I know this scene, and so do you:
You’re chatting with a friend, maybe new, maybe old. Or your sister, cousin, mother or aunt. They are married. You are not. They ask if you’re seeing someone?
Oh! you say. I went out with someone last week. Let me tell you about him!
Or maybe you indulge them in a recent hot fling you had while on a business trip to Portland, or hash out some hesitations about someone you’ve been seeing, casually, for a few months. Maybe you tell them about a recent heartbreak, or the fact you haven’t had a date in months and months.
“Don’t worry,” that married person will say, giving you a smile so sad it looks like she just watched Steel Magnolias. “You’ll find someone.”
Maybe, that pat promise of hope is just what you want to hear.
Or maybe you want to scream: EFF YOU, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!
By a married person responding to your dating experience — whether it be full of fun, love, heartbreak, or a mix of the above — translates into:
If you are lucky and stop being such a slut, maybe you will find the good fortune of having what I have.
Your life is incomplete, while my life is complete because I have a spouse.
Marriage is the answer, obviously.
Look, lots of single people want to get married. They have ideas of ‘the one,’ and/or and sanctified, traditional unions being superior to not having a sanctified traditional union. Or whatever. Everyone has their jam, and for some people, that is marriage.
But not everyone feels like that, and in fact, increasingly fewer people do. To wit:
- One-in-five adults ages 25 and older have never married, up from 9 percent in 1960, while just 51 percent of adults ages 18 and older are married — marking record lows
- A Pew / Time magazine survey of 2,691 Americans in association found that nearly four in 10 Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete.
- That’s an 11 percent spike since 1978
- Forty-four percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 saw marriage as obsolete, compared to 32 percent of those 65 and older
- 57 percent of Millennial moms are unmarried
- Divorce rates have hovered around the 50 percent mark for four decades
Per the divorce stat, assuring a divorced person that marriage is right around the corner is absurd. That person has been married, and at least that marriage wasn’t so great for them.
And chances are, marriage wasn’t so great for the condescending married person, either.
I know. Because by nature of my public work around family and romance, and the fact that I’m simply a single, divorced mom, unabashedly out in the world, I am perhaps especially likely to hear, via clandestine emails, murmurs by the booze table when the husband is on the other side of the the party, soccer game sideline chitchat, about how so many married people really feel about their sanctimonious union.
“He does absolutely nothing around the house — and I make all the money!”
“He hasn’t showed interest in sex in years.”
“I am living vicariously through your dating life.”
“I hate him and have been trying to divorce him for years.”
“I really, really want to get back to work. But he won’t let me.”
“She has zero sex drive, and we haven’t had an night without one of the fucking kids in our bed in eight years.”
“We fight all the time.”
“She shops and goes to yoga every day, and acts like she is so exhausted after I get home from 12 hours at the office.”
“We’re miserable. Have been for years. We’re waiting for the kids to go to college.”
“That tank top is so pretty on you. Really. No, really. What’s your number?”
And any number of other confessions about the dissatisfaction and/or horrors of marriage.
All of which highlights the hypocrisy and self-denial that is inherent in so many married people — an institution, along with the nuclear family, that is still upheld as an gleaming ideal, despite the fact that both models are waning in practice or sustainability. In fact, the majority of families today are NOT nuclear families, thanks to the increases in single-parent households, gay partnership and marriage, multi-generational families and any number of configurations in which people define “family” — whether by choice, circumstance, desperation or because, well, stuff happens, both beautiful and ugly.
All of which is really beside the point.
The point is: My experience as a single person, whether I’m happy or not, whether I’m looking for a spouse, partner, date, lay, adult conversation, to work out my daddy issues, to not be lonely when my kids are with their dad, for professional gain or find someone to pay my bills, is zero commentary on your life, spouse or marriage.
You are on your own path, and I am, too — and maybe there is a shimmering pot of ever-after matrimony at the end of your trip, or maybe you just enjoy the ride, and understand that everyone’s journey — married, single, partnered, dating, celibate, open relationship, serial monogamous, whatever — is full of heartbreak and joy, fun and misery, and ultimately, thankfully for those of us who live in a free and western world, one of your own making.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.