How Green is the Grass?
In June 2019, I circulated a pair of surveys about singleness in the UK church – one survey for single people and one for married people. It’s a simple survey and I’m not claiming it represents the whole church. However, the purpose was to collect some perceptions of singleness from a range of people – male and female; single and married; young and old.
In this article, I’m firstly presenting the answers to this question for single people:
Secondly, answers to the same question asked of married people, but reversed.
How to read this article
The danger of presenting these comments is that they reinforce the divide between single and married people. But Paul, in writing to the Corinthian church, instructs Christians not to place an undue emphasis on their marital status (1 Cor 7:29). Why? Because “...this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31b).
As you read the comments below, remember that these comments were shared within the context of an anonymous survey – so they are brief and sometimes quite blunt. Please read them with an open mind and a heart that is not easily offended (Eph 4:2-6). I have grouped the comments into some common themes. Whatever your current situation, let these thoughts motivate you to reach out to others within the church. If they make you unduly angry, then it may be that some old feelings are being stirred up and you may need to leave these with God.
My suggestion is to read through with a friend or, even better, in a mixed group of married and single people. If you meet in a small group through TFT or at your church, why not suggest to the leader that you talk through these comments as a group and see where it goes? You might need to warn the leader that it could get quite animated!
What single people would like married people to understand
Thoughtless judgements, assumptions and comments can be hurtful
“We are not odd, peculiar, lacking, deficient, abnormal etc!”
“Leave off the “praying for a godly wife”, or “why hasn’t someone married you?”
“Don’t assume we have more time. We often have less, having to work full time and with no-one to share the load of daily living and always having to go out to socialise.”
“Single people can feel left behind when their friends get married and have children.”
“Don’t assume that we are single because we are difficult people or have made poor choices.”
“We’re not all waiting to be married and have kids.”
“The challenges of singleness can develop a real maturity and wisdom. We are grown-ups too!”
Singleness can be really hard
“It’s not easy to go to a social event on your own.”
“Singleness can be very lonely in the quiet moments.”
“It is really hard for a single person to not be envious of married people when living in such a sexualised society.”
Singles are alone more and want to be included in families
“We just want to be included and loved, and don’t necessarily want to just hang out with other singles.”
“It’s good to be included in family life. We don’t need to be ‘hosted’. I’m happy just to be with them and muck in with normal life.”
“We absolutely want to be involved in your family dynamic and even “adopted” into your families.”
What married people would like single people to understand
Our approach to life has to be different
“Married people can’t be last minute and need to plan. So, don’t get upset if you ask us the day before to do something and we can’t.”
“We have to consider our spouse in all our decisions, so we often can’t be very flexible or spontaneous.”
“Married people give up an aspect of themselves and their right to their own way when they enter marriage and become “one” with another person.”
Marriage is tough too
“We still need friendship outside our marriages.”
“We do not have quite the same flexibility around time and money that singles may enjoy.”
“Yes, it can be wonderful with the right person. But it can also be awful with the wrong person – you could end up lonelier than when you were single.”
“Marriage is not all roses and romance. It’s not the answer to every problem and can be the beginning of some new struggles.”
“Married people with SSA haven’t been magically “cured”. They still have to submit to God and obey him in the face of SSA temptation. Often, they also have less opportunities for the bonding with people of the same gender that they need desperately need.”
Marrieds want to be shown how to include singles
“You are not imposing on marrieds or being a third wheel – we like having you around.”
“Do invite yourself to our homes and then to your home. We would love to be invited to hang out with you. We often think that you won’t want to be with us or with our kids.”
“We are interruptible. Even if we seem busy, we would like to know the needs of single people and if they would like to come around for dinner etc. Daily life sometimes takes over, especially if there are kids, and singles may be inadvertently forgotten.”
“We don’t necessarily mean to be exclusive but do need to be challenged in how we are hospitable to those who aren’t married.”
Perhaps you can see that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the marital status divide. As I’ve read carefully through these comments, there seem to be two common themes. Firstly, we should not make careless assumptions or comments about other people’s marital status. Secondly, let’s make the effort to reach out to others, to both single and married, and include them in our lives.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend.