I mentioned last time that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) had asked to interview me for a story they were doing on Christian women like myself who were still single into their 30s and 40s in light of statistics showing a slump in the male-female population ratio.
That article, and the accompanying video, by journalist Karen Tong came out a couple of days ago. I reproduce it here:
At 32 years of age, Anna Hitchings expected to be married with children by now.
But over the past year, she has found herself grappling with a realisation that she may never tie the knot.
“But that’s a reality I have to deal,” she says. “It no longer seems impossible that I may never marry. In fact, some might argue it may even be likely.”
The “man drought” is a demographic reality in Australia — for every 100 women, there are 98.6 men.
The gender gap widens if you’re a Christian woman hoping to marry a man who shares the same beliefs and values.
The proportion of Australians with a Christian affiliation has dropped drastically from 88 per cent in 1966, to just over half the population in 2016 — and women are more likely than men to report being Christian (55 per cent, compared to 50 per cent).
Ms Hitchings is Catholic.
She grew up in the Church and was a student at Campion College, a Catholic university in Sydney’s western suburbs, where she now works.
“I’m constantly meeting other great women, but it seems to be quite a rare thing to meet a man on the same level who also shares our faith,” she says.*
“The ideal is to marry somebody else who shares your values because it’s just easier.”
But not sharing the same faith isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
Her sister is married to an agnostic man and while “he’s great and we love him”, Ms Hitchings is quick to admit there were some difficult conversations that needed to take place early on.
Like abstaining from sex before marriage — something that, as a Catholic, she doesn’t want to compromise on.
“It’s very difficult to find men who are even willing to entertain the notion of entering into a chaste relationship.”
Ms Hitchings has dated Catholic and non-Catholic men.
Her first serious relationship was with a Catholic guy — they were both students at Campion College, and she was sure he was “the one”.
“I don’t think I’d ever met anybody who I shared such a profoundly strong connection with, and he was the first person that I fell in love with,” she says.
He was a few years younger than her, and after coming to the realisation they were in “different places in life”, they decided to part ways.
They remained friends and though he eventually married someone else, Ms Hitchings says she learned a lot from the relationship.
“I think I just thought that if you find someone that you love and get along with, everything will be fine — and that’s not true,” she says.
You do have to work on yourself, you do have to sacrifice a lot to make a relationship work.”
The marriage rate in Australia has been in decline since 1970, and both men and women are waiting longer before getting married for the first time.
The proportion of marriages performed by ministers of religion has also declined from almost all marriages in 1902 (97 per cent), to 22 per cent in 2017.
Despite these cultural shifts regarding marriage in Australia, single women in the Church — and outside it — still face the stigma of singledom.
Ms Hitchings often feels that when someone is trying to set her up on a date, “they just see me as the single person they need to get married”.
“There are a lot of anxieties that you can feel — you can feel like you’re pathetic or there’s something wrong with you,” she says.
On the other hand, the Church has also provided a place of hope and empowerment for single women, giving those like Ms Hitchings the confidence to live a life that doesn’t start and end with marriage.
“I very much hope I do get married — I really hope that happens — but I don’t believe that my life is meaningless or purposeless if I don’t get married either.”
I’m having trouble getting the video up, but if I can manage it, I’ll upload it here too.
*This is a slight misquotation. What I actually said, or at least inferred, was “I’m constantly meeting other great women, but it seems to be quite a rare thing to meet a man who I can talk to on the same level who also shares our faith”.