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When Marriage Is Glorified, It Is Not Just Single People Who Are Hurt

when marriage is glorified, it's not just single people who are hurtThe very wise and savvy advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, responded to a single person who was experiencing something all too commonplace in the lives of single people: Her friends were disappearing. Increasingly, the advice-seeker said, they have “different priorities.” My guess is that many of them were marrying and having children, though she didn’t say so explicitly.

The person who wrote the letter was really missing her friends. She wanted that deep and enduring friendship connection again, not just quick catch-up events that happen less and less often. She asked Carolyn Hax if finding her “one true love” was the only answer.

Hax, of course, said no. She gave a name to the assumption that finding your one true love is “the only or even the best solution.” She called it “mate-ism.”

What I especially liked about her answer was the point she made about who mate-ism hurts. It is not just single people. Other victims of the mentality that values the “one true love” above all else, according to Hax, are (and here I’m turning her words into a series of bullet points):

  • People who marry wrong
  • People who marry meh
  • The widowed
  • People who fare better with social variety
  • People who bond better to friends than to mates

She added, “There are too many emotional makeups among us for it to be healthy that one configuration so dominates expectations.” (You can read the entire question and answer here. For more about people ditching their single friends, check out the articles in Section 2 of this collection.)

Hax’s “mate-ism,” by the way, is a close relative to other terms I and others have used:

  1. Matrimania: the over-the-top hyping of marriage, weddings, and couplings
  2. Singlism: the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against people who are single
  3. Marital status discrimination: discrimination based on marital status (a term often used by Christina and Lisa at the Onely blog; it is a subcategory of singlism)
  4. Marital privilege: This goes beyond the very narrow legal version of the term and refers to the vast array of unearned privileges enjoyed by married people simply because they are married

The point Hax made about the costs of these unfair practices, even to people who are not single, is one I’ve also made before. For example, if single people were not stereotyped, stigmatized, marginalized, ignored, or discriminated against, then people who want to be coupled (and, of course, not everyone does) can approach that from a position of strength – as something they pursue for the value it adds to their life. That’s very different – and far healthier – than seeking a coupled relationship as a way of escaping the stigma and the other costs of living single.

Andrushko Galyna/Bigstock

When Marriage Is Glorified, It Is Not Just Single People Who Are Hurt

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2016). When Marriage Is Glorified, It Is Not Just Single People Who Are Hurt. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jul 2016
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