In 2006, for the first time since national census records were first reported in 1871, unmarried adults in Canada outnumbered the number of married adults. Ironically, this was just one year after Canada passed the law, legalizing same-sex marriage. More people than ever could legally marry, but fewer people than ever did. Obviously, it was a sign of a cultural shift. And over the last decade, the trend has only continued. More people delay marriage for education and careers. Increasing work demands make it more difficult to find time to meet people. The rise in divorce means that more people who were married now no longer are. And more and more people who have been hurt by divorce have a cynicism about the value or relevance of marriage. Given these new dynamics, I’m grateful that thoughtful Christians are doing research and addressing these trends with biblical solutions. This spring, Crossway Publishing released the results of a 7000-person survey on singleness and dating as part of a book release for Marshall Segal’s, “Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating,” and the results are worth considering.
1. The God-given longing for marriage is still strong. Despite the fact that less than half of adults are married today, an overwhelming majority of those surveyed said that they want to be married. Regardless of the cultural shifts, marriage isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
2. Contentment is possible whether married or single. Although most people desired marriage, 88% of those surveyed said that they were satisfied with their current relationship status, including both married and unmarried people. And more than half regretted a past dating relationship. Clearly, trading contentment to date just anyone can lead to more heartache than less.
3. Singleness can define a person if they let it. The gap between longing to be married and living with singleness can become a debilitating struggle for some people. More than three quarters of single people surveyed said that they think about marriage often or even constantly. More than half feel discouraged, worry about finding a spouse and are tempted to idolize marriage. Over 40% feel defined by a lack of spouse and more than a third feel frustrated with God about it. The pursuit of contentment rooted in a belief in the goodness of God’s plan must be the Christian’s goal.
4. A preoccupation with getting married is unhealthy. Unmarried people who think about marriage often are three times more likely to say they feel discouraged and frustrated with God. They’re five times more likely to say they feel defined by the lack of a spouse and worry about finding one. And, perhaps most troublingly, they’re almost twice as likely to say that they feel unable to do what God wants them to do. Focusing too much attention on marriage results in more worry, frustration and discouragement in our lives. Again, if we’re going to pursue marriage, we need to keep it in perspective and work at cultivating joy and contentment in our singleness as we wait on God.
5. The weaker our spiritual life is, the more dating relationships we’ll have and the more regrets we’ll face. One interesting correlation that showed up in the survey was that the stronger a person’s spiritual life was, the fewer dating relationships they had. Someone who’s in a place of spiritual maturity is less likely to jump around in a series of short-lived relationships. And that’s important because the survey also showed that the more dating relationships a person has, the more likely they are to regret one or more of them. Better to have godly discernment and invest in a relationship that could lead to marriage than give in to the need to be with someone just to avoid loneliness.
6. Spiritual disciplines help people feel more content with their singleness. People who were consistent in Bible reading were more content with their singleness than people who weren’t. And the difference between people who prayed consistently and those who didn’t was even greater. Even just spending consistent time with mature Christians made a significant difference in people’s satisfaction. Investing time in our relationship with God clearly matters.
Have you let unbiblical values shape your attitude toward singleness and dating? Take a moment to check out the complete infographic here and ask God for the faith to rest in His plan for your life and pursue the contentment that only He can give.
In awe of Him,