Prolonged Singleness. When I first heard the term applied to my struggle of finding a husband, I was strangely comforted. There was a name for what I was dealing with. I was in my mid-thirties at the time and had been unable to maintain a relationship with a man to marriage.
In my blog post, “Prolonged Singleness: Are You Stuck in the Single State?,” I shared my discovery of the concept of prolonged singleness, along with the scriptural reasons someone does not marry. These were explained to us by Jesus himself. In Matthew 19:10-12, Jesus provides the three reasons a person remains single:
- They are born not capable of marriage.
- They are made not capable of marriage by others.
- They forsake marriage for the kingdom of heaven.
Otherwise, marriage is the norm. Marriage is from God and is the universal calling for people. When marriage does not happen within the normal course of life events, we enter the struggle known as prolonged singleness.
A Working Definition
What is prolonged singleness? It is being single and unmarried longer than God intended us to be, and longer than we desire.
People are delaying marriage for many reasons today, to the detriment of themselves, the Church, and society. Natural law demonstrates that God created us to marry younger than our thirties and forties. Our desire for sexual intimacy and the inability to remain continent lend support for earlier marriage. So do the scriptures.
“Let your fountain be your alone, not one shared with strangers; And have joy of the wife of your youth, your lovely hind, your graceful doe.” (Proverbs 5:17-19)
“Lament like a virgin girt with sackcloth for the spouse (husband) of your youth.” (Joel 1:8)
“And you say, ‘Why is it?’ – Because the LORD is witness between you and the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:14a)
As such, if you long for a spouse and marriage, your desire is biblical and may confirm your calling.
Also, God tells us in Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:31 that, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The idea is that marriage should be taking place upon leaving the parental home or shortly thereafter.
The reason for this is because it is hard to live alone long term. Sure, many of us have all felt the excitement of our first apartment or home. However, all too many of us know the painful loneliness associated with living alone for years at a time. Not to mention that the responsibilities are less burdensome when shared. Living in modern society, where services can be procured, assists those who live a solitary life. However, this convenience does not minimize other concerns that come with being alone.
For example, living alone is a gateway for sin that may be harder to do then when you are married. Also, being married may remove the reasons for sin altogether, e.g., “if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.” (1 Cor 7:9) Of course, this is not fool proof, as we all know that married people experience problems, too. However, if we pray and seek God, he has made the provision to help us.
In addition, living with other people (i.e., family of origin, siblings, friends, a spouse) affords one the opportunity to work on virtues such as patience, generosity, kindness, and self-control. When you live alone, you do not need to worry about anyone else but yourself.
A Universal and Innate Calling
In my blog post, “The Vocation Awakening,” I provided a vocation analysis in accordance with the scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Specifically, everyone is called to marriage as God inscribed the vocation to marriage into the very essence of man and woman. (See CCC §1603) Some people, however, are called by Jesus Christ to forsake the great good of marriage to follow him for the kingdom of God (See CCC §1618 and Matthew 19:12c)
Jesus himself also explains that there are two additional reasons that people do not marry. There are some people born not capable of marriage and some people made not capable of marriage by others. (See Matthew 19:12a, b) Both of these reasons are the result of living in a fallen world.
Do you desire marriage? Have you been unsuccessful in maintaining a stable relationship directed towards the altar? What feelings and fears does this bring up for you? Read on to see how I managed my own dread and alarm.
Not Capable Doesn’t Equal Not Called
Recognizing my calling to marriage was the first step for me. The next piece of the puzzle was embracing the fact that I was made incapable of marriage by others, as Jesus explained in Matthew 19. Rather than being sad or hopeless, this knowledge gave me an understanding of what was going on. It helped me to see that God wanted to assist me with the issues that kept me single.
Section 1603 of the CCC states that “…God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.” Since God wrote this vocation into my being when he created me, he was vested in seeing me fulfill it.
The same is true for you, as well! Whether you are called to marriage or to forsake the great good of marriage for the kingdom of heaven, the calling is from God. (see CCC §1603 & §1618) God will not stop helping you execute your calling, as “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Nonetheless, we do live in a fallen world. When Jesus said that some folks are made not capable of marriage by others, he was referring to a host of reasons that can keep people single. It is here that we begin to look at the root causes of prolonged singleness.
Reasons for prolonged singleness can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Lack of Knowledge regarding calling to marriage
- Prior Wounding/Family of Origin Issues
- Male/Female Relational Dynamics
- Spiritual Warfare/Prayer
- Failure to Act
- Fear of Commitment
- Sin: Sexual/Greed
- God’s Glory/Sanctification Work
In this series, we will look at each of these issues in depth; exploring what it looks like, how it contributes to prolonged singleness, and how to ask God for his help with healing it.
Please know that it is possible to leave prolonged singleness, meet a suitable spouse, and marry. The journey out of prolonged singleness is not easy. With any major trial, it involves an interplay of both the natural and supernatural parts of our lives. There are things that we must work on and do; there are things we must pray to God for and trust him to do. Still, you can know with certainty that marriage is God’s will for you, and he is waiting to help.
Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2022