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The Singlehood Phenomenon10 Brutally Honest Reasons People Aren't Getting Marries
By Beverly Rodgers Tom Rodgers
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2006 Beverly and Thomas Alan Rodgers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSkepticism About Love and Marriage
I'd rather be alone than in a bad marriage
Lisa was an attractive, athletic, twenty-six-year-old paralegal who attended law school at a very prestigious university. She was pretty, stayed in shape, and had plenty of friends. Lisa truly lived the good life in her uptown condo with her loyal Labrador retriever, Buddy. Lisa attended church regularly, participated in an accountability group, and went to a singles Bible study every week. She seemed to have everything going for her, but despite her success and a perpetual flurry of activity, she was frustrated and lonely. Her life was filled with friends, school, church, and family, but something was missing. Lisa wanted a companion, someone to walk beside her through life's struggles.
Lisa came to counseling after hearing us speak on a local radio station about why singles are afraid to marry. At first, she was skeptical about marriage and wouldn't even acknowledge that she wanted a husband. We found that Lisa did not let herself want a husband because she couldn't take the disappointment and pain of not getting one. It was easier for her to indulge in skepticism about the institution of marriage.
THE GROWING SINGLES POPULATION
Lisa's story is all too common these days. The growth of the singles population supports that she is not alone in feeling down on love and marriage. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of singles has more than quadrupled in the last thirty years. In 1970 there were only 21.4 million singles, which constituted only 10 percent of the population. In the 2004 population study, that figure rose to a staggering 88 million (42 million men and 46 million women), equaling 31 percent of the population. As the singles population grows older and larger, skepticism about love increases. People like Lisa are not just ever-increasing numbers on a demographics chart - they are real people who desire a healthy marriage but do not know how to achieve their goal. We can empathize with the nation's singles because there are so many valid reasons for their skepticism.
REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM
Fear of Making a Mistake. Almost everyone knows a couple in a difficult or even miserable marriage. Today's singles are afraid that they will pick the wrong mate. We often hear, "I'd rather be alone than in a bad marriage."
The High Divorce Rate. Marriage has stopped being "for keeps." Singles do not want to be trapped in a bad marriage, but they do not want to divorce either. Half of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1978) suffered through the divorce of their parents, and adult children of divorced couples are often afraid to get married because they do not want to go through the pain their parents suffered. They're also aware of statistics showing that children of divorce have a higher divorce rate in their own marriages.
Relational Insecurity. Children of divorce often feel inadequate and somewhat handicapped when it comes to establishing intimacy, because they do not have role models to teach them. Tom and I call this relational insecurity. Jen Abbas, in her book Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain, speaks of this when she writes,
Even though I was successful academically and professionally, I found myself becoming more insecure each year about my emotional abilities. As I began to see my friends marry, I started to question my ability to successfully create and maintain intimate relationships, especially my own future marriage.... I was paralyzed because what I wanted so desperately was that which I feared the most.
Those whose parents are still married also feel inadequate when it comes to making marriage work. The changing roles of men and women have caused traditional marriages to seem obsolete, and without a blueprint, singles feel as though they are floundering. To avoid feeling inadequate or insecure, they often focus on the areas of their lives where they feel more capable of succeeding, such as work, church, education, or physical fitness.
Fear of Getting Hurt. Love relationships can be painful. Many singles have been wounded and now equate dating and mating with hurt and pain. Their fear of getting hurt causes them to stop looking for a soul mate. Some have stopped believing in a soul mate and think the concept was developed by the media to promote "chick flicks" and romance novels.
The Narcissistic Culture. The "me" mentality of our culture has fed the psyches of many singles who believe marriage will force them to give up their personal freedom. Many see marriage as confinement and constraint, rather than an opportunity for connection and belonging.
Consumerism. singles in our focus groups tell us that some of their skepticism about marriage is related to the societal trend toward consumerism. Our culture tells you that with the click of a button, you can get anything you want, in any color, shape, or size. To quote one man in a focus group, "Just look at the supermarkets today. There are a million choices in foods, hygiene products, and soapsuds. I have trouble choosing toothpaste. how can I possibly choose the right mate?"
Fear of Acrimonious Disputes. Singles fear that marriage will lead to emotional suffering and social shame. Divorce settlements are often hostile and very public, causing singles to turn away from their God-given desire to marry.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MATRIMONY
Because of the reasons listed above, matrimony is disappearing in our culture. Much of the contemporary sociological research of our day focuses on the growing trend of singleness in our nation. at Rutgers University, the national Marriage Project dedicated an entire issue of its 2002 The State of Our Unions Report to the study of why so many men are not getting married. The Centers for Disease Control's July 2002 report featured statistics on the current trends in marriage and cohabitation, which showed that the marriage rate is dropping. In 2004, The State of Our Unions Report studied patterns of single men in order to determine "who's the marrying kind" and found that men are marrying later, if at all. A Time magazine cover showed a single mom with her son and a caption reading, "The New American Family." The article explored the growing cultural trend of single-parent families. Even our government has become concerned that the nation is giving up on the idea of matrimony and has allocated federal monies to promote marriage.
SINGLES ARE GIVING UP
Because of their skepticism about marriage, many singles like Lisa tell us that they have stopped going to singles groups. They don't date. Some don't even socialize with members of the opposite sex. They go to work and attend church, then go home and watch television.
Because she did not date, Lisa started to believe that there was something wrong with her. She asked us, "why am I still single? I always meet every goal that I set, but I am really afraid that I can't meet this one. I can't help thinking that something must be wrong with me."
Singles like Lisa often feel rejected, unacceptable, or unworthy as they grow older. This feeling causes them to become critical of themselves. Lisa blamed herself for being single and focused on all of her shortcomings. Her self-talk was extremely self-deprecating, and as her confidence waned, she gave up on dating.
Giving up on dating and mating only reinforces feelings of unworthiness. Singles who find themselves discouraged or hopeless need to seek the Lord and prayerfully ask Him to guide them as they do a healthy soul-searching and self-evaluation. An honest, God-inspired look inside should bring about insight and understanding. It should never result in self-blame and self-deprecation. We have a maxim in the soul healing Love Model that states, "In order to find a healthy soul mate, you must first find the healthy soul mate within you." As you read through the pages of this book, we will help you facilitate such introspection.
FEAR OF WANTING
We challenged Lisa to look inward and she found that there might indeed be internal reasons why she was still single. Lisa saw that not only was she afraid to want a husband, she was also afraid to tell anyone in her circle of single friends about her heart's desire for a mate. She was scared to share her feelings because she did not want to appear desperate or needy. "It's like this unwritten rule in our group that you should not show that you want a mate," Lisa confessed. "If you do, others will think you are unfulfilled or weak. I feel guilty for wanting a man in my life - like I'm not independent or self-sufficient enough."
Our society's emphasis on independence can make you feel weak for wanting a mate and leave you with the expectation that you should be happy with your autonomy.
Most of the material on singleness in the Christian world focuses on being content. Supporters of this belief quote Philippians 4:11, "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." If singles are not content, they often feel like bad Christians. Of course, you should strive to be content as a single person, but this does not mean that you should hide your God-given desire for a mate under a facade of self-sufficiency.
In psychological terms, concealing or minimizing a deep (and very normal) longing is known as reaction formation. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, coined the term to describe a defense mechanism in humans in which we do and say the opposite of what we are feeling in order to hide our true desires. His classic example was the temperance worker in the early 1920s who secretly imbibed liquor in the closet. A desire for alcohol was masked by an overt and rather vehement protest against it.
Many singles use the defense of reaction formation to conceal their hidden longing for a mate. Writer Christina Nehring saw evidence of this while reviewing the plethora of singles books available today. In the January 2002 issue of Atlantic Monthly she writes,
While many singles report that they try to hide their interest in this genre, these books draw astonishing numbers of readers. Many of these doubtless consider themselves ironic or atypical; but ironic audiences are often the most faithful of all. In fact, the assumption in literature is not pleasure seeking but desperate; not confident, adventuresome, and looking for tips on how to have a good time, but frightened and looking for hints on how to avoid disaster.
WANTING A MATE IS NORMAL
These "ironic or atypical" singles should not have to hide what is normal. Our culture tries hard to portray contentment and independence as the main goals of the single life, but the desire for a mate is God-given. In Genesis 2, the creation story, the only thing God declared "not good" was that man was alone. The first man, Adam, saw that he was alone and wanted companionship and intimacy. Because of his need, God fashioned a helper suitable for him. Adam was hardwired for love; in fact, all humans are.
Rose sweet, in her book Dear God, Send Me a Soul Mate, shares the story of Eliezer, Abraham's servant, who was given the daunting task of finding Abraham's son Isaac a mate. Eliezer took his job seriously and prayed that God would guide his every move. The hand of God guided Eliezer and he finally found the beautiful, caring Rebecca, who was the perfect partner for Isaac. Sweet writes,
From the beginning of time, God has called us to Himself. our deepest desires for intimacy, love and belonging, our desire for a soul mate, come from Him, and ultimately they are for Him. God does not always give you what you want. He does give you everything you would want if you could see what He sees and know what He knows. Don't deny your desire for a soul mate, and don't demand that God provide one for you immediately. Instead, share it with your Heavenly Father and ask for His special blessings. Put your hand in His, and let Him teach you wonderful things.
God had many things to teach Lisa as she started to deal with her skepticism about marriage and acknowledge her desire for a soul mate. Lisa saw that one of the biggest reasons she was skeptical about love was that she did not think that she (or anyone, for that matter) could do the hard work to make it last. "Why can't it be easier?" she lamented. "Why do love and marriage have to be so hard?" We shared with Lisa that "happily-ever-after" often takes conscious, arduous effort. You cannot take two different people from two different families and merge them together without work. However, God would use this challenge to help her and her future husband become the people He wanted them to be.
THE "US" OF MARRIAGE
We believe that each person has a divine destiny or call, but a couple has a divine destiny as well. Marriage is a hallowed crucible where couples grow together into oneness and establish the divine "us." This is the combination of two people who together, with God's help, find the purpose for which they were created.
Tom and I have found our "us" and developed it for the past thirty years. We know that what we are able to accomplish as a couple is greater than what we could have accomplished on our own. Finding our purpose as a couple has been one of the most rewarding things we have done in our lives.
LISA'S HAPPY ENDING
Eventually, Lisa was ready to take the next step in her journey. Fueled with a lot of faith, she started going to a large singles group in her area where she made several friends, both male and female. They invited her to attend the social functions they sponsored: cookouts at the lake and evening baseball games. Some of the group members were planning a square dance at their church and Lisa volunteered to help publicize the event. The group had given so much to her that she wanted to give something back.
Lisa received a call from Scott, a reporter for a local neighborhood newspaper who wanted to do a story about the dance. She met him for coffee and excitedly told him about the group and the events they were planning. Assuming Scott was married, she was totally herself in the interview. Lisa was never nervous around married guys, but if they were single, good-looking, and available she often got tongue-tied. He was obviously relaxed with her too, because he asked her out right on the spot! It was not until that moment that she realized he was single. Lisa accepted the date, which at one point would have been out of her comfort zone.
Lisa and Scott started the process of getting to know each other, and a great friendship began to bloom. As time passed, their friendship turned into romance. They came to several sessions of relationship counseling and attended a Soul Healers Couples Weekend, a fifteen-hour intensive workshop where couples learn how their past has affected them and how to build a healthy, godly relationship.
Lisa and Scott have been married for two years and they've discovered that part of their purpose as a couple is to do missions work. They've taken many trips to South America and plan to adopt a child from there and start a family. Lisa is overflowing with happiness that she was able to overcome her skepticism about love and marriage and, in the process, found that God is indeed faithful.
MAKING IT PRACTICAL: WHAT ABOUT ME?
At the end of each chapter are questions for reflection and beliefs from Scripture that will help you to interact with the material. You can use this section for personal reflection or group study. Take a few minutes, get in a quiet place, and prayerfully and honestly answer the questions. You may want to keep a separate journal to record your thoughts, insights, and prayer requests.
Excerpted from The Singlehood Phenomenon by Beverly Rodgers Tom Rodgers Copyright © 2006 by Beverly and Thomas Alan Rodgers. Excerpted by permission.
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