Know Anyone Acting Single While in a Relationship?

acting single in a relationship

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Know anyone acting single while in a relationship or marriage? I’m talking about a man or a woman who despite the fact that they are married don’t miss a chance to get together with the girls (or guys) and go out to bars and restaurants and clubs. They are constantly making plans with a big group of divorced people, and though they aren’t cheating, they appear to the people they are out with that they are single again.

Why do they do this? Are they unhappy in their marriage? Just bored? Looking for something and not sure what?

I know a guy who has been married for about 15 years. I don’t know him well enough to say if he is in an unhappy marriage, but I do know that the seven or eight times I have seen him out over the past year – either at bars or at parties, the guy is alone, meaning his wife is not with him.

Known by his friends as the party guy, the fun, gregarious guy who always knows where the best parties are, this guy likes to have a few drinks and laughs and enjoys hanging out with his divorced bachelor buddies. I asked a friend of mine if she thought he ever cheated on his wife and my friend said “definitely not.”


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So, what I am wondering is, if he isn’t looking to cheat, then why is this married guy socializing on a frequent basis with single people and without the woman who is supposed to be his life partner?

He is what I call “a single married person” – someone who lives their social life like someone who is single, when technically they are either married or in a long-term, committed relationship.


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One could argue that as men and women get older, our friends get divorced and that just because they are single, it doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to remain friends with them. In fact, maybe those friends who are divorced need us more now than ever. That said, there is a part of me that thinks being a single married person runs deeper than trying to be there in support of your newly single buddies.

To discuss the single married person, (because let’s be honest, we all know one) I reached out to Anita Chlipala, a licensed marital and family therapist whose Chicago-based practice offers individual and couples coaching and counseling.


Chlipala, who explained that she has seen many couples that face this issue said there are many possible reasons for it, including the examples below:

1. The single married person’s needs aren’t being met and he or she is searching outside the relationship for fulfillment.

2. The person is avoiding their relationship. In other words, they don’t want to go home and face the problems present. They aren’t in the mood to argue or fight, so being apart is the easier solution.

3. The single married person doesn’t want to break up because the finality of the relationship seems too sad and/or scary, so they stay in it.

4. The person might be insecure and need the ego boost of going to a bar and getting hit on.

5. The person is planning on ending the relationship, so they want to test the waters and behave like a single person to reassure themselves they are doing the right thing.

6. The person wants freedom and independence. He or she might feel trapped or controlled by their spouse, so they want to show the other person (and themselves) that they have the right to do whatever they choose.


I can think of other single married people I know. One includes a friend of mine who for years would attend girls nights out and parties solo. I never met her husband. They recently got divorced and it was not surprising to me at all. I now understood the behavior.


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I also behaved like a single married person at one time. In a former relationship, I would go to social events and parties either with my girlfriends or by myself, and no one even knew I was in a monogamous relationship. Technically, I never cheated but I won’t lie and say I didn’t flirt.

Looking back, I think there was something ethically wrong with my single married person lifestyle. I also think that I was very unfulfilled in the relationship and always had one foot out the door–one eye open to new possibilities. I didn’t realize my behavior or why I acted this way until after the relationship ended.

I asked Chlipala how someone should handle the situation should his or her spouse start behaving like a single married person.

“Gentle communication is the best way,” said Chlipala, whose self-help book, “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide To Lasting Love,” was just released.

“You want to try to get to why the person is behaving that way. If the answer seems sincere – that they just want time with friends, then at least it is on the table and you can work together to compromise and get both your needs met.”

Chlipala said that being vulnerable and admitting that the behavior makes you uncomfortable and anxious is healthy.


“Women need to speak up for what they need,” she said. “But many women won’t because they are afraid to come across as too desperate or needy or crazy. Maybe the guy will say, ‘I didn’t know you felt this way. What can I do to make this better for you?’ That would be ideal.”

My opinion is that the single married person is almost always unhappy or unfulfilled in their relationship or in their life; otherwise he or she would be home more, or doing fun things with the spouse. I think it’s really unfair to a spouse when a married person takes on a single lifestyle, and that living this way is unhealthy for both partners.

Like this article? Check out my article, “The Hot And Cold Guy.”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    4 Responses to “Know Anyone Acting Single While in a Relationship?”

    1. QuirkyBlackGirl

      I will say that this is me. I didn’t always do this but my soon to be ex-husband does not like going out, and if he went with me he always sat quiet and didn’t talk to anyone. Once I started going out by myself I found that I was having a lot more fun without him. I wasn’t there to flirt, I hung out with my girlfriends or family. It was something that I needed.

    2. Katie

      I do this, but not because I feel insecure or unfulfilled, but because we respect each other’s agency and identity. I’m a natural introvert, but I have always had issues sitting still. He feels most comfortable at home. We are not prepared to sacrifice 90% of a perfect marriage for the 10% in which our preferences differ. I will not forego crossing the Sahara on camelback any more than he’d forfeit his dream job.

      Expecting a partner to cross beyond the midpoint of their core values seems like a mighty hot recipe for divorce… But hey, echo chamber for echo chamber. I’m here because I tried Google-searching “live like divorce woman meryl BuzzFeed” and thought this article would link me to the video I’ve been looking for all morning.

    3. Ryan

      my wife has started to do this.Now though she has gotten to the dont touch me stage and act as if i dont exist….She flirts and messages other guys and as soon as she is out off comes the wedding rings.She has added a lock on her phone and tries to fight every chance she can so she can go out with friends.There are other things but too many to list

    4. Martin Read

      My wife an I recently took a trial separation. An I am at my wits end, because I love her so much, but recently I have noticed that, as it is christmas time, that she has been signing christmas cards to friends, with just her name, especially single men that we know. An I take that as personal, an it has hurt me deeply, she says it was a mistake, she assures me that I have not lost, her an she doesn’t want a divorce, she needs at least 3 weeks space, with no contact or to see each other, an then we can sit down an talk. I am on anti depressiants, an so is she, I have never felt so low, is it common for a married woman to act like she is single, when she is separated or is it the depression effecting her mentally, I am so scared of losing her, please help.


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