Us Vs. Them: Singletons & Smug Marrieds


During brunch with a friend, we witnessed a heartbreaking, all too common scene: a newly-engaged young woman showing off her ring to a table of her girlfriends, none of whom sported any ring that could resemble a sign of engagement.

“See?” I grimly declared. “Single people really do serve a purpose in society.”

“How?” she asked.

“By making couples feel superior!”

Joking aside, there is some truth to this. Our culture consistently portrays happy couples as having won something, while singles lose out. Couples are to be lauded, singles pitied – or worse, set up. The “Single For A Reason” adage is as common as “Happily Ever After.”

I have sisters who are twins. For as long as I can remember, they gave the impression that they never needed anyone outside of each other.

But this is secondary to the reality that they haven’t gotten married. I have noticed that this makes many people uncomfortable. One well-meaning aunt, for instance, introduced them to her friends by saying, “They have no kids and aren’t married, so don’t ask.” She also, in a decidedly less-than-well-meaning moment, referred to them as “ready for the soup.”

Perhaps you have equally obnoxious friends or relatives who ask why you’re still single. Or maybe you have more tactful loved ones who feel the same way as my aunt but don’t mention it. In any case, I’m sure we’ve all had these moments of confrontation about our pitiable state of singlehood.

So how do single people cope?

One way I deal with it is to remember that these people – well-meaning or not – are simply reflecting the values of our culture. They can’t help but succumb to the “us vs. them” mentality that runs rampant through the country.

Who values singlehood when reality TV revolves around putting strangers through competitions until someone gets engaged? How can solitude be looked at favorably if celebrity couples are broadcast everywhere? How can single people get any respect when they’re portrayed in sitcoms and films as pathetic losers, maladjusted misfits, desperate hermits or just plain mean people?

More importantly, how can the loved ones of single people show support amidst a wholly unsupportive environment?

The default button is the idea that something is inherently wrong with someone who is not a part of a pair. Our loved ones cannot be blamed for thinking in agreement with conventional wisdom.

Another helpful reminder is that the people who pity our singlehood do so out of love for us. They don’t want to see us alone and unhappy. And really, aren’t we showing them we’re unhappy if we become uncomfortable every time they ask us if we’re seeing anyone? Aren’t we also reflecting the bigger picture when we walk around complaining that single people are looked at unfavorably?

I could not blame someone for seeing me as unhappy if all I’m showing them is how unhappy I am. I also could not take issue with someone’s desire to see me happy.


A different perspective

Once I saw things in this light, I stopped arming myself with sarcastic retorts. I gave honest answers when someone asked why I was still single – I wasn’t over my last relationship, I wasn’t ready to commit, or I simply hadn’t found the right person.

In letting go of my defensive quips, I allowed others to soften as well. My loved ones soon became supportive and positive. In so doing, our most loving supporters make our time in singlehood much less lonely.



  1. Cate Perry
    Catherine Perry September 2, 2011 Reply

    Thanks, everyone, for such thoughtful comments!

  2. Benjamin-148488 August 19, 2011 Reply

    I don’t make excuses. Losers make excuses. I love my life. I have more dynamism, energy, courage, joy, and energy than most pairs have together. I have yet to meet my long term mate, but I’ve dated some great women, nonetheless. I am honest and true to myself, to God, and to others. I don’t care about the garbage philosophies and psychologies out there. The dating pool these days is tainted. You have to keep living for what is right. Good things do happen to those who keep it real and trust in God.

  3. Stesha-756026 August 18, 2011 Reply

    I liked the story, but not all single people are unhappy. I love being single. My family, not so much. But I love it. I am almost 27 and am at the prime of my life. My family has the typical southern belle mentality: a woman is an old maid at 21 if she is not married. But when I was younger, I realized that most of the women in my family do not have college educations, and the few that do had to juggle college with married life and diapers. My Mama got married in high school and had me 11 months later. She worked hard and was worked even harder. Even at a young age I could see the regret and envy in her eyes, even though she would never admit it. I set out to do the things she couldn’t do because she married too young. I went to college, lived in the dorms, traveled the world, bought a fast sports car. The car caught the disapproval of many of the “adults” in my family. One uncle openly criticized the decision because it only had two seats and was a convertible. He asked me where was I going to put the baby seat. I had to laugh and remind him that I wasn’t married, nor was I even in a serious relationship. A good number of my friends and cousins are getting married right now, but when they start in on their “wedding planning talk” at parties, I just go in the garage and play darts with the boys. Not because the wedding talk makes me upset or uncomfortable, but because I have no opinions to add to the table. Though, there is one thing that I am most eternally grateful for about my family: they may all think I should settle down, but none of them have the nerve to try and set me up with anyone.

  4. Michael-462705 August 16, 2011 Reply

    @ both Carol and Louise: I hope you both don’t think Catholics are not also smug towards Protestants. Rather than view such encounters negatively, I encourage you to consider the Lord presenting you with an opportunity to share your faith in Christ —and why. And as an aside, a Catholic widow at my parish Bible Study met a Baptist widower at our study. They just celebrated their 3rd anniversary. And yes, they were married in a Catholic church. As 1 Peter says: “Always be prepared to give an account” —for your faith.”

    • Carol-750089 August 22, 2011 Reply

      For Michael-462705: What you say is absolutely true. However, that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I was responding to what the article above “Us Vs. Them: Singletons & Smug Marrieds” was about. Although it doesn’t bother me, it does bother some people when they frequently get asked about why they are still single. I liken it to people who are probably getting tired of being asked why they haven’t found a job yet. We have to realize there are people out there who mean well but just aren’t aware of the bigger picture affecting a person in the current world.

  5. Ramona-738757 August 14, 2011 Reply

    I must say that I found the article enlightening. I’m going through something simliar. After I lost my mother (one of the greatest loves of my life) I was told it was time to find a husband. I needed someone to look after me. I was a banker at the time with an international education,oh the horror. My mother was terminal and fought for ten years. People would say right to her face that I should be married by now and give her grandchildren before she dies. I was considered a selfish princess. I lost my mother at the age when most women have defined themselves and don’t want to be identified with there mothers in a child parent relationship. I proud to say that my relationship remained like this till the day she passed. She wasn’t my friend (they can come with strings attached…a mother just loves you) always my mother. She wasn’t bothered by my so called spinsterhood. Sometimes I felt like I was in a Victorian drawing room receiving the ‘cut direct’ behind a fan. I’ve been excluded from events at my former job because I’m single. What is odd is that while the married persons complain about there lives -I’m the domestic goddess! Girls night out usually consists of complaints on marriage yet making fun of the single person. Its as if we are considered immature because we don’t have marriage responsibilities. I didn’t know that love and marriage have a time frame! I simply can’t win. When my mother was alive and I had dated briefly i was being selfish. She was selfish because after all being ill was supposedly taken away from my quest for matrimony. Now that she is gone I’m considered selfish for not carrying on the family. There is a big difference between settling and settling down. This is a vocation-a sacrament. Why take it lightly? Yes, I’m alone but, lonely?

  6. Alexandra-549295 August 11, 2011 Reply

    I really enjoyed reading the article because to me, it is important to love myself, regardless if I am single or not, I happen to be a very blessed Mom and I usually don’ t have many opportunities to spend time by myself, I certainly don’t look like the the lady on that couch, most of the time I am engaged into some activities, I like how Carol explained herself, I am a single woman and I am searching for a man, with values and it will be even better if he has religious believes : )

  7. Marie-575233 August 11, 2011 Reply

    I like this story.Telling the truth is helpful

  8. Carol-750089 August 10, 2011 Reply

    You probably won’t believe this, but it won’t be long until that young woman is the one outwardly or secretly envying her single girlfriends for several years ahead. This is what I’ve experienced with my stay-at-home mom and working mom friends (it usually starts after she has the first child). These women suddenly get amnesia and forget about the hardships of being single. They only see you as having a lot of money to spend without having to check with a husband, as having a lot of time for yourself, taking exciting vacations to places you want to visit, having men take you out for dinner, etc. (you get the picture) We have to remind them about our challenges from time to time.

    Just remember we live in a world that is not as normal as it used to be. Men are marrying men, women are marrying women, more and more people are getting into “relationships” first and then “living together” and then if all goes well, then they “get married” and if you’re Catholic we don’t believe that’s the way to go. Plus, in some parts of the country it’s very hard to find other Catholic people and the Protestants don’t want to get involved with us because they believe we aren’t saved or we aren’t Christian or we worship Mary instead of God and there are several other untruths. And, that’s if you find men who have any religious beliefs at all.

    The best thing to do is throw this question back at them,”OK, I’ll be happy to meet the nice, single Catholic men (or women) you or your husband knows.” You might be lucky and get introduced to someone but don’t be surprised if these people admit they don’t know anyone to introduce you.

    I’m new to Catholic Match and this is my first time to post something.

    • Louise-708612 August 10, 2011 Reply

      Good response, Carol! I somehow keep meeting protestants of the pentecostal variety, who have very negative views about Catholics. I really wish they’d mind their own business and focus on their faith rather than criticising others. Hope you meet someone worthy of you!

      • Erin-711868 September 5, 2011 Reply

        I really enjoyed this article, but something else I wanted to point out is that I kind of feel like once your friends start getting married and you’re still the single one, that there’s the high risk your friends start to hang out more and more with other married couples. I’m making it a goal that when I get married that I don’t do something like that to any friends that I may have that are still single.

  9. Jim-397948 August 9, 2011 Reply

    Whatever makes them happy!!!!

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