Archives for Singlehood
Who invites their spouse or partner to participate in substance abuse programs, and how much does the partner’s participation matter to the success of the treatment? That’s what Social Work Professor Evan Senreich wanted to know when he set out to study LGBT and heterosexual clients of substance abuse programs. He got his answer, but he also discovered something else entirely. The people who had the most impressive rates by far of staying away from drugs or alcohol after being in treatment were the women who had no partner at the time of their treatment.
Some of the world’s most scintillating conversationalists come totally undone when their conversation partner is a single person. All they can seem to come up with is, “So, are you seeing anyone?” Americans spend more years of their adult lives not married than married, and there are more single people than ever before. Yet remarkably, other people often assume that what single people want, more than anything else, is to become unsingle. It is as if they think that single people have no interests and no passions in their lives, no jobs and no people who are important to them.
“If someone says, ‘You complete me,’ RUN!” That’s the title of a book by Whoopi Goldberg. It is one of the many wise things she learned from a lifetime of experiences and now wants to share with her readers.
At the end of the year, I like to look back and see which of my many “Single at Heart” blog posts readers liked best. Here’s what I found:
If you are alone and feeling down, do you think you are sad because you are alone? Just about every relevant movie, novel, love song, advice column, media story, and fairy tale encourages that way of thinking. If only that Prince or Princess Charming came along, we are led to believe, then all our wishes would come true, we would never be lonely again, and we would live happily ever after.
We single people are not all the same. Social scientists rarely acknowledge the important distinctions among us. Perhaps one of the most important ways that single people differ is in their choice about living single. Some people have chosen to be single, whereas others are single by circumstance and would rather be coupled.
I’m a social scientist, so when I want to know the answers to questions such as, who lives the longest and why, I like to look to big, methodologically sophisticated studies. But there seems to be a certain appeal to those articles that pop up with some regularity, in which the oldest person in the world is asked to explain the keys to his or her long life. Emma Morano, at 117 years-old, is currently the person who has lived more years on this earth than anyone. She seems to have struck a chord, at least with people who share my interests, judging from the number of people who have sent me links to stories about her or shared posts on Facebook.
“Flower Hunters,” Lauren Groff’s short story in the New Yorker, includes this passage: “She picks up her cell – she wants to tell her best friend, Meg, about her sudden overwhelming love for the ghost of a Quaker naturalist – but then she remembers that Meg doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore. “A week ago, Meg said very gently, I’m sorry, I just need to take a break.”
Since the election, I have been getting asked a question I hesitate to answer in this space since this is not a political blog, so I will address a different question instead. The question I’ve been asked is some version of: What are the implications of the next four years for people who are single in the U.S.? There are some ominous signs. But rather than dwelling on those, I have been thinking about a different question. What can we single people do for ourselves to make our lives better?
What is the key difference between romantic relationships – which are valued and respected and pondered and studied and celebrated and, well, romanticized – and all of the other close and meaningful relationships in our lives? Relationships with our closest friends, that may have outlasted most marriages. Relationships with parents and children, and the kin and chosen kin we hold most dear. They key difference is sex – or at least the potential for sex to have an important place in the relationship.