During my lunch break today I read an article on the BBC Magazine website about being single; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20304302.
What I found interesting about this article was a) reading it from a non-single point of view and b) the variety of responses. All of them are happy being single but for different reasons.
The bit that really struck a cord was Sylvia Saunders comment;
“The essence of my objection to marriage is that I hold no interest in effectively adopting an adult male in order to play the mother role, which defines what many men expect from a marriage. If a man were to – without coaching – bring a coffee and croissant to me in bed on a Sunday morning, I might consider giving up my independence but no luck so far.”
She has a point.
My first reaction to reading this article was to defend my own coupling, my second was to wonder how I act around my own single friends, my third was to do a double take at my relationship, and then there was the fourth.
Many of the people in this article chose to be single. Well, I chose to be in a relationship. I have always relished the idea of relationships and marriage. I can’t say why, but other people have suggested reasons. Maybe it is because of my parents stable marriage that made me want that for myself. It has been suggested that it is my generation, but this just isn’t true. A large proportion of my old school friends are not married, they’re not even in relationships. I haven’t just jumped into marriage because I want to be married, either. I was swept into this relationship with an intelligent, attractive, funny, kind man who I think I’ve secretly been in love with since I was 16. Going by the responses in this article, some of these people are waiting for what I have found. Good luck to them in finding it. Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean that you won’t find it.
So onto the next thought; my single friends. Interestingly, I have noticed that I can do the tiresome ‘are you seeing anybody’ with the male single friends but I don’t with my female friends. What’s that about? Perhaps, as Sylvia Saunders suggests, men require mothering and I am mothering the males around me who don’t have the girlfriend or wife. I admit that I do sometimes worry about single males – their state of happiness, their state of clothes – in a way that I don’t with females. I have been a single female, I have faith that women can thrive when single. Of course men can too, I’ve seen it with my own eyes, but this doesn’t seem to have reached that particular part of my brain.
I do sometimes wonder if my single girlfriends miss the sex and warm comfort of a man that a relationship can bring. I never ask them. They all seem to be so busy with their work and social lives, I wonder if they get a chance to miss it.
I’m not particularly conscious of how I act around single people. I am more aware of how I act with my husband around friends who are effectively on their own (either their partner is at home or they are single). I am always careful to act as if my husband is my friend and nothing more. Other than the odd dig, there is no cuddling, giggling or smooching. Everyone else in the group is included in conversation and the only time I will cling to my hubby is if we are out and about and it’s cold. After all, that’s what he’s there for.
John Hardy’s comments made me quickly do a relationship MOT;
“I don’t have to be part of a double act all the time. I say what I think instead of the sickening “We like x, don’t we Sweetie?”, with the mandatory affirmation. Shudder. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it, and how I want to do it. If I want company, I go out and get it. If I want to slam the door on the outside world, watch any old TV I like, eat pizza, drink beer, and just chill out – hey, what’s to stop me? And when I see those poor little men rushing around pandering to their “better halves” and scampering home by curfew…”
I can’t think of one instance where me and my hubby have done that double act example. It’s always ‘I like x, but he doesn’t’ or vice versa. He doesn’t have to pander to me, there’s certainly no curfew. All I ask is that he helps with the housework (which he does) and that he lets me know when he’ll be home and that’s only because I want to know when I can eat (food is important!).
Being able to watch any old TV I like sounds good though. I do miss that. On the other hand, we are always careful to give each other space. He does what he enjoys and I do what I enjoy, which usually means he goes out and I get the TV all to myself on a regular basis. Win-win.
I’ve realised that I’m making it sound like ours isn’t a good relationship. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of together time, a lot of cuddles, a lot of laughter and love but we also keep our own identities which I think is part of what makes our relationship so strong.
So, the fourth and final reaction; so what? What can be learnt from this. Is your main character single or in a relationship? How do they feel about it? How does it affect their lives?
I didn’t make the decision which characters in my two current novels-in-progress were in relationships and which weren’t. It just happened. One ended up with two men in her life but not in a relationship, one ended up dismissing the character I created just for her and prefers to be single, another fell in love with an older man (which completely threw me).
The comments in this article will prove very helpful in reminding myself what it means to be single as well as giving an insight into single experiences I have never had.
Do I miss being single? Sometimes. But I wouldn’t be without my husband. Just like there are people out there in the world who sometimes yearn for the comforting warmth of a partner but wouldn’t be without their constant freedom. We’re all different; humans are just magic like that.