Single and married members of the Church see the challenges facing singles in a very different way. In a survey of Church members, singles overwhelmingly provided a few very specific answers, while the married respondents only mentioned those issues a few times, while giving very different responses.
With this disconnect is it any surprise that we, as a general church membership, struggle so much to include and help our single adults? I hope that the following survey results and commentary will help you better understand the needs of the singles, and with that knowledge, create more effective singles programs in your area.
The survey was posted in various LDS-oriented Facebook Groups such as, “LDS Midsingles of the World,” plus on several wards’ email lists. In all, there were 675 survey responses. The answers are a bit skewed due to the large number of singles that responded, but that only helps provide a greater insight into the challenges of the singles.
Of the 675 responses, 625 individuals reported that they are active members of the Mormon Church, 48 are inactive, and 5 were non-Mormons.
Question: Are you now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married?
Question: How old are you?
Question: If married, or previously married, how old were you at the time of your marriage? (If married more than once, please enter age at time of first marriage.)
Question: If married, or previously married, how many times have you been married?
Question: If you have never married, do you intend to, or hope to marry someday?
Question: If you are single, would you say that you have intentionally postponed marriage?
I asked the two questions above in order to dispel the myth that singles don’t want to get married, and/or that they are intentionally postponing marriage. The responses from the singles clearly indicate that they do all hope to be married someday, and very few have ever postponed marriage.
Question: According to the National Survey of Family Growth, the median age for women to enter a first marriage (in the U.S.) is 25.8 years old (of women who marry). But only 44% of women will marry by the age of 25. In your personal experience, do you find this to be true within the Mormon culture?
A sample of the written responses to this question-
It seems if a marriage does not occur by 25 or so, it just doesn’t happen, or not for 20 plus years.
I find they are younger.
I’m not sure-when I first married we were all getting married quite young-now my brother is 33 and still not married and now imagining life again and no one even seems to be real focused on marrying.
It seems to me that most Mormon women are married by 23.
I tend to socialize among older singles so it seems like a large number marry later but I think that may have to do more with my proximal bias among my friends
I think the median age is younger, and higher than 44% marry by age 25.
I think that there will be a fast growing number of unmarried Mormon women, due to the huge imbalanced gender ratio. Most YSA wards are 2:1 or even 3:1 women.
The numbers for Mormon culture are leaning more and more towards the national standard for first marriages. More people are putting it off until college is done. With the new age requirements for missions I feel that the age number will decrease for women.
The responses to this question were of particular interest to me. If you review the responses to the question regarding respondent’s age at time of marriage, you will see that 68% of respondents were married before the age of 26.
Question: If you have never married, what do you perceive to be the biggest challenge for LDS singles keeping them from marriage?
265 written responses were given. Here is a sampling. The answers provided below were the “every third response” in the spreadsheet, and not selected for content.
Lack of men! Who is there to marry?! If they are there, they are either addicted to porn or video games. We are raising a generation of boys that never grow up.
Mormons don’t know how to date, just hang out. Pornography addiction. Men not being interested in women. Mormon scale of attractiveness
Inability to find someone who they feel valued, trusted, and loved by. Fear of inability to meet expectations of future spouse–not measuring up.
No suitable dating opportunities
Men come home from their missions at (now) 20….Meanwhile, women older than 20 and single are perceived as left overs, by 25, old, by 30 spinsters because of the male population for the reasons mentioned previously. As a result, the women become more and more accomplished and therefore more and more intimidating and ultimately not the sweet, young thing the 20 year old had in mind as the “perfect” lds girl
It is no longer a priority, people would rather hang out, go to parties, on cruises, etc then be married.
Guys don’t seem to want to commit or ask girls on dates. Or there just seems to be a lack of worthy priesthood holders (on the east coast).
trust, some people will not open up to others
not having quality men to marry
Meeting single LDS men
Economic downturn, unrealistic expectations, looking for lust and not sure how to find love
Lack of dating opportunities
The ratio of men to women.
The men have a ton of choices, which leads to indecision, and the women are just not all statistically going to find a mate within the church.
Hard to pinpoint just one, but I guess I’d say the biggest challenge is finding someone whose goals, interests, life experience, and maturity match one’s own – and who simultaneously feels the same way – especially given the unprecedented level of freedom and opportunity enjoyed in our society (for better or for worse, freedom and opportunity make singleness less onerous and also has a tendency to promote individual diversity at the expense of this “sameness” which I think is so critical).
Getting a date! Finding a good guy.
It’s easy for those who do not marry young to keep looking for what they think is the “perfect spouse”. If, for example, you’ve already waited til your mid-to late twenties because you couldn’t find the right person, you’re more likely to pass up opportunities to build a life with someone who is good, but not perfect.
When you’ve already waited for so long, why “settle”? I believe a LOT of LDS singles get caught in this trap, a self defeating cycle of perfectionism.
Lack of a large singles program in some places/ career-educational goals/ just being weird
Complacency. It seems like many people, once they get to a certain age, become very complacent and don’t actively pursue dating or marriage.
Not enough men to date. Male/Female ratio
So many singles who are not really looking is the biggest problem.
High expectations, lots of pressure to get it right.
Grown-up relationship skills
Worrying about picking the “right one”
Most are looking for 10’s when they themselves are 5’s, not willing to commit when something better may come along.
Emotional challenges resulting from failed relationships, rejection, and the trauma of being single when you expected to be married
Ratio of men to women in the wards.
Not enough good men
Worldly expectations, false understanding of what love is
Availability of other active singles
The greatest challenge is finding peers to date i.e. with each passing year the number of active LDS singles shrinks causing me to broaden my definition of peers until it’s more of a support group than a dating pool.
Fear of commitment/lack of confidence
Not being willing to look beyond friendship, and not making themselves available, needing different ways to meet not the same old same old.
Worthy men, location, and lack of committment
The “perfect” mate myth – singles are too picky b/c they want someone who is perfect.
Not enough worthy men
Finding worthy priesthood holders
I think it is hard as a women to attract the attention of a worthy man because there is such a huge difference between young single active women and men.
The lack of righteous men and women to date/marry or meeting people to date.
people don’t date
fear – fear of rejection…fear of committing the wrong person…fear of giving up freedom
Women want their mate to look like a model and be wealthy, and men want their mate to look like a model
LDS women not interested in marriage.
Bad taste from previous marriage and now acting like a bunch of idiot teenagers
Men are too afraid to ask us for a date. They need some instruction in how to date women, and a shot of courage to do so. Society has reversed male-female roles in dating, and it is true in LDS culture too. As for myself personally, I have an aging parent who has refused to cut the umbilical cord and let me go. I often feel trapped since I have no siblings to help. It is also hard fitting in at church because people don’t know how to relate to you if you’re single. They can never understand it unless they’ve been in your shoes. So you feel isolated and sometimes even ostracized. I have never known what it even feels like to be a part of a complete family since I grew up in a single-parent home.
Do you see the overwhelming number of times in there the answer was along the lines of too few worthy priesthood holders?
Question: If you are married or previously married, what do you perceive to be the biggest challenge keeping LDS singles from marriage?
244 written responses were given. Here is a sampling. The answers provided below were the “every third response” in the spreadsheet, and not selected for content. (Answers were kept intact, and unedited.)
How men are treated in the church compared to women, we are always the bad guy and that is why I will not marry an LDS woman again.
Finding the one
Not having the guts to ask people out. Seriously….yes you risk rejection but so what? Risk is a necessary part of life.
Not taking care of their appearance and health. Unrealistic attitudes about what they expect from others, and themselves.
Lack of worthy mates if not in college town
For me it is the terror of having it go bad a 2nd time
spread across region so hard to meet others and those in singles wards tend to want to just keep looking for next best thing
Lack of communication by both sexes – they wait for the other person to express interest rather than taking action and initiating a relationship.
children, weight, a safe place for singles to meet, keeping singles active to meet other singles
Too many options for mates and a lot of pressure to pick the “right one” for an eternal marriage.
Commitment, money, wanting to finish their education
The ability to find enough single people to date and actually find someone that is compatable. This is especially hard when one lives far from any majour city where there is people to date.
Not willing to date even just for fun
Haven’t found the right match yet. The reasons why they haven’t found the right match are widely varied and include luck, not being open enough, laziness, outside-of-mainstream personalities, fear, and of course luck.
I’m sure there are more than this. I really don’t think you can reduce it to one thing.
Disconnect between the church’s teachings, and reality. Many women have to have careers, and want to have careers. Within the culture, however, women with career ambitions are less attractive. Our maturity is stunted because we don’t have open conversations about sex and relationships. We don’t speak openly about challenges. There’s a lot of pressure to marry.
Developing a relationship with a compatible partner
Lack of quality marriage prospects
Currently it seems finances and not being able to be on their own or know how to be on their own is an issue. I also think maybe not knowing how to break the single’s scene cycle might factor in, ie group dates, big activities, etc., to actually date and get to know someone.
The wrong expectations. People expect something to be a certain way and their expectations are not met.
Ability to live life according to gospel principles to live by the spirit. We become to selfish and looking for what others will do for us instead of becoming our best selves first!
not enough good men
It is hard to find people to date. As single parents we are very busy and do not have the time to date.
Fear or failing again, holding out for a perfect partner, very limited social network when older, finding time to date harder with work, kids, etc.
selfishness, anything from not wanting to have the money-drain of a family, to their desire to finish college, etc, and numerous other examples falling under: selfishness.
Fear of commitment
I believe that the wards need to do more the the older singles. There should be a designated ward in each stake for singles to attend. There should be more communication about activities and the activities should either be kid friendly or have a place for the kids to be during the activity.
Career mindedness and desire to be independent of a partner financially.
Personal choice. Some are looking for “perfection”
Too many women. In europe people live far apart. High expectations because it is about eternity
Before I got married, the biggest challenge keeping me from marriage was fear, it felt like if I ever chose to get married, I would be choosing to make myself very vulnerable and that I would be surrendering my eternity to someone who could turn out to be an awful person.
The right opportunity, men keeping options open and not ready to give up fun/ Peter Pan lifestyle.
Finding someone with similar interests and talents, close to my age (and still willing to have kids?) and companionable.
Having fun living the single life and a falling away from formal dating.
Hard to find a worthy person to marry!
Being distracted by secondary pursuits – not being where opportunities.
Committment issues (which is just a surface issue of deeper issues), and the mentality that “the grass is always greener on the other side.” People will pass on great people simply because they think there might be something better out there. Once they pass on someone great it’s hard to accept something that isn’t better than someone you previously dated. Shoot, one more! Once you’ve married someone who was strong in the church and a great, upstanding person and seen them do a complete 180 (leave the church and change their values, etc) it’s scary to know if the next will do the same. We all have our agency.
Hate saying this, but I blame the men. In my single adult ward, half the guys have same sex attraction which isn’t ever addressed in the ward, the others are awkward or players.
a me first attitude, strengthened by fear and not connecting with the right person
from a woman standpoint, I would have to say, male stupidity.
Part of the me generation that has had life to easy and doesn’t no how to give.
The desire to have time to themselves, to travel, educate in school, or replace marriage/kids with animals.
This is quite the conundrum. There is a few things that hold people back; 1.) the structure of the church isnt set up in singles favor, especially those who have been married 2.) there tends to be an air of adolescence/juvenile behavior with those still very active in the church, especially those who arent or who have never been married, its as if they havent matured emotionally, in a sense all the smart/good mates are taken and married right away, so your left with all the social “retards”. There are some that just haven’t found their niche yet, but from a young age Mormons are coached to get married, so those who are smart adapt and do it. As a 29 year old divorced woman I don’t connect with the men in church because they are awkward, dorky and juvenile. I connect more with men who are not members because they are confident and like to do adult things. I feel like all the good Mormon men are already married.
Proximity to other single Mormons. There just isn’t a big enough pool to choose from after college.
From back in the day, it seemed that men had so many options and were eager to pursue them: professional, educational, financial, travel, etc. If they found a great girl, they seemed to feel there would be another even better one around the corner.
the men who want Miss America but are far from being Mr Perfect themselves
Recently getting married at 32 & a person who dated a lot I think people have a misconception of what marriage is. Also I think along with the millions of things that take up our time(technology/activities) it is the same with dating. Too many options & way too many distractions.
Do Singles and Marrieds See the Challenges for Singles the Same Way?
In short, yes and no. Overwhelmingly the singles reported that the biggest challenge was finding worthy men. That answer did pop up several times in the married responses, but it was not the majority response. And keeping in line with the myth that singles are postponing marriage, many answers in the married responses implied that singles avoid marriage for financial reasons. It is notable that very few, if any, singles mentioned finances. In fact, it is only anecdotal, but in my own personal experience, I’ve noticed many singles see marriage as a solution to financial problems- they can go from one full-time income, to two full-time incomes. Too many singles think a future spouse will get them out of debt!
Where Have All the Quality Men Gone?
I’m sure you may expect at this juncture for the single woman to jump on the “there are no good available men!” bandwagon. And I will- there is an overwhelming shortage of good, quality, priesthood-holding, single men over the age of 30. This is an undeniable fact.
I could blame the men for a dozen little things- careers, money, commitment, etc., like many of the respondents did above. But the truth is that is NOT why there so few men available.
The real reason is that the men have gone less active in the Church. It isn’t that they are bad men, or losers, or failures. They have all disappeared and fallen away because they don’t fit in anymore within the Church or their ward family. I can’t provide you with a steadfast, concrete statistic to tell you how many men have gone inactive. But I will bet my life that the number of less active, single men over 27 years old, in any given ward boundary is higher than 70% (of single men that age). If you don’t believe me, go to LDS.org right now, pull up your ward roster, and count how many single men are in your ward over the age of 27, and then count how many of those men are less active.
It is popular to lambast the men, criticize them, or call them to repentance for not being good enough. But there is more to this story.. These men go inactive because their wards failed to involve them. They were not given a place to fit in within their ward family, and became invisible entities in the back row. They were not included or remembered when planning ward socials. They were completely forgotten. And with time, they have slipped through the cracks.
The women have the visiting teaching program to help keep them involved. Women are given more callings in the youth and primary programs. Single women are included much more than the men are, but there is still a very long way to go for nearly every “family” ward in the country to make more room for and include their single adults.
If you really want to know why there are so few single men and so many single women, ask yourself what you have done lately to help include and activate the single men in your own ward boundaries.
The Mid-Singles Program is Important
This brings me to the importance of the mid-singles program. These are the singles who aren’t quite “young” adults (which often implies college-aged, or entry-level career years), and yet, don’t belong lumped into the same category as their widow grandmother (like I am in my own stake). The Church has carved out a new program for these singles and dubbed it a Mid-Singles program. Mid-singles are typically between 27-45, but the specific age range is fluid. If a single is feeling too old to be a YSA, then they are old enough to be a mid-single. And on the top end of the age range, a good rule of thumb is if you have grandchildren, or are old enough to have grandchildren, or have children in college, you are no longer in the “mid” years.
Mid-singles programs are a life preserver to the singles, such as myself, that felt lost at sea once we were too old to be in the young single adults program and wards. The awkwardness of walking into a singles activity where you run into your best friend’s divorced father is gone.
There are at least 28 “mid-singles” wards popping up around the country right now. Many stakes have been given the directive to form a “mid-singles” program within their boundary. These programs truly do help keep singles from disappearing and going inactive- particularly the men. Encourage your local ward or stake to get the ball rolling and make these programs happen.
What Lessons Are We Teaching?
The responses to the survey also showed a painfully high number of people who feel a fear of commitment, that they might make a poor choice in selecting a spouse. Are we as a Church membership teaching the message wrong that so many people feel this fear? What can we do to better encourage confidence in dating and commitment? I often fear that the more we preach to the teenagers NOT to date and not to form emotional attachments, that we are damaging them for later in life. When they return home from their missions, are we helping to teach them how to form those attachments that we so strongly dissuaded them from having before? What can we do to help teach young single adults and single adults how to form healthy, loving relationships?
I do not have the answers, nor do I expect that any one person does. I do see that we have a serious problem, and that we must help our singles. We are all failing if the single men continue to disappear and feel excluded from the Church. We fail both the men and the women when this happens. I implore you to do all you can in your wards and stakes to help reach out and activate your single men. They need you, and so do the single women.
Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, and single woman. By day she is a freelance stock market writer for the Motley Fool, and marketing professional. By night, she is the author of the romantic novels, “You Heard It Here First,” and the sequel “This Just In!” And somewhere in the middle, she runs the website www.MormonBooksandAuthors.com!