Training yourself to be single vs. the gift of singleness.

7 Nov

If you’ve been in Christian dating circles or read any Christian dating advice at any point, you’ve probably heard someone talk about “the gift of singleness.”  Now, growing up in church, I had NEVER heard of “the gift of singleness,” because it was just assumed that basically everyone would pair off eventually.  Sure, there would always be a few spinsters or bachelors in the population, but no one ever talked about them like they had a special “gift.”  It was just more or less understood that perpetually single people had some sort of nonsexuality about them, or maybe something traumatic had happened to them in the past that put them off dating and marriage.

But I guess now that there are so many never-married singles well into their 30s and 40s, we now have people with “the gift of singleness.”  And while I don’t doubt that there are people specially “gifted” in this way, it’s been my observation that most people who experience prolonged singleness are not single because they want to be.  What usually happens is that a guy or girl hits 30 (or 35, or whatever their “loser in love” threshold is), realizes they’ve been unattached for quite a while, and then they start hearing the “gift of singleness” talk and maybe start wondering if they in fact do have the gift themselves.

Basically, can you have the gift of singleness without knowing it?  Is God not opening the door to marriage because He secretly wants you to embrace your singleness and give up the dream of marriage?  Is the gift of singleness something you naturally just “have,” or is it sort of forced upon you whether you desire it or not?

The other thing is – Boundless types tend to define the gift of singleness as being able to live without sex and not become bitter about it.  I see this as a bit of a cheat of an answer, though.  Bitterness is a little extreme of a response.  I know a lot of single women who aren’t having sex and aren’t dating/on a path to marriage, but still want both, but aren’t BITTER over it.  (As far as I know, anyway.)

This definition ignores women’s generally more responsive sexuality.  A lot of women are sexual and want sex, but when forced into a dating drought, they kind of go into “convent mode.”  And most churches teach convent mode behavior to women when they keep telling women not to make marriage an idol, to find their true fulfillment in Jesus, to wait on the Lord, and to stop reading romance novels (sexless Christian romance novels are a thing, so it’s not just “Don’t read 50 Shades,” guys) or watching romantic movies or soap operas or whatever will exacerbate their “discontentment” with singleness.  Often women in convent mode start spending more of their time with female friends, and this just reinforces the conventing because new guys aren’t entering their social spheres.  So you end up with all these women who “want” marriage, but it’s just not happening, but until someone comes along for that, they need to guard their hearts and focus on the Lord and not make marriage or sex an idol.  You can see how this is a self-perpetuating cycle.

To bring this back to “the gift of singleness,” if you’ve been in convent mode too long, you start to wonder if you have the gift of singleness.  How do you differentiate?  Can you be okay with never marrying?  I know that this is a question that I have wrestled with.  How about you?

P.S.  If the comment thread devolves into another “women are entitled/don’t know anything/are mean to men/wahhhhh” pity party, I’m shutting down the thread.

 

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Do people even want to date anymore?

3 Oct

By “date” I mean “want to meet someone of the opposite sex for a potential romantic relationship”.

Obviously, I can only speak anecdotally, but I feel like there’s this weird lethargy among singles.  Each side CLAIMS to want to date, but there’s like zero sexual charge in any co-ed interactions.  Guy are terrified of contradicting a woman or telling her anything, while women wander around cluelessly, waiting for Some Guy to come along and sweep them off their feet.  Or, they try to take matters into their own hands and get burned by a bunch of guys who don’t actually want them.  Then they go on Facebook and complain that men are shallow and don’t realize that the confident, beautiful, successful women already in their lives have A Lot To Offer.

I mean, I don’t roll with a club crowd, and maybe that’s where all of these Horny Singles stories come from, but in day-to-day interactions, young guys just seem weirdly uninterested in women.  I can only imagine that they go home every night, having talked to zero women during the day, and fry their brains with Teh Pr0n…but how does a decade or two of doing this help ANYONE?

It’s impossible to eliminate all risk in any human interactions, especially with dating, but I feel like that’s what the current generation of singles is trying to do.  No one wants to ask for a date until they’re ABSOLUTELY SURE that the other person will ABSOLUTELY say yes…but then people want to wait for like five years and attempt cohabitation to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING is EXACTLY to their liking before even THINKING about marriage.  (Except that Athol Kay wouldn’t have a business if premarital sexual activity was a perfect predictor of marital sexual activity.)  But without risk, there can be no excitement or real romance to anything.  No girl wants to find out that the guy who asked her out first polled five of her closest friends for assurance that there was zero possibility she would say no.

I don’t know, maybe in different social strata, the patterns are different.  But as far as I can tell, the college-educated set just don’t seem all that interested in making real connections.

 

I haven’t forgotten the blog!

24 Sep

Hey guys, I haven’t forgotten the blog – I’ve just been in the throes of writer’s block.  I’ve started drafts for posts and then not liked them, and I don’t feel like there’s anything “big” going on in the Christian dating advice arena right now that is screaming for commentary.  Plus, my thoughts lately have been kind of existential and not really within the purview of this blog.  Also, I got a Kindle last month and have been doing more reading.

If anyone has any ideas for posts, let me know in the comments!

You are your own worst enemy.

1 Sep

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about career and career progression, and the more I think about it, the more it becomes clear to me that, generally speaking, you are your own worst enemy.  Sure, it would be nice** if we all lived in a pure meritocracy where the people with the best work ethic or the best brains or the best teeth or whatever got the promotions, and all the useless, lazy suck-ups got to eat our dust, but that isn’t how the world works.  Relationships matter, and how you conduct  yourself matters.

When I was temping a lot, I never stayed in one place long enough to learn the personalities at that place.  Broad personalities, yes, such as “he is very friendly” or “she is always in a bad mood,” but not the detail that you pick up after interacting with and observing the same people week after week after week.

Most of us are so self-absorbed that we don’t realize that people are silently forming opinions about us.  They are quietly aggregating our actions and drawing conclusions from the way we interact in the break room, to our conduct on the phone, to the small talk we make on the elevator.  People remember if we smile at them or walk on by with no acknowledgment that they’re there.  People notice if we’re late.  People notice if we have a messy, disorganized desk or a neat, clean desk.  People notice when others dress well, or dress sloppily.  And all of these assessments go into people’s silent perception of you.  Ultimately, they want to know:  are you easy to get along with?  Are you trustworthy?  Are you dependable?  Do you do good work?  Or are you a power-tripper, a corner-cutter, two-faced, negative, or tactless?

I think evangelicals these days are very prone to ascribing all progressions in life to a nebulous idea-cloud of “God’s will” (while all regressions are YOUR FAULT REPENT NOW), but the truth is that we have a lot of agency in our professional lives.  No, we can’t “make” our boss promote us, but we can do everything we can to show that we deserve it, and we can certainly openly go for it.  We can develop a top-notch reputation of honesty, trustworthiness, dependability, and quality of work.  We can show good judgment and integrity.  We can show a servant’s attitude – not a doormat’s attitude – but an attitude of humility.  No one likes a person who makes sure that everyone knows that certain tasks are beneath his pay grade.

If you’re not getting all that you think you should get out of your professional experience, take a very honest look at yourself and see if you’re not your own worst enemy.  There are so many people out there unwittingly destroying others’ goodwill toward them by constantly complaining, or acting like they’re too good for their job, or by being lazy or undependable, or by failing to show tact and consideration toward others.  Likewise, so many people feel stuck in their jobs because they’re unwilling to step out and take a risk for what they really want.  Most of the time, being a “nice” or “good” person isn’t enough.

Bee-tee-dubs, this also applies to your romantic life.  If you feel you’re getting passed over by the people you want to notice you (or you’re just getting passed over in general by EVERYONE), take a good look at yourself and see if there are ways you’re letting yourself down.  Could you dress better?  Is your hairstyle unflattering?  Do you wait for others to engage you, rather than initiate conversation because you’re an interesting person who finds others interesting?  Do you keep eating cupcakes because you “know” it’s impossible for you to lose weight??  If you’re really not sure where you’re going wrong, ask a trusted friend who also has tact to identify areas where you could improve.   Your friends most likely have formed some silent opinions that they’re not sharing with you.

**Obviously, a pure meritocracy would suck for those with no talents.

If you don’t manage your life, your life will manage you.

18 Aug

If you’ve taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course (which I have and highly recommend), you’ll know that one of Dave’s sayings is that if you don’t control your money, it will control you.  I was thinking recently that this overall principle applies to life as well:  if you don’t manage your life, your life will manage you.

We all know someone with a chaotic life.  The person is always stressed, always catching up, always overworked, always looking for misplaced things, forgetting things, and trying to squeeze things in.  Maybe the person is usually able to get all of their work done, but they’ve expended a lot of energy to make it happen.  Meanwhile, there are other people who seem to be able to cross everything off their list without breaking much, if any, of a sweat.

If you’re directing a lot of your mental energy every day just trying to stay on top of things, it’s going to be hard for you to move forward.  You’re just expending too much time and energy inefficiently.  You only have so much gas in the tank, and you might not have enough left at the end of the day to devote to doing the things you need to get ahead.  Life doesn’t roll out the red carpet for you, and the sooner you structure your life according to this fact, the better off you’ll be both now and in the long run.

The quest for the Earl of Piety.

16 Jul

The “quest for the Earl of Piety” is really just (my fanciful) name for Christian hypergamy, which in my opinion is the culprit of many Christian women remaining single unnecessarily long.  As much as the manosphere likes to complain that even church girls are OMGSLUTS!111!!1!! (and I’m not denying that there aren’t a bunch of those out there), there are also a lot of Christian girls who (typically) have grown up in the church, taken all of the teachings about virginity and purity to heart, and have never fallen off the wagon, so to speak.  They want to be wives, they want to be mothers, they want to serve God, they’re serious about ministry and having quiet times…and they can’t find a Christian man who’s good enough for them.

Case in point:  Amy Seed of Boundless.

In a recent perusal of the bloggift that keeps on giving, I came across Seed’s article, “A Revealing Question for Dating.”  In it Seed describes how she was in relationship exclusivity negotiations** with a presumably Christian man she was attracted to and had gone on several dates with.  After those several dates, she still wasn’t sure that he was relationship-worthy, so she asked him, “What do you picture your household being like when you’re married?”.  (**I know this sounds horribly clinical, but Boundless-style courtship resembles taking inventory for retail.)

Not realizing this was his Last Chance with this girl, Prospective Boyfriend failed the answer for not “sharing her vision.”

In the initial blog post, Seed did not describe what exactly this dude said to merit failure.  However, she did specify that her future husband should not only share her vision, but also presently display the various characteristics necessary to fulfill that vision:

I know I desire a home filled first and foremost with the peace and love of God, followed closely by joy and laughter. I want it to be continually filled with the praises and worship of God. I want my home to be a haven for those who need rest, guidance or simply a friend. I want a marriage and home atmosphere where imperfection might be obvious, yet shines with evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.

In order to make this vision a reality, my potential spouse should be a spiritual leader and a man in pursuit of holiness and goodness. He should be someone who can lead children by example in the Lord and not just by authority. The right man will be humble and hospitable so people feel welcome in our home and not as though they’ll be judged for sharing their struggles.

Once we know what we desire in marriage, we should strive to date people who not only share our vision but display the characteristics needed to fulfill it.

Several readers thought that Seed was being too judgmental against the guy, so she provided a more complete answer in the comments:

Don’t get me wrong, he had a great answer. On the surface, we were looking for the same things. But on a deeper level, there were things missing. He believes in God, but he wasn’t at the same place spiritually where he was striving for closer communion with Him. I know those things can change, but we also had a lot of lifestyle differences. Asking him that question was kind of just a matter of confirming whether or not things that are very important to me are things that even mattered to him without me in the picture.

In answering my question, he didn’t mention anything about leading a family spiritually or God being central in the marriage. He might not have opposed those things, but they didn’t seem to be on his radar either. The fact that he didn’t hold faith in God and serving God as important as I do is something I foresaw leading to a lot of problems. I didn’t want to go into a relationship that was dependent on him working toward those things because of me instead of naturally wanting them himself. He was making a genuine effort, but that was just for me and while he was with me, not the rest of the time.

She later added:

He was intelligent and sweet, and he treated me well. He was someone I could joke with one second and then have a very real, serious conversation with the next. He asked about my boundaries and was extremely respectful of them. I figured that since he was making a genuine effort, was seeking marriage and was being intentional with me, I would give him a chance. I was hesitant for certain reasons, and he was very aware of those. But as time went on, I discovered the words didn’t quite match up with the actions as far as seeking God and pursuing a lifestyle pleasing to Him.

So what we have here is a generally good guy, considerate and respectful of Seed’s physical boundaries, who had good chemistry with Seed and who began dating her KNOWING that she was a Christian whose Christianity was a priority in her life, get shot down for not, in Seed’s opinion, sufficiently seeking God.  I don’t want to knock someone for not dating someone where there was genuine incompatibility, and it does sound like Seed gave him a fair shake, but situations like this are a recipe for prolonged singleness for Christian women.

Not knowing more than what Seed wrote, I’m sorry this happened.  The truth is that many Christian women, if they want to marry a man to whom they are attracted, may have to settle for a man who is not as “spiritually advanced” as she is.  Just look at the male-female ratios in many churches, and look at the pickings.  The ratio is not advantageous to women, especially the ones who aren’t drop-dead gorgeous, or at least reasonably cute and perky and have that future-youth-pastor-wife personality.  But just because a man doesn’t say that his first intention is to spiritually lead his family and grow closer to God and provide a safe haven for joy and laughter or whatever DOESN’T mean that he’s not going to grow spiritually, or that he won’t grow with his wife’s encouragement.

In a later comment, Seed wrote that the guy admitted that he acted more spiritual around her but had a secret non-Christian side that he wasn’t apologetic over, and that is how she knew it would NEVER WORK.  Maybe she’s right – but I’ve seen a lot of guys – guys who are good at heart – go through a wilder phase in their 20s and then come back to the fold after they got married.  It’s why so often, writing off an otherwise attractive man for “insufficient spirituality” in the hopes of snagging the Earl of Piety is such a fool’s mission for the average Christian woman.  There just aren’t enough of those guys for every girl who wants one.  I mean, it’s one thing if the guy is adamant that he wants nothing to do with God or Christianity (or is actively professing a different faith), or has unequivocally stated that he has no intentions of ever exploring his spirituality, or that he genuinely believes he’s good with God right where he is and doesn’t have any interest in going any further, but that wasn’t the case here.  Nor did Seed indicate that she had a specific calling to missions or other sacrificial calling that would make any union with a less spiritual man genuinely problematic.  Again, not knowing the situation personally, I can’t say with confidence that Seed made the wrong choice…but it really does sound like this guy got the boot for a potentially fixable problem.

I get where Seed is coming from; I used to think the same way.  I grew up in the church convinced that I had to have a “spiritual leader” for a husband, who wanted to attend small groups and Be Involved and lead in prayer and want to do family devotions and the whole kit-and-kaboodle.  I was convinced that those were the ingredients of a good marriage, and if a guy wasn’t showing those attributes at, say, age 22, then he had effectively removed himself from the running.  Well…quick guess as to how many of Earls of Piety I’ve come across in my life, and who have been single, and who were attracted to me, and to whom I was attracted back.

As I have gotten older (and remained single), especially in the months since my dad passed, I’ve begun reevaluating what I thought were the “essentials.”  My dad, at the time he married my mom, was not a model Christian man.  He had grown up in a Christian home but was caught up in a lot of typical young man behavior.  He knew my mom was a more serious Christian than he was, and he was fortunately wise enough to recognize that if he married her, she would help him grow.  And she did.  My dad never became an Earl of Piety – it was not in his personality – but God became a priority in his life.  In the later years of his life, he ended every day on his knees next to his bed in prayer.  If my mom had judged my dad by Seed’s criteria, there would never have been a marriage.  (Fortunately, my mom was CRAZY about my dad and also naive enough to believe that because they grew up in the same denomination, their marriage would be much like her parents’.  Ha!  She definitely experienced a rude awakening.  But back then, young women didn’t enter dating armed with a 463-bullet point evangelical checklist full of things like “must enjoy discussing theology,” “only listen to Christian music,” and never telling a crude joke.  (These are all things that Seed mentioned as must-haves for her happiness in a relationship.))

One other comment:  Seed talks about how this guy didn’t “share her vision.”  Her whole decision-making process centered around herself and her own ideas about marriage.  I think it would be beneficial for single women to frame it rather as “can I share HIS vision?”.  Because ultimately, that’s what you’re signing up for in a marriage, Christian or not.  You’re signing up to be this guy’s first officer (to use an Athol-ism), or to be the COO to his CEO, however you want to put it – the point of you is not to set a goal and wait for him to meet it, but to look at his goals and see if you can be a part of them.  Women who are waiting for a man who can meet their lofty standards are usually destined to wait a loooooongg time.

Christians who don’t promote young marriage don’t actually care about chastity.

29 Jun

Reader Nate Winchester sent me a link to this article from The Catholic World Report: “Should We Bring Back Young Marriage?

It’s a longer article, but it’s a good read.

My take on the issue of young marriage is that if Christians are actually serious about chastity, then they HAVE to support young marriage.  And it seems to me that Christians at large are not serious about chastity.  All of the “True Love Waits”-style campaigns, purity rings, abstinence education – all of that means NOTHING in the face of biology…or at least it ends up meaning nothing if you’re alone with your boyfriend in your apartment at night and you’re in love with each other, or at least happen to think each other is hot.  I mean, what do parents REALLY THINK is going to happen?  Maybe not the first time, but given ENOUGH time.  That they’re just having Bible study at 1:00am?

Are adult Christians just stupid?

Is it not obvious to anyone with half a brain that human beings were not designed to delay sex for two or three decades after coming to sexual maturity?  Yet we have Christians not blinking an eye at full-grown adult singles waiting until age 35 to marry for the first time, because that was just God’s perfect plan or whatever.

Maybe these Christians (because THEY married at age 21 or 22 and never had the delightful experience of having unfulfillable sexual desires for 10 or 20 years) think that anyone can wait because THEY were able to wait for, like, five years.  Maybe the only singles they know at church are low sex-drive 2s, or girls who became chubby single cat ladies by age 26 and are totally content to serve in the nursery at church while patientlyyyy waiting for Mr. Right that everyone knows will never arrive – isn’t it obvious that waiting is a realistic and achievable goal?

Or maybe it’s that as long as the couple weren’t cohabitating before marriage, then we can totally assume that they weren’t having premarital sex, right?  Even though they dated for five years!

I think some of it is that there are a lot of married Christians in the church these days who had premarital sex, and they just don’t want to address it, because then THEY might have to come clean about their own fornication, and nobody wants to go there because (A) no one else’s business, and (B) awkward.  So everyone just turns a blind eye to what they know is going on, and it’ll all work out because we’re all forgiven and everybody makes mistakes and no sin is greater than any other sin.

Until someone gets pregnant.  But even then, everyone rallies around the brave single mother (no abortion = hero for life) and volunteers to babysit.

We hear a lot these days from pearl-clutching Christians about how evil the world is and how depraved the culture, etc.  If Christians are really serious about changing the culture for the better, then they need to get serious about promoting young marriage and stop telling singles (either explicitly or implicitly) that they have a long time to find someone and it’s better to go off and have adventures while they figure out who they are.  And they also need to stop telling people that the 20s are a “season” in which you can work on yourself to become closer to God and therefore marriage-worthy or whatever.  By the time you hit your 20s, you should already be well-formed enough to be a good candidate for being a spouse.  That has not so much to do with how many various experiences you have in life but very much to do with your fundamental character.  Marriage shouldn’t be about bringing two “experts in life experience” together but rather about bringing two young people who may be inexperienced in life but of solid character together.  All the life experience in the world means very little with no character.  Age 22 is not a good age at which to BEGIN to develop character.   Yes, it’s a good thing to have done some introspective thought about who you are and what you want, but this idea that we have to be practically irrevocably formed before even entertaining the thought of marriage is wrong-headed.  If anything, too much formation makes it that much harder for someone to get married and stay married.