A single woman looking for a Christian husband has an uphill struggle. Alison Dorricott tells John Buckeridge where she looked for Mr Right.
More single women attend church than single men. This means there is a lot of competition among those single women who want to find a Christian husband. Alison Dorricott became a Christian at university aged 18 and remained single until May 2004 when, aged 40, she married David. At times Alison thought she would never find a life partner. This thought made her very unhappy. Though now happily married, Alison continues to care about the plight that many Christian singles are in, and with her husband has developed a ministry to singles. Her experiences as a single Christian woman has much to teach the wider church about the way it treats singles. Meanwhile the annual house party in France she helps organise is a practical response to a need that many Christian singles have…
How did you feel in your mid-30s about being single?
I had whole months when I would go ‘Raaah’ at God about my situation! I remember once travelling out on a Christian singles holiday and locking myself in the loo in the coach and crying because, having looked around the group, I’d realised that this was going to be yet another holiday when I wouldn’t meet the man of my dreams.
Were Christian holidays the main way you tried to meet single Christian men?
I tried a range of methods including holidays. But there aren’t many options. There aren’t even that many options for holidays. There are secular holidays for singles, but many Christians would struggle with those. There are also specialist activity holidays, which focus on walking or cooking for example, that could be more appropriate. I found the holidays that included the Christian aspect more helpful, so I did go on a lot of Oak Hall holidays and have worked on their teams as well as a volunteer. I really enjoyed those.
Joining the coach at the beginning of the holiday was always a bit tense. I used to take a bag of sweets around and use them to say hello to people, so I had something to hide behind. That fear was one of the difficult parts of being single. There were a couple of holidays where I did meet people I was attracted to and had a brief relationship with, but they didn’t last.
Describe the other options you explored…
You can pray, and hope that God sends you someone – and for some that works, God will cross their path with somebody. However in most cases of Christian singles over 30 I have come across, simply getting on with everyday business has not worked on its own. Most will need to be more pro-active.
Obviously you consider people at your local church, but most singles attend churches where there isn’t a large pool of people in that situation. So an option is to try another church. Some people might frown on that and say you are getting your priorities wrong. In my opinion, as long as any other church you attend holds the same Christian ideals that you believe in, then I don’t see anything wrong with this. That’s what I did. I wanted to find a church where other singles in my age group attended, where there was a mechanism for having fellowship and socialising together. That was a really important part of my life at the time. It isn’t all about finding a life partner!
In fact as a single, just socialising with other Christians, particularly other singles, was really important. There are some really good area Christian social groups like Northern Lights in the north and Network in the south that are worth investigating, that have regular meetings plus special events such as dances or parties. I attended a few of those and they were excellent – it was so good to be with others who understood your situation – and to have a good laugh. I know some people have met life partners that way, but that isn’t how it happened for me.
I haven’t mentioned Introduction Agencies - that’s another area that some Christians may frown on. But if you want a job you look in the newspapers or you go to a Job Centre. You go to where the possibilities are. God has put us in a physical world with resources around us and one of the resources now is the Internet.
When I first considered Introductory Agencies I drew a deep breath. It was a big step to take and I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing. I wondered if I was taking the matter out of God’s hands. I subscribed to a couple of agencies and it was an interesting experience… You do have to be quite brave. Anyone reading this who does consider going down that route has to have a measure of worldly wisdom. You have to be sensible, weigh things up and consider ‘how much can I trust this person?’ Most reputable Christian agencies have guidelines. A lot of it is commonsense, but you have to steel yourself as you’re going to come across all sorts of people, and some can be quite hurtful. You probably have a strong idea of who you are looking for and the person on the other side may have an even stronger idea. You have to be resilient and realistic.
What about speed dating?
I’ve never tried that, but if it had been available where I was I looking, I probably would have tried it because I got to the stage where I would try almost anything. That sounds awful but it’s the reality. You’d have to be fairly thick skinned and think hard about what you’re looking for before you try stuff like this. Ask; ‘What am I going to feel like if it this doesn’t work?’ Is that risk low enough for you to take? If you are going to be shattered and lie on your bed for six weeks in the dark because somebody (or even several people) said they are not interested in you, then you don’t want to try this!
Many women have very particular requirements and think men have to be courageous, good-looking, a real man of God etc, while men are often even more particular about who they will consider. I think men are aware that they have a lot more choice – there are more Christian single women about – so men are in a stronger position, but frankly some of these men will never find a woman because they are 50 years-old and looking for a 25-year-old woman – be realistic guys!
What would you say to a single Christian woman who is reading this and feels she will never find a Christian husband and may feel tempted to have a fling or hook up with a non-Christian?
I understand and empathise with how she feels. But that was the one thing I wouldn’t do. Putting God first is what our faith is all about. God made it very clear to me that I should not get involved with an unbeliever. It is very easy for someone who has been comfortably married for 20 years and who was married in their 20s to say that it is outrageous for a Christian woman to contemplate this route, but I can understand how that person feels and it is hard.
That said, not every single is unhappy with being single. But I was one of those who was people who was not happy. By the time I got to my mid-20s I started to think I was missing out on something and I did want to find somebody to marry. I think if they were honest, a lot of people who have never been married would want to find a partner for life.
What should churches in general, and married couples in particular, do to help singles?
Try to put yourself in the shoes of the single person. We may be happy to serve coffee after church, babysit and serve in other ways. But being servant-hearted is not the same as being a doormat. Sometimes being asked to do the crèche or the babysitting can be extremely painful and insensitive to somebody who hasn’t got children and wishes they did. It’s OK to ask, but if that person says ‘no’ or you can see from their reaction that it’s not appropriate, then don’t push it - it may be a big issue for them.
Try inviting a single around for a meal – on their own – and don’t spend all night talking about your children!
Ministers could help by being more aware generally that they aren’t just addressing parents with children – sometimes that’s how it comes across. When was the last time you heard some teaching on singleness?
It’s important to have a friend you can be real with. I had a prayer partner and was able to share a lot of stuff with her.
Now that you are married you are involved in organising holidays for singles, why?
When it comes to Christian holidays there isn’t much choice. Some do a fantastic job, but many are geared towards the 20s and 30s. If you are outside that age bracket, you start to feel that you are a bit old.
This is why I got involved in Spring Harvest’s French House Party. I want it to be brilliant, not poor or just average. I want this to be as good as, and better than, any non-Christian singles holidays out there.
The accommodation is four-star quality and aimed at singles. We have deliberately not specified an age group in our marketing. Neither is the French house party just for singles, it is actually for Christians without children (whether they leave them at home or have none), so we are trying to be inclusive but still be relevant to a particular group and it is hard to get that right. We’ve also geared the activities towards that. For example, you don’t need to be in a group of four to go off and do something. We have shuttle transport to the beach and there are coaches to get people from the UK. The ministry is another distinction – with speakers who are conscious and sensitive that they are talking to a group who may not fit the ‘normal’ family mould. We provide meals on site so no one has to eat alone, but you can turn up on your own. There are bring and share lunches and we provide opportunities for people to mingle. Our customer surveys show that some were nervous about coming on their own, they thought it was brilliant and want to come back the following year.
How did you meet your husband David?
I was registered on several Christian singles Internet sites. In fact, one unkind soul said he’d seen me on more sites than Robert McAlpine! (of course, he must have visited them all too). To me it seemed logical that if I was going to do it, I shouldn’t be half-hearted.
One day I got a message in my In-box, saying ‘Tell me more’. I actually thought it a bit cheeky (or lazy) as I’d already said quite a bit in my profile. But I replied politely and from there we established quite an email correspondence. David didn’t tick all the ‘right’ boxes – he was widowed with children and he didn’t live in the UK – but we managed just fine. I think that’s a lot of the answer – being prepared to be realistic about the things that aren’t 100% important.
And to cut a short story even shorter, we met, got on well, were engaged within four months and married within eight!