Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Singleness in Church and Society

I have a number of small confessions to make. Firstly, at 20 years old, not only am I a virgin but I've never been in a relationship, not even a pretend one when I was 7. Secondly, I have spent hours over the last month (and indeed most months) thinking about how much I would like to not be a virgin, and how much I would like to be in a relationship. Now, I have very good reasons for both my virginity and my lack of a relationship, but that doesn't stop these feelings, and I'm fairly sure that I'm not alone.

To some degree this is normal. People tell me sex is fun and relationships are fun so its quite normal that both are things I want to do. Pretty much everyone has desires both for companionship and intimacy as well as for sexual intimacy. This is not a problem. However, I'm increasingly aware of how much the world around me is making me feel like there is something wrong with this singleness. Firstly, there is the church. People tend to get into relationships and marry fairly young in christian communities (and I'm sure theres something to it other than sex!). In my own life, two friends my age have got/are getting married this year, and while I'm happy for them, this has not been easy. Singleness is difficult in the church. As you near thirty, it becomes to be a bit odd that you're 'still single', and people begin to look at you kindly and say things like 'there is still time'. I really don't want to go through that! The church is often so focused on the family unit, that any other lifestyle can be difficult to incorporate.

Society and the media in particular also make singleness hard. TV shows and films are all about getting in relationships, and once you are in one, happiness has been achieved. Bridget Jone's Diary comes to mind! Everything we see is geared towards falling in love, sex, relationships, and everything to do with this.

Surrounded by these messages, its very difficult to be happily single. This is so frustrating! Using me as an example, I have so many reasons to be happy with my life. I love my degree, I have lovely friends and I do lots of lovely things. (Its all very lovely.) To a great degree, I am unhappy about my singleness because society/my christian community tell me that I should be. Other than that I don't think I would be. Possibly slightly sexually frustrated, but not a lot more. There are a million ways to have intimacy and companionship with people, and we shouldn't limit ourselves to just relationships.

I don't really know where I'm going with this post, I just wanted to start a conversation about singleness and what it means for us in our world. Relationships are great (they tell me) and I really hope that I'll be in one one day (though I have my doubts, but more on that another time). However, for now, I think its time to try and fight to be happily single.


Jules said...

Wow, I am so with you. I have grown up in a Christian community my whole life and singleness almost seems to be a sin to some. I have been made to feel like there is something hugely wrong with me. All I can say is DON'T SETTLE!! I know so many people who have and they're regretting it now. Also, don't compromise your virginity just because people say that sex is fun and great. Trust me (speaking from experience), it's not. At all. Not when you know you are doing the wrong thing. Hold out for that good guy and if he never comes along, build a full life that is pleasing to Christ. I'm only 25 so I know that I still have some living to do and I don't have all the answers, but stay strong. It will be worth it later.

twirlingmycni said...

Yes - singleness is a right pain, even if you are not looking for a christian (now I have decided I want to go out with someone who is pro-feminist male, I feel I may be limiting options somewhat...)
but in my experience it is better to be single than to go out with someone crap.
ps - I wrote a post on athiesm that may or may not interest you.

Feminist Avatar said...

If it helps, our culture's obsession with romance and marriage is relatively new. If we look to the past, up to a third of the population never married. For many people being single was a very real life choice. Now, I am not saying that marriage wasn't an important institution in the past- it was, but it was one that enough people didn't experience for them not be unusual. Marriage and cohabitation rates have never been so high as in our current society. So perhaps it's more useful to think of singleness in it wider historical context, realising that marriage is not inevitable or even the best choice for many people.