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"Why I took dating off the menu"

When I became a Christian at 16, I assumed that the price would be singleness. I found other men attractive and, even though I was at an all-boys school, I knew I’d never had feelings for a woman, therefore, getting married to one seemed an impossible prospect. I had struggled to reconcile my gay sexuality with the Bible’s teaching on marriage, and I spent a year asking the Lord to help me understand it all. Eventually, I realised that the shame I felt about my sexuality was not from God and that He accepted me as I was. I experienced such profound love and acceptance in Christ that passing up gay relationships seemed a small price to pay.

I set about being a single Christian with gusto. I was sure that, being “single for the Lord”, He would find important work for me, where not being “distracted” by marriage would be an asset. But as I reached my thirties, I became more conscious of all my friends getting married. Where before singleness had been a sacrifice in terms of not having sex, I now felt the lack of intimate companionship more strongly, and I feared being alone.

At about this time, some well-meaning Christian friends were worried that I was not being open to all the Lord might have for me by being committed to singleness. Their concern was that my hesitation about considering a relationship with a woman was actually motivated by fear of the unknown. There was some truth in that, and by now, I was feeling my unmarried-ness keenly, so their advice seemed wise and timely. 

I realised that the shame I felt about my sexuality was not from God and that He accepted me

I spent the next several years trying to be open to the possibility of a relationship with a woman. I was confident God was on board with this, but I found it awkward and confusing, as dating etiquette did not come easily to me. I wished I’d had my teenage years to practise like everyone else!

I wasn’t sure whether feelings of attraction would develop within a pre-existing friendship or whether I should expect to feel attracted to a woman before getting to know her. I tried the first option, and that ended painfully and damaged a valuable friendship. I smartened up my wardrobe and got blue contact lenses in the vain hope I would be more attractive. I tried blind dates and speed dating, and watched every episode of the dating makeover show “Would Like To Meet”.

Although my confidence improved, I never came across a woman I found attractive enough for me to pursue a relationship with integrity. I think it’s critical to be honest with oneself to avoid leading someone on and people getting hurt.

Over time, the search for a potential wife became unsettling, as though I was constantly scanning the horizon for possibilities rather than focussing on the life and friendships I already had. It felt a long way from the godly contentment described by the apostle Paul in Philippians 4.11-12, and I had to admit that I had been happier when dating had been off the menu. I experienced a tremendous sense of relief and resolution when I mentally closed the door on dating and marriage, and embraced singleness again.

Everyone’s situation is different, and I cannot deny that being unmarried in my late forties is a tough walk at times. For me, though, learning to be content with my life as it is, singleness included, has allowed me to focus on living well before the Lord, rather than being preoccupied with the niggling dissatisfaction of wishing things were different. 

This article was originally published in the winter 2021 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the winter 2021 edition of Ascend