Who is most readily identified as single

Church leaders and members were asked who they thought of as single in a Christian Research Ltd survey. The results showed that they perceive there to be ‘degrees’ of singleness – people who have never married would be seen as most single, as David Pullinger reports.

Single is not a great term to describe marital status in the 21st century. For many the word ‘single’ has associations that imply behaviours and attitudes that may not be true. Some people might immediately think of singles as carefree, life-enjoying, and having one-night stands. Others think that singles are sad, lonely, depressed and desperate.

These kinds of associations are the reason that some singles reject the term. For example, those who are in their early 20s and not expecting to be married might not call themselves ‘single’. Many of those who have been widowed have said that they are ‘married but my spouse has passed on.’ They are not legally married, but they think of themselves as still partnered.

So when we talk of Single Christians, it is both a loaded term and one that is open to different interpretations as to who is and who is not.

To understand more about the perceptions that Christians have towards single people, 1,401 church people were surveyed by Christian Research Ltd (funded by Network Christians). They were asked: “Who comes to mind when using the word ‘Single’?" The answer was illuminating.

Many people consider there to be a sliding scale of singleness. Those never married are considered most clearly single, followed by those previously married - divorced, single parents and widowed. It was interesting to see that one third of the respondents agreed that previously married people are ‘single’ only after prompting.

The respondents also accepted the idea that there might be elements of singleness even when legally married. Most obviously this is when a couple are separated, but also when one spouse may live far away for work or health reasons or when one doesn’t recognise the other through mental or physical illness.

The respondents were also asked what issues they believed were faced by single people. The top one was loneliness - the pain of being solitary, as it is often described. Though, loneliness is shared by all to some extent. We can all feel lonely. It is an emotion that emerges in different situations not only in relationships at home but also at work.

Other commonly perceived problems were the difficulty of raising children alone, or the difficulty in fulfilling the urge to be a parent.

So there are degrees of singleness, and some of the issues that singles have are shared to some extent. Dealing with the issues around this topic in church could help not only all those to whom it most obviously applies - the never married and those single again following marriage or long-term partnerships - but also those who are married who contain in their relationship some aspect of singleness.

Read the full report on www.singularinsight.com