The Regrets of a Middle-Aged Virgin


I’m a life-long singleton. I’ve been in love twice but never got as far a long-term relationship. The last time I kissed anyone with tenderness and passion was . . . well, a long time ago.

I’m a middle-aged virgin. I remember the day I reluctantly confessed this to the practice nurse in my local Well Woman clinic when I was there to have a smear test. Her face was a picture. I honestly think she’d have been less shocked had I confessed to sleeping with the entire Manchester United football team.

Secular society, of course, can scarcely believe that such creatures still exist. Virgins were regarded somewhat askance a hundred years ago, let alone now.

I’ve yet to meet a single Christian who possesses the elusive (and absurd) ‘gift of singleness’. Most singles I know are single by default, not design—through divorce, or bereavement, or simply not having found a life-partner (that would be me). I suspect there are many such in the evangelical community, outwardly cheerful and apparently fulfilled but quietly hiding their pain as they serve their churches.

I grieve in several ways:

Longing for love. This can be a profound ache, a deep sadness, tapping into a fundamental sense of rejection and abandonment. I know perfectly well that marriage and parenthood are hard work. But some people do actually manage to find the love of their lives, and, even though God is kinder about this than I am on myself, my ‘failure’ in this area stings.The longing has hit many times in many ways:  the bittersweet emotions of being a bridesmaid when I would rather have been the bride—the green stab of jealousy I felt in my mid-forties when another forty-something friend became a wife and mother—wondering where I went wrong, if I wasn’t intentional enough about dating, or praying for a husband.

Mourning motherhood. I’d have loved to have been a mother. That hurts, especially when I think about children who are ill-treated by their biological parents. Another sting is that I’m adopted, and would have liked to have passed on my genes. I have also yearned to have the physical experience of pregnancy. These longings hit me hard on the day when I held my two-day-old niece in my arms, a delicate baby girl with a mouth like a rosebud. Such a primal wave of fierce tenderness surged within me. I wondered then if this might be the closest I would ever come to cradling my own daughter. I was right. That day would never come.

Missing out on rites of passage. I don’t believe that sexual initiation automatically confers maturity since there are plenty of people who are sexually experienced but emotionally immature, but sex is such a basic, human drive that I often feel empty and hollow inside for not having had it. This has often been a physical ache but it’s also an emotional yearning, when your arms reach out only to embrace an empty circle, when you wish you had someone to hold, and cherish, and take care of.

How have I coped with extended singleness over the years? I have often anesthetized the sense of loss through a vivid sexual fantasy life. Now the menopause has come and gone and I’m done with grieving for the children I never had. My libido has also calmed. Perhaps that’s just as well, because sexual frustration can be painful–not just physically, but emotionally.

I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to assume that I am always unhappy, or in a constant state of grief. I have a rich life in many ways, with many interests and friends. I’ve had blessings others haven’t, including God giving me the gift of a ministry I love.

Neither do I resent the traditional teachings of my faith—the view that sex is for the covenant of marriage, and the command of celibacy for the unmarried. I don’t regret the demands of following Jesus. I could never regret following him.

I don’t want pity: pity feels patronising. Neither do I want pious lectures about being ‘content’ with singleness. Empathy, however, is welcome, knowing that someone respects my feelings and my struggles, and understands something of what it costs to be a single Christian in today’s culture. Christ is worth that cost, but an acknowledgement of it still goes a long way. Such a rare moment came recently, during a women’s worship event in London. One of the married speakers publicly affirmed all the single women there. She called us ‘heroes’. I could have hugged her.  

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11 thoughts on “The Regrets of a Middle-Aged Virgin

  1. This is a hard place to be – no one knows what to say. I’d like to start this out by admitting I also don’t know what to say.

    I feel that the capital-C Church – the Kingdom as its whole, all the churches of all our denominations – has a big problem with forgetting people who aren’t married/in a relationship. Small groups might be “young marrieds” or “young family” or made up primarily of married couples or parents in general – and it seems like those who are not coupled up find themselves sort of pushed, gently, not on purpose, to the outside of the circle.

    There is also the sense that a lack of a sexual relationship will somehow ruin all others, and I HATE that. I hate that we reduce people to only aspects of their lives, as opposed to the whole.

    I know there must have been more than a few other women in that room who wanted to hug her, too.

  2. This is such a gift. I know that this was hard to write and I am blessed to be a witness. I know the truth of this is so needed. Thank you.

  3. Beautiful piece. Would you agree that perhaps these days there are more “acceptable” options for single women in the church as in…adopting as a single parent? There are single women in my circles that have adopted and the church community has been very supportive.

  4. You are a hero! A brave woman on a journey of life that most of us would be too afraid and weak to take given the choice. Thank you for being an example and for SHARING it. Bless you!

  5. Dear Anonymous, bless you. I’m still hoping to find my soul mate, and I don’t regret my faith or my commitment to wait for marriage, but sometimes people forget that it still hurts. There is an emotional process to this path that is ignored in society, and even in the church, especially in the years past youth. (I’m almost 38 and I’ve never even been on a real date!) Singleness isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all “be glad you don’t have to share the remote control or the blankets” quips. Thank you for writing this and for living your convictions despite the struggles. You are not alone <3

  6. Dear Anonymous, I just read your story and I am an exact mirror of yourself except for three points: I have still not accepted my childlessness, I have at least 80 percent given up on God, and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor of two years. I had a double mastectomy and four reconstructive surgeries. After healing, I did everything I knew to accept my “fake” breast, even tattooing beautiful flowers and a hummingbird but, I still loathe them because I never got to experience what every woman has a right to with their own body. The same goes with still being a virgin and now I’m post-menopause and don’t ever want a man to see, feel, or touch my vigina. I am totally miserable and hate my body. I don’t see any happiness in the future or any acceptance with my body. I have seen psychotherapist and am on anti-depressants but, I struggle to get thru every day. I guess most of all, I just feel like a “total freak” without anyone to talk to commiserate with. If there is someone in cyber space who can relate, I would appreciate your input.

    In Misery,
    Had Enough

  7. wow, im in the same possition, though for different reasons, im 39 years old virgin, i do try and get girlfriends and i have all my life, but ive got aspergers and i was raised by a feminist single mother who hated men so ive had a lot of problems trying to get a date, so far ive only got no as an answer, but i feel all your pain, its really sad. Its so painful at times i feel like ive lost my mind, because i need to hold someone so badly.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is a shame that the Christian experience in these days is so self absorbed. There is a unity bond and intertwining that we are meant to share in the absolute Truth in Jesus Christ. It is rarely encountered but I believe it is an embrace that exceeds the marital bond full of the passion, jealousy and love of God.

  8. I’m a 41-year old, virgin man. Not because I’m religious (I’m not), but because I suffer from
    Avoidant Personality Disorder, which makes me hate myself, and unable to deal with being judged
    or criticized by others. I think I’m the most unattractive and unworthy person on Earth, and I always have, ever since I was a child. And the thought of having my fears confirmed by others has made me
    give up on life and isolate myself for over 20 years.
    It’s impossible to meet women to date or talk to when you don’t want to leave the house.
    I do have all the usual desires and needs that most people do, of course, but I just can’t imagine
    myself being intimate with anyone. It would be like throwing dirt over a beautiful painting or something.
    Anyway, it’s not being a virgin that’s the worst part for me. It’s accepting that I will always be a virgin
    because I feel inferior to everyone else for reasons that are beyond my control.
    A lot of older virgins say that they’re “still” a virgin, which would suggest that they haven’t given up
    hope yet. But I gave up hope before my 20th birthday, and living out the rest of my days, knowing that
    there’s nothing I can do to change things for the better, no matter how much I’d like to, that’s what’s
    hard. But the only way forward is to accept that fact.

  9. Dear Anonymous:

    I empathize! I respect your feelings and struggles, and I understand perfectly. I appreciate the way you beautifully put into words what I am also experiencing.

    I am a 63 year-old virgin. When I accepted Christ at 21, I learned about fornication, and I learned that believers are to be equally yoked. I made a commitment to God that I would be obedient.

    At that time, I started praying for marriage. I had a very strong baby hunger from the ages of 27 to 47. It was so bad that I’d pray to be able to hold someone’s baby when I went to church. I have no idea why God has not answered my prayers, but like you, I do not resent the teachings of my faith, and I could never regret following Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is about to be revealed in us and through us” (Rom 8:18).

    • Thank you so much for reading. We’re glad you were able to find some common ground and encouragement. We admire your fortitude and singular commitment to loving and obeying Jesus. Blessings on your continued journey! May you be filled to bursting with more of Jesus all the time.

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