On Asking How to Be Married, and Not Whether to Be

What does marriage counseling have to do with the topic of this Living Single blog, a reader wondered. I asked the author of More Perfect Unions how she would answer that question. She said that "instead of simply teaching people to have ‘healthy' marriages, marriage counseling taught Americans to define marriage itself as a healthy state of being. The flip side [was that living single was] implicitly understood to be less desirable." 

The American Quest for Bliss in Marriage Has a Checkered Past

Rebecca Davis, author of More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss, told me that "marriage counseling, when it first began in the United States in the 1930s, was more concerned with heterosexuality than it was with marriage." As recently as the 1970s, counselors wondered whether marriage could "cure" homosexuality. "Another popular line of thinking was that premarital counseling should begin at birth." 

Are Aunts and Uncles the Forgotten Kin?

Finally, aunts and uncles are getting some recognition from the family scholars who have long neglected them. Is there anything special about aunts and uncles who are single? 

Death and Marital Status: The Link Is Not What You Think

Do you think that if you get married, you will live longer? Do you think that getting divorced shaves years off your life? Do you think that staying single is a life-shortener? Do I have a study for you! 

Oh, No, They Didn’t! Unsolicited Advice and Product-Promotions for Singles

I just realized that my post office box and e-mail inbox contain the makings of a short course (as brief as this one post) on stereotypes and misperceptions of people who are single. The pitches I receive from publicists and from people pitching their own products capture a lot about the reign of singlism in contemporary society. 

Are Americans Becoming More and More Isolated? [UPDATED]

Remember the media panic back in 2006 about the increasingly isolated and lonely Americans? Reports were everywhere. Not nearly so widely publicized are new analyses and new studies suggesting something far less dire about the state of social ties in American life. And guess who may be especially UNLIKELY to be friendless? The most devoted internet users. 

Check Out My New Website and Personal Blog!

My website has been completely redesigned and updated and I've added a personal blog. There I will contribute more posts, shorter posts, and more personal posts about single life than I do here at Psych Today, and I'll also write about other topics such as liars and their lies. My Living Single blog here at PT will not change. "Bella DePaulo's blog" is a complement to, and extension of, this Living Single blog, not a replacement. 

Where to Go When Solo

Where are some good places to go when you are solo and don't want to stay home? I'm talking about those ordinary times when you want to head off somewhere, maybe for an hour or so, without making plans or meeting anyone. Maybe you are in the mood to be among people though not with anyone in particular.

Is Divorce Contagious?

I don't think very many couples take divorce lightly. When they see their friends divorce, they don't just shrug and decide to do the same thing themselves. Maybe what's contagious isn't just divorce but reflection and contemplation.

The Unrecognized Parallel between Children and Couples

Read this quote from a New York Times story questioning whether it is good for a kid to have a best friend. Do you see the relevance to the way many adults practice coupling? Apparently, no one in the story did. 

People Just Don’t Know How to Be Single?

In response to my post titled, "Couples just don't know how to be married?," a Living Single reader (Alan) proposed an intriguing parallel possibility: Maybe some people just don't know how to be single. 

I Complain About the Over-Hyping of Marriage Education, and the NPR Ombudsman Listens

The uncritical hyping of marriage education classes has continued. On NPR and in an online Q & A at the Washington Post, the Smartmarriages director claimed that the classes are "a huge help," that they can't hurt, and that they work "across the board." I let the NPR ombudsman know that the relevant research does not support these unqualified enthusiastic claims. My point was acknowledged on an NPR blog. 

Rachel Buddeberg: Single-Minded Change Agent

In the third of my series of interviews with single-minded change agents, Rachel Buddeberg shares with us the story of her single identity and singles advocacy. If you read just one of Rachel's answers, make it her response to this question: "One difficulty I've often encountered is the misperception that if you have a positive message about singles or single life, that necessarily means that you are putting down marriage or traditional family life. Have you run into that, and if so, how have you dealt with it?" You will then see why she is going to be an important and fearless voice for many years to come.

Married in the Military? You Get More for Your Service. Guest Post Part 2 from Onely

Whether you are in the military, a veteran, or even a federal civilian employee, you will be rewarded more generously for your service if you are married than if you are single. In Part 2 of a guest post from Onely, Lisa and Christina discover favoritism for the married in financial and medical benefits, in pensions, in burial sites, in access to caretaking leave, in commissary privileges and a few more surprising examples. They also explain why the mention of marital status in federal statutes is significant even when there is no corresponding concrete benefit.

Can You Name the 1,138 Federal Hat-Tips to Marriage? Guest Post by Onely

If you type the number 1,138 and the word "federal" into your browser, millions of hits will come back. That's because 1,138 is the number of times marriage is mentioned in federal statutes. How many marital privileges can you name? Social Security? Sure. Estate tax breaks? That, too. The brilliant and witty Lisa and Christina from Onely delved into the dirty details to find out the sweeping and quirky ways the feds privilege married people over everyone else. This is the first of two posts. 

Couples Just Don’t Know How to Be Married?

An article in the Washington Post about marriage and relationship education programs goes on for 9 pages when printed. But the reporter quotes only marriage-promotion true believers. Here's a perspective grounded in scientific research that was not included.

Marriage and Relationship Education Programs: Do They Work?

More than 100 studies have been conducted to determine whether couples who participate in marriage and relationship education programs end up better off than couples who do not participate. Here are the results. 

It Just Hasn’t Happened Yet?

The title of a recently published book is "It just hasn't happened yet: bogus, ridiculous, absurd explanations as to why you're still single and how to deal with them plus a few silly things we do to ourselves." What do you already know about the book without reading another word? 

Compelling Life Stories Don’t Need Conventional Events

Ask a scholar or a person on the street about the stages of adult life and they are too likely to offer a conventional answer: find a mate, get married, have kids, and all the rest of the predictable script. Increasingly, though, we don't live that way. Because perceptions of how we live have not caught up with realities, singles and people without kids often feel that they have some explaining to do. How do we tell the stories of our lives? 

In Between: Happily Single But Interested in Coupling

In contemporary Western societies, singles who like their single lives, singles who don't, and those who are in between all face dilemmas. 

A Lifetime of Singlism: Getting Crushed by a Ton of Feathers

Some instances of singlism are minor and easy to miss. But what is the cumulative impact, over a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime, of repeated depictions of singles in demeaning and stereotypical ways? 

Are You Sure You Want to Call that Marriage a Failure? Guest Post by Rachel Buddeberg

Happily, singles star Rachel Buddeberg accepted my invitation to write a guest post on the topic of whether a marriage that ends in divorce is necessarily a "failed" marriage. Talk about single with attitude! Enjoy. And thanks, Rachel!

That Spinster Stigma Study: Others Are Intrusive or They Ignore You

Even though single people comprise about 45% of the population of Americans 18 and older, they still feel stigmatized. A forthcoming study documented ways in which singles sometimes feel too visible (as when others ask them inappropriate questions or push them to participate in a bouquet-toss ritual) and other times feel invisible (as when their families of origin become totally focused on their siblings who have a spouse and kids). 

Is This Your Idea of a ‘Relatively Narrow’ World?

Read this list of life experiences, as described in a story in the Washington Post, and see if you would say of the person in question that "her world has been relatively narrow." 

Celebrities: Should We Shun Them, Ignore Them, or Adore Them?

When it comes to pop culture, I was once borderline illiterate. Now I sometimes quote celebrities in this blog. Here's my excuse. 

When ‘You’re Too Sensitive’ Means ‘Stay in Your Place’: Part 2 of Why I Do What I Do

Sometimes when feminists are told that they are angry and humorless, when African-Americans are told that they are uppity, or singles are told that they are bitter or overly sensitive, the real message is something else: "Stay in your place." 

Why I Do What I Do, Part 1: Every Stereotype in the Book

In one short email just sent to me, the writer captured just about every stereotype and insult about people who are single. I reprint it here. Dispelling these kinds of myths and misperceptions is one of my main motivations for doing what I do. 

Why I Wasn’t Surprised that Al and Tipper Gore Split

I have a pet theory (untested, as far as I know), and it goes like this: If you flaunt it, you don't have it. Public displays of affection broadcast the smoochers' theories about what will impress other people. They may not say much about the actual state of the relationship. 

Single Life as a ‘Satisfying Choice and a Profound Threat’

There have been so many single people at so many different times and places that the study of singles provides a "hidden history of human relations and marriage." So says Elizabeth Abbott in her book, A History of Marriage, which features a separate chapter on singles. That chapter includes a nod to this Living Single blog. So do you think we can now say that we've made history? 

AP Gets It: Not All Single Ladies Want to Put a Ring on It

A story just released by the Associated Press takes on just about every stereotype about people who are single. The reporter also asks what's up with the term "cougar." Oh, and the story mentions this Living Single blog, too.

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