How religious and community leaders can support single people

If you are a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam or other spiritual leader, you occupy a sensitive position in the personal lives of your single congregants. The same is true if you have a leadership position in an ethnic organization or other community group that families join. (If you lead a group that doesn’t get involved with people’s families and personal lives, see this post instead.)

Your community might have moral values and expectations about love relationships, such as expecting men and women to marry and have children. Some of the young people in your community might not agree with those values, or might find them very uncomfortable to follow. Can you offer them unconditional love, and find joy in their unique contribution to your community? If you cannot flex to accept the young person for who they are, it’s best to not get involved in their dating life. They will naturally find another community where they can be happier.

If a young person does feel comfortable with your community’s values, then they might need support in finding partners with a shared outlook. Your community activities for youth and singles might need adjustment to better accommodate newbies, introverts and people on the autism spectrum – just ask the shy and withdrawn people why they don’t attend.

If you have a trusting relationship with your single community member, you can offer them some private conversation or pastoral counselling, and see if they want to talk about the challenges of dating. You can boost their self-confidence by admiring their capabilities and recognizing their contribution to your community. They might need a few tips on connecting to people, or a referral to a counsellor who can help them with social skills. If they have any physical or mental health concerns, encourage them to see their doctor. Encourage your community member to keep talking about their emotional life, to friends, other elders, and a therapist if appropriate. You can offer some stories about your own early experiences with dating – just keep in mind that they are different people at a different time!

Alana

Alana is the founder of the Love Not Anger project, and the creator of the original "involuntary celibacy" support website in 1997. This post expresses her own views; she is not a mental-health professional or dating expert.

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