Is singleness a tragedy?


I finally got the courage to approve the comment.  It was written in response to a post I published some time ago about feeling left behind in the marriage department. The reader incorrectly interpreted that I was making light of my struggle, and wrote, “Please don’t refer to heartfelt sadness as a ‘pity party.’ To leave this earth without marriage and family is a tragedy for too many people.”

While she missed the overall intention of the post, which was to celebrate how God helped me focus on the blessings in my life, what continued to gnaw at me was her statement that being single is a tragedy.

If what she wrote is true, then nearly half of the adult population in the United States [1] are living  tragic lives.

To put it more bluntly, it means my life is a tragedy!

So, I determined that one day I would “prove her wrong” in a follow-up blog post.  I would give all the reasons why singleness is a good thing, cite Scripture to back it up, and list examples of singles, Biblical and otherwise, who have lived exemplary lives (I mean, who could say that the Apostle Paul or Mother Teresa’s lives were tragedies?)

I discovered a blog by Fern Horst that covered a great deal of the ground for me, “Marriage Good, Singleness Bad?” [2]

Horst notes, “. . . both Jesus and the Apostle Paul, who also remained single and childless, indicate there is rich benefit and purpose in singleness. Jesus in Matthew 19, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, both encourage those who are not married to remain single for the sake of being fully devoted without distraction to God and the work of His Kingdom. We tend to dance around the fact that both Jesus and Paul indicate that, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, singleness is better.”

Inwardly I applauded Fern for affirming the value of living single.

But then I was stopped dead in my tracks by a blog post written by Abby Wong titled “Post-traumatic Single Disorder.” [3]

Say what???

Newly married Ms. Wong told how she “survived” singleness into her mid-30’s – (oh my, give that girl a gold star)!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

While she admitted some of her single life was fun, she went on to describe the “post-traumatic stress” that being unmarried caused.


She wrote, “I want to give voice to the trauma of being single . . .the seemingly eternal wanting, the trauma of living alone, the trauma of feeling marginalized in a coupled world, the trauma of being incapacitated with the flu and having no one there to feed or nurse you, the trauma of having to make major life decisions without a partner, the trauma of not having a key witness to your life or an ally who has made a life vow, a covenant to you and you alone. It is traumatic to feel unchosen.”

My sarcasm evaporated as I read that paragraph.  I wanted to quickly dismiss it . . . but in my heart I knew I had felt virtually identical feelings over the course of my single life.  And while I feel  “trauma” might be too strong of a term, I have to concede that sometimes singleness can be tough – especially when others view your life as second-best.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an outdoor concert in a local park.  I was sitting on a fleece blanket by myself, enjoying the open-air jazz music when a former co-worker and her husband sat down next to me.  We chatted for a while, and then as we parted ways, the husband leaned in and said,   “I always see you by yourself at events.”  He added, “I feel for you.  I’m very fortunate to have found my wife.”

I knew he meant well, but it was as if he thrust a spear through my spirit.  It was the first time I heard anyone overtly express sympathy for me because I’m not married.  And it made me wonder . . . who else is thinking the same thing?

Without doubt, society still views marriage as superior to singleness, especially in Christian circles.  The virtues of singleness are almost never mentioned in church, while marriage and parenting are celebrated.  Indeed, singleness is typically viewed as an unfortunate condition that needs to be remedied.

The message seems to be, “singles couldn’t possibly be happy.”  Or could they?

I woke up to my favorite faith-based radio station the other day to hear this teaser:  “Are single or married people happier? – I’ll share the shocking results after this song.”

My ears perked up and I stayed tune to hear the D.J. report the results of a recent study that indicates that singles may actually be happier than married people! [4]

Happy business people laughing against white background

According to a new meta-analysis by social psychologist Bella DePaulo, the stereotype that all singles are sad and lonely (and sitting on the couch, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s) isn’t true.

DePaulo presented her findings at the American Psychological Association’s 124th Annual Convention. The major takeaway was this: Research comparing people who have stayed single with those who have stayed married reveals that single people are better connected, have a heightened sense of self-determination, and are more likely to experience continued growth and development.

I immediately noticed the radio announcer’s discomfort.  She disclosed that she had married very young, and urged people to call in to debate the research findings. It almost seemed as if she felt threatened – or at least unsettled that the data didn’t line up with her long-standing belief in the superiority of marriage.

While studies like these are interesting, I don’t believe it’s productive for either singles or marrieds to try to prove who is happier. Instead, I advocate for a more balanced view – recognizing that both marriage and singleness have advantages and disadvantages—and that both life paths can be good.

As Fern Horst puts it, “If we dig into the whole of Scripture, we discover that both marriage and singleness are equally good. One is not a blessing, and the other a curse. One is not a reward, and the other a punishment. And one is not more honorable than the other. Both are ordained of God for His purposes, and He chooses who He will for both roles.”

While the circumstances that sometimes lead to singleness (such as the death of a spouse or divorce) can be tragic, I firmly believe singleness, whether for a season or a lifetime, is not a tragedy.

Singleness, whether for a season or a lifetime, is not a tragedy.

What is tragic is when anyone, regardless of marital status, believes they are unloved or unwanted, for neither are true in God’s eyes.   We can all experience wholeness, companionship, and purpose as we entrust our hearts to Him.

Indeed, no life redeemed by Christ is a tragedy.

So join me in focusing on what’s truly important – not whether someone has a ring on their finger, but helping one another live to the glory of God.









8 thoughts on “Is singleness a tragedy?

  1. Being single is certainly not a tragedy. I am currently married, but while I was single I totally enjoyed dating myself. Yes, society throws in your face daily that you should be in a relationship and if you’re not, then something is wrong. But truthfully, marriage is not for everyone. God made us relational creatures, but before someone jumps into marriage, I would suggest they enjoy their single life first. Because life is so different when you have to consider someone else!


  2. Anonymous

    Your last statement, “So join me in focusing on what’s truly important – not whether someone has a ring on their finger, but in helping one another live to the glory of God.” really brings it home for me.


  3. Tambri

    You totally rock, Jane! You always handle this subject with such dignity and wisdom! I agree that the single life does have its challenges. So does the married life. It can be a fun discussion , but the real point is that NO life redeemed by Christ is tragic.
    Admittedly, I have little understanding of the married life. I quite enjoy the benefits and flexibility of being single. Of all the responses to this “condition,” I find I have the least patience for those who are constantly unhappy that they have not been chosen for marriage. It has been my experience that they continue to be unhappy in marriage. Sad really.
    So I will continue workin towards being gracious to happily married match makers and more tolerant of those who desire marriage, even as I learn to manage a drip irrigation system at my new-to-me house. It’s all good !
    Nice work , J Pester !


  4. Tambri – Thank you for sharing your perspective on the topic and for affirming that a single life, lived to the glory of God, can be a good thing! Keep on rocking it, my friend – including getting the upper hand on that drip irrigation system!


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