Look beyond your type

If you’re single and looking for love, it’s easy to feel hopeless and become demoralised – after all, if you rarely meet a like-minded person, how can you hope to find a marriage partner? However, many of us limit our relationship possibilities without even realising it. Open your mind and your horizons, and you could discover there are more fish in the sea than you imagined…

Why is it so hard to meet someone?

For most people the ‘marrying period’ is between the ages of 25 and 40. The average age of first marriage is around 30, although many graduates and professionals marry later than that.

In the church, this is exactly the age group that has fewest single individuals. On average across Great Britain, 13% of all married people in this age group attend church at least once a month. For those who are single (neither married nor cohabiting), the number who attend church is only 5%.

This means that a single person in church doesn’t meet many other singles in the same age group, and is surrounded by married couples of a similar age, many of whom have children. It’s a double whammy – there’s a perception that there’s no one available to date, and that you’re strange because you’re not partnered with children.

This feels like a dire situation for many individuals, especially those in smaller churches, and it could easily be depressing for people hoping to meet someone with whom to share their life and faith. However, there is a glimmer of hope…

What about Christians who don’t go to church?

It can be hard to give up the idea that only church-goers are Christians – after all, we’ve all heard teaching about how important it is to meet regularly with other believers for teaching and fellowship.

However, research into the 25-40 age group shows that many more people say they are practising Christians than actually attend church. For various reasons, many single believers choose to stay away from church. This doesn’t mean they’ve stopped believing – it’s simply that church is not a place for them. Many report that they would go back to attending church if they had a companion or partner to go with.

In our own research, also supported by US surveys, we found that believing Christians in this age group stay away from church if their main spiritual needs are not being met. In particular, they want to be fully included in the community of faith, and helped to explore the relationship between faith and their lives, especially their vocations. In fact, some of those absenting themselves from church turn out to be those with stronger faith.

Don’t limit your choices

It’s certainly ideal for believers to be part of a community of faith, for the sake of their spiritual development.  However, because many churches are poor at including singles in all aspects of the community, many people find other sources of spiritual nourishment.

So if you’re looking for a Christian partner, we urge you to keep an open mind about where you might meet them. Only looking among people who regularly attend the same kind of church as you, favour the same worship songs and pray in the same way, will severely limit your choice. 

Not only that but the idea that, to have a successful marriage, you should only look within your own small section of the church is very misleading. Some readers will be shocked to learn that many Christian marriages between those who have similar expressions of faith don’t work out and lead to divorce. Meanwhile, many marriages between people of very different faith traditions can thrive and be healthy and happy. The fact is that compatibility in marriage, and expressions of the fruits of the Spirit, cannot be characterised by the church you go to, the styles of worship you favour, or preferences for types of prayer.

In fact, one could even argue the opposite. Psychologists say that 70% of all marriage partners choose someone with complementary personality traits. Those different traits are quite likely to lead people to different churches and diverse expressions of faith. This suggests that you may actually be more likely to find a compatible marriage partner outside your immediate Christian circle!

How do I meet Christians outside of church?

Finding ways to meet people outside of the church and your own Christian circle is so important. But where should you be looking? And where might such people be found?

There are many places you might meet believers who you wouldn’t encounter in your normal, day-to-day life. These include:

  • Christian festivals,
  • conferences,
  • local social groups,
  • online forums
  • dating websites. 

While you might meet Christians in these less obvious settings, they can still prove to be lonely places without one other personal attribute – the willingness and ability to open up conversations and chat to people. There are many guides available to help you improve your social skills and engage with people in a way that might forge a long-term connection. However, it comes down to a few key ideas: 

  • Express gratitude for being where you are – the event you are at or the circumstances in which you find yourself. Positivity and an appreciative nature is appealing to others. Negativity pushes people away.
  • Compliment the other person, even if it’s about something quite trivial. However, don’t make comments too personal, as you don’t yet have a yardstick for how the other person might react. For instance, compliment a woman on her dress, not on her body shape!
  • Ask a question that expresses interest in what the other person thinks or feels (again, nothing too personal).

You should do these in all social situations, whether or not you think the person you are engaging with has dating potential. Why?

  • It’s good practice for you! Making conversation with strangers is partly a learned skill, and the more you do it, the better you get.
  • You’ll transform that person’s experience of the event through your positivity – and as Christians, we should always be trying to bless others.
  • If you become friends, you may discover that they have relatives, friends or other contacts who might be dating possibilities for you!

It’s tough enough trying to find love in the church, without limiting your choices when you don’t need to. Becoming open to relationships with believers from other traditions or those who don’t currently attend church, and seeking out a broader social circle accordingly, has led to many a happy Christian marriage. So if you want to find love, think outside the box!

David Pullinger, 8 October 2017

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