Denial in the Great Husband Hunt: An Evangelical Horror Story

Denial in the Great Husband Hunt: An Evangelical Horror Story October 31, 2020

Hi and welcome back! Today, as we’ve been doing for a while now on Halloween, we turn our attention to one of the biggest horror stories in evangelicalism: the Great Evangelical Husband Hunt. This year, our tale centers on the husband-hunting evangelical women who’ve reached the denial phase of their failed hunt. 

the great husband hunt
(Francesco del Cossa, Wikipedia. 15th-century fresco called “Triumph of Venus” or “Allegory of April.” That’s Mars and Venus on the left, the Three Graces at the upper right, and ALL THE LUSCIOUS COSTUMES on the lower right on the playful youths.

(Some previous posts about the Great Evangelical Husband Hunt: The Great Evangelical Husband HuntThe Sacrifice of the Marriage LambLeaving the Ring; Never Settle, Says Smug Married Evangelical Dude; Building a Better Husband.)

The Demographic Nightmare, Now Awakened.

For many years now, evangelical Christians have faced a very serious demographic problem. Their churches contain many more women than men, and as a group evangelicals grow steadily older on average every year. As well, they face a much worse divorce rate than other groups do because their marriage advice and the rules their leaders insist the flocks follow in marriage are worse than useless.

Thanks to all of these factors and more besides, evangelical churches are filled to bursting with unmarried middle-aged women (30 to 45-ish years old). And a whole lot of those women actively seek husbands — but rarely find any.

Oh sure, they cluster together into Singles’ Groups in their churches. They put themselves out there and work on themselves. They comfort themselves by saying it’ll happen in God’s own time and that their season of singleness has some big cosmic divine purpose.

Sometimes, they even meet someone they can kinda-sorta see as a potential suitor sent by Jesus himself to ease their loneliness and help them start their big dreams of marriage and motherhood.

Still, they come home alone all the same — many thousands of them.

The Days of Wine and Roses.

Ten years ago, evangelical women’s husband-hunts reflected a certain jolly, nonchalant quality: like a unicorn hunt, with riders dressed in particolor costumes and adorned with bells and carrying banners aloft on gilded poles, all laughing and playing while musicians and acrobats amuses them during the ride through the evangelical marriage forest.

Behold! Our huntress rides at the front, the star of the party, wears her long blonde hair loose and flowing, maybe with a garland of fresh pink flowers around her unworried brow. She waves her golden bridle at the sign of any four-legged creatures crossing her path, and she giggles at the open confusion on the faces of the deer and foxes who stare at the spectacle passing by, then melt away into the underbrush like thoughts unspoken.

She waves and laughs cheerfully at the children tossing roses in her path and wishing her good-fortune. They tell her that surely, surely, she’ll see her unicorn today.

When they say this, she always agrees with a full heart.

If at the end of such a day our rider returns without having seen her unicorn, she counts it no loss. And why should she? She still had a beautiful ride with loving friends and a day filled with music and laughter. Maybe she didn’t find an actual unicorn, but she’s in no hurry.

After all, everyone has told her she will find what she seeks — and soon. Even the god of the entire universe has shown her exactly what her future holds. She’d never argue with him.

Years later, however, her rides look very different.

The End of the Days of Wine and Roses.

Oh, our husband-hunter still hauls herself into her careworn saddle and she still rides forth to hunt, but her companions are way fewer in number now.

She rides alone, most days, and slowly at that.

No children toss roses into her path anymore. The novelty, for them as for her, wore off years ago. They grew up, led their own husband-hunts, and found whatever they sought, it seems. Or perhaps they ride alone, as she does, grimly searching for ever-more-elusive prey.

Similarly, the musicians who once entertained her during her hunts have long ago vanished. She doesn’t even remember when they stopped accompanying her. The only music she hears now is the tick-tick-TICK of her own internal clock, counting down every second to the ultimate end of her youthful dreams.

As she surveys the forest on either side of her well-worn riding trail, there’s a hardness in her eyes, a set to her lips, that wasn’t there a decade ago. The familiar congratulatory phrases she mouths to brides at her church? They emerge through gritted teeth and forced here’s all my teefies smiles.

The game has stopped being fun.

She doesn’t know why she hasn’t won it, either. But she’s pretty sure she knows who to blame for her situation.

The Vacuum, Unveiled.

Evangelical women who’ve failed to find husbands stand in a very unenviable position in their tribe.

They are the undesirable virgins, if they’ve never married at all.

If they’re some of the many divorced people in the tribe, then they are seen as defective and malfunctioning — somehow less-than even in a tribe that warbles constantly about how evereeeeebodeeee is a sinnnnnnerrrrr!

Naturally, these frustrated women want explanations. They want to fix whatever they’re doing wrong, they tell each other earnestly. That means they must know what the problem is so they can do that. Right? (… Right?)

In Christianity and especially in evangelical Christianity, full pocketbooks abhor a vacuum.

So nattering mommy bloggers and smug newlywed evangelical guys alike have rushed in to fill that void by offering these women the easy explanations and silly busy-work non-solutions they crave.

The False Claims Evangelicals Believe.

This particular issue within evangelicalism fascinates me. Always has. Evangelicals like to claim a few things that, if true, would make these women’s problems disappear.

First, evangelicals think they hold the monopoly on How to Marriage Properly. In fact, they think people outside their tribe don’t even know what love really is. Thus, nobody at all except evangelicals has any idea how to properly conduct a marriage. The tribe teaches men and women how to properly execute their divinely-mandated roles in marriage. Anybody who uses different rules is doomed to failure.

Second, evangelicals have an ANGLE that normies just can’t access. See, their god hand-selects every one of his followers’ perfect mates. He drops these mates into his followers’ laps at the perfect time for them to click together and fall in love. They are, indeed, as helpless to resist their god’s romantic plans for them as a ewe is to resist a shepherd’s mating plan, and for the same reasons.

Third, evangelicals idolize their antiquated and nonhistorical vision of “traditional marriage” as the ideal state for humans, despite what the New Testament repeatedly tells them about singleness. In fact, they point to this idolization as the rationale for their culture wars against women’s rights and LGBT equality.

Lastly, evangelicals push a standard for mates that they claim produces happy marriages. They stress the importance of a very spiritual personality in spouses. Ideal husbands and wives must put religion first in their lives, which theoretically creates marriage relationships centered around shared worship and adoration of Jesus. The entire tribe pushes this constant fiction about appearances and compatibility not mattering as much to TRUE CHRISTIANS™.

As I’ve often said, it’s not just Christians’ supernatural claims that are false. All of Christianity’s claims are untrue, especially the ones they make about Christian relationships.

“Where Are All the Good Men?”

For a while, evangelical women seemed to share one singular lament about their unsuccessful hunts:

Where are all the good men?

It’s like they thought of mate pursuit like shopping or something, and all the “good men” were stored in the back of the store somewhere. Is the shelf empty? Just ask a clerk to go get you a good man from the back! That always works.

But the lament revealed the truth of the matter. They really didn’t know where these mythical “good men” were. None appeared to belong to their own churches. Was there some mythical church where “good men” abounded? Maybe in “the back” of evangelicalism? There must be. But where was it? How could they find it and shop from it?

I’ve even got a book with that title, Where Have All the Good Men Gone? So far, it has been eye-opening reading, though not for the reasons the author probably intended. Her own utter lack of self-awareness rings out on every page of her book, leaving me with a very uncomfortable opinion about just why she hasn’t found a husband yet.

Nowhereman.

Of course, there’s no lack of misogynists in evangelical culture telling women exactly why they can’t find “good men,” which is what these misogynists mistakenly think they are. As misogynists see it, these women err in trying to adopt too much feminist thought in their lives, which repels TRUE CHRISTIAN™ men (like themselves).

Within the sharp confines of evangelicals’ dysfunctional, male-centered community, these men probably aren’t wrong. The last thing a misogynistic man wants is a feminist wife who won’t bend to his will. These men would rather just stay single, if that’s the alternative facing them. And many evangelical men do make a conscious decision to stay single.

Of course, this explanation understandably repels our husband-hunters. They remain positive that somewhere, somehow, they’ll find feminist evangelical men who’ll appreciate them as they are. They are sure that Jesus has picked a man like that for them! Now they just have to find him.

But as the years passed, this lament changed into something else entirely:

Pure denial.

“It’s Not Your Fault.”

In recent months, I’ve noticed a serious uptick in the number of social-media posts and YouTube videos advising single evangelical women that their inability to find a husband is absolutely not their fault. Here’s a representative of the genre:

The YouTuber here, Tiffany Dawn, is a middle-aged woman who’s been married just a few years. Her testimony sounds like pure evangelicalism. To be sure, she uses all the jargon I’d expect out of that tribe. Her biography page is shockingly lacking in self-awareness and mostly reveals how very useless Christianity is to its believers. Case in point: her super-duper-Jesus-a-riffic faith didn’t help her at all with an eating disorder, seriously-low self-esteem, or a very long-term relationship with a man who sounds emotionally abusive.

But everything is fine now. Ignore that strangely forced, here’s all my teefies smile she sports in every one of her photos. She found a husband! Calloo, callay! A few years of marriage now fully qualifies her to offer advice to Christian women hunting for husbands themselves. She calls her videos “Life Advice You Do Not Hear in Church.”

OOOOOH, SO EDGY, MUCH PROVOCATIVE.

Her advice to frustrated, lonely evangelical women is not to change much of anything and not to worry about succeeding in their husband-hunts.

And who should they blame for their singleness? 

Someone Who Isn’t Them.

The Advice She Wishes She’d Gotten.

I found myself watching this video with an increasingly concerned and alarmed expression forming on my face. The YouTuber explains that she wishes that someone in her church had explained to her what she’s going to explain to her followers today. At the time, you see, Jesus wasn’t helping Tiffany Dawn resolve a decade-long “crush” on some guy who apparently didn’t fully return her feelings or want to play along with the life-script she had running in her head. This is probably the long-term relationship she alluded to in her testimony.

She’d fixated hard on this fellow, y’all, but to no avail. Apparently, he was sorta interested, probably enough to have sex with her and maintain a loose relationship with her, but not enough to “make it official,” as she put it.

So she began to think that maybe, just mayyyyyybe, something was “wrong” with her. Maybe he didn’t wanna marry her because she was doing something wrong, or looked wrong, or acted wrong, or something.

And dangit, nobody in her church “sat her down” to tell her any of this!

But But But It Wasn’t Her Fault After All!

Eventually, she began to blame herself for her crush’s lack of sufficient matrimonial interest. With a giddy little (forced) smile in this video, Tiffany Dawn explains that his lack of interest wasn’t her fault at all! He just didn’t want to marry her. They simply lacked a “genuine connection.” That’s nobody’s fault!

At least she’s not blaming the men, I guess.

Oh sure, she concedes. Maybe sometimes, women do need to look to their social skills or whatever. But mostly, their single status isn’t their fault at all. Nope! They just need to keep on trucking! It’ll all work out fine in the end! Hooray Team Jesus!

A growing sense of horror began to overtake me as I listened to her.

I felt like I was listening to someone suffering serious delusions breathlessly explaining her pet conspiracy-theory.

Did this gal not even notice how her words contradicted everything her tribe claims to believe? That she herself claims to believe?

Tickling Their Ears.

Then I headed for the comments on that Tiffany Dawn video, where that feeling of horror only solidified. There, women thanked her for alleviating their self-blame. They rejoiced! Nothing was “wrong” with them after all!

yikes
(Source.) Notice that the YouTuber offers no advice at all, not even hope.

Of course, Tiffany Dawn isn’t the only Christian peddling this advice as part of her overall lifestyle-influencer package sales. You can find similar advice everywhere in the Christ-o-sphere lately. (Examples: other YouTubers like Coach Melanie; various books like this one; columnists like this gal.)

This advice stands in such stark contrast to the standard boilerplate blame laid on evangelical singles just 15 short years ago, when evangelical leaders barked at the troops to get off their high horses and marry already.

But these peddlers are wrong.

Something is wrong.

These women are doing something wrong.

And they have no idea what it is or how to fix it.

Taking a Very Wrong Turn in the Forest.

Something was very seriously wrong.

This YouTuber was leading her little merry band of husband-hunters astray on their trail through the evangelical marriage forest. As earnest and well-meaning as she undoubtedly is, she and her peers peddling terrible advice have done their audience a big harm — one they won’t even recognize until it’s way too late for them to correct course.

Husband-hunting evangelical women make a few very big mistakes, and any one of those mistakes could easily doom them to singleness forever.

(The single men in their tribe make big mistakes too, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not as numerous — and they don’t respond to their own long periods of singleness in the same ways. So I’ve chosen to focus here on the husband-hunters, not the evangelical men wondering where all the Entwives went.)

Making matters much worse, the leaders they look to can’t recognize any of these mistakes, much less call them out, much less fix them. To do so would mean challenging a lot of evangelicals’ false beliefs.

Here’s their biggest mistake: it might make them feel good to think that their singleness ain’t their own fault… but it doesn’t actually find them husbands. It’s not a solution to their actual problem. In fact, they’re in real danger of becoming so complacent through this non-advice that they overlook some signposts that could help them.

The Signposts They Overlook.

First and foremost, evangelical women falsely believe that a real live god actually cares about their love lives and that he can communicate his commands to them. This is not true. Their life stories are not written in the stars and set in stone before their very births. Whatever happens to them, it’s all purely secular and earthly in nature. Long-term fixations on the wrong men because Jesus told me he’d be my husband and the resources they squander on religious wingnuttery hinder these women more than they help.

Second, evangelical women falsely believe that they and the men of their tribe all actually follow their tribe leaders’ rules for courting and all have the same prerequisites and priorities in mate selection. Nothing could be further from reality. The men of their tribe follow the same rules as anybody else does — though they seem way more interested in their partners’ youth, beauty, and docility than secular men are. Also, both genders have plenty of unapproved sex — but pretend they totally don’t.

Third, evangelical women don’t seem to realize what they could change to significantly increase their chances of success. With many more evangelical women in the tribe than men, any single evangelical woman seeking an evangelical husband finds her hunting-grounds very crowded indeed. But any of our unicorn-hunters could significantly increase her chances of success, if she were willing to put in some work. Most of them, however, don’t want to do any of that stuff.

What’s ironic here is that from what I’ve read of the Christian-man-o-sphere, today’s single evangelical men seem to have fairly simple expectations of their future wives. These expectations are not easy to meet, no, but they’re simple at least. (See second point, above.) They’re actually pretty frustrated that so many women enter the evangelical marriage forest to hunt for husbands but don’t understand — or want to do — the stuff their prey finds appealing.

Last, and related to the first point, evangelical women do not have the luxury of time. If they really want an evangelical husband, with all the flaws such men embody and all the risks inherent to such a one-sided, unjust relationship, they need to get on the stick if they want to corner and capture their quarry in time to start families. If they decide to get all complacent and patient, they will be menopausal before they know it.

There are no Jesus-es in that forest awarding TRUE CHRISTIAN™ women perfect husbands. 

The Darkening Forest.

As I imagined our evangelical women as unicorn-hunters riding through their marriage forest, I could easily imagine them passing by signposts indicating that they’ve gone off-course — and that their hunt is not at all proceeding according to plan.

Do their bones tell them something’s wrong?

Does the air feel heavy-laden with incomprehensible whispers and warnings?

Do they notice any of it?

No.

None of it.

That is why they go home empty-handed.

The Nonexistent Quarry.

Maybe it’s a mercy that these women can’t find the husbands populating their dreams.

The reality would hardly measure up to their fantasies, any more than it did for me and countless other women who’ve divorced evangelical men. What they want may not be possible at all, after all, and getting too close to the sun of that dream only leads to misery for them and the men getting unilaterally appointed as these women’s fantasy-fulfillers.

Still, this vision of a lonely huntress on horseback scanning every corner for a flash of spiraling white horn haunts me tonight.

Unicorns don’t exist and neither do the men of these evangelical women’s fantasies. That isn’t their fault. They absorbed untrue teachings and hold false beliefs that are doing them real harm now.

However, these women are adults now. We all have to sort out various childhood dysfunctions in adulthood; the untrue stuff we learned as kids isn’t an excuse once we become adults.

The evangelical marriage forest is crowded. If they don’t stop denying reality, their chances of landing an evangelical unicorn-husband are very, very limited indeed.

NEXT UP: Hope your Halloween is/was fun! Tomorrow, we’ll have a brief review of Where Have All the Good Men Gone? 

(Spoiler: they’re not where the author imagines or hopes they are. She shoulda checked the couch cushions!)


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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