Single moms are excluded from couples events. But that is OK (mostly).

 

My social life is different now that I’m not married. When I was married, there were times I went out with my girlfriends, and there were times when my husband and I went out as a couple with other couples. Sometimes the two of us would go out with a single friend, or the two of us with a coupled friend who happened to be alone for the weekend – but that was unusual.

Since I’ve been divorced, the times I’ve been in a relationship came with couples activities.

Otherwise, my social life is mostly very much that of a single woman. While I have a few very close friends I’ve know for years where both the husband and wife and I are all hang out together, my closest friends are mostly women, and we hang out as women — whether they are coupled or single.

With new or not-as-close relationships, I am rarely invited out to dinner with couples– or even groups of couples. There are lots of exceptions, but in general it would be kind of weird. A married friend was recently relaying a situation in which she — a president at a big health care company — was being pressured by her boss to go out for dinner with his wife and her husband — a double date. She felt she had little in common with the stay-at-home mom, and her husband — a professional musician — would have little in common with her executive boss. The situation would be awkward, my friend worried, because she and her boss (whom she liked a lot) would have much more to chat about than she and the wife — or her husband and the boss.

In sum, friendships are expected to fall along gender lines. And when one of the parties does not have an opposite-sex gender in her party, the whole dynamic is whack.

I get that, but it is annoying. It hurts. For one, no one likes to feel excluded. Also, it drastically reduces my social network. I enjoy being friends with men just as much as women. And then it limits larger networks — while it is less weird to have a single friend at a family Halloween party, that single friend is simply less top-of-mind when the evites are sent out because she is not in on the couples dinner circuit. This trickles down to the kids, and it also affects business prospects since so much networking comes from our social lives.

I don’t blame the married contingent for this situation — what is comfortable is simply comfortable, and when it comes to new or less-intimate friends, the sense of obligation is low for making single people feel welcome or included. This trend is also the result of consideration (“June would be fun to invite to tapas, but I worry she’d feel uncomfortable as the only single person among three couples.”). But again, no one likes to feel like they’re not invited to the party.

This phenomena is a bit dated — and calls up the debate over whether straight men and women can be platonic friends. Single women intuitively understand that they must be extra-careful not to spend too much time at any party hanging out with the married men — just as married people do. If my married executive friend and her boss spent an entire dinner in a rapt huddle discussing health care reform and office gossip while the other spouses were left picking at their skate and chitchatting about college admissions, it might make for two awkward drives home later. A single person spending time with married people can be an especially delicate dynamic.

But this will change.

At this stage of life — I am 37 — most marriages of my peers are relatively young. The reality is that half of all married people will divorce. Many of those who do will remarry. I will not be single forever — and you likely will not either (and trust me: when your married friends are thinking about divorce, you’ll be the first to know). I often think to my grandparents who played bridge every week for more than 70 years with the same group of six couples they met in high school. That is special, in part, because marriages simply do not last that long any more.

If you are feeling left out of your married friends’ social circles, do this:

  • Let them know, politely, that you would appreciate an invite. Give your friends the benefit of the doubt that your exclusion was not malicious, but instead the result of consideration or oblivion. “Sometimes I feel left out when I’m not invited out with couples. FYI, I would never feel weird in that situation.”
  • Don’t be entitled. After all, no one has an obligation to invite you to dinner.
  • Don’t take it personally. Who knows why you’re not invited. Maybe it is because you’re really annoying — not that you’re single. Or maybe the dinner guests only have four of their good pinot noir glasses and are weird about stuff like that.
  • Remember that it won’t be like this forever. People split up, for better or worse. They also get remarried, die and stray. In other words, the cozy couples beach weekends are not likely to be a lifelong tradition from which you are not invited.

 

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8 thoughts on “Single moms are excluded from couples events. But that is OK (mostly).

  1. The single parent world does have a unique way of repopulating itself . . the smugly married often become . . . not so smug. Those most secure in their own relationships will be the first to invite you. With that in mind, your changing social life becomes that much more intriguing.

    In any event, remember to have fun.

  2. Yep – have fun!

    So yes, all this is going on – smug married people, the court jester phenomenon where the single person’s dating antics are the center of coupled folks’ fascinations. But in general I don’t vilify this exclusion – it is usually more of an oblivion, slip-of-mind or misdirected consideration than malice or rudeness.

  3. All of this. But also, divorce being so cataclysmic in nature, I think it’s important to acknowledge that some of the social reshuffling and redesigning is coming from us. From within. We new singles aren’t just bystanders to the new social order that “forgets” to include us. I think, if we are honest, we too find ourselves not reaching out in the same direction or to the same people that we once did. Folks who were constants in our lives may become, at least temporarily, unrelateable. Not so easy to be around. For myriad reasons. But we have been through the abyss, and have come out the other side. We are changed. Our beliefs and preferences and goals and selves are different than they once were. This makes us seek in a different, often more intentional way than we did in the past. Including how and where we seek our company, our people. Not for different reasons – we still seek to belong. But now we may find we no longer belong where we used to. This can hurt – it does hurt! But I believe it’s important to admit our part. We have a responsibility (and an amazing amout of freedom to go with it!) to let go where we need to in order to make room for what’s to come.

    1. Meg – this is so wise. Breakdown of why *we* withdraw from old friends post-divorce:

      1. Divorce changes a person, and often don’t relate to our old friends like we used to.
      2. Reminders of our now-ended relationship.
      3. Friends often feel they must chose sides of the divorcing couple (and sometimes do).
      4. Old relationships can indadvertedly be cleared away with an overall life cleansing that is sometimes necessary in divorce.

      1. The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web brsweor. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

  4. All this “third wheelin'” stuff is similar if one is never married; we just don’t have the extra melancholy surrounding a previous divorce. Friends come and go. Some marry somebody, more divorce, and others divorce yet again. Some stay wisely, sensibly single, and simply find other people to hang out with.

    The dynamics are different based on life experience, the time of life, who’s who, what’s what, etc. Even single people have to watch how they handle themselves with the opposite sex in social situations, lest rumors abound. I have a couple very close female friends, and have had others -usually old women -who assume when they meet me if one of my female friends in near that somehow we are a couple (Which I immediately and very dramatically deny as I express that I am “free” and unattached. LOL)

    I think one’s own personality often most affects how successful those social opportunities are. I can be a third without feeling the least bit uncomfortable, while other friends seem to obsess about being “the third wheel”.

  5. I don’t think it’s just about being divorced and friendships changing. I have met many new couples through my child’s school since I was divorced (when he was three). The couples rarely, if ever, include me or ask me to join them. I may be pretty good friends, or even quite good friends with the woman, but I am virtually never included with the couple unless MAYBE my child is involved (eg. after a soccer game). I don’t really feel that I contribute anything to this situation, except for a hesitance to invite myself. It’s very very difficult to ask friends to remember to include you when they get together as couples–maybe they don’t want to, or the dynamics are weirdly off. The guys really have to be men who enjoy women as friends for it to work, and often that is not the case. I don’t feel that in any way am I a femme fatal–I am 10 years older than many of my friends. But, I am excluded so often, it makes me very lonely. I know that if I showed up with a boyfriend at my side, I would be invited. It’s the way things are… I don’t really understand it very well, but it’s painful.

    1. Thanks for chiming in … wonder if sometimes the married friends aren’t intentionally excluding us, but rather don’t think about us, or worry we’ll feel the odd (wo)man out. What if you simply asked: “Hey, I love you and would love to be included.” Thoughts??

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