Married people do not have to prove why they’re married, so why do people have to explain why they’re not?
Dear Concerned Family, Friends, Friends’ Nanas, Co-workers, Strangers on Planes, Hairstylists, Taxi Drivers, et al:
I can’t take it. The number of people in my life telling me about the number of times they have been ‘concern-policed’ by people worried about their relationship status.
I know, because it happens to me too.
Fear not. WE ARE OK. Well, no more/less than you. You might not think so because we are not traditionally partnered. True story: When she discovered I didn’t have a boyfriend, my friend’s nana once halted a wedding rehearsal dinner to ask the guests how I’d get home without one. She, like you, is unnecessarily concerned about people who are a) not married, b) dating, c) not dating, or d) engaging in non-“traditional” relationships like open or consensual polyamory.
We have lots in common, including interest in each other’s well-being. However, many of us are concerned about your OVER-concern about this one area of our lives.
You need to know this frequently vocalised concern can make us feel uncomfortable, belittled, disrespected. It feels like a person’s marriage is off-limits, but dating life is open for assessment. You can imagine how irritating it is. We all receive unwelcome messages when people want to see us on a certain track, usually theirs (when are you having kids, when are you buying a house, blah blah blah).
We regularly hear the following:
“When are you getting married?”
“You need a boyfriend/girlfriend.”
“I just think you’d be happier WITH someone.”
“You’ll meet the right one.”
“You’re too picky.”
“You weren’t right for each other.”
“Why are you single?”
“Why aren’t you married?”
“What’s wrong with her/no wonder he’s single.”
Because someone is married doesn’t mean they’re flawless, more desirable, or happy. Because someone is not married doesn’t mean they are flawed, less desirable, unhappy, or don’t know their own mind. The difference is the former might have better flatware (I don’t know why better forks are required because of a wedding ring but that’s another article, another time).
People aren’t married for as many reasons as someone might be. Marriage is one relationship type. Not everyone chooses the same path even in an intimate relationship. Married people do not have to prove WHY they are, so why do people have to explain why they’re not? We might change our minds, but that’s for each of us to decide, and all of us to respect.
After 20 years of being single, dating, short-term, long-term, and open relationships of many kinds, I can attest to how people want to define us along narrow binaries, one of which is married/single.
No matter where I mark my relationship or sexual checkboxes across the huge spectrum of relationships or sexuality, my checkboxes aren’t wrong, don’t affect you, and won’t harm me. It’s no one’s business. If someone is continually complaining about their status, by all means weigh in. If they’re not, don’t.
A friend was getting unsolicited advice/badgering for an hour from someone telling her she should get a boyfriend. Because it would be harmful, my friend did not point out that this person was divorced, in a questionable relationship, and clearly unhappy. My friend finally said, “You need to understand I don’t WANT a boyfriend. I’m not unhappy, it won’t make me happier. I know this because I’m not the one who cries all the time.”