Although I don’t personally subscribe to any particular religion—I identify myself as an Agnostic-theist—I actually really enjoy going to places of worship for different religious groups. Because I come from a large family of very devoted Christians and I have friends of all denominations, I’ve always been curious about how everyone chooses to apply and self-identify with their own spiritual beliefs.

Not too long ago, I found myself at a party that was filled with young adults who were Seventh-Day Adventists. The event was focused on dating and managing one’s religion, which is a topic I’ve always been intensely fascinated with, even way back when I thought I was a Christian.

One of the most interesting topics of the day came when the moderator asked, “At what point do you consider yourself taken?” Most of the men and women in the room replied, “When we get married.”

Now I’ve been apart of many secular discussions on relationships where that conversation has come up and it creates great division in the room as the answers vary between “from date #3” all the way to “when we first have sex.” But in this room the general vibe was, “If we’re not married, we’re single.”

I’ve heard that phrase many times before, but I never really understood it in practice. I mean, it’s a cool thing to say, but how does it actually work in a real life situation? So, at the risk of seeming impious, I asked the room, “If you’re single until you’re married, does that mean that you could be in a happy relationship with someone for 3 or 4 years and still entertain other people, giving out your number to strangers and going on dates? I mean that’s what being single means, right?”

For the next 45 minutes, I found myself trapped in a circular debate that confounded me and the Christians I was talking to. One dude was fiercely arguing that as long as he’s unmarried, any woman is fair game, even when he’s in a relationship, because it hadn’t been consecrated. When I asked him why he doesn’t just remain single and avoid defining his interaction with women as “relationships,” he bristled at the idea of “casual dating.” which was confusing as hell to me. In the heathen world I’m familiar with, that’s the exact definition of casual dating.

I also debated a woman who took a slightly less hardened stance, believing she was single until she was married, but also willingly acknowledging the significance of the mental, emotional and spiritual connection that is created on the road to matrimony. She basically said she identified as being single, but she wouldn’t behave as a single person.

It was at that moment that the problem with the “single until married” preposition became incredibly clear: for some, it is little more than a smokescreen used to deflect away from one’s lack of desire to engage in a wholly monogamous relationship. I’m definitely aware that there are some who use that statement to propagate the importance of having their union blessed as official by the Lord and the court, but it’s impossible to overlook the reality that some folks really just use it as an excuse to string people along in pseudo-sanctified situationships.

In reality, the “single until you’re married” sentiment has no practical value. Before you say “I do,” you must get to know someone, invest and exchange feelings, meet and deal with each other’s families and develop a life plan for you as a married couple. That’s not being single. That’s the development stages of what you hope will be a lifelong union. Anyone who labels that as simply being single is someone who actually wants the benefits of being single, while also reaping the rewards of being in a relationship.

A marriage license isn’t the start of your relationship; it’s just the continuation. Anyone planning on acting brand new with a title is setting themselves and their significant other up for massive disappointment.

Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.