By Regan Cunningham
Let me start off by saying: I do not believe I have ever been desperate. I have never been in a relationship out of the need to feel validated or fill time. I have only said "yes" to dating someone who I saw potential for a long-lasting relationship. That being said, my heart is currently still aching from the last dating relationship I had, and still have no closure or direction of where it went. Perhaps this is what’s pushing me to write today. The continual ache of an unmet expectation— a simple one that has been around since Adam and Eve. After all, God did say “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
I am writing an article on singleness, particularly in the church community, for three reasons:
to validate any sort of pain or doubts you may be feeling if you are single.
to tell my married or coupled up friends to stop telling everyone to appreciate their singleness as some ordained moment in time
I’m tired of married pastors speaking on something they aren’t experiencing themselves.
As Christians, we often refer back to the passage where Paul said to the Corinthian church that it is good for singles and widows to remain single. Later on, he says that there are less anxieties attached to the world (1 Corinthians 7:7-8). The popular application I have picked up on in sermons and articles by married pastors with three kids is: “Singlehood is a gift from God like two-day delivery from Amazon is a gift to the world. Why aren’t you happy about it, then?”
“Singlehood is a gift from God like two-day delivery from Amazon is a gift to the world. Why aren’t you happy about it, then?”
I always found this reasoning to be toxic. It’s as if someone with a chocolate strawberry cheesecake in their hands is telling you (who has been craving a chocolate strawberry cheesecake for years) “Hey, chocolate strawberry cheesecake isn’t as good as you think, don’t worry about having any yourself.” With that, I believe 99% of us would most likely feel the urge to slap some sense into the person. Then, demand them to leave their slice of chocolate strawberry cheesecake they aren’t appreciating themselves.
From my experience, this is a list of pros and cons from being single. Experiences that I do not see in articles or heard in sermons preached by a married pastor with six kids. Perhaps you can relate, regardless of your relationship status right now.
My focus can be on God more (1 Corinthians 7:32). There have been months and years that I did not date and found myself to be the most devoted to God in writing, serving in my church and community, and having time to hang out with friends. I found my early twenties to have been the most satisfying time for me because I wasn’t as concerned with being in a relationship until I started getting older (more on that later…).
My focus in waiting for marriage has not been on God. The years of not fulfilling a lifelong dream of kids and a partner can be emotionally weary. Time I thought I should be helping spread the gospel or building a career was spent in bed numb over a break up. I even have friends who are now in their mid twenties who have never had serious relationships. They now feel that life has passed them by or something is wrong with them. I cannot give a reasoning for why they haven’t held long term relationships, but I can certainly affirm nothing is wrong with them. Especially, since I believe in the waiting, they have just as much potential of being great partners for whoever they end up with because they’ll appreciate whoever they end up with even more.
I have learned patience, grace, and skills I would never have had time for. Because I am not committed to anyone, I have more time to do the things I like to do and the flexibility to do them. I have also learned what it means to desperately pray and say anything to God, even if it means getting angry at Him. At this point in my life, I would be absolutely shocked if I lost my faith. After all the times I have spent with God and the love and devotion that has been proven overtime.
I have had a lot of invalidated pain from married people and the church: This is the worst thing for me -- married or individuals who have been married once in their life telling me to appreciate my singleness more. It’s not that I do not appreciate it, it's more of the unmet desire of a dream.
The unmet desire of a dream: We all want a family to spend the holidays with and a companion who’ll ride the bumpy road when life gets tough, especially as we age and everyone is having babies and families. No one is dreaming about the bad guy who’ll gaslight them or cheat during their midlife crisis. So, when people want to dismiss the desire for companionship, (which so often happens in sermons or by married friends) it may be a good time to remind them you’re looking for someone worth marrying, and not someone who is convenient like their first husband (just kidding... but again, it goes back to that invalidation).
Watching all my friends get married and having to continue to pray for a mate: It hit me this summer that I was the only girl from a very close friend’s group, not married. It sucked. I knew of the emotional roller coaster friends were going through - having babies and rough patches in their marriages. But, I somehow found myself wanting those hardships over the feeling of loneliness, unfulfillment, and failure. Every year that passes, every break up, every person getting married or shooting out babies, reminds me: I have not even stepped one foot forward from childhood from having a companion for life. At some point, we all will take the hardships in life— it’s just a matter of what we choose to do which will determine how they’ll look.
The desire for sex is natural and strong: This may not be the very Christian thing for me to mention, but I like breaking taboo topics and I have no shame. If you think about it, the Bible isn’t discreet about the desire either. Adam was “to become one” with his wife (an act of intimacy that high school health classes teach). Paul said if people could not abstain from sex, then it was better to be married than burn with passion (see 1 Corinthians 7:9). The desire for sex as a single person can lead to sexual immortality, especially the longer the wait is for marriage. This has been my experience, and sadly I’ve failed and regret it.
I have felt the deepening burden as I grow older of a dream yet not fulfilled : As a woman’s body ages, she’s less likely to have kids. If she dates someone younger, she’s labelled a cougar. If you break up with someone, your heart can physically ache and be harder to heal overtime. If you decide to date again after a break up, you’re more likely to metaphorically “flinch” whenever you think your partner is ready to leave you. For me, I have a harder time trusting men the more they have cheated, left me on read, or told me straight up “this isn’t working out.”
If it is an actual desire to be single, then bask in it : If you have no plans to want to marry, why are you reading this, you Little Rascal? I find it hard to share your desire, but it’s people like you who I think have the true gift of singleness that’s described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, and the rest of us are suffering from the The Fall having to be in the hopeless dating pool.
“Honey, can you close the clasp on my bracket?” : You know who helps me close the clasp to my brackets in my morning? No one. That’s right. I’m sometimes dropping the thing 10 times before I close it. And you know who left the dirty dishes out overnight in the sink? You’ve got it— me! Because I’m single! I’m responsible for pumping my own gas, running the errands, doing all the laundry, picking up after the dog, paying my full share of the rent, utilities, dog sitter, etc. Sometimes doing all of this alone is tough, but I can say I’m not going to be someone who relies on my partner to make life easier or convenient for me.
I am stopping here, mainly due to a word count limit.
Maybe you could relate to some of what’s on my list. Maybe it’s making you rethink how we’ve seen singleness as another single maid whining for her Romeo.
The thing I want to make clear, alongside Paul, is that singleness is a gift as much as marriage is. Both have their trials and labor. But, in the past, the church has failed to empathize with singles and their lack of community - focusing much more on the pains in marriage, than the pains in singleness. Instead, it has invalidated the pain and not allowed discussion of what the pain is, and often tries to rationalize marriage as an idol for those who desire it in a healthy manner.
My hope is that by reading this you can empathize a little more with single friends who are frustrated about not finding “the One." The heartache of broken relationships is unbearable; no one dreams of it. They dream of lifelong companionship and adventures with someone they love.
Think back to your dating experience (if you had one).
Was it fun? Didn’t think so.
This is why we should stop preaching that singleness is a gift, as if losing a child can be said to do some character growth. There was a context to Paul’s words and they aren’t for a generic audience.
This is why we should stop preaching that singleness is a gift, as if losing a child can be said to do some character growth.
Instead we should be preaching our hope in Christ and heaven to come amongst the suffering, life’s uncertainties, and disappointments. And how to lovingly support each other when we are single, married, divorced, widowed, or waiting.
Regan Cunningham is a Midwestern redhead living with a sausage dog and over a dozen plants she found on clearance. Besides writing, Regan enjoys her full time job as a school social worker and getting people to think outside the box of church culture. She uses writing as a way to spark ideas and share personal experiences of how God has worked in her life. Her hope is to one day be a superhero, but helping to get her small dog on the couch every night will do.
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