Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Are Couples Mean to Singles?

Usually, I decide for myself what to write about here, but every so often, a story shows up in my inbox so many times that I feel that I have no choice but to share it. An essay in the BBC News Magazine is a recent example. Read More

Of course couples are mean to single people...

Couples are mean to single people, any single person can attest to that. But this post should be taken a step further. A better exploration would be, "Are married couples poorly behaved?"

I'm an election judge, I could write a book on the bad behavior I saw from the married set on Tuesday. Atrocious!

(Hint: leave your screaming kids at home, they don't want to stand in line for two hours)

Don't ask your single friend

Don't ask your single friend to babysit at the last minute on election night because you waited so you could vote together but found the lines to be impossibly long and your kid is getting restless.

Haven't had any bad experiences with couples myself

But I know that doesn't constitute proof, just been my experience. Perhaps it's easier if you're male, like me. Or if you're a bit nerdy like me, perhaps people don't expect you to marry.

I did hear a story from my best friend, about a mutual friend who I lost touch with years ago. Since then he married, and this mutual friend's new wife apparently things couples should only date other couples. But that's the only experience of discrimination by couples that I've heard of myself.

Mean? I don't see it.

I don't think couples are intentionally mistreating single people. At least, I haven't observed it.

I believe in live-and-let-live. I have plenty of coupled friends. And when I go to an event, sometimes I'll bring a girlfriend, while other times I don't. No big deal.

For me, marriage appears to be the most stifling and stagnant lifestyle choice that a man can make--not to mention extremely risky from a financial standpoint. However, I fully support people's right to live a stagnant life if that's what makes them happy.

Alan, you cited a case at the end of your posting about a new wife forbidding your best friend from going out with her husband and she. That's pretty disturbing, but more importantly it's sign that it's time to get some new friends.

It wasn't quite that bad, but I agree it's disturbing

The way my best friend explained it, this guy's new wife said she thought it better for couples to hang out with other couples. I don't think she actually forbade her husband from hanging out with my best friend (and now that my best friend is himself married it's no longer an issue). But I agree it's disturbing that people feel that they can only hang out with others of the same marital status.

That's ashame

Really, I think it's time that men specifically stop tolerating this kind of controlling behavior that their wives inflict on them. It's bad enough that marriage is stifling, outdated, and stupid. Being *mistreated* within your own stifling, outdated, and stupid institution seems like a living hell to me.

Tell your best friend to tell that guy to grow a pair, grow up, move on, and join the rest of us in the 21st Century. There's no need to tolerate that kind of behavior from women. (And women shouldn't tolerate it from guys either.)

I have indeed experienced singlism

People seem to view you as a loose cannon, or loser, or someone who will steal away one or another of the partners in a couple.

I prefer "unemcumbered" to the term "single". As a mother, I don't like the term "single mom", as it implies that I had children irresponsibly as a teenager. Rather, I had children with people who acted in an unreasonable and abusive manner, and treated me in a way I did not wish to be treated. I refused to allow myself to be driven crazy and treated like a slave, thus modelling poor human relationships in the everyday sense to the children involved.

I would not preach to people who have never married and never had children. I am glad I had my children, but sorry I needed someone else to do it with. They are happy, intelligent and healthy despite not being raised in an "intact" family.

Legitimized rudeness

It has become acceptable in our society to ask rude questions of single people, but like our first commenter said, it's not okay to turn the tables. In most cases, I'm able to own it now and respond to those questions with, "You know, it's fascinating to me that people still ask that, I don't think people realize how rude it sounds." I go on to explain that coupling isn't for everyone and I consider my orientation to be "single at heart," and that usually puts the whole issue to bed, whether or not the person is satisfied with my answer.
I'm in a best friend trio situation, with two married women, and one friend once said to me that she thinks of the other friend as part of a couple, but she sees me as an individual, and even when I was married, she was never able to see me that way.

Interesting twist

My sister got married at 19 and has two wonderful daughters in their 20s. She's still married to the same guy, whom I adore. Recently she got together with the group of friends she hung out with in high school. She said her friends were mostly single, and they had done incredibly interesting things with their lives and she felt totally judged for having made the conventional choice. Of course it's not any fairer when the shoe is on the other foot, but I was amused to hear it happened at all.


If you doubt that couples are mean to singles, we're coming up on the holiday season. Would fake couples exist if that weren't the case?


For the last few months, my attempts to post comments on blogs at Single With Attitude have failed. I give up.

I wanted to post a link to a six minute clip of Jon Stewart that you mentioned at Single at Heart.


That was good.

many thanks!

Thanks so much for finding this clip. If I include it in a blog post, may I thank you? If so, how should I refer to you (e.g., as "UpperWorks"?)

Sorry about Single with Attitude. That site just collects feeds. You need to follow the feeds back to the original blog posts and post your comments there.

Yes, You May

Thank me as UpperWorks. And thanks for the acknowledgement.

I went directly to psychcentral to post a reply comment to your comment under "Rush Limbaugh and the Single Woman Voter." My comment still wasn't posted.


Thanks again. Here's the post I wrote:

That is odd about your attempts to comment at PsychCentral. At that site, either I or the site moderators can deal with comments. I just checked my dashboard and there are no comments pending. Other comments have been coming through so I'm not sure what to say. I wonder whether others are having that problem. I do like to hear from everyone who wants to comment.

How to deal with my brother-in-law's insults

I'm psyching myself up for my brother-in-law's bi-annual jokey "Have you hooked up lately?" taunt. One year (after I had forgotten my cell phone in a taxi the night before on the way home from my work Christmas party) he "jokingly" asked if I had forgotten anything else, like, say, my panties. Let me clarify that I am not in the habit of picking up men, and he is not aware of any boyfriends in the last couple of years, so he has no basis for any of these comments.

I've tried various tactics in the past: ignoring the question, deflecting it, giving a jokey response, but he persists with it. What I really want is for him to stop asking it and just leave me alone, so I'm considering a more direct approach this year. Has anyone got suggestions for an appropriate response that will close off this line of questioning? He's a bit of a bully too, which doesn't help. Thank you!

For SingleSusie and PSyngle

What we have here are two men that are making the same passive aggressive move by asking single women about their dating activities and embarrassing them at the same time.

SingleSusie talks about a lost cell phone, her brother-in-law uses her concern to make a completely inappropriate comment describing her panties as lost in the back of a taxi. This is a massive insult described as a joke.

PSyngle describes a dress purchase, as a response to that comment, the boss immediately asks a question about her dating life.

These men (I assume both are married) are purposely trying to embarrass these single women, and force these ladies into a conversation about their dating lives which is really what they want to know about. So now that we know their objectives, we can craft a response that does the exact opposite. My suggestion would first not to answer their dating-life inquiries. Then, in a firm tone making it clear that the inquiry was in bad taste by saying , "Why are you making such an inappropriate comment?"

The obvious retort from both men would be "Gee, can't you take a joke?" But that will be the desired result, rather than you be uncomfortable make him uncomfortable. This may take a couple of tries but when these men don't get what they want they'll either switch tactics or get a verbal reprimand from their wife for behaving inappropriately.

I hope this helps.

Thanks to Psyngle and Anon for the advice..

Thanks all. I haven't quite decided how to address this, but one thing is for sure, I am definitely taking a stand this Christmas. I'm considering mentioning to my sister that I'll only come to visit them over the holidays (of course I'm the one going to see them, they never have to do any of the running!)on the condition that her husband doesn't ask his usual offensive hooking up question.

As an aside, my sister is quite jealous of me generally: she's quite a socially awkward and negative person with not very many friends and envies my career, my wide circle of friends, my positive attidue, my travel adventures, the fact that I have kept my weight down (and she hasn't). The one thing that she feels she "has" on me is that she is married (somebody wants to be with her which makes her good person, right?) whereas I am single (therefore nobody "wants" me and I'm a bad person). She loves to remind me that I am single and does so at every available opportunity, but gets really bugged when I steer the conversation away from this and back to her sore points, like diet and exercise, wellbeing and career. It's another example of the common practice of coupled people "bullying" single people and making them feel bad about themselves and their single status so as to distract from their own shortcomings.

Given your sisters jealousy

Given your sisters jealousy issues, I wouldn't tell her in advance that you will not attend if her hubby goes down that line of questioning. It may make them think you are overdramatic and being oversensitive. Plus you don't want to make being single an issue. I guess you need to think of rebuttals to his questions.

I once told a married person blank that that line of questioning is really annoying. He seemed surprised that it was annoying and probably because it was directly pointed out. You can also add that its rude. Why not call people on the fact that such questions are rude? Why not say 'I will not dignify that with a response'?

I've been tempted to ask rude questions as a rebuttal while drunk. 'Sooooo are you still having sex with my sister???' Or perhaps if he asks a rude sex question, tell him sarcastically 'yeah cuz my sister realllyyy wants to know'. Ick.

I understand

I know what you mean. What you wrote sounded very similar to mine. Maybe not that harsh, but the underlying issues seem to be similar. I've realized that other stuff is going on behind the comments--could be insecurity, perhaps a bad experience in their past, maybe they are attracted to you/women outside of their relationship, they feel trapped and are jealous, they don't like themselves so they have to put others down to make themselves feel better. I too dread the holidays now, as one of my siblings always is in a relationship and I have to deal with the bf's comments, while she turns her head away. Whatever is done doesn't uplift me, it's intention is to take my power away. I realize that I have a choice as to how I react. You have to ask yourself--Do you believe what they say to be true? yes or no? If yes, it will continue to annoy you until you believe the opposite. If no, this should be like water off a duck's back. I've found the greatest weapon I have in singledom is to KNOW WHO I AM and love myself. It's a test and you should be glad you've come this far and haven't lash out (as good as that may feel to do). Good luck!

I feel for you, SingleSusie

Some people just default to that puerile mentality and they think they're being cute and funny. I don't know what to say but had to empathize. I do bike touring and dearly want an expensive travel dress to change into after a day in bike shorts, and I mentioned to my boss that if I hit a certain billable hours goal, I was ordering the dress. He asked if I was dressing up for anyone special! Not a malicious or even creepy inquiry, but I've become impatient with that whole mentality. All I want is to look nice when I go out to dinner with hostel friends on the road. They generally come by bus or train, and get to carry more baggage than I do and have more than one outfit to choose from.

Even Divorced People are Superior

I dated someone briefly last year who had gotten married about three months after he met someone when he was young (late 20's). She was the bartender in their local bar (not entirely sure this is relevant, but why not). They had a son and the marriage deteriorated, leading to divorce. When he grilled me on why I hadn't been married before, and now I was in my '40's, I realized he thought there must be something wrong with me. This was supported by my lack of very long relationships. In hindsight I wished I said that I was and am secure enough not to settle with the first person who came along, like you. I'm currently dating someone my age who also has never been married and things are great. I'm glad I don't have to explain to someone why I'm "still single". Being single, or married, is a choice that is dependent on a number of factors, and we shouldn't judge because someone doesn't share our own marital status. Being married at one time doesn't automatically bestow some kind of signal that you must be superior to the never-marrieds...

Are Couples Mean to Singles? Yes, see recent case below

Ex-whaling commission director gets prison time for embezzlement
Published: November 28, 2012 -- Mrs. Maggie Ahmaogak, former executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, was accompanied by her husband former Barrow mayor George Ahmaogak, while leaving federal court during her sentencing for embezzlement on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Former Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission director Mrs. Maggie Ahmaogak, who admitted to stealing from the nonprofit organization, was sentenced Wednesday to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay back more than $393,000. Ahmaogak, 62, pleaded guilty in May to theft, money laundering and misusing money that belonged to the commission, which receives government funds and aims to protect the subsistence rights of Alaska Eskimos to harvest bowhead whales. Prosecutors said Ahmaogak, the commission's executive director from 1990 until her firing in 2007, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars through a variety of methods for the benefit of herself and her family, including her husband, five-time North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak. But the full amount Ahmaogak took was not outlined in the plea agreement and a final tally was put off until her sentencing hearing, which began earlier this month. In four tedious days of examining checks, credit card statements and other documents from a total of more than 100,000 pages collected by federal investigators, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward showed that Ahmaogak used the commission's money to "line her own pockets," as Steward put it. Ahmaogak and her husband gambled the money away and bought things like a Hummer SUV, snowmachines and an expensive refrigerator, among other items.Steward said Ahmaogak stole more than $420,000, some of it taxpayer dollars from government sources like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ahmaogak's attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, said thousands of dollars went to whaling commissioners and that some of the money paid for things that furthered the commission's purpose. The total loss to the commission was closer to $91,000, Fitzgerald said. Steward said Ahmaogak pilfered the commission's accounts by writing checks to herself, approving her own bonuses and a retroactive pay raise, paying for meals and expensive personal items on the commission's credit card, making a wire transfer directly from a commission account to her own, and filling out time sheets with excessive overtime to which she was not entitled. It was "straight up theft" from an organization that Ahmaogak turned into "her own private cash cow," even while the commission struggled financially in its last few years under Ahmaogak's leadership, Steward said. "What is clear is that there is a pattern over the years that, when (she) wanted to make an expensive purchase, AEWC paid for it," Steward said. "The defendant had an explanation for just about everything, but they just didn't add up." "These are not mistakes," Steward said. "These are lies." Ahmaogak's attorney said the federal prosecutor had not proved that some alleged theft -- including an $8,000 bonus Ahmaogak approved for herself shortly after learning a finance company wanted that same amount for a Hummer she was buying -- was theft at all. There was nothing in commission bylaws that said she couldn't give herself a bonus, and other employees received bonuses, Fitzgerald said. As another example, Ahmaogak bought two snowmachines to replace two that hunters demolished while scouting for caribou that was to be eaten during a commission meeting, Fitzgerald said. The snowmachines were a legitimate commission expense, and the prosecutor had not proved otherwise, he said. Specific discrepancies between expenses Ahmaogak claimed as legitimate in interviews with federal agents and court filings, which she later acknowledged were inappropriate or explained in other ways, could be chalked up to the complexity of the case, Fitzgerald said. "The idea that there might be mistakes? Yeah, there were mistakes," he said. "This has been an extraordinarily complex case." Finally, as the lengthy sentencing hearing neared its end, it was Ahmaogak's turn to make a statement to the judge. "First of all, I'd like to say I'm sorry. I apologize for this incident," Ahmaogak said. "I've done a lot of work for my people, putting food on their tables and at the same time protecting their ability to harvest bowhead whales."Ahmaogak said she had abused the trust of the people the commission serves and that she was saddened and embarrassed. "I hope the organization is able to overcome any damage I have done," she said. In handing down her sentence, Judge Gleason said she had not believed parts of Ahmaogak's previous testimony and did not think the former commission director had accepted responsibility for her actions.
Gleason denied Fitzgerald's request that Ahmaogak spend the 41-month sentence -- three years, five months -- under house arrest, and ordered her to report to prison. Ahmaogak must also pay $393,193.90 restitution to the commission and spend three years on probation after she is released, Gleason said. "She was very trusted by those she worked for and those she worked with, but that is what led to this breakdown," Gleason said. "It's the violation of trust in this offense that I see as most troubling."
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Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.


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