[Bella’s intro: In the previous post, guest blogger Tricia Parker shared her difficult and painful experiences from when she first became an “independent parent.” Eventually, though, she learned quite a lot about how to be an independent parent in ways that were enriching to herself, her children, and other parents and their children. She shares this wisdom with us in Part 2 of her two-part article.]
[Bella’s intro: I’ve never met Tricia Parker, but when she sent me a very moving and wise e-mail about her experiences as what she calls an “independent parent,” I immediately asked her if she would share her observations here with Single at Heart readers. Happily, she agreed. In this first of two parts, she describes the most painful years. In Part 2, she reveals the keys to her emergence into a happy, healthy, empowered, and productive place for herself and her children. Thanks so much, Tricia!]
The explosion of racial tensions over the summer brought the notion of “white privilege” to the forefront of our cultural conversations. Americans have become increasingly familiar with the ways in which people enjoy unearned advantages just because they are white (“white privilege”) or male (“male privilege”) or young or heterosexual. But a vast swath of privileges that advantage half the adult population has gone mostly unrecognized.
In the past couple of days, the media has gotten all excited about some new research claiming to show that getting married makes people happier. You should always be suspicious of claims like that, as I’ve explained before. And, as I’ve shown in great detail, the particular research getting all the attention has not actually shown that getting married makes you happier.
The first thing you need to do if you want to make the case that getting married makes people happier (even though it doesn’t) is to show that people who got married are happier than people who stayed single. Then, once you do that, you can go on to try to demonstrate that marriage (and not something else) is what made them happier. But the authors’ data, when analyzed properly, shows that in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, people who stay single are actually happier than those who get married! And in Western Europe (excluding the UK) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (including Russia), people who stay single are just as happy as those who get married.
Here, I want to take on another claim made by the authors, Grover and Helliwell: that the explanation for why marriage makes people happier (even though it doesn’t) is that married people (or at least some of them) enjoy the benefits of having a close friend and confidant in their spouse. The New York Times said that the findings from the research suggested this advice: “Find a spouse who is also your best friend.”
In my previous post, I announced this year’s National Singles Day celebration (details are also repeated at the end of this post), and considered the question of how, if at all, single people should be celebrated. Now, as promised, I want to address the matter of tying singles day celebrations to dates with the number one in them.
We like to think that we have a core group of people who are so important to us, they are irreplaceable. They are with us, in our lives, for the long run. They may be best friends or relatives or romantic partners or maybe people in other kinds of categories, but whoever they are, we see them as the people we will turn to when something significant is happening in our lives and we want to talk about it.
But is that really true? Or does our core group change as we make significant transitions in our lives?
Most people who are cheating on their romantic partners don’t want to be caught. They don’t want their partners to recognize their infidelity, and they don’t want other people to be able to tell, either.
So is it possible for people to just watch a couple and know whether one of the partners is cheating on the other? If so, how long would you have to know the possible cheater? Would you need to be a close friend or maybe a relative who has known the person their whole life? Would you need to be the person who is getting cheated on?
We Americans – and others, too – often read a lot into marital status. Tell us that those people over there are married and we will assume that they like it that way – they are married because they want to be. Tell us that those other people are single and we make an entirely different assumption – that they are “stuck” being single and what they really want is to become unsingle.
When I write or give talks about single people, I am sometimes asked how many single people wish they were married. When I’m asked that question, I turn it around and suggest that the parallel question also needs to be raised: How many married people wish they were single? Because of our assumptions that married people want to be married, social scientists rarely ask that question directly.
Until now. In a previous post, I told you about Professor Jeffrey Arnett‘s survey of 25-39 year-olds, and his finding that having time to themselves ranked above nine other potential sources of joy in their lives. He and his coauthor also asked married people if they wished they were single and single people if they wish they were married.
I was browsing at Pottery Barn the other day when I overheard one of the other shoppers tell a saleswoman that she was buying something for her brother because “he’s single and doesn’t have any kids and doesn’t get anything” for Christmas. It was one of those many frustrating times when I know I want to say something but don’t come up with it until hours later. (Or maybe I should be grateful I did not think more quickly and proceed to create a scene in the store.)
What bothered me about the shopper’s comment was the pity in it. Holiday seasons seem to be magnets for the pity of people who are coupled and feel sorry for those who are not, and for those who are parents and are just so very sorry for those who have no children.
Here are a few of the things I wish the shopper had realized:
The age at which people think of themselves as adults has been creeping upward, to the extent that a new stage of development has been added to the familiar ones such as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. “Emerging adulthood,” the term coined by social scientist Jeffrey Arnett, refers to those years when people are no longer adolescents but not quite established as adults either. (Other monikers have also been used, such as “adultolescents.”) Somewhere between 25 and 39, though, the majority of people feel that they have reached adulthood.
So what then? How do people feel about their lives during those early years of making it to adulthood? That’s what Arnett set out to explore in a national survey of a diverse sample of more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 39.