From birth through the age of 21, I spent my life living with my parents. When I was 16, my sister got married and moved out of the family home to live with her husband. I was married at the young age of 21. With only brief intervals between the next marriage and another third long-term relationship, I had lived with at least one other person and rarely on my own.
This became a way of life in which I was comfortable but always seemed to end in a disaster of some kind. How the relationships ended is not in question here; what I am reviewing is what happens around you socially when you become a single person after being in a relationship.
As a part of a couple, I enjoyed a good social life as well as home and personal life. When you commit to marriage and a family, become a house owner, and invested in your career, life can be demanding and difficult at best in finding a balance. I largely had a good balance and my life developed in the way that society would encourage and expect. I was a quite typical person in my own way. Albeit, that I considered myself as an individual outside the pack mentality.
Here in France, my perceived reality was challenged in the autumn of 2012. I was living alone, in a foreign land, with average language skills, no work, a minuscule income, and few hopeful prospects for improvement to my situation. I seriously considered returning to England to find work, unclear of where I could afford to live or how I would obtain work but needing to re-access the system of the UK that I had only been so happy to break from seven years earlier.
Change of perception
I opted to stay in France and managed to find a way to turn my total perception and understanding of my life 180 degrees. It allowed me to improve every aspect of my life and move forward. What I didn’t anticipate was a change in how my relationship with others, many I had known and been friends with, would be altered. This still sits awkwardly with me today. I see it as a deeply rooted part of society that I had never had the misfortune to experience before, and it surprised me when I sensed it taking place in my life.
I noticed that some couples believed to be good friends were not to making contact with me. When I become aware of this it became clearer that the same applied to more of my friends. I wanted to know what had caused this avoidance of me in their social lives. My first thought was that my ex was the cause, or that I had acted or done something they considered to be terrible enough to make them break contact with me. It was hurtful to feel that I may have been the cause. I had no real way to prove or disprove any of the possibilities. Holding myself accountable was pointless and self-harming.
One day sticks in my memory. It became clear in the way that I was now perceived as a single person, and in some strange way to be avoided or not included. It didn’t matter that I had previously been quite acceptable to one person or a group of people. It was hard to digest and made me feel unwelcome at times. On this particular day, as I arrived back in the village, I passed the local bar where a group was setting up outside for an open-air evening concert. There was also a basic tapas menu that made me decide to come back later to enjoy the music and have a rest from preparing food to enjoy some tapas. I went home to unpack, shower, and get ready for a nice evening.
Here in France, when you approach or pass someone in the late afternoon or evening who is familiar to you or not, it is a common courtesy to say Bonsoir in passing as a sign of respect and friendliness. It was one of the simple life features that I warmed to before coming to live here permanently. I knew many people in the village and had performed at the bar with my own group several times over the past few years. Upon my arrival, I noticed a number of familiar faces. What happened in the next few minutes took a moment to fully comprehend.
As I passed the first group, only one person noticed that I had arrived and spoke to me, although everyone else knew me. I had not been treated in that way before at a social event and it made me feel a little strange, but I chose to ignore it. Throughout the evening, hardly anyone spoke to me! I refused to allow it to prevent me from enjoying the music, a plate of tapas, and some wine. It did have an effect on me in a way. I left earlier than I had expected, partly due to the quality of the music, but the feeling of being ignored for some reason was there as well.
This experience has revisited me in other ways that I am careful in not allowing them to be an annoyance or sense of failing on my part. I am able to distance myself from what happens and to observe it and take notes. It still occurs from people that I didn’t expect it to, but similarly, I deal with it as efficiently as I can.
I have discussed this social exclusion with others who had been in relationships and found that I am not alone in this awareness of the two’s and one’s. I imagine it has been a part of society for many years. I don’t think that I ever excluded anyone from my life because they were single.
From a couple’s point of view, I can see how a single man or woman coming into a home or social environment, might be seen as a threat to their relationship. I hope my friends understand me well enough not to think of me in that way. Could it be that I am simply missing a point here? Is there another reason?
I continue my life in solitude, knowing that I am the only person I can trust with my life. The only person I can truly believe in. But that will not stop me from hoping for or inviting a partner back into my life. Not to regain the acknowledgement of others that I don’t get as a single person, but to allow me to enjoy a more fulfilled life than remaining single for the rest of my existence.
Does this level of distrust between couples and a single person really exist? Is this simply one more divide that is in the world? I feel that I am ending this with unanswered questions, and I invite you to post your comment based on your own experiences.
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