Singles

Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Acceptance, charity, Friendship, Singleness | 22 comments

This January marks the two year anniversary of the formation of the Potomac Ward, a mid-singles ward in my stake (Mount Vernon Stake in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC).  There are hundreds of mid-singles (ages 31-50) in my stake and I am one of them.  I have a love/hate relationship with my own status as a mid-single – just as I have a love/hate relationship with the Potomac Ward.

The ward has seen much success; many of my single friends attend the congregation, enjoying the spiritual comradery of other singles, the quiet sacrament meetings, and the wide range of activities.  The ward impacts my single too – though I prefer to attend my family ward in Alexandria – because its critical mass dictates the lion’s share of single’s “goings on” in the stake.

The Potomac Ward has acquired its own church building, which it shares with the two YSA wards in the stake – and this, in my opinion, is unfortunate.  I can appreciate that congregations of singles have different logistical needs, but I feel the negative side affects of a separate place of worship outweigh the positives of large classrooms and activity spaces.  In this set up, the singles congregations are separated from the main body of the church on the sole basis of their marital status.  This is a strong message to the single individual that they are different and “removed from”.  Some individuals worship away from the main body of the church for up to 20 years and their unique experience in singles congregations deny them of continued experiences with children, couples, and elderly members.

I think the annexing of singles also has a negative side affect on the family wards, who do not enjoy the dynamic personalities of single individuals. Because singles are removed from them, stereotypes grow and integration dwindles.  (And, in the case, of my family ward, which is small, we feel the lack of talented singles who could help fill much needed callings.)

So, to family wards everywhere who feel the lack of single association, I dedicate these comments (and suggestions) about singles.  I hope that you will find them useful in integrating singles into your wards and lives, that we may be one in Zion.

Singles are Happy
*Gasp* It’s true, though some stereotypes indicate that we are continual sad as we await our marriage. The singles I know live full, happy lives with fulfilling careers, involved extended families, meaningful service, and interesting hobbies.

Singles are Different from Each Other
I know this should seem obvious, but stereotypes are strong, lumping singles together in large categories. Primary is a good example.  A married friend once told me that her ward puts all its single members in as Primary teachers “because they are the only ones not exhausted with children during the week.”  While many singles are not involved with children during the week, that doesn’t necessary mean they enjoy children on Sundays.  And some do.  Conversely, many married individuals I know enjoy involvement with children during the week AND on Sunday.  And some don’t.  These differences extend to career choices, friendship connections, desired interaction from Bishops, etc.

Singles are first, Individuals.

Singles have Life Experiences beyond “Being Single”
In his 2011 talk, Forget Me Not, Elder Uchtdorf told the story of a single woman who became sad and bitter when her lifelong dream of being married was not realized.  This story was later turned in to a dramatized video which horrified many singles because of its dark images of single loneliness and one sided representation of a single life: the fixation on getting married.  While some singles would like to be married, this does not consume our entire lives.  We are involved in many other things, as I have indicated above, and many other relationships – platonic heterosexual relationships included.  Discussions with singles can including dating AND a wide range of other topics like church, politics, hobbies, travels, books, sports, family, education, career, etc.

Singles Look for Connections Beyond their Single Friends
I loved being invited by members of my family ward for dinner, movies, game nights, and children’s recitals and Birthday parties.  Many of my friends do too.  I like being including in mixed groups of different types of people.  I try to extend invitations as well.

Singles Look for Meaningful Church Service
One of my single friends recently to her bishop, “Give me something meaningful to do!”  And he did.  Enough said.

Singles Grieve
Back to the video dramatization of Elder Uchtdorf’s story. It seems to indicate the being sad and grieving for life’s unmet expectations is a bad thing and individuals who grieve demonstrates a lack of gratitude for the gifts God has given.  I think this is unfortunate.  All people grieve over life’s unmet expectations.  Grief is messy and hard, but necessary.  The loss of a spouse and/or family is huge and can be recognized and supported. Supporting each other in grief rather than offering a “consolation prize” is a good way to go.  I believe we can be happy, have gratitude, AND feel loss and anger.  I see many people hold these varied emotions at the same time – single people included.

Related posts:

22 Comments

  1. I marked Yes, because many single adults hold important callings in my ward—then I thought about my answer, and changed it to a little of both, as I realized that all the singles with important callings are male, and we have a lot of single and widowed women with nothing to do. You’d think I would be more aware of this, since I just posted about the imbalance of gendered callings and its implications for saving the souls of women yesterday. Good grief. Even with my feminist leanings, I am such a product of my culture and so unaware sometimes. It is embarrassing.

    • Culture is a powerful thing. I guess that’s why we keep up this blog …. so that we keep thinking …. and keep on our toes.

  2. I am technically a mid-single, although I don’t see myself as such. In 2009, when I turned 30, I consciously made the decision to return to a family ward for a number of different reasons. My activity level has varied since then but I cannot imagine having been in a singles ward instead of my family ward. The interactions with the elderly and the children have been important to me. That and I feel like I have made or solidified long-lasting friendships with my peers – people my age who happen to be married with kids. Yes, this means that at book groups there is a lot of talk about babies – but it isn’t only about babies.

  3. Is it really only 2 years? Not 3? I was sad when Potomac ward was created. 1/3 of the women in my ward left, including many friends who I hardly ever see.

    • Now that I think of it … you might be right …. 3 years. Wow. Time flies.

  4. This is my ward. And I agree with so much of what you said, Suzette. But, I have had such negative experiences in family wards that for me at this in my life, the Potomac Ward keeps me active. Personally, I take great comfort in being able walk into any meeting or lesson and know that I am welcome to sit in any open seat. At the same time, I miss the children and the seniors – their wisdom, energy, honesty and perspectives are missed.

    • You are not alone in your feelings … I hear this same sentiment from some of my other single friends who attend Potomac. I’m only sorry that the family ward is not a better fit. I hope that be continuing these dialogues, the married body of the church will become more open and singles will feel more welcome and comfortable.

  5. Suzette, thank you for this fabulous post. The reminders you give and the truths you explore resonate very closely with my personal experiences as a “mid-single” as well as my feelings on the dramatized video you mention. It portrayed the young women as only sad, when young women and men I knew and know, even those who do have very real desires to be married, are not Only sad. They are sad and happy, grateful and grieving, as you said. They are both because life is always both, for those who are married and those who are not. It is much better to see one another as the complex beings that we are.

    Thank you especially for your last three sentences. (Beginning with supporting each other in grief…is a good way to go.” They are perfect, and a true reminder that one part of our call to mourn with those who mourn is to Actually Let Them Mourn. Not just brush pain away with platitudes.

  6. When I would come home for the summers between school years at BYU, the single’s ward tried everything in its power to get me to go to their ward. But I preferred my family ward because I was still close with my youth leaders and I liked being at church with my parents. I’ve found that my experience is not unique; singles wards tend to be bent on getting more people there. I can understand that they want more people for activity support and callings, but if someone says they’d rather be in a family ward, why continue to push it?

  7. I’ve spent most of my church-life in a singles ward. I joined the church when I was 20, attended the family ward I was baptized into for a brief time, and then served in the singles ward up until about 2 years ago. I chose to leave the singles ward on my own for a few reasons. I was 28 and had just been released as Relief Society President — I no longer felt like the “mother hen,” just the old bitter gal. Also, I had been in the ward long enough to see some of the older folks stay just a little too long.

    I love my family ward. I feel like I can offer a voice that is unique. I love being able to offer a different perspective; one that doesn’t revolve around wiping babies noses or carting teenagers around. I truly feel appreciated in my ward.

    And Suzette, I think that is such a great list.

  8. Suzette

    Insightful as always. As you know I have one year to the date that I will (as we call it) “age out” of the single ward option in the church (after your 46th bday most singles wards want you to move on and attend a family ward). Since I was 18 I have attended single wards with a 4 year exception in a family ward. That will add up to 21 years in singles wards.

    It has been an interesting journey both aggravating and incredibly fulfilling. Aggravating, because for all my hope that activity in a singles ward would provide more opportunity to find a mate, for me it obviously hasn’t. In fact the ratio of men to women in my age group is now 1/3. I have come to accept that finding my mate via this venue is unlikely. The interesting thing is that now I’m ok with that.

    I’m OK with it because in looking back I see the fulfilling experiences I’ve had and deep relationships that I have formed because I worship and serve with others who live on the outlying edges of the church’s “married” culture. I have friends from these wards, both men and women, who enrich my life on a daily basis. Some of them have gotten married and I rejoice in that, some have not and we get together often to share each others joy and pain. All of them are top quality people who have deeply influenced my life for the better and continue to do so. AND we’ve had a great time! Singles have time and money to play, travel and serve. It seems that some marrieds (and even some singles) view my life with either jealousy or disdain, but what else am I to do? Sit around and mournfully gaze out the window as the rain trickles down the glass?

    Because of singles wards I have remained active in the church, I’ve had a community to join with, I am not alone – and I certainly have much more interesting fast and testimony stories than my married friends. To Suzette’s many good points – most of us are happy, productive and living fulfilling, interesting lives. We have much more to think about than when and if we will get married someday – albeit this is too often a topic of conversation.

    The fact that Suzette has to explain that we are people too is largely due to the misperceptions and stupid stereotypes of what it means to be Mormon and single. Whether we are in a single ward or married ward or whatever, marriage is not what defines an individual person. As I understand it (and its taken a long time to come to this, ironically) God loves each one of us as an individual not any more or less based on marital status. In fact, its possible that His love protected me from a bad marriage or two. I’m 45, I’m single and I’m deeply happy. Ive come to this place because I had a single community in my church that i could rely on and grow in. Imagine.

  9. I think our stake shut down a mid singles ward about 5 years ago in an attempt to address the division between singles and marrieds. It was awesome for our ward. We got so many leaders (mostly women), and I’m delighted to be friends with many of them. I love that we have mid-singles teaching in Relief Society and Young Women’s and serving in the Primary presidency.

    Having those women join our ward has been great for our ward culture and great for me.

    Thank you for your list, Suzette.

  10. Suzette

    I attended the Potomac Ward about twenty years ago. I absolutely loved it. I agree with some of your analysis, but, I also find some of your analysis inaccurate. I developed many, many relationship with many, many different people in that Ward, I think mostly because of the location to our nations Capitol, and or because of the plethora of Universities in that area.

    I think given the fact that Many singles come from large member families its inaccurate to say that single wards separate singles from everyday family life of marrieds. Even if your original family is not a large Mormon family its still is a family, you still have connections to aunts, uncles, cousins, Etc, Etc. This same example also provides singles with the opportunities to maintain relationships with Children within their own family context.

    I can tell you that I resented the most as a single is when I attended family wards and people found out that I was a Nanny that the higher ups automatically assumed that I would want to be stuck in Primary. Yuck, don’t’ get me wrong, I like kids fine, but, after a week, I want my adult time and leadership got generally pissed off at me when I refused a Primary calling and didn’t offer me anything else.

    • Diane,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and different point of view. I think it’s important to write about singles, but I find it hard (and even hesitate to do it) because I know my experience is not the same as other singles. I’m happy to have different points of view. The Potomac Ward has been frustrating for me, so I’m grateful for others who can fill in the gaps with positive reports.

      Best, S

  11. Suzette:
    Heather forwarded this post to her friends and I love it! This encourages such a valuable conversation, and it’s so well-written, that I think you should submit it to the Ensign. It seems like the Ensign prints more and more articles focused on “the issues” (singles, divorce, infidelity, depression, etc). They might change a few things, but I still think it’d be worth it. Your voice needs to be heard. Pllllleeaaase try to get this in!
    Jennifer Mosher

    • I’d love to see this list published in the Ensign!

      • I have my doubts about the Ensign, but I can give it a try.

  12. Amen to this list. Especially to the last. It has happened a number of times when I admitted to loneliness or frustration in my single life that rather than receiving the kindness I need I have been immediately warned of the dangers of bitterness. I don’t think I am bitter. But I do think the cultural expectation that we somehow pretend we are not lonely or never speak of being lonely is the beginning of the road to becoming bitter. Or, more accurately, in becoming brittle, which is how I would describe some of the women I’ve had held up as negative examples to me. It seems to me to be part of having a broken and contrite heart that we be willing and able to admit our own struggles and weaknesses. Including loneliness and longing for a spouse and children of our own.

    The Potomac ward has its good and bad sides, for certain. Chief among the bad sides is that I get less Katie time, but the ward boundary shifts would have done that eventually anyway. What I have noticed is that most of those I have spoken to about it took the decision about whether to attend very seriously. Especially those of us who were in the Stake when it was formed. Plenty of prayer and even fasting went into it. I wish there would be more respect from some of our leaders around that process. Invite to the singles ward, yes. But then drop it. We’re all adults here. I know I belong in the Potomac ward right now and I discovered that through the Spirit in the same way some of my friends discovered that they ought to stay in their family wards.

    • Thanks Becky – for the reminder that we all find our path by using the spirit. I know not all things work for all singles – and that’s easier said than “done”. The Potomac Ward is so frustrating to my life that I can get overly jaded in my comments.

  13. I lived in a highly populated city on the East Coast for 10 years. No single adult wards were there when I was there. I Have lived in Utah 5 years, in an area of tens of thousands of members where there are also no Single Adult wards. I was on a regional single adult committee. I met my wife at a SA dance. We were married this past year in the Temple. I can say from experience and from others on that committee, that most standard wards do not integrate single adults well. They prefer to not announce activities. Many members treat you differently. Many are overlooked in callings. There are no activities at a ward or stake level except for those 65+. I would have never met anyone if it was left up to any ward or Stake activities. There was only 1 single female in my 25-45 age range that attended my ward. If you have no goal of meeting someone, or only the ones that happen by chance once every few years, then a standard ward is perfect for you. There is almost no integration here on a ward or stake level. At the region level is where it is at. However, very little attention is given to the Single Adults. The region budget was about 1000 a year. Think about young single adult wards, especially those connected to a university. Thousands if not millions goes into their programs every year, when including building expenses. The Single Adults are an afterthought in comparison. We had disussed and dreamed of having a ward of our own. However there is the problem of age. Should it be for 31-45 or 31- death, and also have classes for children or only to age 12? Then should you attend 2 wards, one for you and one for your children? I thought that the best of both worlds would be to have a magnet ward where all Single Adults could attend with other families of a standard ward. If it became too large then simply make additional magnet wards.
    SA activity attendance was horribly low. Many people don’t want those types of activities. This is especially true for a newby. I at first thought they would be stressful. I was wrong. The activity committee went out of their way to do service activities and educational activities. Most times people met it felt like a big supportive group. However, for those that never attended, they never found out.
    Everyone knows what church is like. Having a Single Adult ward increases single adult activity. It allows you to get to know people in a stress free environment, seeing how they fulfill their callings and participate in church, discover their beliefs, etc., without any pressure or stress. Feel lucky that your area leaders have chosen to give you that opportunity. Single Adult wards are voluntary, so simply attend a standard Ward if you don’t like the SA ward. Many of us are envious of you.

  14. I know my comment is a bit after-the-fact, but I was just introduced to this amazing website, so I’m still catching up.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and the comments. I especially loved the list. Thank you. I also appreciate what you said about your hesitation to write more about singles because you know they are all different (I think you said that in a comment). I think that is critical.

    I am in my early 30′s and, matter of fact, I’m in the Potomac ward. I’ll be honest, I am very torn on how I feel about it. Some of the things I really enjoy about it: first and foremost, that the church is attempting to address the very real issue that it’s more than just a few misfits that slip past 30 unmarried. It’s not just a “of the world” thing anymore; it’s just life. I like not being near gobs and gobs of children. Horrible of a woman to say, I know. But, while I really like my friends’ children, I’ll be honest, I don’t care for a bunch for random children who scream all through the meetings, and try to climb on my lap while snot runs down their faces (and their parents — who usually don’t even know me — somehow assume I must find this adorable). I don’t like how there is the usual singles ward dilemma of 1 man to every 10 women. It feels like a competition constantly and I hate that. I also hate the cliques of singles wards. I’ll admit that Potomac is better than the YSA scene, but it is still has its cliques. Finally though, I dislike that there is a push by leadership on marriage marriage marriage.
    OK, I get that a big part of singles wards is to provide the opportunity for a mate, but I sometimes feel like we’re all old enough to *know* that. Must the Bishop talk about it all the time, too?

    I really miss the family ward scene in some ways. I’ve always been a bit of an “old soul” and find myself much more comfortable around “older” people (though, I’m one now myself). Some of my best friends in life have been 50+. But, I’ll be honest, I haven’t generally felt very welcome in family wards by women and men of my own peer group that were married. I, often, felt ignored by them.

    Finally (because this is getting long), it’s interesting to see how mid-singles wards are changing a lot of cultural and, potentially, doctrinal thoughts. I’ve noticed in the Potomac ward that the leadership really encourages online dating (I can remember many times hearing “words of extreme caution” by leadership on things like that even a couple of years ago) and encouraging dating and marrying a non-member. I find the latter pretty interesting considering I was raised my entire life with church lesson upon church lesson of never, ever marrying outside your faith. Shoot, if you married a non-RM it was questionable. For the record, I am absolutely OK with that, but the idea that the church is encouraging it is quiet progressive.

  15. When the Potomac ward was formed, I cringed. I was very vocal that it was a bad idea. Then I looked at my own situation. There were only a handful of singles in my ward. Single people from the YSA ward that lived in my ward boundaries (and some other wards) in the stake, moved into the boundaries of the Crystal City ward (a family ward in the stake that had a 100+ mid singles) and out of mine and other wards in the stake once they turned 31. My social life as a single was poor at best and I struggled to find like minded friends. So I attended the Potomac ward and made many new friends and loved the experience. It gave my religious worship an energy that had been lacking in a ward where I never felt that I really fit in.

    I realize that this separation of single and married people is counterproductive to a mutual understanding, but singles will never be equally distributed across a stake or region. I heard single people that were members of the Crystal City ward say that with the new singles ward they could buy a home elsewhere in the stake without fear of social suicide.

    In an ideal world there would be an equal distribution of all demographics in a ward, and there would be little need for a singles ward but this world is far from ideal and singles wards for all age groups serve a great purpose and need.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>