“I’m sure that once you’ve had sex, then…”
That statement froze me with surprise. The context: a friend and I had been discussing musical composition. I guess I had said something about being emotionally blocked at times, and maybe it influencing my ability to compose music. He asked permission to be blunt with me, and then came out with that statement. (To be clear, it was not a “come on” but just a statement of what he thought!)
I’m not offended that he said it, because I appreciate when people say what they think. I of course knew immediately that something about it was deeply wrong. It is not an uncommon message: it is just not normally so directly said.
It implied that you were less complete without sexual “experience”, without a relationship: Graphically speaking, that you weren’t all you could possibly be without someone literally being inside you. As a feminist and a Christian, I don’t agree with this at all. God created me as a complete human being, and I’m not less whole or worthy without having sex or a romantic relationship.
This pressure comes in a lot in the “secular” world. However, religious circles can unfortunately send the same message in their dialogue surrounding singleness and marriage. As someone who regularly traverses “both worlds”, I’ve noticed this commonality.
“Don’t worry, God has a special man set aside for you!”
This statement has come to me in various forms by people in the church, usually accompanied by a well-meaning smile. It always feels uncomfortable, even though their heart is in the right place. How do they know whether or not I want marriage? How do they know what God’s plans are for me? Marriage is not a guarantee. It’s not something you receive because of being more or less ready than anyone else. It’s not a reward for faithfulness. Singleness and marriage are just 2 different states you could be in. God uses both to His glory. I’ve seen people in either state have varying levels of maturity and different sets of gifts and challenges.
Statements like this can make the single person afraid to talk about their journey of singleness. Singles who don’t want marriage (whether right now or ever) can be afraid of a response of judgement or confusion. Singles who want marriage are afraid of admitting it because they don’t want pity, or to be perceived as needy (especially by the opposite gender).
“I can’t wait til God sends me a girl to turn my life around!…. and I hope you get a man someday to turn your life around!”
I bit my tongue. This was a young man who claimed to follow Christianity. It was on a coffee date (which was not followed by any more coffee dates). This person meant well, but it just made me sad to hear him say that. It reflected a certain hollowness within.
It’s the same lie: that we are not complete without romantic love. As if we can be “saved” by another person as imperfect as ourselves… I wanted to respond, “The only person who should ‘turn your life around’ is Jesus!”
The reason this lie appears everywhere is because it’s a deeply rooted identity issue. We all have that same gaping hole inside: what defines us is how we try to fill it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in how we approach romantic relationships.
It’s okay to want marriage or a relationship. I want those things. Through my journey of singleness, God has taught me that I don’t NEED those things in order to serve him or be a worthy child of God.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God….This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:7, 9
Image source: Van Gogh, “Fishing in the Spring”