“Why are you still single?” can be one of the more annoying questions singles are peppered with. And we never know who’s going to say it next—our distant relatives, the little old couple at church, an inquisitive niece or nephew, or even the great guy or girl we just met online.
According to the data from the Pew Research Center, the number of singles who are delaying marriage is skyrocketing. By the time millennials reach their 40s and 50s a record number of them (25%) will never have been married.
For the first time since 1976, when the government started compiling these statistics, single adults make up more than half of the population in the United States.
Obviously the Pew data isn’t delineating between Christian and non-Christian singles. It’s a broad stroke of singles across the United States, but they offer interesting statistics nonetheless. According to the study, the need for a couple to be on the same religious page pales when compared to a woman’s desire to find a man with a steady job and a man’s desire to find a woman who is on the same page as him when it comes to raising children.
What we find even more interesting, though, is the discussion as to why this trend is occurring.
Economists say the recent downturn in the economy results in singles wanting to become more financially secure before entering marriage.
Others say it’s because there are fewer employed single men than women. The ratio is now 91:100, and since one of the primary qualities women look for in a husband is a stable job, it lowers the availability of eligible men on the marriage market.
Others say gay marriage rights or cohabitation before marriage could be causing the decline, too.
And that’s just a few of the ideas given.
It’s the opposite of our experience within the Christian world, though. We stopped to think about the singles we know—including the ones who were married later than the norm—and ourselves. We had a really hard time coming up with the name of one person who prolonged marriage for any of the reasons given above or in any of the articles we’ve read. Not one name. And we know a lot of singles.
This led us to take some informal data of our own. We asked SingleRoots subscribers:
What is the primary reason you are still single?
A. I focused on my career before worrying about relationships.
B. I wanted my finances to be stable before I got married.
C. It took me a long time to get over a previous relationship.
D. I just wasn’t ready for marriage when everyone else was.
E. It is simply a matter of God’s timing, and I haven’t found the right person yet.
We had a theory, based on years of both being single and working with Christian singles, that the predominant answer would be E. Call it a hunch.
And, well, we were correct. In fact, it was an overwhelming response to E.
Only two responders mentioned their careers. Two chose “Other” because they said they had not actually done much to help themselves find a date, while another mentioned never being asked out and therefore not having the option to date. (Which, in our informal, imperfect, armchair poll, we would argue still falls under answer choice “E.”)
In our dealing with thousands of Christian singles, there’s an interesting opposition to what secular trends and research are showing. Don’t believe us? Scan our SingleRoots posts and comments. Despite what Bloomberg and Time and other news outlets say about all singles, the average Christian single wants to be married. So the idea that the bulk of them are prolonging marriage for other pursuits goes against what we’re seeing on the front lines.
There’s a record number of people remaining single way into their 30s, 40s, and 50s, Christians included. But the vast majority of these Christians want to be married. So what’s going on here?
The easy answer in the Christian subculture is to blame the men. We think the tendency to berate Christian males by telling them to “man up” because they’re not asking girls out is a tired and unfair stereotype. Sure, there might be some guys with this problem, but it has become an oversimplification that is rarely helpful in the discussion. We know and talk to plenty of great Christian guys who are actively pursuing women but they still haven’t married. Furthermore, we also know tons of guys who married well into their 30s, but it wasn’t for a lack of dating or because they had commitment issues.
So the question remains: Is everyone just sitting around waiting on the Holy Spirit to point out Mr. or Miss Right? Or is something more at play? Is it a combination of both the secular and the religious?
What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear your armchair theories on the trend in the comments below.