In recovery circles, I often hear men speak of the challenges, rewards, and losses from the perspective of marriage and fatherhood. It seems that greater emphasis is placed on married men than on single men, especially older single men, which, interestingly enough, is a rising demographic. While there are varying circumstances and reasons for singleness among older men (and women for that matter), I’m going to be speaking from the perspective of one who has never married or had children.
In other words, someone outside the societal orthodoxy of relationships.
I’m not sure how many men (or women) there are, caught in the trap of addictions, that have never married or bore children. What I do know is that there is often an unspoken stigma assigned to those of us who aren’t married and childless beyond the threshold of middle age.
For men, it’s acceptable in their twenties and maybe even our thirties, to be single and childless. By our forties that view begins to wane, wondering if we’ll ever be fathers or husbands. By our fifties though, the dreaded slide towards senior citizenship begins to slope at a sharper angle as we pass the point-of-no-return, on our way past the precipice of the dreaded, ‘best before’ date.
At that point, we wonder if we’ll ever have a soul mate. It’s a similar status as it is for women after forty, particularly when it comes to parenthood, since their reproductive clocks bear a shorter shelf life. As I write this article, I am approaching fifty-seven years of age by only a couple of months, and I must say that the stigma of failure is as palpable on my soul as the infamous Mark of Cain...
I’ve yet to see a program called ‘Focus on Singles.'
While married people may politely assure us older singles that we’re not failures as many of us believe, we know better. When they say we still fit in and belong to a ‘family’ of sorts, be it the body of Christ or a congregation, the stinging reality of unfertilized hereditary seed hits home hard when we sit at a pew and look longingly at a happy family assembled near us and envision ourselves in that bucolic scene. I’m not saying that it’s a depressing situation for all older singles; there are those who have embraced the single life and are filled with joy at their relationship with Christ, sans the spouse and kids. What I am saying though, is that for many addicts, who’ve often left a life trail of disillusionment, peppered with terrible choices, left in a bitter vacuum of bachelorhood, the single life can be anything but joyful.
The sad truth of society’s view of marital status is the implicit bias towards the promotion of marriage permeating all aspects of culture, both in the secular world as well as Christendom. Podcast host and Christian writer Thane Marcus Ringler aptly points out the sinister message inadvertently communicated to singles subconsciously, whenever marriage is celebrated: marriage is wonderful and fulfilling and is the best thing that can happen to a person, therefore, if you’re single, you’re missing out in life.
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