I walked into church and was greeted by an usher. ‘Hiya Steph,’ he said cheerfully, ‘How’s your love life?’
Oh no. You did not just ask me that.
My sarcastic inner voice nearly replied out loud. ‘It’s great. Who are you, by the way?’
This man barely knew me. We were not close, yet he had publicly asked me quite a personal question without any warning.
This was not to be my only experience of inappropriate questioning. It seemed the older I got, the more people asked me about my relationship status. It would have been OK if it had come from close friends. But it was from people I knew on a name-only basis.
The older I got, the more people asked about my relationship status.
Being naturally a curious person, I analysed this pattern of behaviour in an attempt to unearth the cause. I formed one theory: people generally treat singledom as a temporary state. In other words, every single is assumed to be heading toward the ultimate destination of marriage.
My experience certainly aligned with this theory. People at my church often spoke about ‘getting me a man’ or asking when I was going to settle down. (This phenomena is probably just peculiar to my church. I hear many other churches are much more sensitive toward their singles.)
But I do wonder whether we perceive singledom to be a kind of in-between state, like singles are pre-marrieds rather than singles in their own right. I catch hints of this perception in comments like these:
‘It will be great when we find her a man.’
‘He needs a good woman.’
‘We’ve got to get you off the shelf.’
I wonder whether we perceive singledom to be an in-between state.
There is a persistent idea in society that romance, and a romantic partner, are crucial to our completeness. When we think of terms like ‘My other half’ and the famous quote from the movie Jerry Maguire: ‘You complete me’, we see the evidence. People think of relationships as necessary to wholeness.
Therefore, following this assumption to its conclusion, anyone who is single is incomplete. They are a half-person.
Which is ridiculous.
In Christ we are made whole. We are not missing one half of ourselves. We find our identity and satisfaction in Christ, not in our marital status.
We find our identity in Christ, not in our marital status.
It can be hard to remember this when others focus on our dating lives. I certainly experienced this as a single person. But perhaps we can respond with a healthy, bible-based perspective. Something like this:
‘I am single, and I am whole in Christ.’
Some singles may move into marriage. Some marrieds may return to singledom. Some singles will remain in singledom their whole life long. The beauty of being part of God’s family is we are equals. We all belong to God. And we belong to each other.
That is what makes us whole.
Do you, as a single person, experience questions about your dating life? How do you respond? How can the church move away from the pre-married view and embrace singles as equals? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.