Stabbed Through the Heart with a Picture

by Sarah on May 14, 2013

Singled outA few years ago, right after the holiday season, I was browsing Facebook when I came across a picture that one of my college friends had posted.

While I had many friends when I was in college, there were three in particular with whom I spent a vast majority of my time.

The four of us took classes together, built art galleries in our dorms together, celebrated birthdays and holidays together, played endless games of Settlers of Catan, took random trips to the beach in the middle of the night, etc. Although we all had other friends and other interests, I don’t think I’m remiss in saying that we were very much a group.

Flash forward to the day, years later, when I’m scrolling through Facebook. I stop to look at the picture my friend has posted, and my jaw drops.

Friend number one, her husband, her daughter.

Friend number two, his wife, his son.

Friend number three, his fianceรฉ.

And friend number four? Sitting at home with tears on her face because a photo on Facebook just made her cry.

Now maybe this has nothing to do with me being single. Maybe they just really never liked me (unlikely). Maybe they’ve all just stayed closer with one another than with me. Maybe all the years I worked in theatre and was largely unavailable for social stuff meant that I just fell out of the circle, relationship status notwithstanding.

The point of this post is not actually to air my personal feelings of exclusion for all the internet to see.

Rather, it’s to bring attention to the culturally ingrained idea that couples should hang out with other couples.

Somehow, the fact that they are all coupled and I am not, sadly changes the relationship dynamic, if nowhere else than in their own heads.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with people growing apart. Interests change over time, people grow in different directions, , life gets in the way of staying in touch. These are all normal parts of life.

Even the idea of wanting to hang out with other people “like ourselves” is completely acceptable and understandable. It was, in fact, one of the primary motivating factors for my starting this website.

Where I take exception is the fact that one’s relationship status is any kind of indicator of “likeness.” I also take exception to the fact that relationship status can take precedence over years of history, similar interests, and shared experiences.

I suspect that it is not only singlers who are familiar with the feeling of being dumped by a friend who has recently entered into a new relationship. But for many singlers, like myself, this “dumping” has become a sad refrain, repeated over and over again as friends get married and “move on” with their lives.

Of course, nobody is required to spend time with anyone else. As adults, we all have the option to decide who we keep in our lives and who we don’t.

But when so many people’s choices seem to be dictated by some unstated cultural rule that adults should come in pairs? Well then I can’t help but object.

Yes, Virginia, I’m sad to say that singlism is alive and well.


Have you ever been singled out or left out by friends because of your relationship status? Share your stories in the comments!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen J October 8, 2013 at 2:18 am

Exploring your Archives [Yay! Archives!] ~
Adding another couple of sides to this “dichotomy” – with some extra twists –
~ Widowed folk – men AND women – suddenly-single, with a side of “missing your partner!” pain, all around, and
~ the NOT-Single, but the SO doesn’t want to/ isn’t up to going out
Both of those situations complicate the emotional background of either rules-following or rules-breaking.

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Sarah October 12, 2013 at 3:03 am

Yes, yes, yes. As usual, I write about my experiences but these are all really challenging situations and may share some overlap. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for bringing them up!

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Karen J October 14, 2013 at 6:46 am

Here’s yet another (overlapping) extra-complicated situation: *Recently Divorced* (or even just “Recently Broke Up With Someone”) ~
Whatever your former (with your now-ex-partner) social circles were, they’re liable to be changed dramatically, because of your new status. Friends may “choose sides” and drop one of the former-couple, in “support” of the other; or may drop both of you, out of discomfort with and/or uncertainty about the new situation.

I’m happy to see you explore these *rules* (especially the unwritten ones) with a “So, who made up that one? And pray tell, WHY???” attitude…

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Rhiannon June 22, 2013 at 1:35 am

I’m so glad to have read this. I was actually feeling weird the other day about the way my husband and I hang out almost exclusively with people who are either single or whose significant others aren’t connected to us. Some semi-conscious voice was telling me I was “breaking rules” and “making people uncomfortable.” Had I thought about it, I would have realized what I’m realizing right now: that’s crap.

On a tangent:, my socializing options have narrowed significantly since having a baby (at least for the kind of socializing I like to do – I guess I have an easy ticket into family parade day but I’ll pass.), but rather than go the route of finding people who have kids because I’m reasonably sure I won’t offend them with the presence of mine, I’d rather have some honest conversations with the rest of everyone I know. Maybe it means we have to agree that until I have more baby-free time, we don’t connect. But it’s better than just drifting over assumptions.

Thanks for reminding me that the “rules” don’t matter and we all have a choice in this. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Sarah June 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Yay! I love this, Rhiannon. Thanks for raising the same point from the opposite perspective. It can be just as hard to be the one breaking the rules as it is for those who are inadvertently affected by the rules. You guys rock. Also, on a related tangent, I am totally redoing my main website branding to be all about breaking the rules. I’m taking this comment as a sign.

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Alan June 17, 2013 at 7:34 am

While I am unsure that I am a “singler” per your definition, I am somewhat dedicatedly single and, at times, I have felt excluded by friends who are in a relationship. You’re spot on — there is a cultural norm that couples should hang with couples. A couple will go out with another couple – to an event, for food, for whatever – before they contemplate including a single. Sure, larger groups are fine but smaller ones and the single is the obvious third wheel. There is a recognized though unspoken stigma. And I don’t know precisely why and I don’t know precisely how, but I do know I have felt that exclusion at work like a small dagger in the back and thought to myself “if I were in a relationship, I might have been invited.” How exceedingly crappy is that.

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Sarah June 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Hey Alan – thanks for the comment. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced that pain of being excluded simply on the basis of being single. It hurts, and I know i find it exceedingly frustrating and nonsensical. I’m hoping that maybe by talking more about these kinds of things, we can help raise awareness and at least encourage people (singlers and non-singlers alike) to be more conscious in their decisions around inclusion, etc. I’m glad you’re here. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Joel Zaslofsky May 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I think you’re cutting too much slack to the non-singlers, Sarah. I believe you don’t need as many caveats and degrees of nuance as you (eloquently) wove into this post.
It’s a fact: social norms have engraved in us non-singlers that we should spend our time with other non-singlers… and not even think twice about it. I hesitate to call this just plain wrong because most people do this unconsciously. However, we all do a lot of things unconsciously that harm ourselves and everyone else.
Your awareness generation campaign is already making me change my thoughts on who I should be interacting with, in what kind of settings, and in which group dynamics. Even though you aren’t yet recommending specific steps that people like me – with a spouse and/or kids – could take to solve the problems you’ve identified, I feel like the solutions are obvious:
Don’t be insensitive and don’t let social norms rule how you live your life and who you “do life” with.

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Sarah June 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Joel, if only all the non-singlers were like you the world would be a much nicer place for singlers. If you wouldn’t mind reporting back at some point, I’d love to hear how things change for you with this new awareness.

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