Misunderstood Single Men
- Christianity Today Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2009 28 Jan
I feel misunderstood as a single adult male when people I meet assume all single males are alike. As is often the case, this comes out most clearly in the way they joke with me. One person at my church makes a "bachelor" joke every time we see each other. Sometimes it's a comment about the way I dress, other times it's about what I must be eating since I don't have a mother or wife to cook for me. Some comments make me out to be shallow and self-absorbed, as if all young single males are just extending adolescence until a girl comes along to "domesticate" us.
This is really unfortunate, because it only perpetuates the myth that singles have no place in society or are somehow harder to interact with because we're in a life situation that isolates us. The truth is, the single male experience is a rich cornucopia that varies not only from man to man, but also within each individual man. I believe I have a lot to offer if the people I interact with will take me seriously.
I look forward to the day when I meet a woman I can share this "cornucopic" experience with. But in the meantime, my life isn't on hold. I attend church, sing in the choir, go to movies and plays with my roommates or by myself, enjoy eating and yes, cooking good food—all the while having great, long conversations because I don't have a family making demands on my time, and deepening my relationship with the Lord. Those who pigeonhole me according to their predetermined assumptions about single males rob themselves and me of some potentially great friendships.
-Jonathan, 24, never married
To me, this issue is really more about expectations than misunderstandings. I wish churches had higher expectations for single guys and would get more involved in mentoring, coaching, and challenging us to grow and serve. Unfortunately, expectations for older single guys are far lower than they should be; we're getting a free pass and grow quickly in selfishness and bachelor crustiness. Even younger single men can avoid maturing altogether, prolonging a college-like free-floating-ness into their 30s.
It would be very helpful if pastors and elders, even other guys in our men's groups, fixed the spotlight of accountability on this demographic in order to motivate us toward responsibility and maturity. This would promote mature leadership and provide our Christian sisters with many potential and qualified "marital candidates."
-Steve, 50, never married
As a single Christian man, I feel misunderstood in three main ways by three groups. First, I feel misunderstood by single women who frequently mistake my friendly interactions with them as a desire to pursue romantic intentions. This leads to them either becoming aloof if they aren't interested in me romantically, or clingy if they are and I'm not. Second, I feel misunderstood by most members of our society (and, unfortunately, even some in the church) who cannot fathom a single man in his 30s who isn't interested in partying and has a desire to remain chaste. Finally, I feel misunderstood by the church, who frequently views single men as somehow "defective" or suspect, and unable to fully contribute to the church body until they're married.
In spite of these misunderstandings, I'm content knowing I'm complete in Christ, and that he too endured similar misunderstandings when he walked on the earth.
-Kent, 37, never married
In thinking through this question, I'm reminded of Matthew 11:17, where Jesus spoke of that generation's take on him, saying they were like children in the marketplace calling to one another, "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.'" Clearly, Jesus could identify with the plight of being misunderstood.
I take comfort in that.
I attend a suburban, non-denominational church with strong Evangelical ties, and our congregation is made up of lots of married couples with kids. Sure, there are some singles as well, but most are decades younger than me. The head pastor has five kids and the assistant has eight … and counting! As such, there's a strong emotional undercurrent—like a subliminal message on an endless loop—that suggests this is God's end-all plan for good Christians. Add to that the pressure of peers marrying off and having kids, and the tension builds. Implicit in that tension is the question: Why on earth are you still single? Or, more pointedly, what's wrong with you?
I find myself periodically answering questions as to why this or that relationship didn't work out. After all, to outsiders, we seemed so happy. Fact is, we were, but that doesn't mean we were meant for the altar. You cannot force what's not there. And so we part ways and move on.
Prevailing wisdom says to find contentment in our singleness and walks with God and, when we least expect it, we'll meet the right one. Easier said than done.
And so, I bumble along, developing my talents, gifts, and interests. The rub is that some of my interests fall outside the realm of typical Evangelical fare. Coffee shops, Bible studies, and other typical Christian singles activities only go so far. I tend to enjoy my entertainment more raw and unfiltered. For example, I enjoy watching fine-art films and gritty movies (some even broaching the PG-13 barrier!) and taking in a boxing match from ringside. I drink. I like cigars now and again. I keep friends from all walks of life.
That's not to say that I'm a reprobate or liberal. I believe in the inerrant Word of God. I try to walk the Christian walk.
Several friends have suggested I'd be better off being involved in an urban fellowship, as they tend to be more diverse and open in terms of interests and activities. But I like living where I do, and I love my men's group, even though most of the men in the group are married. I'll stay where I am.
As the Word says, I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. If some people—and more specifically, some girls—don't get me, that's fine. God does. And so I'll do my best to flesh out my faith, live authentically, reach out to others, and let the proverbial chips fall where they may.
-Juan, 49, divorced
People often seem to think I couldn't be happy and fulfilled without having a wife. I sometimes get questions that seem to assume I sit at home alone feeling sorry for myself. While I want to be married, I also won't live my life in a state of regret. And I'm trying to learn that if being married never happens, I need to continue trusting and honoring God with my life.
-Cory, 30, never married
Being a friendly person creates opportunities for a single Christian man to be misunderstood. I recently passed a woman in the hallway at church on my way to Sunday school class. I simply smiled, greeted her, and continued to class without skipping a beat. After church, I learned she'd told her friends that I'd shown an interest in her and that she hoped I'd soon ask her out.
After a midweek service, I was having a fun conversation with a female friend of mine who's happily married. It caught the interest of a man, who physically stepped in between us and interrupted our conversation. I later learned he believes divorced men are unable to have healthy friendships with women, and so he took it upon himself to "save" my friend's marriage by bringing our conversation to an end.
Two friends of mine got engaged to each other, and I couldn't wait to have a new joint friendship with them. I was shocked when the husband-to-be shared firm words with me that my friendship with his intended was to end in order to avoid any temptation for an affair. Needles to say, I ended my friendship with him that day as well.
It's frustrating to be misunderstood because a person chooses to believe a stereotype over making an effort to get to know me. Those who do know me, especially in my capacity as a DivorceCare ministry co-leader, know I have great respect for marriage and have even been used by God to help save a couple marriages from divorce.
It's sad when I'm misunderstood because someone judged me by a label or stereotype instead of investing time in getting to know me. Someday I hope they'll learn that my divorce and newfound singleness birthed significant compassion in my heart, which God uses to bring encouragement to others. I'm not the man the divorced label insinuates.
-CJ, 50, divorced
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