Supporting Single Adults

Rose E. Hadden is a Minnesota native, transplanted to Utah in high school and transplanted back to Minnesota as soon as she could swing it.  She has a B.A. and an M.A. in British Literature from BYU, and served in the Korea Pusan mission.  She now works as a teacher and grantwriter, and happily serves as the assistant librarian in the Fargo, North Dakota 1st Ward.  She is single and considers herself officially over the hill at age 32.

What shall we do with the single members?

When I ask this, I mean it quite literally.  I do not, as many often do, mean “How shall we get the single members married?”  I understand that on a church-wide level, getting singles married is the most desirable outcome, both from a doctrinal and a demographic perspective. Mormons who marry young, to other Mormons, tend to stay Mormon over the long term at much higher rates than those who don’t. Plus there’s that whole “exaltation” thing.

I hate to be the bearer of brutal reality, but . . . no matter what, irrespective of lessons, talks, activities, YSA congregations, church schools, conferences, social pressure, prayers, fasting, shouting or tears . . . some single Mormons will stay single for their entire lives.

We, the single members of the church, have been the victims . . . excuse me, recipients . . . of absolute deluges of “solutions” for the singleness we “suffer from.” I have no interest in collecting or transmitting these well-meaning bits of (un)helpfulness.

Today I will share some answers to the question I actually asked: given that single members exist, that their marital status is not a problem we can solve (and for some, not a problem at all): what is to be done with them?

I have a few ideas. Some are mine, and some are those of other single folks (all women, in this sample) who are in, somewhat-in, or no-longer-in the Church. If you truly want to support the single members in your life—emotionally, practically, or just by not actively making their lives worse—here are great some places to start.

SOME EMOTIONAL DOS

  • Nurture your friendships with single folks. Because we don’t have a central marital/romantic relationship in our lives, our need for human connection needs to be satisfied in some other way. Single people rely on their family and friends for the emotional support that married people often get primarily through their spouses. My dearest friends, the ones with whom I can have those crucial “What am I doing with my life?” conversations, are those who have made a conscious effort to continue nurturing our friendship after their marriages. These strong ties of friendship are precious to both married and single people.                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Be aware, and critical, of your assumptions about single people. It’s easy to assume things about single people that aren’t necessarily true: that they have some personal defect that is preventing them from marrying, that they are sad about not being married, that their experiences of the single state will correspond to your memories of yours, that they are in need of your guidance, that they are younger or less mature than you. Extended singleness is very different from until-I-was-22 singleness. Current singleness with no end in sight is very different from singleness in hindsight. Singleness is 2017 is very different from singleness in 1992. Don’t expect our experiences to match up with yours.
  • Celebrate their milestones . . . graduation, employment, promotion, moving across the country, purchasing a home, adopting a new member of the family . . . with the same delight and fervor you’d bestow on engagements, weddings, pregnancies and births. A single brother moving into his own place needs dish towels (and validation, and the support of his community) just as much as a sister getting married.

SOME PRACTICAL DOS

  • Remember that a person’s marital status is not an important fact for you to know unless you are hoping to date that person or are helping them with their taxes.                                                                                                                                                            
  • Be aware of how they wish to be addressed. Within Mormon culture, it is generally accepted that married members and missionaries are addressed by title and last name, while single members and children are addressed by first name alone. This dichotomy reinforces the notion that marriage = adulthood. Address single members as adults unless they give you permission to use their first names; if they do, reciprocate. Enforce this level of politeness for your children.                                                                                                                                                            
  • Respect their time. Married or not, they have the same 24-hour days that you have, without a partner with whom to split the responsibilities of funding and managing their households.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • Offer to be an emergency contact. Your single friends do not have a spouse to act as their automatic ride to the hospital when they’ve cut off their finger, to pick them up when they’ve gotten sick at work, or to rescue them from a broken car or being stranded by the side of the road.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  • Offer your support and assistance for two-person jobs: hauling new appliances or furniture, major do-it-yourself car repairs, picking up a rental car, installing all manner of stuff, assembling large Ikea purchases, large-batch food preparation or preservation, transporting the haul from a Costco run.                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Remember that a single friend who agrees to watch your kids is doing you a favor, not the other way around. If your friend agrees to watch your kids, don’t assume that spending time with your children is reward enough. If they don’t have kids for you to watch in exchange on some other day, find another way to reciprocate. If you don’t, you may soon find yourself without either a friend or a babysitter.

SOME DON’TS

  • Do not inquire about their dating lives without an invitation.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Do not offer dating, grooming, or marriage advice without an invitation.                                                                                                                                                       
  • Do not offer inspirational stories of So-And-So Who Got Married at an Age Even Older Than You Are Now without an invitation.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Do not speculate on what will happen to them after death without an invitation.                                                                                                                                                       
  • Do not set them up without permission. Before you ask for permission, prayerfully consider whether this proposed setup is based on any shared interests or personality traits, or if it is just a match of religion and marital status.                                                                                                                                                       
  • For the love of all that is holy, don’t sexualize them and call it a compliment. This includes hitting on them, making comments about how they are “affair bait” for either you or your spouse, or offering them (in seriousness or jest) a position as a plural wife in your family.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  • If a single member chooses to share with you the intensely personal information of how they have chosen to manage their existence as sexual beings without a temple marriage, treat this confidence with extreme reverence and care. Tattling to the bishop, if their decision doesn’t match up with one you think you would make in similar circumstances, is never appropriate.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Do not enforce eternal hope. Remember that being single can be a form of grief without closure, like unexplained infertility or a missing family member. In these cases, continuing to hope can eventually become too great a burden to continue carrying. Support your friends who choose to say goodbye to their dreams of marriage. Allow them to decide when it is time to move on and respect that decision. Mourn with them.

So what shall we do with the single members? Respect them. Support them. Love them. You may not be able to help get them married, but you can make a positive impact on their lives. And you might wind up with some wonderful lifelong friends in the process.

Comments

  1. Being an active single latter-day saint isn’t any harder than being a married, elderly etc, but it certainly has a different set of burdens.

    In all seriousness, how many single saints would be excited about the prospect of being called on a mission? I’d assume they’d be able to uniquely contribute based on their knowledge and experience when compared to the younger crew.

  2. This is good, but also I don’t think likely to change much until we see a restructuring of YSA wards (or the elimination thereof) or Church leadership.

    I know many people will say: “But I met my spouse in my YSA ward!” And that’s great, but can really really not think of another way to allow single-mingling without tying it to worship?

    Interviewing young single Mormons (as I do for real), they often feel like the Church places a “juvenile” sticker on them until they marry and “graduate” into the married/family wards. And if they do decide to just stick with family wards or if there isn’t a single ward around, they usually get shepherded around to various callings because sans-marriage, they haven’t had a real “life-test”. (Let alone the restrictions (or at least stigma) on Church leadership and employment for single people.)

    So – yes, thinking about how we approach and talk with single people is a great. But we also need to address the structural issues that permit the stigma of single people.

  3. Nunya Bidniss says:

    “Within Mormon culture, it is generally accepted that married members and missionaries are addressed by title and last name, while single members and children are addressed by first name alone. ”

    I have never heard of this or seen it or heard it in my life. WhereTF does this happen?

  4. it's a series of tubes says:

    Being an active single latter-day saint isn’t any harder than being a married, elderly etc,

    Aaaaaand there we have it, literally in the first comment sentence out of the gate…

    Ltd., have you ever considered the fact that what you posted might not, in fact, be accurate?

  5. morgan2205 says:

    Thanks for the post. Single and 36 here so you had me at “over the hill.” I just went to the hospital so I can relate to the needing a contact and so much more in this post. I don’t have dinner waiting for me, and I couldn’t clean the house while I was working my three jobs, so having a church activity or calling that needs me at 6 is often very inconvenient since I still need to make dinner and do at least some basic tidying up. Anyways, thanks again. I’ve often compared the church’s singles program to the Walking Dead. Driving the same tired gimmicks into the ground and then expecting huge ratings for the next 20 years. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-walking-dead-length-seasons-20-years-a7650431.html

  6. Excellent. Agreed on all counts. Thanks, RoseE.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    I would like to add that something we almost never talk about in the church is that not all marriages are happy marriages. Being happily married would be preferable to being single. But being single is preferable to being unhappily married.

    Don’t assume that because I’m single that I haven’t had the opportunity to marry. I’ve been asked. I knew that those opportunities were not the right ones for me. I didn’t want to be unhappily married. I wanted a happy marriage based on love and mutual respect. Still do. Call me a dreamer.

    I’ve also had friends who married not out of any great love for their partner but primarily because they wanted the lifestyle of being married and were tired of being single or out of fear that this was their last chance. I am happy that I am not in their shoes.

    We singles are also the shoulder that our unhappily married friends cry on. So don’t assume we don’t know anything about marriage.

  8. The emphasis placed on marital status (before a ‘certain’ age) is rather depressing. As Saints, we are indeed blessed and rewarded (if worthy) but we still exist IN THE WORLD. We don’t have to wallow in that fallen state, but the rules are going to apply to us all the same. And in these days (as I’ve read somewhere recently) young people are marrying later in life. Getting their education finished, maybe finding a home BEFORE they start looking around for a partner. So why should the LDS be exempt? The emphasis on young marriage seems rather fool hearty to me because people change. You aren’t going to be who you were at 21, when you’re 35 or 45. I married at the ripe old age of 34 to a non-member. Maybe my lack of a worthy mate when I was 19 determined the path my life would follow, maybe not. I had serious issues around being a member starting when I was 19 and I honestly don’t think it would have improved had I been married. I was ready to marry at 34. I was not at 19 or even 25. I had some life to live first. God is watching out for us and hoping we’ll do the right thing. He guides us if we’ll listen to Him. I have never thought man made ‘rules’ or trends (such as young marriage) are necessarily in line with what God may want for an individual. I’m 58 now and single again (widowed) and I have no desire whatever to marry again. But I wish the leaders would decide ‘what to do with us’. It gets discouraging and frankly a bit boring always being viewed as different.

  9. I love the practicality of this post. Thanks!

  10. Great post and comments! BB, that was really enlightening for me — thanks!

  11. I think these types conversations are healthy and fruitful, as long as there isn’t a subtext of “woe is us.” While I agree that there are sensitivities we should all respect when interacting with people who don’t meet the marital status ideal in a church that rightfully emphasizes marriage and family, I roll my eyes a bit when people imply that it’s oh-so-hard compared to being married with children.

    I’ve been both, and they both come with their own set of challenges, suffice it to say that old adage about “when I get married it will be the end of my troubles,” “yes ,but what end?” is true in some cases. Single, childless people have never had a child in the hospital whose bills threaten to bankrupt them. They’ve never had a spouse with a pornography problem. They’ve never been chronically sleep deprived because their child can’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time. They have a dozen little personal freedoms that parents won’t have until they are empty nesters.

    Yes, they occasionally get some pressure regarding their marital status, but ask any nursing mother whether they would trade a sanctimonious lecture once a week for a solid uninterrupted night of sleep and I bet I’d know what most would say. I’m in no way saying that the OP is implying otherwise but I wanted to get that point out there in case the discussion thread starts veering into “woe is us” territory.

  12. “Do not enforce eternal hope.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard/read it put that way, but amen to that. Thank you for this post, Rose. Lots of thoughtful observations and suggestions that ring true from my experience.

  13. (not so) sweet spirit says:

    Thanks for this post, Rose. I agree with you, especially on offering to help with things that other people rely on a spouse for – like building furniture or picking me up at the hospital. I suppose this is where home teachers or visiting teachers could assist, if you have home/visiting teachers (I don’t have home teachers – or if I do, they’re never made contact with me). Perhaps that’s something for wards to consider – make sure you have really solid home teachers assigned to singles, and great visiting teachers for single sisters. While yes, ideally everyone has great home/visiting teachers, as a single person it would be nice to know that if something awful happened to me someone might come and check in on me so they could discover my body before it’s eaten by one of my cats.

    In response to Ltd’s comment: “In all seriousness, how many single saints would be excited about the prospect of being called on a mission? I’d assume they’d be able to uniquely contribute based on their knowledge and experience when compared to the younger crew.”

    I, for one, would say no to this. Why should I have to put my life on hold for a year or two, struggling to come back to a career that has moved on without me, just because of my “unique” abilities (that are…basically…that I haven’t been able to get married?). In any case, I believe single women without kids can essentially serve missions for the church whenever they want – someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  14. Excellent article, although I didn’t get the part about married people being addressed by title and single people not, because I haven’t experienced that anywhere (my experience has been that pretty much everyone at church is addressed by first name, except by OLD STODGY people who address everyone as sister or brother whatever).

    I take great exception to church lessons and culture making such a big issue out of whether anyone is married or single. My singleness is not relevant except to me and to anyone who might want to marry or date me (so…just me). It doesn’t affect anyone else. It isn’t a problem anyone needs to solve. No matter how much church leaders constantly extol the importance of marriage, the fact is that a lot of church members just are never going to find someone they want to be married to who also wants to be married to them, and they aren’t going to settle for a terrible marriage to someone they don’t like just to be married. People aren’t not getting married because they simply forgot to get married and need to be reminded. The endless talks and lessons telling singles to get married are useless and aggravating.

    And yes, single childless people may never know the particular difficulties of marriage and childraising, but that doesn’t mean their burdens are lighter and their lives are easier. They may not have a sick child bankrupting them, but may themselves be in the hospital with bills threatening to bankrupt them and no source of income while they’re out of work. They may be chronically exhausted due to their own health problems, with no one to provide relief. A child eventually grows up, or can be handed off to someone else for awhile if a parent is at their limit. They may have more freedoms, but also no one to share the responsibilities.

  15. Tiberius, just because we MAY not have had those experiences (some of us are single parents, dude) doesn’t mean we don’t have similar adult-level challenges, up to and including worrying about health care bills that will bankrupt us. Married people don’t have a monopoly on life worries.

  16. There is also the worry of how to plan for old age with no children and no spouse, as these are usually the go-to people who will make sure you’re taken care of if you lose the ability to care for yourself and manage your own affairs. You can make legal and financial arrangements ahead of time to a certain extent, and hope your extended family members will step up, but what if you have dementia and things don’t go to plan? Will anyone care enough about your welfare to make sure you aren’t neglected or mistreated? Certainly not everyone who does have kids can rely on them to take care of things, but when you don’t have kids at all, there isn’t even a possibility.

    It’s stressful to anticipate late-in-life problems and have to wonder just how much your siblings and their kids could be bothered with you.

  17. There is a tendency in the church to do this really weird “compare-a-thon” with trials, and one of its common iterations is the phrase, “You don’t really know what trials are, because you haven’t experienced _____.” As a people, we need to stop doing this.

    Yes, I’ve experienced sleepless nights nursing babies. But I’ve also gotten to sleep through the night because my baby was in the NICU with heart problems. Neither is great. Except I didn’t have to worry about being bankrupt because of it, because Canada. So does that make the trial of a sick child less? Why do we feel this need to debate, to decide whether infertility or a rebellious teen is worse?

    Years ago when I was finishing up my first degree part-time with two little kids, I made a comment about being stressed to a sister in my ward, who replied that I had no idea what stress really was, because I didn’t have teenage kids. It was a painful moment.

    And here I am 20 years later, back in school. I’ve raised teenage kids. I’ve had a sick child in the hospital. My husband just got a job after almost 2 years of unemployment. So I think I know what I’m talking about when I say that school is stressful. At this stage of life, I’d like to be taken seriously.

    And that’s the real crux of the matter, isn’t it? I got married ridiculously young, and I’m happy in my marriage. So I don’t know what it’s like to be single in this church. But I BELIEVE my single friends when they tell me what it’s like.

    You cannot mourn with those that mourn if you’re too busy telling them it could be worse.

  18. Steve LHJ says:

    @Tiberius
    It’s true that there are going to be hard problems found in every life circumstance. That doesn’t negate the inherent difficulty that comes with being older and single rather than married, particularly in a culture that sees it as the pinnacle of life and eternal life. Pretty universally it is celebrated when people find romantic love and are able to choose marriage; the same is not true of someone who choses no romantic love and to remain single. Such a thing may in some circumstances be seen as a noble sacrifice, but the excitement and celebration for the choice is not the same. I think there’s a good reason.

    In my eyes this is similar in many ways to the idea of rich and poor. Poor people and rich people both have unique challenges that come with their economic state, but you wouldn’t say to a poor person “stop complaining about having no money and feeling bad for yourself, rich people have problems too.”

    There are legitimate and inherent challenges to singleness, and acknowledging that reality doesn’t take away from other problems people face.

  19. cat thatcher says:

    I endorse what RoseE said. Thanks.

    Ltd.: In all seriousness, how many single saints would, in fact, be excited about the prospect of being called on a mission? None I’ve ever met. Most single Mormons have already served missions if they wanted to. Their time, their careers, their lives are worth just the same as married folks. Why anyone would think they would/should/could give away even more of it than married folks do puzzles me, to put it mildly.

    Tiberius, the problems married folks and parents face are real. No one disputes that. And if you were to mildly complain to a friend at church about your sleeplessness because of children, they would most likely nod along and make sympathetic noises. As would I. When a person without children mildly complains about sleeplessness because of… any reason really, parents’ ears within a mile radius perk up, and they rush in en masse to tell the single person why parents’ problems are always worse. That was hyperbole of course, but still. I don’t think singles want to do “woe is me” any more often than anyone else, but it would be nice, for once, to be able to vent about annoyances in our lives and get the same polite sympathy, without married people interjecting about how they have problems too! Because we’re not insensitive; we do know. Alas, today was not that day.

  20. This thing that Di said above bears repeating over and over and over:

    You cannot mourn with those that mourn if you’re too busy telling them it could be worse.

  21. “affair bait” ? Holy crap on a cracker!

  22. I think the “do not enforce eternal hope” was an excellent comment. My life literally became happier and I became more at peace when I gave up on the idea of getting married. There really is something very stressful and upsetting about constantly being worried about getting married.

  23. Lily–YES. Same here. I am infinitely happier now that I no longer hope to marry.

    RoseE, this was such good practical advice. Thank you for taking the time to write it, and thanks to BCC for posting it.

  24. I’m really surprised that people would push back on the idea of greater service in the church.

    A 30+ yr old (or whatever) has the benefit of age and wisdom to accompany their service. Not their singleness.

    I’m the only one, it would seem, that recognized the real potential for service. The people who think, “why would I do that?” I have to wonder if you’re actually Mormon?

    You know who is single (at least for the last couple thousand years)? The three Nephites. I raised an ideal of missionary service to stand at an example to the rest of the church.

    I’ve might as well have suggested you call some to be general authorities and apparently people would complain that it’s a waste of their valuable time and career formation.

  25. This is just my take, but although older singles may have a lot to offer in the way of service on missions, and many single women do serve missions in their senior years (with a somewhat different set of rules from younger missionaries), 30-ish to middle-aged singles are usually well established enough as adults and used to making their own decisions and managing their own tasks and schedules. I would have had a hard enough time being micromanaged and subjected to a zillion rules and tied to a companion ALL. THE. TIME. as a college-aged woman, but in my 40s, I don’t think I could deal with that lifestyle. I value my independence.

    Also, the way it’s suggested often comes off like, “Well, since you aren’t doing anything valuable with your life, being single and childless, you may as well…”

    And doesn’t the church tend to struggle to find enough for missionaries to do as it is? Those are the stories I hear lately.

  26. The suggestion of missionary service 1) is nothing new (there are no age restrictions on single women serving, though I agree there shouldn’t be for men either) and 2) again, nothing new about people telling single people, “hey, you have nothing to do with your life, not like those married folks, the solution for THE PROBLEM OF YOUR EXISTENCE is service, service, service!”

    We bristle at it because usually we’re ALREADY SERVING.

  27. cat thatcher says:

    Ltd.: Singles have to eat, just like you do, which is why they selfishly work for pay, just like you do. Full time general authorities are provided with a living. Full time missionaries are not. The two are not equivalent. Are you able to shell out 18 – 24 months worth of your pay (after taxes) to the church, or indeed anyone, right now? If so, cool, do that. If not, then you can guess why other people don’t jump to do the same.

  28. whizzbang says:

    Geography plays a part, I would imagine it’s easier to meet someone in Utah than it is in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I know you aren’t supposed to online date but what other options do you have? Move? uproot from your family and friends (married or whatnot) in the hopes you might get married and at least in Canada you have a situation like Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge where a million other girls had the same idea and the market is flooded

  29. Uh… Whizzbang, are you commenting on the disastrous post from last week, rather than the one you commented on? Because NOTHING you said had anything to do with this post.

  30. THE THREE NEPHITES!?!??!??

  31. Mic drop. Nailed it, down to the exact details I would have included. Helping with two-person jobs, being respectful that singles finance and manage a household solo, 40 year old single life isn’t at all like 22 year old single life, the burden of everyone pressuring you to stay optimistic about marriage prospects instead of allowing you to accept and process your grief….

    Thank you.

    And thanks to the folks who are willing to accept that there might be hard aspects of single life they don’t fully understand—sorrows that the eye can’t see. It’s not a competition. Recognizing challenges singles face doesn’t negate the problems others face. It’s just allows you to fulfill your baptismal covenants.

  32. Bro. Jones says:

    Great post. As a married person, I wish I had more opportunities to hang out with the single folks and support them. Much of that is self-imposed: I’m in a bubble of family life and it’s often hard for me to focus on anything or anybody outside the bubble. We had more friends both single and married before we had kids, and now it’s just kind of a blur.

    On the other hand, I wish that I could be assigned single folks as home teaching companions or to home teach myself, but I think there’s this (unspoken?) assumption that only the high priests can be trusted around single people of either gender. Which is just weird and falls into the whole “sexualization of single people” junk. (See also: Brother Jones, if you co-teach a class with a woman who is not your wife, you will surely fall into temptation and sin!)

  33. Bro. Jones says:

    To that last point: it is doubly hilarious because teaching primary is the least sexy thing in the entire world, and is at least part of the reason my wife wanted to put off having children for a long time. The notion that teaching the ward’s obnoxious, sticky-fingered Sunbeams would drive a single sister into the depths of sin is…insulting on many levels, to everyone involved.

  34. I have to repeat what a bunch of people have already said: your “don’t enforce eternal hope” comment really hit the nail on the head. I remember being in my mid/late twenties and the angst I had about not being married, about being nowhere in the general vicinity of dating. And how much better it felt to just let it all go. Because that angst was based on something that was expected of me, not necessarily something I wanted for myself.

    I also remember being in a YSA ward and how everything was date, date, date; marry, marry, marry. Heck, I remember one of those YSA broadcasts where President Monson told a story about how hard he worked to make sure that all of the sister missionaries that served under him while he was a mission president got married. And I remember crying in the bathroom because I thought there was something fundamentally broken in me because I couldn’t meet that requirement.

    I don’t cry in bathrooms anymore. At least, not about that. ;-)

    I don’t regret anything about my adult singlehood. And no one else should regret it for me.

  35. whizzbang says:

    @Stacy-In my world discussions mean people talking about a subject and inviting others thoughts.I thought we were talking about supporting Single Adults and the discussion had gotten around to who’s suffering is worse than who’s and I say that geography plays something in that, where you live, what kind of a community you live in Church wise. If you constantly hear messages of well, you’re single so you don’t know suffering or you’re over 30 so you’re put out to pasture. If you want to get out of that scene it’s harder to do in small LDS locations than in larger ones. I am allowed to make that comment? Last week’s post wasn’t a disaster, I didn’t think my comment on the Leonard Arrington thread was all that offensive

  36. I would respectfully submit to Tiberius that the first entry in the “woe is me” column was that comment itself, strongly on behalf of “woe is married people”

  37. The point wasn’t that single people don’t suffer, but was more particular about my eye-roll when social pressures or the occasional misunderstanding are invoked as a source of major life suffering. (Also, I should note that I haven’t been through some of the issues I noted in my first post; they were meant as examples but on reading it again I realize it came off like I was implying they were events, for whatever it’s worth on this pseudonymous blogosphere.)

    By all means I will mourn with you when you get fired, have depression, or can’t get married (which is increasingly likely for LDS women–at the end of the day there just aren’t enough active Mormon men to go around) despite a strong testimony of and prioritizing of achieving the married-with-children state; but the “all this emphasis on family is making us feel uncomfortable–stop!”is more of what I’m getting at.

    The fact of the matter is that doing the family with children thing leads to all sorts of additional responsibilities that, on the aggregate, make family life more stressful than the alternative (especially for women–google scholar “children,” and “subjective well-being.”).

    It makes no more sense to de-emphasize the married state with children than it does to de-emphasize education because not everybody will or should go to college. I’m not saying that the OP is saying otherwise, just that a variation of that usually comes up in these discussions. Of course, the hedonistic cost in having children is made up for in other ways.

  38. seriously? says:

    #allmaritalstatesmatter

  39. I heartedly endorse the OP. On setting up singles, I don’t particularly want people prayerfully considering it. The worst set ups are the types that begin…I feel inspired. It puts too much pressure on the set up. Just use common sense. Ask whether the person is open to it, describe the person you want to set them up with, and provide contact information if there is interest. And then don’t expect more than a casual phone call or first date that doesn’t lead anywhere (since most casual phone calls and first dates don’t go anywhere).

  40. I am a middle aged single man and have experienced the first/last name condescension several times. It was most obvious in a priesthood meeting when a leader went down a row shaking hands and greeting each member, using last names for all the other (married) men except me. It felt a little like a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose”, but I think it was actually “One of These Things is Not Like the Others”.

    I agree that everyone’s life situation is unique. We don’t get a lot of mileage out of comparing trials in a contest to see who has it harder. Just because someone’s path is different, it doesn’t mean they are broken, or that we have the answers to “fix” them. Posts like this help us recognize when our behavior is contributing to those trials.

    I have learned from the comments that when my married friends complain about newborns and sleepless nights, they want my sympathy, not advice about where to buy condoms.

  41. seripanther says:

    Preach, KLN. I’m always amused by the tendency of married folks with kids to insist that they are the tiredest, the saddest, working the hardest, struggling the most . . . but if a single person expresses the slightest hint that joining this lifestyle of woe might not be for them, the entire tune immediately changes and marriage/children becomes the only source of TRUE happiness.

    I will feel sad for your struggles in marriage OR feel sad I can’t have a marriage of my own, but not both. Pick one.

    As BB so wisely said, we are the shoulders that unhappily married friends cry on. I know things about my married friends that their siblings and parents don’t know. I do not want to compete in the Suffering Olympics, so stop telling me about how sad I must be to not have made the team.

  42. @ seripanther: Yes, children on the aggregate lead to less hedonic satisfaction in life, but one of the premises of Mormonism is that that’s not all there is. In terms of LDS theology children (in the now or later) lead to worlds without end, eternal increase, and an infinite number of close familial connections; but yes, in the meantime they also lead to less eating out and less sex. There’s no problem with recognizing different types of satisfaction; by consciously making (or trying to make) tradeoffs we are manifesting our testimony in that theology and doctrine of the family that the less hedonic type of satisfaction is grounded in.

  43. seripanther says:

    Less sex than the zero sex that unmarried faithful members get to have? Wow, that must be terrible.

    Thank you for the yet-again reminder about how my marital state is a scarlet letter letting the community know how hedonistic, selfish, and faithless I am. I hope reminding me of that made you feel like you’ve done your good deed for the day.

  44. I am again reminded to never participate in online discussions. seripanther: Tiberius never said that singleness is a scarlet letter signaling hedonism, selfishness, and faithlessness or anything close to it. And if you feel that way after reading what he said…that is on you, not him.

  45. The stresses we were bantering about back-and-forth were in regards to the stresses of children in particular, so my subconcious comparison group were marrieds-without-children since that isolates the effect of children. However, that specifically wasn’t the point of the OP so I apologize for the implicit threadjacking.

    Fair enough, married people (Mormon or not) do tend to have more sex than their respective counterparts (and they rate their sex lives as better in general), so that is one (not insignificant) hedonic point for the married state.

    As for the rest of it, you’d have to really be trying to be offended to read “by consciously making (*or trying to make*) tradeoffs we are manifesting our testimony in that theology and doctrine of the family that the less hedonic type of satisfaction is grounded in” as some indictment against single Mormons in general.

  46. stephenchardy says:

    I am quite certain that to be a “Three Nephite”
    A. You must be married. If you have to be married to be a Bishop or a General Authority then you must be married to be one of those three. It’s likely the “Six Nephites.” Wait though. When I think about it…the awkwardness of being alive for 2000 years wandering aimlessly from place to place, serving selflessly..is a lot like what we want our singles to be. The first YSA Ward: run by the Three Nephites. It has got to be true
    B. You must be clean-shaven. Or else you couldn’t get into any temples.

    I wonder what other qualifications there are?

    Anything in the Handbook of Instructions? Is there a Part III for immortal ministry?

  47. I think a great deal of difficulty surrounding this discussion is the idea of Othering. Outside of the church, both singles and marrieds are both accepted and Othered. (Basically, The World likes to crap on everything that it can.) Both married life and single life can be held up as ideal (or seen as failures), so that means everyone can be inclined to feel defensive and alienated about their marital status.

    Within the Church, however, marriage is the standard and singleness is the Other. It would be difficult to find any suggestion within the church that marriage is the Other. (This applies only to the dichotomy of general singleness vs. marriage. Once you add in subsets, like childlessness or lgbt, there are definitely more Otherings, which can cause significant pain.)

    Everyone gets Othered at some point, and everyone knows its pain. This particular post is exclusively about the Othering of singles within the church; if commenters could keep that in mind, perhaps the discussion would stay focused.

    (Side note, to the mods: have you considered switching to a comments system that allows for threads? It might help.)

    Most of what I see in these comments is pain, from married and single folks alike. To focus on a single (ha, pun intended) problem does not imply that no other problems are worth talking about. That being said, here’s my two cents on the actual topic at hand:

    This post gives some great advice. I’ve yet to integrate into a regular ward, but it’s just around the corner for me–I’ve been in singles’ wards for over ten years now. I’m at a strange point where I don’t quite fit in any ward; technically I belong in the singles’ ward, but I’m too old to date within it; I’m too young for the older singles’ ward; and while I could belong in the regular local ward, that comes with its own difficulties with belonging. As a single, I’m “neither fish nor fowl.”

    My own behavior and perspective on my situation vary. Sometimes I mourn my nonexistent husband and children, and sometimes I’m grateful to be on my own. Sometimes I feel Uniquely Oppressed (and yes, whiny about it) and other times I feel comforted that the Atonement will make up for everything I’m missing out on. I do my best not to feel insecure or shamed, but it happens sometimes. I can be caught up in confusion when I receive mixed messages, but I do my best to keep myself on course.

    Ultimately, as with almost everything, what truly matters is the experience of the individual–and having compassion for it.

  48. Mary Lythgoe Bradfford says:

    A very fine exchange–I was a Special Interest until marriage and now am a Widow -I honestly believe we will not be saved in groups but according to our own individual lives.

  49. “Do not enforce eternal hope” is perfect. To that I would add – do not insist I will be better off if I give up hope. I know those who have and are happy in their choice and that is wonderful for them. But I have never, despite trying desperately (because man, that grief without closure description is spot on) been able to stop longing for partnership and intimacy. As a 45-year old never-married always-mormon woman I’m pretty clear-eyed about my chances so no one needs to lecture me about how I just need to “move on” and live my life. As if the life I have isn’t already being lived pretty darn fully.

    And could we please please just stipulate that we would prefer to be single that to be in a bad marriage and stop repeating it? Even when it is just the singles we have this reflexive need to include that disclaimer in conversations about being single. It’s not as if anyone I know is looking for anything less than a good marriage.