Popular culture has romanticized dating and marriage as milestones to be reached. With a flick of your thumb on Facebook and Instagram, a photo of your friend’s proposal appears. You scroll down your feed more and you see your other friends’ weddings at the beach. Sooner or later, baby photos start popping up everywhere. The comment sections are flooded with “Congratulations” and “So happy for you!”

Marriage is beautiful, but culture has distorted the beauty of covenant into a life goal.

We subconsciously put timelines on relationships and marriages — “Why am I still single at 28? I should be married before I hit 30. I want kids by 35.” God never asks us for our preferences; God is God and we are not. This means that you may not marry a beautiful brunette who cooks gourmet meals, loves to serve in children’s ministry, and wants to travel the world together.

Perhaps it’s not even in God’s perfect plan for you to get married. If that were true, would you be satisfied and content with being single? If we were to be honest with ourselves, most people would have a hard time answering “Yes” to that question. We long for companionship. We desire intimacy. We dream of having children. All of these things are good and beautiful, but often our intentions are selfish and impure.

Many individuals jump into dating relationships out of loneliness and insecurity with themselves. Others desire relationships to feel wanted and loved. They look to another person to fill holes in their hearts that only God can fulfill. All of this results in a divorce rate of 40-50% in the United States (http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/). The divorce rate among Christians is no more or less similar to non-Christians.

Why is divorce so high in our society? For Christians, if we are promised the Holy Spirit and God on our side, then why do we still have high rates of divorces?

I am convinced that the problem is not a relationship problem; it is a singleness problem.

The prerequisite of being a couple is first being individuals. When two individuals join, they become a couple. The problem is that a large number of individuals have not cultivated the capacity to become secure in whom God created them to be and to love themselves.

When two broken, confused, and insecure individuals join together, it can result in a very messy relationship. The two individuals may have the expectation that each will fulfill the other’s desire for love and wanting. Whenever we look to something outside of God to fulfill our needs, we will become disappointed. God didn’t create humans to fulfill all of our needs and desires. It also isn’t fair to hold that expectation onto others. We are sinful, broken human beings, not God.

In Genesis 2, God created a man, Adam, and placed him in the Garden of Eden to take care of it. God commanded that he can eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After, God created a woman, Eve, to be a companion and helper with Adam.

Before Eve came into the picture, God first created Adam as an individual who did what God commanded and stewarded the Garden of Eden. THEN, God said it is not good for man to be alone and created a woman.

One of the keys to a successful relationship is to steward your time of singleness in God-honoring ways. Before diving into what this looks like practically, I want to dispel a couple myths about singleness:

TWO MYTHS ABOUT SINGLENESS

1) Being in a relationship means it’s better than being single.

There’s nothing wrong with the season you are in whether you are single, dating, or married. Being in a relationship does not mean you are more “successful” in life than those who aren’t in a relationship. In fact, Jesus was single and fulfilled his father’s purpose on earth — to sacrifice his life out of love to give all the opportunity to be saved and have eternal life with God. Singleness is a gift if you choose to look at your situation that way. You are not bound to another person and have more freedom to serve God than a married person (ex. Travel overseas on mission). Perhaps God is placing you in a season of singleness to cultivate your relationship with Jesus and to develop spiritual disciplines. I urge you to make the most out of whatever season God has put you in.

2) He or she completes me.

If you believe someone will complete you, this presumes you are not whole to begin with. No man or woman will ever fully satisfy all of your needs and desires. If that were true, then they would be God and they are not. Contentment in and devotion to God is our highest calling. You will be sorely disappointed if you expect anyone or anything outside of God to satisfy you. Ask any married couple and you have a living testimony. Your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband will never love you like Jesus loves you.

Especially for someone who desires marriage, it’s crucial to develop the vertical relationship before the horizontal.

We cannot give what we do not possess. You cannot give love if you do not believe you are fully loved first by God. This is true in all relationships — friendships, romantic relationships, business partnerships, coworker relationships, and the like.

RELATED: Don’t Waste Your Singleness

3 PRACTICAL WAYS TO CULTIVATE THE SEASON OF SINGLENESS

1) Develop spiritual habits and disciplines.

Bruce Lee said, “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” Before getting into any relationship, dating or marriage, you must practice spiritual habits to get your relationship right with God and to hear His voice. If you do not prioritize your spiritual life, it will be much more difficult to be healthy and whole in other areas of life.

Develop the habit of daily, dedicated quiet time. Understand when your mind is the quietest. For me, I am an early riser so I spend my mornings with God every day in prayer and reading His Word. The world can become noisy; we are constantly bombarded by worldly values and negative talk (i.e. politics, sensual advertisements, wrongful advice from others). Spending quiet time with God allows you to hear His voice as you live your life moment by moment according to His steps. It will help you make small and big decisions in healthy ways.

Read the Bible like your life depended on it…because it does. The Bible is God’s way of teaching, advising, and correcting us. Join a small group Bible study; there is accountability and also fun in studying together. If you prefer structure, start a Bible reading plan. The YouVersion Bible app has themed plans ranging from courage, leading a family, building friendships, to getting through difficult seasons. Pick one that appeals to you and stick to it.

2) Spend time alone, and be comfortable with it.

Go to the movies by yourself. Eat a meal alone. Date yourself and get to know yourself.

Many people default to pulling out their phones when eating alone. This habit shows that you may not be comfortable with being by yourself and staying present. If you aren’t comfortable with being by yourself, you won’t be comfortable with someone else. Treat your season of singleness as time for you to become more secure and confident in who God created you to be. In due time, when Mr. Right or Ms. Right comes along, you will be more secure and honest about who you are. Confidence attracts.

3) Be faithful in where God has planted you.

You may not like your job or station in life currently, but be faithful and committed in it while you’re waiting for your significant other. The biggest mistake many people make is to mentally check out and divert their time and energy to seeking relationships. Take this time to develop a foundation for your career. If you don’t know what you want to do professionally, take proactive steps to figure yourself out by experimenting with different ministries at church, ask your closest friends what your strengths and weaknesses are, take the Myers-Briggs personality test, and take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test.

If you are not faithful in the little things, God will not entrust you with the bigger opportunities, including a significant other. On top of that, people are attracted to those who work hard and are dedicated in what they do. Would you want to be with someone who is lazy and uncommitted in their work?

Food For Thought: What will you do in your singleness to prepare you for a relationship?

Alex Tran works in the tech space as a project manager and incorporates his faith in the workplace. Alex is passionate about helping lost people become found, spiritually and vocationally. His mission is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by counseling individuals through life’s circumstances. His life dream is to live overseas in the APAC region with his future family serving college students and 20-somethings.