8.05.2007

Needful Things

Most readers who responded to my Manifesto said something like, "the spiritual needs of single people are not different from those of married people," and "church is not about meeting one's social needs, it's about the atonement," so, basically, I should get over myself. But I will not. It is true. I need something from the church that married people do not.

The life of a single person can get very lonely. (I know being married can be lonely too, but that is a different story). Sometimes, single life is not lonely at all, but when it is, it can be devastating.

Now, imagine living through a fairly lonely period--of about 2 years. After work, you go home to an empty apartment to fix a quick dinner. Maybe make a few phone calls to friends and family. Feed the cats. Clean the kitchen. Then end the evening with a book or by watching tv. The next day, you do the same thing. You can go weeks without any physical contact with another human being. Sometimes, you can't reach anyone on the phone and you can go days without having a personal conversation with another human being. No one needs you. No one misses you or looks forward to seeing you. No one can help you make those major life-changing decisions that crop up from time to time. No one notices if you have been working out, or gained 10 pounds...

Then, Sunday morning you go to church, where, you feel even lonelier than you did before. But maybe you made it through sacrament meeting without crying this time, so you feel proud of yourself for that. But, you feel like you don't belong. The married men, aka 'priesthood holders and leaders' are afraid to talk to you, because you are a single woman. And the married women look at you with either suspicion, envy or pity. Some kind souls do notice you, and say hello. They smile at you with warmth and shake your hand. And that's when you start crying. These lovely people don't have time for you, they have children and husbands. But they mean well. They are true Christians.

Then you go home and fall asleep on the bed. When you wake up from your nap, you have to find a way to fill the rest of the day without breaking the sabbath. The easiest thing to do is try to sleep the day away, then watch awful TV all night. On a good Sunday, you might take a walk to watch the sunset reflecting off of Manhattan and the Hudson River.

So, what? So, what happens when a real flesh and blood man comes along in this scenario and he wants to love you? He wants to comfort you and take away the loneliness and empty nights. But, you'd have to give up your beliefs and covenants. How long can your spirit hold out against this? And if you do manage to resist, how can you do it without anger and bitterness for the church which not only makes you feel lonely, but now seems to be the cause of your loneliness as well?*

This struggle could be much easier if church were a place of fellowship and comfort. If I could fill my empty nights with church things and people. Single people need more friends than married people. They need more social support. They need to be needed by someone. They need to be noticed and missed. They need to be given responsibilities for others, so they can exercise charity and avoid becoming too selfish. They need to be part of a family. Married people are part of a family, so, ideally, they don't need as much from the church in terms of social support--I understand that this may not be true for all married people, but in an ideal world it would be.

Single people need family. Eventually, if they do not find this at church, they will find it elsewhere. I suspect that most singles do not find family at church. Hence, the huge rate of apostasy.

*I know that I am responsible for my own choices and the covenants I have made with God. I am the cause of my loneliness. However, at weak moments, this is extremely hard to remember.

9 comments:

Michael said...

Wow,
What an absolutely wonderful, sad, touching, internal conflict inducing post.

Although the post will probably inspire them- I don't think what you really need or want is advice on how to fix how you're feeling or to fix what you're doing so that Church isn't so unwelcoming. I think you probably know all those things already they just are more easily idealized or said than done. (and often impossible)

I was thinking about some of these things in Church today- and about how they along with so many other things influence not only the struggle to stick it through- but even the struggle to believe that the things previously held true really are true. And when you do the things you're supposed to do to feel the spirit and feel strengthened and some of them just make you feel more alone than ever it can be absolutely overwhelming.

Thank you for opening up so much and sharing how you feel. It helps some of us feel like we're not so alone. I wish it was possible to say something that is as comforting as the post was heart wrenching.

Tammy said...

This is a great post. I know this would be hard, but I think you should print it out and give it to your bishop and your RS pres. The humility and open heart that you show in this post may help them understand you a little better.


I know that in marriage there are often times where one spouse needs something from the other, but wants the other spouse to figure it out on his/her own so it will be more meaningful, for example, a wife wants a romantic anniversary present, but thinks that to ask for it makes it less romantic, however, the husband has no idea as to what she will find romantic. If instead, she would say, I need flowers, a dinner out and a back rub before sex, I will feel like I had a romantic anniversary, the husband could give her what she wants and everyone would be happier.

In the same way, I think that singles in the church need to directly ask their married leaders to give them what they need. As you said so beautifully in your post, these are good Christian people, but they have no idea what you need, or how to give it to you.

Give this post to your bishop, and talk to him about your needs. Then if nothing happens, talk to him again. Your persistence will help him see how important it is to you.

N.F. said...

This post is SO very well written. I agree with Tammy about printing this out and sharing it with SOMEONE at church. Someone you trust to share your feelings with.

I wish you lived in Southern CA so you could come with me to the few activities the Singles do in my stake.

N.F. said...

PS.

I don't want to say, "Hang in there"...because that sounds so trite and I COULD SO EASILY be in your situation. It does make me pause to reflect my ward, my stake, the singles here, etc.

If you chat, and are on any IM programs, send me a message sometime if you ever need a fellow single friend to chat with.

Liz W. said...

I can second everything you've said!

Thank you for taking the time to put into words what I can't.

TullahMarie said...

I'm not religious, but since I moved to a new city, I spend alot of time volunteering. Is it ok for you to volunteer on Sundays? Perhaps at a shelter or something? I've been reading for the blind, and I love it. I've met some interesting people doing so as well. I go on Wednesday nights, it's a great group. I looked on their website and see that they've got a unit in NYC. I bet you'd be great at it and enjoy it too! http://www.rfbd.org/ I'm not in touch as much as I should be, but I'm thinking about you, and sending you my love. Hang in there! Kat

Tanya Sue said...

Beautiful and true! Thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts. I have had so many of these myself.

Suzie2 said...

I also like what Tammy said.

A lot of married folk can forget quite easily the pains of being single. They have too many other things going on, while we singletons have a hard time thinking about anything else but our single status. Or at least, I find myself feeling that way. There's a horrible feeling of being stagnant as a single person.

Of course, it can be different for everyone, still I think verbalizing our needs is the only way to get others to notice and to give us the support we need.

Anonymous said...

I could not have wrote a more accurate description of how I feel myself.

I think the most important thing that I can relate to that you wrote is: "How long can your spirit hold out against this? And if you do manage to resist, how can you do it without anger and bitterness for the church which not only makes you feel lonely, but now seems to be the cause of your loneliness as well?"

Its like being married! But to someone who dosent exist!

I have a religion similar to yours and its the same thing. Everyone is either seeing someone or already married. Ive had hour long conversations with my elders about how the congregations are so disconnected from the single people, but they say that you should just volunteer more of your time, etc . personally, I just put myself out there and meet people in other congregations on Sunday. Snuday is devoted to just meeting people in other congregations. Nothing else. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time, and that you are out of place being single, people ask why you are here, etc. but you never know who you might meet.