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.”
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.
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.
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.