Are Married People Smug? Are Single People Hypersensitive?

Are Married People Smug? Are Single People Hypersensitive?

I’m a big advocate for healthy long-term relationships that lead to marriage. I believe in love. I believe in compromise. I believe in the generic vows: for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. I never found any of this to be remotely controversial. Then I started writing a blog.

Upon which I was informed that my personal beliefs about the joy and transcendence of being in a happy marriage made me “judgmental” or “smug”. I find such claims to be somewhere between amusing and infuriating. I’m amused that my beliefs and lifestyle choices have the capacity to hurt you. If you don’t want to date online, date at all, open up to different partners, compromise, fall in love, get married and have kids, that’s 100% fine by me. If you want to work 60 hours a week, train for a triathlon, travel around the world with your girlfriends, that’s your business. You’re not wrong. But that doesn’t make me judgmental, nor does it make me smug.

So how is it that single people don’t seem to understand that married people’s lives change and that while we are less available, we still love you just as much?

I’m a dating coach for women. My job is to help those women – the vast majority of whom want to date, fall in love, and get married – achieve their goals. And yet, I can’t tell you the number of comments I’ve received suggesting that there’s something wrong with me because I don’t show proper respect to women who don’t want to fall in love and get married.

If you’re one of those women: I completely respect you. I just don’t have any idea why you’re reading my blog, which is inherently targeting women who want the kind of relationship that I have. So why am I leading off today’s blog post with this personal tangent? Because I read a juicy “Open Letter To Our Single Friends” on Clutch Magazine, in which the newly coupled up author tells her single friends that even great relationships are not cure-alls and that even women in couples really need their girlfriends. Amen. I love my wife more than anyone in the world, but I still need to hang out with other couples, play fantasy football with college friends, and go out for a guys’ night every once in awhile. Do I do these things as much as I used to? No, that would be impossible given that I live in the suburbs with two little kids, but it doesn’t mean I value my old friends any less.

Anyway, I thought this piece was well-written and non-controversial…until I read comments like this.

“Dear married friends, the phone works both ways. P.s. don’t just call when your boyfriend’s busy. Sincerely, your single friends.”

I know I’m biased, but I was single for 35 years. So how is it that single people don’t seem to understand that married people’s lives change and that while we are less available, we still love you just as much? This is a universal phenomenon and I think it shows a complete lack of understanding to guilt trip someone in a relationship for having a slightly different set of priorities. What say you, dear readers?

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  1. 21

    I had a childhood friend who was emotionally supportive to me. we had a rocky patch and when she became pregnant I stopped talking to her. She became pregnant by tricking her bf and ‘trapped’ him. She told me all about it and I really couldn’t support her. It really didn’t sit well with me. Sometimes when a friend does something completely selfish like this you just can’t support them, even though its not affecting you directly. Despite this I missed her and asked to repair our friendship. Things were ok until I tried to help her out with a part time job, she was really unappreciative and was rude to me one day. Then said she didn’t need to apologise, said that she had more important things to do now she has a baby. Because she has a baby she doesn’t need me in her life. She doesn’t see why I’m useful to her anymore. It was very hurtful. Im not perfect but I apologised for anything I did to her in the past. My point is that she saw her baby as her whole purpose and dropped me one of her only friends. She used to whine on about the baby father drama and when I eventually said to her that she was being unfair to the baby father I think she realised that she had no one to moan to anymore, especially since I use to speak to her about my issues and had move forward. She didn’t see much use for her and me. Its sad because we were close friends for many years, despite our different lives I never wanted this to happen. But her baby was like a sign for her to say ‘thats it I’m out see you later’. She made this comment that she ‘ain’t got time to apologise to her friend’ for being a rude bitch. That kid gone crush under the weight of being her absolutely everything….sounds iwerd but seriously she has no job and no education. Sigh  

  2. 22

    I understand that people in relationships have a lot more going on in there lives. As a 43 yr old single person, I don’t understand why the married person can’t take the time to send an e-mail to just say hi. I have a friend, whenever she starts dating a man fades away.

  3. 23

    The way that worked for me is just like in dating: doing nothing (for some time), whether a friend found a guy or married or had a kid   or whatever. If there is mutual interest in keeping the relationship, we do meet up (even if not as often anymore), whereas with some of friends its always just making plans, yet they always cancel. So its all just learning to let go and… developing your skills in finding new friends.

    1. 24.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Paula – And single people need to pay attention as well: “It seems then that people look down on people with opposing relationship statuses as a way to feel better about their own. This kind of judgement is really a form of defensiveness. A person who has taken a different path in life can threaten our confidence in our own lifestyle, particularly if we feel that our own lifestyle is not easily changed.”

      Seems to me that there is as much defensiveness from single people as there is smugness from married people.

      1. 24.1.1

        I agree.   In addition, I find it quite interesting that the people who feel compelled to comment on this topic consist entirely of women, which is in stark contrast to other blog posts where many men opine.  
        Why is this?   Why aren’t men chiming in to complain that their buddies ditched them after they got married?   I can imagine that the reflexive response for many women is to claim that men don’t spend less time with their guy friends when they get married, but my friends have certainly done so.   However, I understand that they are extremely busy with their new responsibilities of being a husband and a father.   It has never bothered me that they aren’t available as much to do the things that we used to do when they weren’t married.   All that matters to me is that they are happy.
        Is it possible that these women are somewhat envious of their friends because they are no longer searching for their future husbands.   Is it because there is a part of these women that hates being single?   What I am getting at (if it isn’t obvious by now) is that I think this is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that many women do not enjoy the search for a partner.   I believe many women could benefit from making an effort to enjoy the search and by learning to stop seeing dates that don’t turn into relationships-and relationships that don’t turn into marriages-as failures.   They are not failures, by any stretch of the imagination.   They provide an opportunity to have fun, an opportunity to learn, and an opportunity to improve yourself.   The search can be quite fun, actually.

        1. Lau_ra

          Evan – of course the single people are quite defensive, as they are usually the ones who are being viewed negatively by the society, not the married ones. Its the singles who are always called egoists,  questioned whether they are too picky, do they even think about their parents wanting grandchildren and the societies benefits, whether there is something else that is wrong with them and etc.
          Yet that doesn’t deny the married people being smug, as its usually the married ones who  make assumptions about single peoples characters and throw insulting comments towards single people,   e.g. “that angry spinster should get laid some time”, not the other singles.
          I don’t really get this whole ”  which ones are “more” something (defensive or smug)” discussion in general, as the  fact is that  neither singles or married ones can be assumed to be a certain way from a minute of gaining the certain status.
          Chance – I’m not the lamenter about my friends ditching me  myself, as I make new friends easily and I’m comfortable with spending lots of time alone, yet I can see where this comes from. I don’t think that comes from hating being single. Its just that women tend to have more emotionally closer  friendships than men and they are also more pressured to couple up by the society in general. So when a friend couples-up, especially if its at age over 30, when your pool of available friends tends to shrink very fast exactly because of marriages, babies, etc., many women feel like they’ve become outcasts at some point (seen as hopeless spinsters by the society, and with communication with friends that they knew for ages decreasing, some of those friends actually becoming smug towards their single friends).
          And on enjoying “the search” – oh, don’t tell me how men enjoy dating and how they go around taking the relationships that weren’t ment to be as an opportunity to learn. Sure, the more charismatic enjoy dating, as they usually have better opportunities at snatching a date, getting laid, evolving things further, if they want to, and whatnots. More ordinary men (who aren’t wealthy/good looking/very sociable) aren’t that cheerful  (and I know that, because I talk to them) as they have to put more effort into improving themselves in  more aspects, which is not that easy when you have your routines settled. Those men  aren’t used to actually express their concerns aloud- they only admit that tete-a-tete.

        2. Julia

          Its probably because women rely on their emotional relationships with other women much more so than men do with their male friends. My married friends still very much rely on me for emotional support they just don’t seem to want to do the same for me.

        3. ildergreier

          It is exactly what Julia says…

  4. 25

    Men are socially conditioned to be the protector and hence do not seek help when they really do. they also are not conditioned to acknowledge publicly their own vulnerabilities.
    Anyways, the other issue I have noticed with married people is that they tend to only invite other couples and not their single friends. I’ve had a few people I know invite other couples (just one couple at a time usually) to their cottage. There is a certain social privilege to being married and I think most married people are not really aware of their smugness or whatever else you want to call it.
    Personally I focus on my own life and my goals and focus on being with people who are uplifting and positive. If people want to look down on me for being single even though I do want a long term relationship, that’s their business and I would rather focus on more productive things

  5. 26

    This conversation is very limited because it only talks about how friendships change when one friend gets married and the other doesn’t. This is hardly the biggest issue, though it is the most personal and shockingly painful when it happens to you. The issue is more serious when it comes to tax breaks and other financial advantages for marrieds, the way that singles are portrayed in the media (as spinsters, perverts, weirdos, unloveable, losers, etc.), and the way that politicians, academics, etc ignore singles in their policies and studies. This is changing though. Lots of good research coming out.

  6. 27

    Had to go there, but now am back.

    It is also the case that single people are expected to work the longer, less convenient hours while the married people, especially those with kids, get to go home or have remote access privileges. I have seen this so often that it surprises me when people are blind to it. I have one friend who tells me that all of the married people at her office get together on weekends for ballgames and such and never invite her, the only single in that office. That just seems nasty to me.

    I am actually a smug single, though, because most of the married people I know seem unhappy. These unhappy ones are also the sort who got married for status reasons or to solve some problem (e.g., being an underearning woman who wants to live a wealthy life). These unhappy marrieds are also very, very stuck. Would not want to be in a crummy marriage for all of the

    But it also seems that married women will be smug, whereas married men will be more
    judgmental. You know, married women who think they’re all that because they’re married and
    only seem to be able to talk about their husbands and kids, married men who think you’re a
    whore or available for an affair or desperate or crazy because you’re single. I’m a single woman, so my experience is different from a single man’s maybe. They get other weird stuff thrown at them, I understand–as in people thinking they’re promiscuous or available for all their single women friends. (I actually know a lot of fantastic single guys who have no interest in marriage. They seem way saner and happier than many of the married guys i know, who cheat and have misogynistic views and treat their wives like inferiors.)

  7. 28

    1. EMK I understand that you’re job involves empathy, kudos.   However, as a man the way you handle and view friendships is worlds apart from the way women handle friendships amongst themselves.   And unless you grow a vagina you won’t fully grasp it.  
    2. I have encountered my fair share of smug marrieds.   The experience revolves around flashing their ring in an attempt to make me feel jealous that they’ve moved “up” in life and I have not.   This has not been the experience with all my married friends, but with a fair share…..yes, it has been.   And yet,   I’m still the one that loyally joins their wedding party as a bridesmaid and hugs and wishes them the best.   Because I’m happy for them.   I don’t feel less than a married person and I don’t know if my ambivalence bothers them.  
    3.   I have had friends that DO dump me when the guy is in the picture.   It hurts.   But I’ve learned to expand my social circle so that when she calls to vent about her problems I can listen but don’t expect to meet up or anything.   I have other friends that I go and hang out with and if she calls, then ok. If not, life goes on.   I’ve had to learn to become like this because being pushed aside so that some guy can become the center of my friend’s world was hurting my feelings.   I understand that people have different priorities at different times but still.   It hurts because when I have problems I have to figure things out on my own without that friend to vent to and share things with……because she’s busy with her relationship.   But when the tables are turned I’m the one that is always available… it doesn’t feel very fair.  

  8. 29

    I find that married people are rather exclusive – i.e. they will not invite single people around and you’re dumped because usually, the wife is nervous about me seducing her husband (with one exception in my circle).  
    If someone is thinking this is wrong, I question it because some married women are already telling me they hope that their husbands will be all right, because they dread being left out of the social circle.   (ie of married couples).
    It is sometimes lonely being single.   That’s why most women on this dating site (and maybe the men too) are trying to find someone.   You don’t go out to find someone because you are lonely – but it certainly helps to have someone to make love with, go out with and enjoy holidays with.
    Now all we have to do is find them.

  9. 30

    A few basic truths:
    1) Everyone feels lonely at times, whether partnered up or not. The only time this feeling of loneliness is pathologized is when the person is single. Married people are not allowed to admit that they feel lonely at times, however, which seems like the real pathology.
    2) many people actually love living single. These same people may also want to marry at   some point. These are not mutually exclusive states of being.
    3) when people say they want to marry, they want THEIR idea of a marriage. Not yours, not mine, not their mother’s, not any guru’s or media’s. Let’s not assume that we know what other people mean by that. Marriage does not mean a house in the suburbs + 2 kids for everyone. It does not mean till death do us part for everyone.   A lot of people say they want it but have no clear idea if what they want specifically. A lot of people would be completely miserable if they got the marriage they supposedly want.  

    1. 30.1
      Heather L.

      Yves, you are so right!   Nobody knows the reality of marriage until they try it.   Even mature, well suited couples who have enjoyed a long and happy courtship, get the shock of their lives when they get married.   Suddenly they feel stiffled, controlled and trapped.

      It’s the same when people have children.   Nobody ever says, “It’s so much easier than I thought it would be.”

      I used to believe in marriage–until I got married.   Now, I believe in being single and free.

      I’m lonely and miserable but less so than when I was married!

  10. 31

    Yves 30 – That’s an interesting comment.   Particularly no. 1 – yes, I’ve known many lonely married women (and men).   Of course someone would want their own idea of marriage.   Why shouldn’t they? The trick is, is to make sure that your idea of marriage matches the idea of the other person, otherwise what’s the point? However, there are people who don’t know what they want, and then blame the other for not getting what they didn’t clarify in the first place!

  11. 32

    I have such strong feelings about this. The Clutch article was ludicrous at best. The main problem, as Lauryn and Michelle have touched upon, is that it is still wholly  acceptable to discriminate against single people. So you end up being the person who always has to accommodate others, excluded from  social events and expected  to work longer hours, just because you’re single. It is tiring and depressing and patently discriminatory. Most smug marrieds do think they are special snowflakes – and most ignore huge warning signs in their relationships OR the fifty percent divorce rate.   It is crazy to me that the single person whose life has not at all changed must now accommodate the coupled individual. I have had longstanding friendships with women fall off because they can’t be on the telephone when he gets home or have to invite him out to every event. I’ve had longstanding friendships  and those with men fall off because their new wives are worried I will seduce their husbands. Really though? Accommodating life’s changes is a two way street. Your choices are not better as a married person, they are just different. Many married folks refuse to acknowledge this. I wish them well, especially if they ever need to resurrect their social circles if they end up on the wrong side of the fifty percent.

  12. 33

    Explain to me how we single people know our married friends “still love us” if we never hear from them anymore?  
    What I find the most smug (or annoying) is how married people assume their single friends “have more time” and therefore should bear the responsibility of maintaining the friendship. That makes it very one-sided and causes resentment.

  13. 34

    I see where you are coming from with this article and I do agree to a certain extent. But I also feel like married people should make an effort to understand their single friends as well. It’s natural to feel loss, especially if the circle of friends we are talking about were all your closest friends. Sometimes we single people can come off as bitter because we miss our friendship And also at the same time want what you have and feel guilty that we are not just 100% happy for our friends. It’s a complicated mix of emotions, especially if you are the last girl standing. It completely sucks to lose all your friends to the world of marriage that you cannot possibly understand because you haven’t been there. It’s even harder for girls like me who have never even been on a first date let alone married. I get in my head that my friends are busy and their priorities have changed, but at the same time it’s hard not to be sad And frustrated because I don’t have their same busy schedule with a family to fill up my time. I just have a bunch of cancelled get togethers and constant reminders that I’m the odd one out. Yes you can make new single friends who understand, but that is also easier said than done for quieter people and even outgoing people. And at my age you are really hard pressed to find someone who is single. At 25 years old I no longer have any friends who aren’t in some kind of relationship and most of them are either married or engaged or are in a serious relationship. The last single friend I had just recently started dating a guy she has liked for a long time and while I am extremely happy for her it has also brought up a whole new set of really crummy emotions. Jealousy guilt and fear that you will never find that special someone are unfortunately feelings that the single one in the group is familiar with. I don’t know if guys struggle with those same emotions or not But I know a lot of girls definitely do. Sometimes it can even chip away at your self confidence. In a lot of societies still to this day there is a lot of pressure for a girl to get married and have kids and if thats not happening than something must be wrong in the eyes of a lot of your peers. So they start giving you a lot of unsolicited advice that tends to be more hurtful to the person than helpful. In the end this just winds up making the gap even bigger and contributing to the perceived bitterness or smug attitude.   I had a bit of a confidence crisis when my best friend got married. It wasn’t that I wasn’t super excited for her because I was, it’s just that girls tend to measure at least some percentage of their self worth on whether or not we’ve been in serious relationships before and tend to feel a bit competitive with other girls our age. So when we feel like we’ve been left behind by all our friends we begin to wonder if maybe there is something wrong with us. It’s pretty selfish and messed up of us but it’s true and there isn’t much you can do about those feelings. I try to be gracious and understanding and I try to accept that my friendship with them will have to change or else I’ll truly lose them, but it’s just really hard. Single people struggle too. I really think it’s a struggle on both ends, and sometimes its lot easier to just blame it on the other end instead of realizing that life is just going to have to change. Just my perspective.

  14. 35

    I guess it’s just human to do this one-up, one-down thing that we do, but in reality we are all not that different to each other!   We all get lonely.   We all feel rejected and sad when we are left out – married or single.   I’m a long time single and have so often been on the losing side of this that all these scenarios are horribly familiar.

    I wanted that happy family life as much as anyone, for various reasons it never eventuated.   There is a lot of grief in that!   I was talking to a friend the other day who’d just been accused of not being there enough for her friend who went through post natal depression, and I was saying – yes, it’s easy to understand the depression that comes from not enough sleep, from not feeling adequate enough, low self esteem etc etc.   But does your friend understand the long sleepless nights worrying about “what’s wrong with me” when you’re single?   The low self esteem, the fight against suicidal feelings, the feeling of no future – combined with society looking down at you with judgment and a lack of sympathy.   The way it feels so empty to be always the one listening and never really able to talk of how you feel.   The way it feels to be seen as a different kind of animal, a lesser one, because you live without love.

    We’re not all that different to each other.   It takes some people a lifetime to realise that – others of us learn earlier and usually the hard way.

  15. 36

    What I find somewhat smug is when married people find any excuse to use the words ‘my husband’ or ‘my wife’ around people who know them, as if others needed a reminder about their relationship status.   ‘My husband and I’ this, ‘My wife and I’ that.   We already know that you’re married.   You don’t need to sound like such a braggart, like, “Oh, have I mentioned in the last half hour that I have a husband/wife?   I have?   Well, just let me rub it in some more.”

    To quote Billy Crystal’s character in The Princess Bride, “Why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?”

    I know, I know.   It isn’t really meant like that.   But it sometimes feels that way, and speaking for myself, when I’m in a really low place it can be extremely painful to be around.   Before anyone jumps on me for posting this, I do keep these thoughts and feelings to myself.

  16. 37

    Well the marry people that were very Blessed to find one another and have a family could really care less for us single people since their life is so very much complete.

  17. 38

    The problem is that people who have not been single after 32-35 years old do not get it, it is then you discover that you are more and more excluded socially because of your single status. You do not get invited to dinner saturday evening because it is only for couples, or you are not included on girls without the man weekend trips because you don’t have a man (The woman who said that to my face is no longer considered a friend).

    Then   it is expected you work overtime so the people with children can get home and to take more than your part in holidays….

    What is most annoying is to be placed at the childrens table or together with total strangers in social settings like weddings and see that the people you know sit together and have a good time.


  18. 39
    Heather L.

    I have never been any good at making friends.   As an introvert, I lack the confidence and skills to initiate friendships.   When I was in my last year of school, I was befriended by a very popular, outgoing extrovert in my form.   Suddenly, I had a social life way beyond my expectations.   It was through her that I met Anna, another popular extrovert who had loads of other friends.   I felt awkward and embarrassed that  Anna was the one contiunally making plans to get together but she seemed to understand.

    Ten years later she got married and had a baby.      Naturally, we saw less of each other.   I understood, and I knew that, if I wanted to see her more often, I would have to be the one to initiate get togethers   I didn’t know how to.   I was stuck with a personaility that just couldn’t.

    A few years later, I got married too.   I eloped. It was an absolute disaster.    My ex  was controlling, abusive and violent.   I reached out to Anna for support.   She invited me over, listened and seemed both sympathetic and forgiving but then said a number of really   hurtful things:

    1.   Why don’t you get rid of him by telling him you’re schizophrenic?

    2.   Oh, well, you couldn’t go on living in  a  flat on your own forever.

    Good grief!   So her true feelings had finally come out.   She thought I was just a crazy person for being an introvert and choosing to live on my own.   She thought that living with a psycho was a cure for that.   Or at least that’s what she said.   She is an intelligent person who doesn’t really believe that.   I think her cruel words were coming from a place of hurt and anger.

    Then her husband came home.   “You’ll have to invite Heather to our Christmas party,” he said to Anna, cheerfully.

    Anna stared at the floor and said nothing.

    I politely thanked her for inviting me over then left, devastated.

    Six months later I moved house and didn’t give her my forwarding address.

    She didn’t dump me because she was married or even because I was.   She dumped me because she had had enough of me.   She didn’t understand me.   My introverted, passive ways sickened her.  I understand that but her cruel words still hurt–even twenty years later.

    When I finally escaped from my husband, I no friends left, noone to confide in.   I still don’t.

    Sometimes, friends, like me,  do wimpy, sucky things because of their own adequacies.   Other people don’t understand.   It’s just the way it is.

    Once again, I live in a flat on my own.

    I miss the carefree days of my youth with Anna and all of   our (her) friends.   I cope with it by being grateful that we were friends at all.   We were such different people.




  19. 40
    Chipped Nails

    “So how is it that single people don’t seem to understand that married people’s lives change and that while we are less available, we still love you just as much?”


    I  do understand your life has changed and you have other responsibilities now. But what I don’t want to be is reduced to receiving a single Christmas card from you for the next thirty years until your kids are grown. I  don’t want to be marginalized in your life. You are my best friend(s), I want to be a part of your life: marriage, kids and all.


    “it doesn’t mean I value my old friends any less.”

    When I spend  months and even  years looking at my inbox, my voice mail, and my Facebook looking for the slightest scraps of affection, the slightest sign that you remember I even exist, I don’t feel valued. If you value me, if you value our friendship, don’t put me and our relationship on dry ice for the next thirty years. Again,  include me in your life.

    1. 40.1

      Nope, you are nothing but a guest in her life now. Sorry.

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