Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Love Lounge: On being divorced vs. unmarried

I'm a sucker for statistics, polls and studies -- well, basically anything that takes something as intangible as love and gives it a firm scientific foundation. So I was especially excited when I came across this recent study by the Pew Research Center. The verdict: Nearly 30 percent of adults have never been married.

Not currently unmarried. Not single. No, no -- never been married.

Now, this flies in the face of all those happily married statistics I've seen. And truthfully, these new statistics are quite liberating. There's always been this huge stigma surrounding the never-been-married set -- stereotypes full of spinsters with cats sitting in rocking chairs and knitting their days away or being at the center of neighborhood gossip where kids make up stories about them and the stories become the stuff of legends.

Honestly, think about this for a minute: Don't the wheels start turning in your head if you meet someone who is over 35 and unmarried? I've even caught myself doing it a time or two because it's so ingrained in us that it's normal to get married. It's normal to meet someone and want to settle down and have a family, so any sort of deviation from that "norm" is seen as, well, abnormal. Of course I've been on the receiving end of such glares, and I could just imagine everyone thinking, "Why isn't she married?"
And here's the real kicker about this whole thing: In her recent article for The Huffington Post, author (and lifelong spinster! Eleanore S. Wells describes the jealousy she's always harbored toward her divorced friends. It wasn't because they'd had at least one shot at marriage, but rather, she says, because divorced people are viewed in a more favorable light than those who have never been married. Wells' recalls a recent dinner party, and her friends comments both shocked and saddened me...

So imagine my surprise when I attended a dinner party not too long ago with some friends and colleagues I hadn't seen in awhile. A number of them were shocked -- shocked! -- that I still (their word) wasn't married. In fact, my un-wifed "plight" was the topic of conversation for what I considered to be much too long. "Why?" they wanted to know. "What's wrong?"

The kicker was that this conversation was led by a woman who was going through her third divorce. How does one fail at marriage three times by the age 45? It seemed that I was the only one who thought that was odd. All present congratulated her for knowing how to get a man... even if she couldn't keep one. And collectively, they couldn't accept that I had chosen to be happily single.

Isn't that wild?
If you've never been married, have you experienced this? What has been your reaction? Do you think society views unmarried men and unmarried women differently? Why? Would you ever choose to remain unmarried? xoxo

P.S. Catch up on past Love Lounge topics, including imperfect body parts, first dates, unrequited love, fate, falling in love and dating dos and don'ts.

[Photos via Le Love]


  1. That is so true about the way people view unmarried and divorced. I am so surprised by 30%, I didn't realize it was such a high number. I thought only George Clooney didn't want to get married, lol.

  2. Me too, Michelle -- I thought the number would be lower too. And I didn't even think of George Clooney...just goes to show that we don't think twice if a man doesn't want to get married...

  3. haha George Clooney!

    but yeah... I have always SAID I don't have time to water and walk a boy right NOW, but there was a presumption that one day I'd be wealthy/skinny/ready to meet someone.

    except I work with a lot of people starting over in their 50s because they're cleaning up after a divorce. and they love being on their own.

    Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy life on my own terms THE WHOLE TIME?

  4. "I have always SAID I don't have time to water and walk a boy right NOW"

    That is great, Morty!

  5. That dinner party talk sounds absolutely miserable–oye!

  6. i think an important idea to keep in mind too is that many couples these days don't get officially married, but live together and have a life together. i would be perfectly happy if my boyfriend and i never officially tied the knot, as long as we were happy and committed to each other.
    interesting statistic though!

  7. George Clooney is divorced, to the extent that is at all relevant.

  8. I have never been married - I will turn 36 this year. Although I had always assumed that I would eventually marry, my boyfriend and I have been together for 2 years now, and things are pretty awesome.
    When i was 25 I was dating a guy who wanted to get married, I was just unsure that he really wanted to marry ME. Guys have that ticking clock thing too, and he was ready to settle down. I knew that I didn't really love him. I look back on that time as a tipping point in my life. I think there are a lot of people who get married because it is the "thing people do" and then have to deal with a divorce. I am so glad I knew enough about myself to turn him down.

  9. I always thought I'd be married by now. No prospects, but I am still hopeful. I'm 31, so I like to think I am just skipping my first marriage and going straight to the one that lasts.

  10. Last year, I met one of my former male classmates by accident. We got talking about our lives since graduating Senior High. We're both 36 and still unmarried. However, he's never met 'The One' while I'm engaged with two kids.

    It is sad the dinner party focused so much time and effort on the way one person chooses to live.

  11. I'm next year 30y and not married, together with my boyfriend for 6years. We haven't even talked about marriage.. And right now it's ok as i wouldn't want to get married too young (meaning like 22y old). So I don't see anything weird in adults who aren't married, nothing wrong :)

  12. Hmm...actually hadn't thought about this too much before. Maybe because I have a couple of friends who have no intentions of marrying. =) I think in general...yes, society views unmarried people differently...mostly because the majority of people can't relate. Most people don't understand why someone would WANT to be single. Good food for thought!

  13. Interesting topic. I was divorced at 29, and I certainly didn't feel like people looked at me very favorably at that point. However, I do have several girlfriends in their mid-30s who have never been married, and I know that they feel a lot of pressure to find the right guy. I guess when you've been divorced that pressure might be a little less.

  14. That's an interesting point, melisande...i wonder how society views people who live together? Have you guys who have done it had good/bad epxeriences?

  15. I think there are a number of reasons why this number seems large at first glance, but it totally understandable.

    Approximately 10% of the population is gay or lesbian and many of them cannot be in legally recognized marriages.

    Also, I think the data is based on adults being defined as over 18. With the average age of marriage for men being around 28 and women around 26, you have some young folks who just haven't gotten around to it.

    Living together with no intention of marriage is also becoming more common and accepted.

    I'd love to see a breakdown of some data by age, sexual orientation, location, and living situation.

    Your point that there are more people than one might think who are either single and not married by choice or because they haven't found someone is still interesting.

  16. Married now but when my husband and I first moved in together as boyfriend and girlfriend with no engagement on the immediate horizon I definitely got some criticisms. Oddly enough, it came from other women in their mid-twenties at the time who I would have thought would be very understanding of this choice. The dinner party convo you posted reminded me of a party where I spent about an hour feeling the need to justify this to a group of women I barely knew. They asked questions like "aren't you afraid he won't propose now?" "what if you break up, you'll have to explain to any future boyfriends that you'd loved with someone?" "how upset are your parents?" "is this just a trial run?" and my personal favorite "why isn't he proposing?" Sadly, there are judgmental people in the world and they can be judgmental on a wide variety of topics. People manage their lives in ways that make them happy, and it's a shame we don't spend more time congratulating people on not settling or faking what they want.

  17. While these stats are interesting, I think that people should just do what they want to do and not worry about social pressure or whatever anyone else thinks. Melissa, when you meet someone and fall in love with them and they fall in love with you, how you decide to spend your life together (boyfriend and girlfrien), living together, not living together, engaged, married, whatever) is a decision that can only be made by the TWO of you and your circumstances. Don't worry about trends and age and who's doing what; just focus on getting out there and having fun meeting people. Because unless you are actively out there socializing, what is the point in worrying about all the "what-if's" and "no way's" and "never in a million years", etc. Live in the moment. Forget the trends. Who cares what anyone else thinks.

  18. If a man were 35 and unmarried, I wouldn't think much of it...I'd probably assume he was waiting for the right woman, or until he felt he could safely provide for a woman financially. Those are legitimate reasons for both sexes but...yeah.

    It's weird. On one hand my mom keeps hinting I should be engaged by now, but she is always tells me she never really enjoyed housework or raising kids and typically wifely duties. So she totally roots for me to be independent and everything but the "Be married before 30!!" thing is still hovering over us all. I'm 27.

    I don't see why divorced people would be viewed as "better" than umarried folks. As a disclaimer, I know people who have benefited from divorce and been much happier. But divorced 3 times? That would make me feel like the person just had poor judgement.

  19. Oh, and I totally agree with the commenter who dreads the "Why isn't he proposing?" question. We have relative in particular who always checks my left hand, then pats me on the back and sympathetically says "Don't worry, I'm sure it'll happen soon." I know he's being nice, but it always make me feel like I'm the poor, to-be-pitied girl who is sitting around losing her youth and has no say in the matter. Plus I don't like the implication that my boyfriend is dragging his feet or lazy somehow. Dude, my boyfriend wants to get engaged too. In fact, he talks about it more than I do.

  20. I believe Anonymous' reasoning. The numbers are probably in line with respect to age, sexual orientation, and relationship status. Many people are marrying later in life.

    I also think single women are viewed differently that single men, especially when they reach their 30s.

    I look at my own situation and see no reason to panic. I reached the half century mark and I am in no hurry to tie the knot.

    My mother is after me to marry and have children "before she dies." My girlfriend is a little younger than you Melissa and she cringes everytime she answers the phone and my mother is on the other end.

    I have encountered people other than my mother who chastize me for putting off marraige. I've heard all the names - playboy and Peter Pan.

    I know many couples who are up to their eyeballs in debt because they try to live a lavish lifestyle while sending their children to private school. Kids are so expensive.

    I have a huge house, a sports car and an full size SUV, and take more than one vacation a year. I live debt free. I have no children to support or ex wife to pay spousal support to.

    I enjoy life. I have had more than a few husbands who have admitted to me how much they dislike their wives. They have resigned themselves to being Yes Dears for the sake of not having their wives bitch and nag.

    When a woman I date becomes more hassle than she is worth, I break up with her. I can always find someone else to date. I have a full head of hair and hardly any gray and I intend to keep it that way.

    I just thought of the way Chris O'donnell proposed to Rene Zelwegger on the Bachelor. When he slides the ring over to her and says "You win." Classic!

    Actually, I do plan to marry someday. I even have the engagement ring. I bought a loose diamond about 10 years ago and had it set about 6 years ago. Right now it is in my safe. But when I marry, I will feel like I've won.

    Laura, I've had some of those rude women demand that I justify my life choices to them. I said that I'm taking my time because I don't want to end up with someone like them. That did not earn me any points with them, but at my age I don't give a flip what people think about me.

  21. I don't understand why there is such a bias towards unmarried women, especially as they near 30. I'm 29 and from India. Everyone is obsessed with when I'll tie the knot and has some morbid fear that I'll die and old maid. Reality is that I'm not going to settle just because my 'clock is ticking'. I'd rather be single than go through the heartache of a divorce.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I am 23 year old single and unmarried. I dont feel pressure to be married at all. What I want is a geuniune relationship where I'm happy and getting everything I want or need from the individual. Alot of people get married for the wrong reasons and I think its best to know yourself before you make that major committment. If marriage is in the cards for me in my future then I'm very open to it but till then I'm living my life on my terms and my way. Till hell with society, be happy with your choices and life. If someone never gets married either man or woman its called a choice and they can do whatever they want.

  24. i'm 25 and unmarried, living with my boyfriend. i have friends who are married that have been in a relationship with their husbands for a shorter period of time than we have.

    we are not married yet because we want to know FOR SURE we are right for each other, no rushing. my parents are divorced (each multiple times), and it SUCKS for the children involved. i'm never doing that to my kids, so i'm going to do everything i can to prevent it from happening!

    if that means dating someone for 10 years, so be it!


Your lovely comments make my day so much sweeter! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin