Marriage Superior to Singleness?

If this idea isn’t overtly taught from the pulpits of our churches, magazines and relationship books, then it is often at least implicitly taught. I think the most common mutation or strain of this idea right now if the “godly” notion that marriage is designed to build your character and develop you into the person God wants you to be in a way that being single won’t.

It’s unbelievable and I’m sick of it.

There are so many problems with this idea. For starters, there are plenty of people who are married that don’t grow or mature. So, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem for both the married and the unmarried. Maybe marriage makes it a little harder to ignore issues you need to work through, but I don’t think it forces you to grow and mature.

It might just force your spouse to hate you.

Next, Jesus was single. If you want to declare that his character or holiness was underdeveloped because he was never married, then I’ll let you take the up with him.

Next, Paul. He was single too. Possibly—although unlikely—he was married, but all the evidence supports him being single. And he wrote a lot of the New Testament. More than Jesus did, actually.

Next, scripture is very clear (see Paul’s letters) that singleness is at least equal (if not superior) to being married.

Additionally, and perhaps finally, the people who are married who tell me this don’t always have the right to speak of character development in single people.

Let me explain.

If you get married in your early twenties you’ll never know the character development that occurs when you’re still single and 25. Or in your late twenties. Or into your thirties.

And they’ll never know what it’s like to live in religious culture that sees singleness as an imperfection, an incompleteness—that somehow you’re missing your “other half” or that you’re only “half of what you could be.”*

They will not know what it’s like to maintain purity and holiness for years longer than they imagined they’d have to wait for that special someone.

They’ll never know what it’s like to get a job offer or acceptance to a school far away from home and only have themselves (and God) to decide whether or not to go. And then only have themselves for support when they do go, alone.

They’ll never know what it’s like to have to depend on only themselves when they’re sick and need food from the grocery store.

Or medicine.

They’ll never know the perseverance or strength it takes to both go to school and figure out how to pay for their schooling, rent, books and food without the help of someone else to make the income.

Or to balance all of that with doing the laundry, cooking food, taking the car to the shop and cleaning the dishes.

I’m concerned that we are doing an unspeakable disservice to the single community by adding to their anxiety and struggles this idea that marriage is superior in developing their holiness, character or whatever else, than being single.

I think they’re just different.

But at the same time, I should mention that I’m still single.

And so was Jesus.

That is why I am convinced that what we really need is for people to rally around singles and encourage them to be the content and complete people  they really are.

Additionally, we need to encourage people, while they are still singe (to quote Andy Stanley) to “work on becoming the person you’re looking for is looking for,” because they are completely capable of growing and maturing through their relationship with God and their peers.

Marriage is better than singleness”? I think I can stamp that one as another lie I’ve been sold. And it’s especially upsetting that this lie is so heavily pandered in Christian circles.


*I particularly detest this line from a song originally written and sung by Dave Barnes and then covered (ripped off?) by Blake Shelton. I like the song, but I am discouraged by the notion here and elsewhere that you can’t make it as well as a single person.

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3 responses to “Marriage Superior to Singleness?

  1. Hey there, me again, random girl posting on your blog. Okay I agree with you on this one! For some reason marriage is seen as the capstone of accomplishment in one’s life. I know God designed us for community however the “accomplishment” of getting married doesn’t make one more or less of a person. If anything it may reveal how self-centered we are as humans. There are a number of married couples who are miserable, the irony.

    As a single woman who has packed up moved to other countries and other states on a whim (several times) I am afraid to lose such freedom. I’m 25 and have been pelted with questions like, “don’t you want to get married” or “what about having children?” To which I reply, “Why would God give me all these things if I had to be married to enjoy them?” I’m not against marriage, for those who know me I am a hopeless romantic BUT everything in God’s time and plan. I guess I’m waiting for my “light bulb moment”. That moment when I know that the guy I’m with is my forever. So far, no one’s sparked that within me but I digress…

    My theory is marriage is the ICING on the cake NOT THE CAKE. (Sorry for the caps, but I love to use them sometimes.) I’d rather focus on making my life as full as it can be right now. I live my friend, boy do I live, and I dare say that I will continue to live whether I marry or not!

  2. Well said, Nate.

  3. A few thoughts on marriage: Finding a woman to date, get engaged to, and then marry is hard. Being married is hard. Raising kids is hard. Being the shepherd of a family (as a man) is really hard (Eph 5:22-33). Marriage is much tougher than many make it look.

    That being said: Being single is hard. Having discipline to be in the Word is hard. Being disciplined enough to constantly seek God in prayer is hard. Living all the fruits of the Spirit is hard. In summary putting God first is hard.

    I think that the big lie is that marriage somehow makes the problems you had when you were single easier. The real truth might be that, while you have someone to come alongside you and help you, if you do not place the Lord first when you are single how will you learn to truly do it when you are married?

    I think I need to be a lot better at being single before I can think about getting married.

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