Singleness: No One for the Long-Haul
Oh, if only I could have back the hours of my life spent predicting the qualities of my “future husband.” What I would do with the 8.5 years they would all add up to be…
We spent so much time in and post college discussing the men who would come and save us from our hell of loneliness—in God’s timing, of course. It was addictive:
Mine will play guitar and lead worship.
Mine will have a beard.
Mine will want to work in third-world countries.
What a sad and unrealistic culture we were creating. What a false peace we were seeking for our panicked souls.
Now, I should say that I am married and have been for two years. I realize that this diminishes about 80% of my street cred when it comes to speaking about a single woman’s issue. But I’ve been a single woman, and I co-run an internship where we mentor single women. And I’ve got a bone to pick with the world.
First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that the American church is surfacing and tackling some distorted perceptions right now, and I for one am grateful for them. The media’s “get better” message of beauty, the church’s “he’s on his way” message of soul mates, and the private people’s “that’s personal” message of taboo topics are all being targeted, dismantled, and replaced with good, out-in-the-open truth.
Kudos to those who are scraping clean the infectious wounds of poor relationship ideology and bringing actual human logic and biblical truths into the equation. Thank you.
However, secondly, I want to acknowledge something that I don’t think we’re talking enough about right now: Culture’s “You’re Going to Have No One to do Life With If You Don’t Get Married” message of panic.
I live in the Bible Belt where I was born and raised. We have many claims to fame of which I am proud. I love how we tell stories. I love how we invite strangers in and feed them till they pop. I love how we love good music and good porches.
(5th grade me. Being raised in said Bible Belt. With my chicken, my 4-H jacket, and my Winnie-the-Pooh watch)
But the way that we raise our baby girls to live for their wedding days does something to the soul that makes us desperate.
In this approach, there is a goal to achieve that ensures we will have companionship and support for life (and there are no other alternatives for such ends).
Another reality making this so detrimental is that we do not know how to coexist as married couples and single people. Our Sunday School rooms are divided. We ostracize the unmarried in the celebrations of “double dates.” We wait to give good utensils to the 25 year olds who have tied the knot—communicating to the 25 year old single man that he has not quite achieved the merit of owning nice forks. We watch the distance grow between us, and we call it “different seasons.” By and large, we’re not doing life together.
These variables now make certain the hard truth: get married or do life alone.
No wonder so many women don’t know how to be good women to each other. No wonder we’re in a constant state of competition. No wonder there’s lying, and self-loathing, and hiding. No wonder. It is survival of the fittest.
One of the twelve marks of New Monasticism is Support for Celibate Singles Alongside Monogamous Married Couples and Their Children. And this is something that we here in our community are trying to figure out.
As single folks and married people (with or without children) we are sharing our tables, meal responsibilities, and daily prayer. We are living in close proximity and trying to give conversation space for all places of struggle. (Like how the new mom isn’t getting a minute of sleep and how it doesn’t seem to the single girl like guys are asking anyone out these days. Like how the single guy is having panic attacks because he can’t control the timing of his relationship status and how the married guy is feeling a large amount of something like “survivor’s guilt” for being married. For these conversations, we make room.) And then we are doing what we can to help each other out. We babysit, have group grill-outs, and don’t isolate. We work to not speak as if every person is supposed to end up in matrimony (because the Bible indicates there will be some who don’t). We stick around, maintain an open door policy (most of the time), and live closely. We offer covenanted existence to one another, promising that life together for the long haul can be a reality regardless of whether or not you’re married.
Now, I get it. This understanding doesn’t produce someone to fall asleep next to or with which to procreate. It doesn’t tell you how to “put yourself out there” or how to handle a much needed break up. I know that this does not help with the depth of the ache to start a biological family with another human being. Those are all extremely valid topics for other conversations. But what it does do is acknowledge a desperation that is fueling us and the truth that combats it: we don’t have to be so scared of not having people for the long haul.
Intentional Christian community is debunking the power of false ideals and saying: Everyone has a place here. Everyone deserves good forks. Everyone has someone to do life with for a long, long time.
And this is not only good news for the single person aching for a partner. It is good news for the married person who is lonely and hurting inside of their vows. It is good news for the widow whose norm has been shattered. It is good news for the kid who might as well be an orphan because he left home at 18 and hasn’t looked back. It is good news for the divorcee needing healing. Let us say, “We are here.”
We are here to change lightbulbs. We are here to help you unpack boxes. We are here for coffee. We are here to laugh on couches. We are here for Friday nights. We are here for holidays. We are here.
We must continue to learn how to coexist in a way that doesn’t leave some people out of family life. We must make homes with bigger purposes than “me, my four, and no more.” We must rework how we see, speak, and include. The friendships of the world need the good news of Christian community to calm the hurt of desperation.
And we can offer it to each other, at the very least, in these three ways:
1. By changing our language. Stop excluding people in the words that we choose.
2. By changing our tables. Single people, invite married folks with or without children to eat with you. Married folks with or without children, invite single people to eat with you.
3. By changing our culture. If we start moving toward the idea that we all belong, that we all have a place to call family for the long haul (no matter our relationship status), we will ease the angst of a panicked people. We will bring more Shalom to our world.
Here’s to making bigger homes.