past a certain age ... in that I don't think people put as much pressure on them but I could be totally wrong. I feel for you having to hear the same things over and over again. It must be very frustrating. I can certainly understand your rant!!!

  2. I'm also a big SCL fan and count me as one of the single ladies who was offended. So a great be THANK YOU! for this post.

    What really gets me (and I know Jon isn't in this group of people) is the way Christians seem to think that if a women isn't married or actively trying to get married, that she must be defective in some way. The implication being that its okay for me to be single as long as I'm single and desprate. If I'm single and happy then I'm just odd and not living for God. Sorry if I feel called to live for God and not for the next blind date.

    Again, great post. Thanks for saying what I was thinking.

  3. The motto for a huge number of single women is not to find "Mr. Right", but to find "Mr. Okay for Right Now". And that's why so many people end up divorced. There is nothing wrong with being Single and Sane. It doesn't mean you are "defective". It means you are waiting for the right person for you.

    I have never understood why single people are treated as second class citizens. My husband died in a plane crash, and I never remarried, but I have often felt discriminated against because I am single. I have seen people marry the wrong person, just to avoid that feeling of discrimination. A bad marriage is worse than a life sentence in a really bad prison.

    Stay Single and Sane until, if and when you meet the right person...!

  4. Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories and your support!

    Jenners - I have to agree - I think men do get less pressure, but they're not totally free of it either.

    Katy - I feel bad because I don't think Jon intended his words to be taken the way they were. And it wasn't what he said that bothered me nearly as much as the comments from others.

    Jo - I can't imagine how difficult it must be to find yourself single so unexpectedly. There can't be many things that would be more painful, but you are certainly an inspiration to others!

    I, too, have seen people marry just to avoid the stigma of singleness, and it's difficult to watch. A bad marriage is far worse than singleness.

  5. I think many people don't realize that you can be single and happy... mainly bc it's not what we're raised to believe I guess. Still, the single adults I know also tend to be the most friendly, the most giving, and they have the most fun. Makes me jealous sometimes!!!

    Never settle :)

  6. Gringationcancun - You're right. It is largely a cultural issue, this business of thinking that we can't be happy and single. And it's just silly. ;-)

  7. Your comment that a bad marriage is far worse than singleness - oh so very true! Mind you - I love my husband and I currently am doing everything I can and feel led by God to do to try to restore my marraige - but I know that when I married him, part of it was because of the stigma of being my parents, "single daughter" at the ripe old age of 23!!!

    I think there should be a criminal conviction against stupid cliches and advice giving to people who don't solicit the advice.

    Just sayin...

    Lol. I agree with you - people put stigmas on all sorts of things and but people in boxes and just will not back off. Worry about your own "plank" or issue in your life before you poke at someone else's splinter - or lack thereof!
    Love you gal! Thanks for keeping it REAL here!

  8. Thanks, SML! I started Single and Sane as an effort (small though it is) to remove that stigma from singleness. It'll happen, someday!

  9. have you tried cleaning out your gutters? i've heard
    that's a really great way to meet gun toters.

    once again, "please accept my humble apology for
    all the moronic comments and advice given by silly
    folks who probably mean well."

    what would they say if they DIDN"T mean well?

  10. Gutters, huh? What a clever suggestion!

    What would they say if they DIDN't mean well? (btw, nice use of caps.) Oh, my, what a scary thought!

  11. Clap clap for this post. I've never understood this concept of people getting actively involved with given single people advice. I've been single all my life and it's like it is a big taboo. No one has ever asked me if want to date or get married...I think a lot of people think I'm a lesbian...anyway, I"m dumbfounded at it. I'm on all sorts of singles sites and my page gets neglected, and now that I'm living in a small town again, my selection of single men has evaporated! I know 5 single guys. I'm related to 2 and one is mentally retarded. I give up. I'm just gonna be single until someone wants me bad enough to make me care because I just don't care anymore.

  12. Welcome to my world, Jennee. I live in a city where there are 10,000 more single women than single men. I was going to say something about the single men being needles in a haystack, but it's more like a speck of dust in a bale of hay. If people would just do the math, maybe they'd quit trying to offer helpful suggestions!

  13. I've never understood why some folks feel a need to dispense advice regarding a person's marital status - way too judgmental for my taste.

  14. eHarmony wouldn't let me sign up -- I'd just received some very bad health news regarding a family member, and so when they asked "In the past 3 weeks, have you felt sad?" I answered truthfully. WRONG ANSWER! They only want shiny, happy people rather than people with real lives who can actually slog through the "better or worse" with another frail and fragile human being. I'm doing a Thursday 13 post soon (not sure when, 'cause it's a work in progress) about first dates ... and boy, is it sad that I've had so many! I try to be amused by it. There's a concept in Judaism called "bashert" [bah-SHAYRT] which is "destiny." So one's bashert is one's soulmate, chosen by God. Why settle for a faux bashert??? Better to be single and sane!!!

  15. Yenta Mary - Looks like eHarmony is even worse than I thought. It seems like they could ask if there's a reason for the sadness. I can see trying to weed out long-term depression, but legitimate sadness? They're throwing out the baby with the bathwater.