Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Great Divide

Getting to know Mr. Dad (most recent dating prospect) a few weeks ago was the most unusual dating experience I have had. A divorced dad - who had been married for 12 years.

We brought to each other the perspective of two entirely different worlds.
He'd been married since he was 24. I've been alone since I left the security of my parent's home at age 18.

I couldn't even imagine being married at 24! In all honesty, at 24 I wasn't even interested in marriage. I was barely interested in anything but my career. I knew I wanted to get married someday - but I wanted to experience a little bit of life without school first. (can I get a hallelujah?)

Mr. Dad on the other hand, jumped right into a family. His wife had a child from a previous relationship.

As we talked about our experiences, I realized that this man had never EVER been alone. At 24 you just finished college, you're probably still living with roommates. If you're marrying at 24 you've probably been dating for at least a year or two - so you've never spent any REAL time looking for a mate.
And now, divorced with three kids - he's still never alone.

I told him once that the comment that bugs me most from married folks is, "Marriage is hard."
#1 - No kidding! Anything that is worthwhile IS hard. Big surprise.
#2 - Guess what? Being single is hard too.
Maybe just maybe, life is hard regardless of your circumstances.

After I shared this, he asked me a question that showed he realized he had no way to comprehend my point of view - but he was interested in trying. He asked, "Tell me about being single. How is it hard?"

#1 - Every day I come home to an empty house. (Never mind the empty bed)
#2 - Everything I do (work, grocery shopping, making my bed) is for me. That's not very satisfying.
#3 - There is no physical touch. No foot rub, no caress, no pats on the head or even brushing against a hand when setting the table. (as if I set a table! - ha!)

I told him that I'm sure, even in a house alone with three kids at least you get to tousle their hair when they come through the door. Depending on their ages, hugs are still a commodity. That he had no idea what it's like to live without touch.

Later he told me that those words just broke his heart for me. During the brief time we spent together he spoiled me with strong fingers rubbing my back. Almost constantly, as if he couldn't stop, and I wasn't going to stop him! It was like sensory overload.

This reminds me of the Great Divide between Marrieds and Singles.
For some reason - once someone gets married they can no longer relate to single life. I don't know if it's because they are immediately absorbed in something bigger - a partnership that really does take all their energy. Or if they just become selfish - self absorbed in a we sort of way.

What I find really odd is that - in conversations, I feel that single people can really relate to married people. We sympathize with the complications of living with another human being. We can commiserate over the challenges of a new baby. Even though we've never been married or had kids - we can relate because - well - because we come from a family. We have the experience of having parents model husband-wife behavior. We know what about our parents relationship worked and didn't work. We can apply the concept to ourselves and others.

But married people can no longer relate to singles - despite the fact that we all started out single!!

Three months after my best friend got married she actually said, "I don't know any single people."
Really?! All you knew were single people three months ago - and now you don't know any?

Maybe the moment that status changes - people seek out others with the same traits.
Like when you have only one working headlight on your car - you're more keenly aware of every other car on the road with only one headlight.

Maybe they realize that being single really was hard - and they want to put as much distance between it and them as possible.

When they do try to relate... sometimes it's absurd. They find out you have a date and they say ridiculous things like "Oh that will be fun." "This is going to the be the One."

Fun? Please. The One? Doubtful.

But most offensive are the married people who think they'd rather be single than married.
Another friend told me of a gaggle of married people, possibly trying to console her on her single status, launched into a bit about how so many people are headed for divorce and they never want to get married again.

To which I say - HA! People get divorced and within a year they are looking for someone else to help fill the empty space. Those are the people driving up the divorce rate. They say they want out and they want to be alone - but those are the very people diving into new relationships way before they are ready - and basically contaminating the dating pool for the rest of us.

To quote Thornton Wilder's Our Town - "We were meant to go through this world two by two."

If I ever do get married, I vow to never forget the struggle and pain of being single. I hope to be able to still relate to the single people in my life and at least commiserate.


Anonymous said...

TRS, another just perfectly descriptive and contemplative post. I really have nothing to add. I understand.

P.S. The similarities between Mr Dad and my ex are more than I thought. My ex also got married at 24 to a younger woman (I calculate she was about 17/18) who already had one toddler, and they went on to have 3 sons of their own. Divorced after 7 years though...Oh well, why did I even bring this up??? :/

TRS said...

That is incredibly similar!! Crazy!

auntie said...

"Like when you have only one working headlight on your car - you're more keenly aware of every other car on the road with only one headlight."

that cracked me up! and this whole post was so right on the money :)

Anonymous said...

I liked your comment about both situations being hard. People who are married w/o kids ask me about kids and I tell them you're no different from being married, but your priorities are different. I'm pretty sure that holds true with single/married.

Having been both, I think I would not have grown as a person had I not gotten married. But that's me. So people are MISERABLE in their marriages. I know a few. So I understand why they want to be single. To me THAT'S a really hard thing to be.