Zelophehad’s Daughters

Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part IX, Dating Advice

Posted by Seraphine

I know I still owe the blog the rest of my engagement story, but I wrote this post awhile ago (last year), and I need to wrap up this series since I’m not actually going to be single much longer. In regards to the contents of this post, while I am now engaged, I still think there’s truth to the rant that it contains. Also, I feel like I just got really, really lucky finding my fiance (and that I didn’t find him because I followed anyone’s dating advice).

People who have “succeeded” at getting married often view themselves as experts on dating, especially the type of dating that leads to marriage. Many of them are positive that the techniques that worked for them at the age of 18, or that worked for them 30 years ago, are broadly applicable and might work for you. As a result, these people are full of sage advice and wisdom, and they are eager to share it with the poor, misguided single people they know (because if single people had their wisdom, they would no longer be single).

I polled some of my single friends, and here’s some of the advice they’ve received over the years:

Piece of advice #1 (from a friend I’ll call Simone): Simone’s mother discussed Simone’s dating life (or lack of one) with her tennis partner. Her tennis partner said that Simone needed to make sure to touch a man that she liked on the arm three times. Simone’s mother diligently passed on this advice to Simone.

Piece of advice #2 (also from Simone): Multiple people have told her that men just need to be “babied,” and that if she can’t successfully do this, she won’t find a man to date and marry.

Piece of advice #3: This is less of a piece of advice than a helpful story. A friend was in a singles ward. The second counselor in the bishopric and his wife had met in that ward, and one Sunday they told their story (as a model for the singles who were there), and then had singles come up to the front of the room and practice asking each other on dates.

And finally, here’s a bunch of advice heard by one of my co-bloggers (thanks, Melyngoch!). I’m going to leave things in her words because she tells the stories so well:

…one of the members of the stake presidency once came and informed us that since  all women marry down (because women are inherently more moral/spiritual/levitaty kind of people blah blah blah), we all needed to just settle for, roughly, whatever piece of Priesthood was sitting next to us.

A few years ago, the wife of one of the branch presidency members did an Enrichment on dating where the message was, roughly, pick a guy and stay obsessed with him till he gives in, but be sure to make yourself hotter while you’re waiting for him to come round.

Also, one of my friends here  (now married!) was told in earnest by a family member that, when she decided to get a PhD, she was educating herself right out of a husband.

I’m going to let the advice speak for itself (because what commentary can one offer?), but I am going to rant for just a minute. <rant>Many people who are married are probably better at the whole dating thing than I am. But many of them are just incredibly lucky, and they did not get married because they possessed incredible dating skills. Moreover, because their personality is so completely different from my own, what worked for them may not work for me. And what they chose to do to attract the opposite sex may not be something I want to do because I’m trying to attract someone very different than who they attracted.

Also, when acquaintance or strangers ask me questions like “how is your dating life?” or “do you think the person you’re dating likes you?”, do I respond by saying things like “do you love your husband?” or “how are things going in your marriage?” No, I do not because that would be rude and presumptuous. And do I give them marriage advice? No, I do not because that would be rude and presumptuous. Even if I do have good advice.</rant>

In one of my previous threads, amelia made roughly the same point as I was trying to make in my above rant, but she did it so eloquently that I’m going to repost her comments, as well as one from Kaimi. amelia began by asking “…would anyone in their right mind pry into the state of someone else’s marriage if they didn’t have a fairly close relationship with them? … So why is my status as a single not off limits?” Her answer was,

Mormons think marriage is progress. We progress from being single to being married. It’s linear. And singles are often thought of as not-quite-fully-formed adults (even if that’s not openly articulated, it’s often [if not always] implied). Perhaps in some way ward members look at singles and see them as people who haven’t arrived yet; who are still progressing; who haven’t made it as far as the marrieds have and who therefore need guidance. I don’t think this necessarily happens on a conscious level, but I don’t think I could count how many times a woman significantly younger than me has made knowing (and usually incredibly condescending) comments about what I’ll learn when I’m married or that clearly imply that she knows better than me cause she’s married. It drives me batty. Like somehow my nearly 20 years of adult experience don’t count cause I’ve had that experience alone, not in a marriage relationship.

Kaimi responded,

I think it’s even more than that… Mormon culture equates marriage with adulthood. Thus, for many church members, your experience has not been one of true adulthood but rather of extended adolescence. The perception is that people don’t marry because they selfishly wish to postpone adulthood, preferring to do irresponsible things like play X-Box all day or get graduate degrees. You’ll cross the threshold and become a real adult once you decide to settle down and get married. Until then, we can safely discount your experience like we discount the views of 16 year olds.

(Then at some indeterminate point around age 40 or 50, the dissonance of thinking of a person as an adolescence is too much, and so they are shifted to the “old maid” category.)

I think one of the things that’s been most difficult to deal with in some of my interactions at church is this underlying, often unspoken assumption that I’m not quite an adult. People assume that my understanding, and sometimes even my capability for righteousness, is limited by my single status. For example, I’ve had my feminism blamed on the fact that I don’t have a kind husband to show me how patriarchy is supposed to work. While there are lessons they’ve learned from marriage that I have not learned yet, there are lessons that I have learned from living on my own for nearly half my life that that my fellow members who were married at a young age have not learned.

And I don’t need dating advice.

67 Responses to “Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part IX, Dating Advice”

  1. 1.

    AMEN!!

  2. 2.

    This is really strange. While it is true that most dating advice is superficial garbage, singles are ALWAYS asking for feedback, thoughts, ideas…advice. My single brother and my single lifelong friend both WANT to get married, why wouldn’t they ask for advice from those who are married? When I was in my graduate program I constantly asked the advice of those who had been through it. Now, if I had no intention of graduating then clearly I would have no need for graduates’ advice. But come on.

    And here’s the advice that I give my brother when he asks (because he needs it) and don’t give my friend (because he already practices it): volume. The more women you meet and ask out and learn how to be around and figure out what you like and give yourself opportunities the greater your chance of finding someone that is a good fit.

  3. 3.

    I can’t say anything to this but just “yep.”

    Well, maybe I can. There was a time when I bought the idea that married people somehow *could* give me advice. When I was about 23 or 24, my boss, who was like a mother to all the single girls in the department, advised me that–at the skinniest I’d been since I was 19–”if you’d just lose another 25 pounds or so, you’d be GORGEOUS and then of course guys would notice you.”

    I was practically starving during that time for want of money, and I was riding my bike a good 5-12 miles a day for want of a car. If I dropped any more weight I’d probably have gotten sick. But I believed her and internalized it, thinking that it must be my fault that no one wanted to date me, because I must be hideous when I look normal if I look that bad when I’m not eating enough.

    A few years later, I was talking to a guy in my ward who had just gotten engaged, and somehow it came out that I worried I’d never get married because of all these things I was insecure about. I’ll never forget how he looked at me and said, “You’re one of the most honest people I know, so I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know if you’ll ever get married, but if you don’t, it’s not your fault.” That might have been the first time anyone said that to me.

    And really, that’s all this advice is: saying, “If you do what I tell you to, at least it won’t be MY fault that you’re not married. It’ll be something else, something deeper, something wrong with YOU.” Which is also tied up with the way we see singles in our culture–that anyone over 25, or 31, or 40, or whatever, who is divorced or never married, but particularly someone who never married because they couldn’t even get into a DYSFUNCTIONAL relationship–that anyone over a certain age has something inherently wrong with them.

  4. 4.

    Many of them are positive that the techniques that worked for them at the age of 18, or that worked for them 30 years ago, are broadly applicable and might work for you.

    The thing that kills me about this is that the story of how they found someone is, at best, one data point, and the idea that they could take that one data point and scale it up to give advice to all the singles in the world is the mother of all inductive fallacies.

  5. 5.

    While the advice may be asinine, I think it is generally well-intentioned. Don’t worry: when you are married you will still get lots of advice because people are pretty enamored of their own ideas. It won’t be about dating, of course–maybe about marriage, tons about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Eventually, maybe you’ll get it about retirement, adult children, grandchildren, down-sizing, etc etc.

    Rusty–while there is something to “volume,” I think that that mentality can also turn into always looking for the next best thing. As in, this girl is great, but I bet I’ll meet someone even better soon, better not get serious here. Just my opinion.

  6. 6.

    Instead of commenting on your post, let me just say congrats on your upcoming “graduation” to marriage! I am excited that you are finally progressing to the next level. ;)

  7. 7.

    Oh, and never go to bed angry!

  8. 8.

    I remember the evenings sitting around discussing the odd Neverland place older Mormon singles spend their lives. How many times people would say, “I can’t wait to be married because then I’ll be a *real* adult in the eyes of everyone else.”

    And, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share one older-singles ward bishop’s advice to a couple:

    - Wear more makeup (because I saw so-and-so at the grocery store the other day and didn’t even recognize her because she didn’t have any makeup on. Then when I saw her at church, I was shocked at the difference – she was really beautiful.)

    - Kiss his earlobes.

    Happy “graduation”!

  9. 9.

    Hear hear!

  10. 10.

    I love this series. As a divorced woman, I too am experiencing a great many of the same questions and unsolicited advice. The dynamic at church is just so strange- and the mid-singles ward is a nightmare of dozens of women to three or four men. It’s sets up an oddly false market system that leave my stomach queasy.

    Congratulations on your impending marriage- wishing you all the best.

  11. 11.

    Some strange advice from a singles ward bishop when i was still single at 35+:

    • Lose 50 pounds (at the time i weighed 136).
    • Cook for my dates (on the first few dates).
    • Don’t tell them you are working on your doctorate.
    • Get a “little more familiar” with them. The law of chastity is open for interpretation, but of course, don’t have sexual intercourse.”

  12. 12.

    Rusty, there’s a big difference between asking close friends and family for advice and having total strangers give you unsolicited lectures on what’s wrong with you. There’s a big difference between grad school (where your success is primarily on your own shoulders) and marriage (where your efforts are futile if there isn’t someone else willing to make the same effort). There’s also a big difference between grad school (which is one possible career path among multiple valid paths) and marriage (which is seen as the only acceptable “next step” for Mormon singles).

  13. 13.

    I should point out that I got engaged to my wife within a few weeks of finishing my mission. I didn’t make it to 22 unmarried. Please have your liberal pinches of salt ready.

    I think marriage is within almost everyone’s reach. I think the marriage you want is outside of a lot of people’s reach.

    Please don’t shoot me.

    Allright. With that out of the way I’d like to say that I have enormous sympathy with the plight of the mid-singles. I think the church is still waking up to the powerful contributions that these people make and how crucial it is that we support, strengthen, engage and utlise them.

    In our ward we put up a mid-singles noticeboard just last week, the bishop has been interviewing all of them and asking them how he can help and support them more (in their membership, not in their pursuit for marriage I should add.)

    The bishop and his wife have been holding SA and YSA FHEs monthly at their home for about six months now. Now there’s talk about starting a mid-singles group too and I think people are excited about it.

    We’ve also got, here in the UK a mid-singles conference coming up and that’s done a lot to help people feel wanted and noticed.

    Finally, on the note of educating yourself out of a spouse. There are exceptions!, if there is even a rule in the first place.

    My wife and I count among our best friends a couple where the wife is a Cambridge educated actuary and the husband is a plasterer who didn’t finish school. Never think your intelligence is a bar to love, and don’t believe Dr Iannis!

  14. 14.

    I have come to the point where I’ve realized I don’t have a “plight”, even as a divorced midsingle.

    Maybe it’s because I was in an abusive marriage, so I know at least a little of how dark the wrong marriage can be, but I’m happier now than I’ve EVER been. I accept my appearance and my personality with more peace than I’ve ever had my ENTIRE life. My life is where I want it to be at this point, and I actually have the potential, capability, and energy to place goals and move forward.

    I didn’t have any of that with a man in my life.

    I’m more than okay being single. If I meet some man who can change my mind, than I’m open to changing it, but for right now, Single is the best place I can be.

  15. 15.

    So Hagoth, was the marriage your wife wanted out of her reach?

  16. 16.

    By plight I wasn’t referring to the circumstance of being single but rather to the way that singles are advised and treated by others. That’s what I took the OP and the thread to be about. I may have been mistaken.

    I don’t think being single is the problem mid-singles face. Surely it’s the attitude of their religion and their fellow adherents to the state of being a mid-single.

    I apologise for my lack of clarity there.

    KLC,

    Are you kidding me?

    Judging by the feedback I get of course it was/is. I’d like to think I’m a decent guy, but I leave my socks on the floor, I’m not yet earning six figures, I didn’t finish first in my year at school, college or university, I’m a little overweight but working on it, I don’t fulfil my calling to the best of my ability all the time, I forget key dates, I don’t answer my phone, I don’t wash up often enough, I haven’t changed my fair share of the nappies, I’ve not finished decorating the hall, I don’t pay her enough compliments, I don’t take our family out enough, I haven’t finished the book I’m writing, my web design business is ticking over but isn’t making any real money, and I work for the government and don’t have a trust fund in my name.

    Tell you what though KLC, given the context of the OP and the thread, why didn’t you ask me about my marriage?

  17. 17.

    Here’s a nugget of dating advice I’ve given before around the ‘nacle, and will repeat here: consider dating non-LDS. That advice can’t be too bad, as it’s the path Seraphine took to engagement…

  18. 18.

    While the advice may be asinine, I think it is generally well-intentioned.

    Being well-intentioned is no excuse for behavior that is rude, pushy, critical, or patronizing. Wanting to be gentle as a dove (or thinking that you are) does not excuse anyone from having to develop wisdom in their interactions others.

    Don’t worry: when you are married you will still get lots of advice because people are pretty enamored of their own ideas. It won’t be about dating, of course–maybe about marriage, tons about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Eventually, maybe you’ll get it about retirement, adult children, grandchildren, down-sizing, etc etc.

    There are fundamental differences between dating advice and the other types of advice you’ve mentioned. We don’t have an entire Church culture built around telling people that the Lord has One True Retirement Plan for them. Fathers with three children aren’t treated like they’ve “moved up a level” with regard to fathers with only two children. Yes, we’re all opinionated and love to give advice, but in most areas of life, there are many culturally valid paths and options, so the opinionated people are pulling in multiple directions and the forces largely cancel each other out. It’s a completely different experience from the unified force of all the people who are trying to tell singles how to get married.

    A notable exception is that married couples without children are similarly treated as second-class citizens with respect to couples with children. Eve articulated her experiences here:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2006/09/26/leading-a-secondary-life/ (Of course, she’s since become a mother, so perhaps now she looks down on us from an enlightened state and acknowledges her superiority. ;) )

  19. 19.

    Seraphine,
    (I just skimmed the comments, sorry)

    This is a very good post. You make a lot of excellent points.

    Perhaps you’re being a little harsh, or may just overgeneralizing about people who are married. I’m the first one to say I don’t have dating advice and that it was completely LUCK that helped me find a great husband at the ripe age of 20. (I mean I only dated for 2 years really)

    I know that reading posts like this have helped increase my sensitivity, but it’s not enough.
    In my experience, most of the single people I know DO want to be married (or at least in a fulfilling romantic relationship) and when the topic comes up, it seems like I’m expected to say SOMETHING but I don’t know what to say.

    “Yes, marriage is nice. And it is also hard. And I wish it for you, too. Good luck, you’ll need it”?

    What about no words and just a smile and a nod?

    Seriously, I think anything I can say can be interpreted in the wrong way no matter how good my intentions (see the death series at Exponent for examples).

    PS, I’m interested to see how you handle these discussions after a few months/years of marriage.

  20. 20.

    When I was an active single, people at church would walk up to me and start spouting advice without any solicitation whatsoever. Many – and I mean many – times I would be chatting with someone in the foyer and some well-meaning soul would take me aside and say something like “Don’t feel bad because you’re still single.”

    When I ask people for advice about dating, or even when I ask how a couple how they met and they (mis)interpret it as a request for dating advice, I’m fine with helpful/unhelpful suggestions and ideas. But the constant proffering of advice became needling and started to make me feel like a target at church, causing me to reflect seriously on the emotional toll of being raised in a culture that, practically-speaking, valued me less because I didn’t have a ring on my finger (which I know has been discussed here many times before).

  21. 21.

    hagoth, you seem like a sincere and clueless guy. Just so I’m up front, I was (and am) an active member who got married 2 weeks shy of his 38th birthday so, unlike you, I can speak to this topic with some authority. My experiences were exactly like the OP and other comments that followed where sincere but clueless members put their foot in their mouth when it came to talking about and to the older singles in the church. And your remarks fit precisely into that same pattern.

    Your pithy aphorism about marriage being within reach for almost all but the marriage you want not being within reach of many is just the lame old “you’re too picky” argument in different clothes. So my question to you was essentially, “was your wife too picky?” Apparently she was not since, according to your subseqeunt remarks, she married you. How many times have I heard that trite proclamation in church? But what does it say about her self esteem and judgement that she would settle for someone so far beneath herself?

    And if I had asked you in essence, “were you too picky?” let me guess, you would have proclaimed that indeed you were very, very picky and you got everything you could have dreamed of. So how do you get off telling other singles in the church that for them marriage is a service project while for you it was the fulfillment of your every righteous desire?

    Your other remarks demarcate the singles in the church as some afflicted other, maybe lepers or those missing part of a vital chromosome, who need special and loving attention from the whole members of the ward. They become some special project of mercy, the burden of which you more blessed and perfected saints will bear on your shoulders with Christlike love. Give me a break hagoth, I didn’t need your pity, I didn’t need your special attention and I didn’t need your clueless advice. What I needed and wanted and rarely got as an older single in the church was being treated as an adult. If you want to do something for the singles in the church start there and can the tired platitudes.

  22. 22.

    In my experience, most of the single people I know DO want to be married (or at least in a fulfilling romantic relationship) and when the topic comes up, it seems like I’m expected to say SOMETHING but I don’t know what to say.

    Can you give a really specific example of something a single person could say that you wouldn’t know how to respond to? (I can think of some general suggestions for how to respond, but specifics are easier to work with.)

  23. 23.

    :D

    There does seem to be a trend at ZD of people writing comments for me.

    Your other remarks demarcate the singles in the church as some afflicted other, maybe lepers or those missing part of a vital chromosome, who need special and loving attention from the whole members of the ward. They become some special project of mercy, the burden of which you more blessed and perfected saints will bear on your shoulders with Christlike love.

    You what?

    What on earth did I say that made you think that?

    Are you referring to my post #13?

    You know, where I suggest that it is a good thing that singles be treated like all of the other members and be properly recognised for the contributions they make, be supported and included rather than seen as a problem or simply ignored?

    Was it the reference to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?

    What gives?

  24. 24.

    I once had a beloved friend, who was considering becoming engaged to her boyfriend, ask for my advice. I honestly admitted that I had only been engaged once, so I was hardly an expert on the topic.

  25. 25.

    (Of course, she’s since become a mother, so perhaps now she looks down on us from an enlightened state and acknowledges her superiority. :) )

    Oh, on the contrary, I’m now regarding you all blearily though the bottom of a diaper pail. ;) And I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely–indeed, so forcibly–unenlightened.

  26. 26.

    Hagoth, start with this:

    “I think the church is still waking up to the powerful contributions that THESE PEOPLE make…”

    and work your way down from there. Like I said you seem sincere but you are clueless because you can’t see that your sincere concern and your mid single bulletin board and your singles FHEs at the home of the bishop are part of the problem. Is there a married bulletin board in your ward? Does the bishop hold married FHEs?

  27. 27.

    Don’t worry – the ink will barely be dry on your marriage certificate when the rude comments about kids will start. Just take the comments amelia and Kaimi made about married vs. single and swap it for kids vs. no kids, and you’ll get an idea of the frustration.

    The first two years in my current ward were fairly uncomfortable, fielding questions about my pregnancy status, but eventually people got the idea that it was none of their business.

    We both have PhDs, I like working, we like our marriage the way it is, and we don’t want kids. Just being at a church event doesn’t give anyone the excuse to be “well-intentioned” (i.e. RUDE).

  28. 28.

    Hagoth—“By plight I wasn’t referring to the circumstance of being single but rather to the way that singles are advised and treated by others.”

    I recognized what you meant, and spoke to that as well.

    Kevin—Seriously? In a post by Seraphine that essentially says what works for one probably won’t work for another, you’re trying to tell us to take Seraphine’s path?

    The irony gives me the giggles.

    As happy as I am for Seraphine, that path would most certainly NOT NOT NOT work for me. Utterly not.

    And for what it’s worth, I am more picky now that I know how bad not being picky enough can be.

    Eve—And THAT is the beginning of wisdom!

  29. 29.

    I am more picky now that I know how bad not being picky enough can be.

    I love this and I want to frame it. (Well, I haven’t ever been married, but I could say “I am picky because I know (from observation) how bad not being picky can be.”)

  30. 30.

    So what should we do?

  31. 31.

    No. 28, I’m not trying to tell anyone to take Seraphine’s path, only to be open to it, to consider it. Most LDS wouldn’t even so much as think of dating a non-Mormon, but there are many geographic areas of the church where that stance is tantamount to a lifetime of celibate singleness. I’m just suggesting that people in that situation not rashly take the non-LDS option off the table, but give it serious consideration. If they still don’t want to go down that path, fine, but then it will at least be a considered decision rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

    Are we really taking the position that no advice, ever, no matter what it is, would ever be welcome? If so, then pretend I didn’t say anything.

  32. 32.

    The thing about dating is – you only need to succeed once. You don’t need to good at dating people, you just need to get lucky and meet the right one.

  33. 33.

    I usually don’t give advice. Unfortunately, that means I never told my (now 42 year old) sister that perhaps a bar isn’t the best place to meet a man who would want to marry her and give her lots of children. So it means that she has had plenty of one night stands and her occasional boyfriends have been 1) bartender and 2) guy in prison who couldn’t quite manage to get his divorce and 3) make $10/hr and 10 years younger than her with a kid but have no direction in life. But nothing ever worked out.

  34. 34.

    I’d appreciate some other points of view here.

    Should our Bishop stop inviting the YSA, SA and MS to his home for FHE once a month. Should he take down the notice boards? Are these things offensive/unhelpful/divisive?

  35. 35.

    Rusty, as other commenters have pointed out, there’s a difference between having a conversation about dating with close friends and family members as opposed to your average church member who often offers unsolicited advice. Friends and family members know your personality and what will work for you. While, for example, most of my friends and family members couldn’t tell me how to navigate the intricacies of using on-line dating sites and dating non-Mormons in a big city (because it was completely out of their experience), they could tell me if they thought something was working for me (based on how happy I seemed, etc.). When it comes to your random church member, not only is their experience likely different (people who met at BYU when they were 22 could not help me figure out how to date in a big East Coast city at the age of 32), they also don’t know you. And so it typically ends up being completely unhelpful advice. And condescending to boot.

    stacer, I’m really glad your friend gave you that advice–I think singles usually get the message it is their fault and there’s something inherently wrong with them (whether directly or implied).

    ESO, ditto to what Katya said in comment #18. I think the advice that singles and marrieds without children get is very different than the various other types of advice for all the reasons she stated.

  36. 36.

    E, thanks!

    FormerlySingle and HeatherL, that’s some great advice. ;)

    TracyM, sorry to hear you’re dealing with these issues. And I can understand your queasiness–singles wards are hard enough without the dynamics of imbalance. I finally couldn’t take any singles wards/groups and just removed myself (long before I met my fiance) from the “market system.”

  37. 37.

    Hagoth, when it comes to the way others have reacted to what is happening in your ward, I think there’s a difficult balance to strike with single members–it’s important to make them feel like they’re valued and wanted, etc., but you also don’t want to ghetto-ize them or remind them all the time “you are single”!!!–i.e. put them in their own group and remove them from the rest of the ward members, create a bulletin board especially for them, etc. (Believe me, singles members know they are single, and these reminders can be difficult.)

    For example, I think the individual meetings the bishop is having with the singles is great. And I think having an informal singles group of some kind so that other singles can choose to connect with each other is also great. But I think rather than having special events for singles, they should be incorporated into what is generally happening in the ward. (For example, I wouldn’t have wanted to go to the bishop’s house with other singles because I would have felt uncomfortable, but I loved it when my married friends in the ward asked me what I was doing on Monday night and invited me over to hang out with their family.)

    It is a hard balance to strike, though–making singles feel included but not singling them out (pun unintended). And you’re right that attempts at inclusion are better than seeing singles as a problem.

  38. 38.

    Kevin—pretty much. Because advice assumes 1) there is a formula for getting married, 2) Being married is always better than being single, pretty much no matter who you marry, and 3) the giver of the advice knows the secret better than the single person. Mostly garbage. There is some leeway on #3, but only if the advisor knows the advised very well.

    And I would rather be single and celebate than married to a person who did not believe as, I do. I was married to one who was a member, so I speak from experience.

    Really the best advice that anyone can give is to take it seriously but not too seriously.

  39. 39.

    So what should we do?

    What do you do for any member of the church? Offer love, friendship, community, and responsibility. 30+ singles are a very heterogeneous group, anyway, so trying to “deal with us” on the basis of one variable is inefficient at best (and more often utterly patronizing).

  40. 40.

    Brilliant stuff, esp 37 and 39.

    It’s a bit of a minefield and I appreciate your thoughts.

  41. 41.

    What callings can a woman not hold if she is single?

  42. 42.

    41: Singles group leader.

  43. 43.

    Hagoth, one more comment: when you say “I think marriage is within almost everyone’s reach. I think the marriage you want is outside of a lot of people’s reach” it is a little off-putting. As SilverRain points out, being picky when looking for a marriage partner is not necessarily a bad thing. But yet singles are often criticized for being too picky when looking for someone to marry.

    Yes, there are singles out there who are looking for someone who is “perfect,” and who nitpick everytime they end up with someone new so that they can find a reason not to marry that person. However, most of us are (or were in my case) looking for someone we are compatible with, who we will be happy with, who we can build a life together with, etc. We’re looking for what will build a solid marriage. My fiance isn’t perfect, and I’m not perfect, but we’re perfect for each other.

    Marriage is hard, and if you marry just to get married (rather than finding the right person) it’s even harder. And marrying someone whose not right for you (and who you’re not right for) with can be devastating on you, them, and any children that may come along.

  44. 44.

    Jessawhy, I would love to hear your response to Katya’s question–when are you expected to say something? I know that when I was a single, if I was complaining about dating or not being married, etc., to a married friend, I just wanted them to empathize (i.e. be my friend, listen, etc.). I didn’t expect them to offer any kind of sage advice. And if I wanted advice, I’d ask them pretty directly. And it usually wasn’t that I wanted specific advice on dating–it was usually a specific scenario that I was trying to think through and I knew they could help me do that.

    And while I know it’s hard to know what to do/say when you know the other person is sensitive about a topic, I’m sure you’re doing fine (and I didn’t mean my post to come off as a criticism of all married people). As Galdralag pointed out, unsolicited advice from random people who don’t know you is what is really frustrating.

    I guess my one piece of advice if you’re a married person in a situation where you’re uncertain if you’re being expected to say something would be to ask the person who’s talking to you what they want: say “I feel like you want me to say something or offer some advice, but I’m not sure if that’s the case or what advice I have to offer.” Then you can clear the air–and it may turn out that they just want you to listen.

  45. 45.

    April, that’s a great line.

    E.D., I’m glad that you were able to get people to stop making rude comments about your childlessness. I’m hoping to avoid a lot of those once I’m married: 1) I’m in a pretty amazing ward right now with a lot of people who are in atypical family situations, 2) since my fiance is not a member, I think we’re less likely to get rude comments about not having kids right away.

    SilverRain, I love this comment too: “I am more picky now that I know how bad not being picky enough can be.”

  46. 46.

    Kevin, I think that is good advice for a lot of single members (it clearly was the right path for me). And your advice as well as Rusty’s in comment #2, which is along the same lines, is different from the condescending “I know best because I’m going to tell you to do what I did to get married 20 years ago” advice that often happens.

    So, I would say while you both have good advice, don’t offer it situations where it’s unsolicited (since not everyone wants advice), and offer it very gently, since it may not apply to everyone (i.e. “have you ever considered dating non-members? it may not work for you, but it’s worked for a lot of people I know”). And something tells me that this is already what you’re doing. :)

  47. 47.

    Gwen, very true.

    jks, as others have stated, there’s a difference between getting advice from family/friends and getting advice from strangers. I think there are situations where freinds/family members can give one another unsolicited advice, especially when you’re worried about the person. For example, when I was dating my ex, my family and friends were really worried about me because of how unhappy I was, and they would occasionally try to say something to me (i.e. they wanted me to break up with him a lot sooner than the break-up actually happened). Of course, I wasn’t willing to listen to their advice (which is another issue altogether), but I’m glad that they cared enough about me to try and point out how unhappy I seemed and what they thought I should do about it.

  48. 48.

    No. 46, thanks. Indeed, the advice i suggested here is not something i’ve ever expressed to an individual; it something I occasionally express broadly through the blogs for people to take or leave as they will.

  49. 49.

    Except, Kevin, the people on the blogs ARE individuals. I think we often forget that.

    And I’m sure that almost anyone who gives unsolicited advice face-to-face would say the same thing: that it is meant for people to take or leave as they will.

  50. 50.

    43 – I’d intended it to be more of an observation than advice. IME marriage is within reach and the ideal marriage is slightly without.

    Given the context of dating I clearly mean ideal marriage partner and your point that two very normal and fault-ridden people can have an ideal marriage is a welcome one.

    Neither my wife or I are perfect but I’d like to think we’re both very much enjoying our marriage, not to mention the children that have sprung from it!

  51. 51.

    IME marriage is within reach and the ideal marriage is slightly without.

    Hagoth, can you see how this comment is unhelpful at best and insulting and potentially destructive at worst? I’m reading the second paragraph of your comment #50 as your acknowledging that what we’re talking about are ideals within particular contexts, but even then your initial comment is problematic. If we’re going to posit that no marriage is ideal, it renders your comment completely ineffective since it just becomes the statement “marriage is within reach.” It then just takes us back to the same old territory of “you’re too picky” and “anyone can get married if they try hard enough.” Both of which attitudes are unhelpful and destructive.

    The reality is not that “marriage is within reach” for everyone. The reality is the opposite. Marriage is not within reach of everyone. And this is what makes me most bonkers about the aggressive marriage endorsement of the church and church members. The observation that marriage is within reach, while ideal marriage is without does two things

    1. it treats marriage as if it’s no more difficult to accomplish than finding good Thai food in SLC–maybe the ideal Thai restaurant doesn’t exist in SLC (it doesn’t) so it’s slightly outside of our reach, but there are good alternatives that are only slightly non-ideal so you can still get your Thai food. The problem is that marriage involves two parties consenting to marry each other, rather than one party finding something to consume. No matter how hard I try to get married, I still have to depend on someone else wanting to marry me and that is entirely out of my control.

    2. It yet again situates blame for being unmarried on the unmarried person, rather than recognizing that probably the biggest factor in whether one gets married is serendipity more than anything else. You can put yourself into circumstances you think will improve your chances of finding a partner; you can make yourself into the kind of person you want to be and which will allow you to be happy; you can put yourself out there and keep dating in spite of getting hurt; but doing those things is no guarantee that you’ll find a partner. I know. I’ve been doing it for years. And I, for one, am damn sick of being told that it’s my own fault that I’m not married. I can only imagine how much worse it is for single men in the church, since the blame I get is generally implicit while they get both implicit and explicit blame.

    Here’s another thing: this attitude and its subsequent implications about singleness reinforces the notion that being single is to be flawed. I’m really sorry but I am not flawed because I am single. This is the basic problem with how the church deals with singles. It treats being a single adult as a flawed state. It recognizes that the flaw might be correctable, but once singles hit 31 the church gives up on us and sweeps us unsightly flaws under the rug. And while I appreciate recent efforts to acknowledge that singles over 30 have needs and that the church should try to help provide for those needs, most of the efforts continue to be premised on this underlying belief that single=flawed.

  52. 52.

    Hagoth, what should we do? We should treat older singles like adults.

    Let me make an analogy. Overweight people would probably be happier and healthier if they were thinner, losing weight is generally a worthy goal and theoretically if we consume less calories than we burn we will lose weight, being thin is within reach of most of us.

    Given all of that should the ward council discuss overweight members of the ward and how they can help them? Should we have an overweight bulletin board with dieting tips and healthy recipes? Should we invite the overweight members of the ward to regular meetings at thin and athletic members homes so they have a role model? Should we approach overweight members in the foyer and give them unsolicited advice on a fabulous diet that helped us lose 5 pounds 25 years ago?

    Even if all of these things were done in a spirit of love they would still be wrong. Overweight people are painfully aware of their physical condition, they don’t need reminders, they don’t need generic encouragement, they don’t want to be the object of loving concern, they don’t appreciate being the topic of conversation.

    Likewise there is no one in the church who is more aware of their single status than an active older single. Believe me it is on their mind always, especially at church. Don’t treat them like objects of concern, don’t make them into the other. Accept them and their talents just as you would accept a married member.

  53. 53.

    and KLC for the win!

    could not agree more. That is the crux of the problem–the church defines singles as fatally flawed and in need of special help to get them through that trying time called singleness.

    I call bullshit. There is nothing inherently flawed about being single. It’s just one of many possible relationship statuses and we shouldn’t ghettoize singles as if they belong over there and the rest of the normal healthy people belong over here, and never the twain shall meet.

    I also have to say that I really don’t understand why it is that married people and single people can’t seem to be friends. I know so many married Mormons who just aren’t willing to be friends with singles. Thank God for those who see how stupid that is. I would have precious few friends if all of my friends had followed the common trend of marrying and then dissociating from their single friends. Some of my very best friends are married, both male and female. I’ll never understand why it is that some people don’t seem capable of maintaining friendships after they marry. If we could get over this problem, it would really help address the dynamic KLC is talking about. I don’t want to be treated like a project, like someone who is somehow not fully human. I’m as human as anyone else and I don’t want to be put into my corner, thankyouverymuch.

  54. 54.

    play X-Box all day or get graduate degrees

    Made me smile.

    Katya — you are just mislead by the statistics doctrine that “anecdotal evidence = false.” ;)

    And for what it’s worth, I am more picky now that I know how bad not being picky enough can be.

    Good for you.

  55. 55.

    This is incredibly frustrating.

    I’ve never heard anyone say or teach that there is anything wrong with being single. I do not think this and I doubt many people think this.

    The restoration was crowned with the restoration of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and the eternal truth that a couple’s relationship might endure beyond mortality and throughout eternity.

    God instituted the practice of marrying, and commanded us as a race to reproduce and replenish the earth, within the bonds of matrimony.

    Today we teach that you must be married, in the temple, as a minimum requirement of entry to exaltation.

    Surely, part of being a Latter-day Saint is to believe that marriage is a goal, part of our mortal journey, part of what unlocks the mysteries of what it is to become like god and inherit all that he has.

    If marriage is the last saving ordinance in the sequence then surely it is only logical to think that those who have not yet obtained this step might be encouraged to do so, even advised or assisted if they appear to face difficulty.

    After all, should one revile those who try to reactivate the less active, baptise those who investigate, interest those who aren’t interested, ordain the unordained and motivate the unmotivated?

    Should one point out that having an investigators class is divisive? Should one become frustrated with those who share their testimonies of church membership with people who will soon be baptised, because to do so is condescending? Should one be disgusted with leaders who interview young men and encourage them to receive the Aaronic priesthood when they turn twelve?

    Should one disagree with the existence of bodies like the Bishopric, RSP, YWP, YMP, PEC, and Ward Council which exist primarily to coordinate the work of the church and provide access to saving ordinances?

    I think these are proper analogies. These are people in similar circumstances, not the overweight, although their’s is an emotive and delicate circumstance. Some of what is said and done to support these groups of persons is bad, some is good. But marriage, like baptism, and ordination for men, is a saving ordinance, I don’t think we can pretend otherwise.

    Lastly, why would believing and asserting that marriage is attainable be anything other than reassuring?

    Should one try to hush one’s friends who say ‘You can do it’ before an important interview, or when one decides to write a novel? Should one ask them to treat one like an adult? Should one think it is ridiculous when someone who has done something which you have not thinks they might be able to share something they learned along the way?

  56. 56.

    Amelia (#53)- I agree! Personally, I’m grateful for the good friends I have, whether married or single.

    I have a good friend whose dating life is the exact opposite of mine. I’m engaged to the only man I really wanted to date, and he was my first kiss. She, on the other hand, is currently single, but dates a lot. Other than giving each other encouragement (“just try already!”) and support, we don’t try to give each other dating/relationship advice because our own experiences have been so different. Hopefully I’ll remember not to fall into the “smug married” trap of telling people how to make it work. Eeek

  57. 57.

    Hagoth, a few replies:

    I’ve never heard anyone say or teach that there is anything wrong with being single. I do not think this and I doubt many people think this.

    I’ve never heard anyone at church come right out and say “girls who wear short shorts and tank tops are sluts and if they’re assaulted it’s their own damn fault because they were clearly asking for it” but I got that message loud and clear. Over and Over. Some of the most powerful messages we deliver are unstated, implied messages. That’s one of the powers of rhetoric–that there are more ways to say something than by putting it into simple words. There is absolutely a cultural attitude in the church that being single is being flawed. I would guess that most people would do just as you are doing–vehemently deny that the attitude exists. But as a Mormon 30-something single who knows a lot of other Mormon 30-something and up singles, I can assure you that many singles in the church hear loud and clear the message that we are not good enough because we are single.

    Surely, part of being a Latter-day Saint is to believe that marriage is a goal, part of our mortal journey, part of what unlocks the mysteries of what it is to become like god and inherit all that he has.

    Do we believe all the reassuring stuff we spout about being able to marry in the next life, or not? Because if we do then there should be nothing wrong with teaching that marriage is a saving ordinance and then backing the hell off and letting individuals find their own way to a marriage relationship without constantly beating singles over the head with the absolutely vitally urgent need to get married as soon as possible. And if they don’t, then their lives are and always will be lacking.

    As to your analogies, you list the following as a examples that justify ghettoizing singles and treating them differently than other ward members:

    missionary work of various kinds
    ordination
    investigators SS classes
    Bishops encouraging young men to be ordained
    administrative meetings (bishopric, RS, YM, YW, PH, etc.)

    And you claim these as proper analogies. You are dead wrong in that claim. Some of the comparisons you make are administrative (ordination, bishops interviewing YM, leadership meetings). Some are about offering something one thinks of as good to others (missionary work, bearing testimony, etc.) Some take into consideration the needs of a group and provide for them (investigators classes). None are comparable to separating singles off from the mainstream population of the church and constantly pushing them to marry.

    1. Administrative: while there is certainly a spiritual aspect to something like ordination, it is also administrative. The leadership meetings you mention are about making sure the ward functions. There is nothing at all about what the church does for singles that is to do with administration.

    2. Missionary work, etc. Offering something you think of as good to others is fine (though I think it can often be insulting and condescending even if you do not; I know too many people who have felt their friendship and trust was violated by Mormons in their missionary efforts). However, telling singles how to go about getting married and constantly giving them advice and reminding them they need to be married (which necessarily implies their life is flawed; there’s no disagreeing with that statement) is different. Most importantly because there’s a difference between preaching the gospel to someone who can actually do something about getting baptized if they want (at least usually) and telling singles to just go get married already (which is what a lot of the advice boils down to) when they can’t run right out and marry anyone. Sorry. It takes two to get married. I can (and have) try everything I can think of to find someone to marry and still not be successful. Because it’s not just up to me.

    3. Something like an investigators SS class makes sense. These are people who are new to the church and maybe even Christianity. They have a lower level of knowledge and it makes sense to teach them at a pace appropriate for someone in their circumstances. They have a common objective–learn the gospel. Putting all the singles into a group and then treating them as if they have the same objective is simply mistaken. A group of singles in the church will be full of people with wildly different circumstances in regards to relationship history (some may be divoriced, others widowed, others never married); that relationship history may affect their attitudes towards and desire for future marriages (I know plenty of divorced people who want nothing more to do with marriage; I know widowed people who cannot conceive of dating and falling in love again; etc.). There will also be people with radically different understandings of and experiences with sex, including some who are lacking all experience, others who are very experienced, and still others whose only experience with sex is as something abusive or violating (victims of abuse or rape); to treat these people as if they have exactly the same needs because they all happen to be unmarried is ludicrous in the extreme. Where new members to the church do actually all have something in common (a lower level knowledge of the gospel), the same is not true of all singles in the church. And it is insulting to treat them as if it is true.

    Lastly, why would believing and asserting that marriage is attainable be anything other than reassuring?
    Should one try to hush one’s friends who say ‘You can do it’ before an important interview, or when one decides to write a novel? Should one ask them to treat one like an adult? Should one think it is ridiculous when someone who has done something which you have not thinks they might be able to share something they learned along the way?

    Again, you ignore the fact that this reassurance that marriage is attainable fails to consider the complicated nature of finding and marrying a partner. When you say to a friend “you can do it” before an important interview, or as they attempt a new endeavour that will be challenging, you are being supportive because they are setting out to do something within their power to do. The same is not true when you say to someone who wants to marry “you can do it!” They are setting out to do something that is not entirely in their power because success depends entirely on another person’s willingness to engage in the same endeavor. (You could argue that a job interview is like this, too, since the interviewee would only succeed if they get the job and that depends on another’s willingness to hire her. I would point out that it is possible to interview successfully without getting a job–meaning that it is possible to go into an interview and do your very best. If you were saying “You can do it” about getting the job, rather than about doing well in the interview, I would say you are offering false hope and suggest you not say such a thing. There’s a difference between encouraging someone and telling them that they can do something that is in their power [interview well] and telling them they can do something that is not in their power [land the job].)

    You’re simply wrong about marriage being attainable for everyone. It’s not. Marriage is only attainable if certain factors line up, namely that you’re lucky enough to meet the kind of person you want to marry and that that person also wants to marry you. My ability to marry depends entirely on someone else’s willingness to marry me, no matter how much I do to make it more likely that it will happen. I’m not doing something solo, like writing a novel. And the process is nowhere near as straightforward as a job interview. I can certainly do everything I can to improve the odds that I’ll marry, but there will always be an element of chance. And that is out of my control and renders marriage something about which it cannot be said “marriage is attainable for everyone.”

    I said it before; I’m saying it again. The reality is that marriage is not attainable for everyone. It just isn’t. Some people simply do not marry. And I find it a hell of a lot more reassuring, not to mention honest, to just acknowledge the reality that marriage is not universally attainable. When we acknowledge that reality, we remove some of the incredibly destructive implicit messages that accompany the reassurance that “You too can marry! Everyone can attain marriage!” not to mention of the insulting advice that usually boils down to “Just get off your lazy asses and try harder!” Rather than trying to make singles feel better (because, you know, if someone is single then clearly they must be depressed and in need of reassurance because their life is such a bottomless pit of unfulfilling and desperate loneliness), we’d be a hell of a lot better off if we just recognized and honored the good things in their lives As They Are. And then we’d avoid the trap of implicitly telling them that they are to blame for their own Single Desperate Unfulfilling Loneliness every time we tell them, yet again, that of course they can marry! Marriage is attainable!

    How is it possible that you cannot see that saying that to someone who is single, who has spent twenty years dating and putting themselves out there and trying to make meaningful connections, is an insult of the worst kind? That it boils down to saying, “Well, you moron, anyone can do it, so why haven’t you? You must not want it enough.” That it is destructive and harmful? That it is not at all like supporting them as they venture out on an endeavor that actually is in their control?

    why is it so much to ask that the church and its members simply accept everyone for who they are and where they are in terms of their personal relationship status without constantly and condescendingly telling them that they haven’t arrived yet?

    Why am I not enough, just as I am? I’m open to hearing advice about things that are in my control (though not from everyone; not everyone has the right to violate my privacy and tell me how to do better). I am decidedly NOT open to people telling me that I’m not good enough because I haven’t accomplished something that I actually do not have the power to accomplish on my own.

  58. 58.

    you know, thinking about all of this I’ve realized how very lucky I am in the family I have. I don’t see eye-to-eye with my family on lots and lots of things. And my parents are very conventional mainstream Mormons. But they have never, ever tried to give me stupid advice about how to get married. Nor have they ever engaged in the rhetoric of “you’ll get married someday” (though on a couple of occasions the line about marrying in the next life has come up, which is a variant; I have my own problems with that line, but it is not as insulting as the line that of course you’ll get married in this life becuase Marriage Is Attainable!!).

    Instead, when I have become so lonely that I have to let it out, usually in tears, my mama just hugs me and says she’s sorry it’s so hard and that she loves me. And my dad tells me to never try to change who I am to win some man. And I love them both even more for their compassion and their willingness to just love me rather than to tell me all the ways I could be doing things differently in order to get married, because if I’d just do it right I could get married too since marriage is attainable. I really respect their ability and willingness to accept that life just sucks sometimes and that no matter how good and desirable something is, there’s no guarantee it will happen. And I especially appreciate that they recognize that I can find happiness where I am without having to constantly be striving and yearning for something that may never happen. They celebrate with me all of the good things in my life, and support me in pursuing career and relationships, and never make me feel like I’m a disappointment or am lacking because I’m not married.

    God I love my parents.

  59. 59.

    I am decidedly NOT open to people telling me that I’m not good enough because I haven’t accomplished something that I actually do not have the power to accomplish on my own.

    Another quote I want to frame.

  60. 60.

    I suppose this is what they mean when they say “diametrically opposed” eh? It seems as though you disagree with pretty much everything I say.

    I got the impression a couple of times there that you’d like to just whack me with something to stop me being so stupid.

    So far I have learned the following:

    - Being married means you know nothing about being married or the process of getting married

    - People who are married are often clueless, intrusive and asinine, but well intentioned.

    - Getting married is outside of our control and is down to luck or other factors

    - Holding singles FHEs at the Bishop’s home is an open insult

    - Expecting someone else to love you for who you are and to want to live with you is often ridiculous

    - Hoping someone will get married one day is identical to regarding them as a disappointment, failure and almost-a-person

    - God has commanded us to get married and replenish the earth not to provide us with joy but to torment a sizeable part of the church membership

    - Being single is fulfilling, meaningful and normal

    - Being single is also objectionable and weighs on the mind of many single persons constantly

    - Single members are nothing alike and have nothing in common with each other

    I don’t understand how these all fit together. To add insult to injury, when I say to my friend “You can do it” I mean “Get the Job”.

    I think I rightly believe in my friend’s ability to get the job, you think I am wrong to believe in them. That I should focus on the interviewer.

    When I walk out of interviews unsuccessful I think about what I could have done differently. When you walk out of them you perhaps think about what the interviewer could have done differently?

    As I say, diametrically opposed. Is this where we agree to disagree?

  61. 61.

    *rolling eyes*

    It’s where some of us fervently beg you to stop, Hagoth. Nobody can be quite this dense, even with effort, so we are forced to believe that you actively intend to insult us (“us” being singles, Mormons, women, and any combination thereof). Consider it done, put a feather in your cap, and bask in the recognition you have earned.

    *gag*

  62. 62.

    Contempt, disgust, revulsion and an assertion that I am either dense, insulting or both.

    How would you like me to respond Ardis?

  63. 63.

    Hagoth, I’m telling you you are wrong to tell someone they can do something that is not in their control. it is not in your friend’s control to get the job. It is in their control to interview well.

    When I walk out o fan interview, I of course wonder what I could have done better. But I also realistically acknowledge that I could do everything perfectly, to the very best of my ability, and still not get the job. Because I don’t get to decide if I get the job. The interviewer does. So while I recognize the things I can do, and I try to do them better where I see room for improvement, I do not turn inward the failure to get the job. Which is healthy. Which allows me to continue trying.

    I do the same thing in dating. I look at my life and see the things I could do differently, new opportunities I could pursue, in order to stay out there meeting people and making myself available so I can hopefully meet someone someday I could marry. But I do not turn inward when it doesn’t happen. I recognize realistically that no matter how much I do, there is no guarantee that someone else will want to marry me. And it is healthy to recognize that. It is unhealthy and damaging to constantly tell myself that marriage is within my grasp, that it is attainable; it is even more unhealthy and damaging for someone else to tell me that.

    There is a difference between encouraging your friend to do well in the things within his power to do and focusing instead on things that are not actually in his power to do. Hopefully someday you’ll recognize that difference and adjust your rhetoric accordingly.

    And I did whack you with something–it’s called a rhetorical whacking. And I did it because of the kinds of things you’re saying in this latest comment, like:

    - Being married means you know nothing about being married or the process of getting married

    No one has actually made that assertion. The assertion they have made is that just because someone is married does not mean that what they know about being married and the process of getting married applies to the situation of the singles they encounter. Since a married person’s knowledge of what it means to be married/get married is so specific to their own circumstances, they should likely keep their advice to themselves unless it is solicited.

    Then there’s this lovely misinterpretation:

    - God has commanded us to get married and replenish the earth not to provide us with joy but to torment a sizeable part of the church membership

    Where the hell that one came from I cannot fathom. I never implied that God instituted marriage with the intention of tormenting people.

    Really, this discussion is a very simple one: Don’t offer unsolicited dating advice. It is none of your damn business to ask about other people’s personal relationships unless you are their close friend. If you are their close friend, ask if you think it’s appropriate. Offer advice if you think, based on your knowledge of their particular circumstances rather than based on your superior knowledge of what it takes to be/get married in your circumstances, that they would be open to the advice and could benefit from it. When they make it clear they don’t want to have the conversation, stop having it. Treat single people (both those you know well and those you do not) like normal old adults with lives that are as fulfilling and rich and interesting as married people’s lives. Because although it is true from time to time that being single may sometimes weigh on the mind (especially when one is part of a culture that worships the married state to the point of idolatry and accordingly rams it down everyone’s throat all the time), it is also true that being single can be fulfilling and meaningful and is absolutely normal. And I’m sick and tired of the church’s and church members’ rhetoric and practices and institutions making “single” equate to “lacking” or “abnormal” or “flawed” or “needs special help” or “should change as soon as humanly possible” or any number of other unavoidably implied messages about what it means to be single.

    I am not flawed. I am not lacking. I do not need 80 year old men to tell me to get married or how to do so. I do not need random strangers at church to ask about my relationship status as if they have a right to know. I do not ask married people about their sex lives or their emotional satisfaction in their marriages because to do so would be a gross violation of their privacy and the state of their marriages is none of my damn business. I expect the same respect in return.

    What I am is single and happy. What I have are a fabulous apartment, an amazing job with enormous potential for advancement, incredible friends and family, opportunities to travel–in short, a rich and fulfilling life. I am sometimes lonely. I do want to marry someday. I do everything I can think of doing in order to meet the kind of men I’d like to marry. When my close friends who know me well ask about my relationships, I’m happy to talk to them about them and I listen to their advice–because they know me and care, because they accept me as I am and do not think my life needs to change to be fulfilling and rewarding. I do not need people who don’t actually know me all that well telling me how to go about getting married. I do not need people at church constantly telling me how my life won’t be fulfilling until I get married and implying that until I am married, my life is on hold. I do need them to respect me for who I am and where I am now. It is what I give them. I do not think it is all that much to ask that I get that same respect in return.

  64. 64.

    I have to say, it is exhausting to continue putting oneself out there in the dating scene. It is emotionally draining. it is sometimes infuriating. It is hard. It is often painful. It frequently results in insulting encounters.

    It really does suck. It takes making oneself vulnerable. There are far more men who say no than yes (and yes, I realize I am one of the many women who say no instead of yes). It can make the loneliness I sometimes feel even harder to deal with. It can make me feel like there is something wrong with me.

    In short, dating is often not fun. Especially as you get older. The rewards of doing this are great enough to keep me doing it, though I know plenty of people who do not agree with me on that. But that does not change the fact that far more often than not dating just sorta sucks. The last thing I need is for the church, which is where I think i should be able to go for spiritual and emotional refuge, to make the dating experience worse. The last thing I need is to have people who don’t know me offer well-intentioned advice that in reality just makes dating that much harder because it’s yet another factor that can belittle and insult and make me feel lacking. And yes, I can and should and try to dismiss those people and not let what they say get to me. But why should the onus be on me only? Why is it so much to ask that they just back the hell off and keep their noses out of my business? I’m not a child who needs to be guided. I appreciate their hope that I get the good things I want and need. I appreciate their concern. I don’t need their advice.

  65. 65.

    Hagoth: Respond to people’s actual statements, not a convenient caricature of them, or expect to have future comments deleted. If the list in #60 actually represents what you’ve learned in this thread, you haven’t read carefully.

  66. 66.

    Hagoth, here is how I would like you to respond. Could you maybe just consider that you really have few clues about this topic? Could you maybe just consider that someone who never saw their 22nd birthday single might have something to learn from people who are living it every day?

  67. 67.

    Thanks, everyone, for your input. Hagoth, as others have said, you’re misreading a lot of what everyone has said in this thread. And with that, I’m going to close off comments because I feel like the discussion is going in circles (and the important things have been said).