Single People

Friendship Fries

Bella DePaulo writes a blog about being single, called Living Single.

Wow, a whole blog about us boring, unimportant single people? I’ll try to keep my head from swelling.

Of course, writing this blog for years has given DePaulo a bunch of super interesting insights. Here is some of her writing from Why Don’t Friendships Get What They Deserve?:

In our laws, politics, religions, and in the cultural stories that we tell, it is the married couple relationship (and secondarily, the parent-child relationship) that is honored, protected, and sentimentalized. Friends are marginalized as “just” friends. The model that celebrates the marital relationship and dismisses friendship, though, no longer corresponds to the way we actually live.

Now that Americans spend more years of their adult lives single than married, friendship is more important than it used to be. As family size decreases, so, too, do options for family care in old age or any other age – fewer people have siblings or adult children to care for them (or if they do, those family members may live many miles away). Again, it is friends who come to the rescue.

Legal scholars are beginning to take note, and they are raising questions about whether the place of friendships in law and public policy needs to be reconsidered.

So fascinating. Protecting friendships with the law – what an interesting idea and a nightmare at the same time. What would it look like if friendships were respected by the law? You know, for such purposes as hospital visits, inheritance, stuff like that. If these relationships are significant and valuable, why should the law ignore them and place all importance on blood and marriage?

I think it makes a lot of sense to think realistically about how real Americans structure their actual relationships, instead of focusing on tradition or ideals. Since adults spend more time single than not, and have smaller families, the importance of friendships must certainly be rising. I don’t think dominant social discourse addresses this at all. There is serious silence surrounding adult friendship and the way these relationships improve quality of life and form a non-familial safety net in rough times.

One could correlate the devaluation of friend relationships with the dismissal of singlehood as a valid adult choice. Mainstream discourse says when you marry (or commit to a life partnership) you are to forsake all others and cleave only to your spouse. Married people focus their attention on spouses and children. Single people focus their attention on friends and other family relationships. Or, so sez the mainstream discourse. I can think of bunches of coupled people in my life who would attest to the value and importance of their friendships.

This post is just a starting point – I think I’m going to want to spend more time thinking about this topic.

Your thoughts on singlehood and friendships are humbly requested.

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2 thoughts on “Single People

  1. I think this type of reform is really necessary, and yet not particularly likely given how slow today’s legal system moves. I remember how much of a pain it was when Katie and I tried to set up joint checking accounts and shared medical disclosure and stuff like that without us actually getting married. Most of the people we talked to on the phone were just confused: “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. The computer only has the option for spouse.” Wow, really helpful.

  2. Thing have seemed to change….
    I remember when I was a kid some years ago, a lady from our old church set up a checking for my sister and I, among others. It seems interesting to me that a stranger can make legally binding contracts for someone else, but not a friend?

    But I digress…..

    It appears to me that ‘singlehood’ is rather glorified in pop culture and media. But maybe that’s just me.

    There is some truth though that when people get married, their old friendships seem to die off. Not sure if it is cause and effect though. Couples just get busy with family things. It’s unfortunate that these old friendships die off.

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