We Live in a Single-ist Society

To many, being single means something's wrong!

Posted Oct 08, 2009

I just read a PT blog post by Bella DePaulo's about the inequities between being married and being single and I have to tell you, I think she's got a point. I'm glad Ms. DePaulo is speaking out about it.

I am a 48 yo old woman and I got married for the first time five years ago almost to the day (October 23). Given that I was "single" (i.e. not married) most of my life, I can tell you that there are incredible prejudices - some subtle, some not-so-subtle - against singles.

What do you think when you meet a man or a woman over 40 who is single and never been married? "There's something wrong with him/her." "They have a fear of commitment." Perhaps even, "they are or must be a loser." I know these thoughts not only because people would ask me what was wrong with me, but I admit I felt these feelings toward others! Me- as a single person myself! Who was I to judge!

Of course, I turned these judgments inward as well and was very hard on myself for not getting married at 22 or 23 to my college boyfriend as I was slated to do. I just knew I wasn't ready. I knew I'd end up divorcing him and he was a good guy who deserved better.

All those years between 22 and 43, there was tremendous societal pressure to get married, to fit in, to belong and, to be an adult. It was as if marriage was a rite of passage into adulthood and you were junior until you tied the knot. There were fleeting moments when I even thought I should get married just to be married! Maybe then people would leave me alone. Maybe then I would get some of the perks these "coupled folks" got.

I remember feeling cheated that I didn't get to have a "single woman shower" when I was the one who needed help setting up my home! By the time I got married, I had much of what I needed by way of household goods. Then there were the tax breaks that Ms. DePaulo referred to in her article and the membership breaks at the "Y" and with the phone company.

The list goes on and on.

Now I deal primarily with divorcing women and I believe that it is equally challenging, if not more, to be a divorced single person out there. As a society, we seem to have no tolerance for anyone who is not a straight married couple.

I have tremendous compassion for these newly single people. I don't judge anyone for divorcing any more than I commend those who stay in an unhappy or unfulfilling marriage. I have a saying, "the world doesn't need more married people, the world needs more happy people."

The good news is that times are changing and the one-size-fits-all mold is being broken. There are now more single heads of household than marrieds; there are more people having children out of wedlock.

This process of changing the societal norm is slow, however, and quite arduous. There are many who are fighting to keep the "covenant" of marriage and who feel strongly that to be single and/or divorced is to be weak.

My hope is that in the next generation will never have to experience the derogatory attitude toward singles and that it will be a norm of the past.

For those who are facing divorce as an older adult, you may feel some of this prejudice but try not to let it dishearten you or pressure you into getting into another relationship just so you aren't single any longer. It's really OK to be single!

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