Selfish Singles?

I have a friend that I love who recently put up a blog post about her feelings on selfishness and her new relationship.  She said as a single person she has lived a selfish life and now with a boyfriend she has to take into account the feelings of another person.

While these feelings are completely valid and authentic I had to scratch my head a bit.  From my perspective single’s are forced into being less selfish than their married counterparts.

Here’s what I mean…when you are single you are self-sufficient only to a point.  You rely on the outside community for emotional, spiritual and other support.   In my experience my friends and family become my backbone because I have no other partner to lean on- they are my partner.

Again in my experience almost all married people  I know (at least for a while) become more insular and isolated after marriage than they were as singles.  With a few exceptions, most of my friends fall off the face of the earth as soon as they get engaged or married. Is this not also a form of selfishness?

I’ve even had a friend who I was a bridesmaid at her wedding and you know how many times we have gotten together in the two years since?  Twice. (and she lives in my apartment complex!).  I tried calling at first but eventually gave up. I still love her and chat with her when we happen to meet; however,  I have been disappointed in her lack of friendship.  I wish I could say such experiences were unique or rare.

I rely on my friends.  They are my support system, so when one of them drops me it breaks my heart.

Selfishness is defined as “stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others”.   In my experience, married people are much stingier with their time and resources than the singles I know.  (this is with or without kids). Shouldn’t finding love make you more open to relationships not more isolated?  I’ve always been confused by this?

Perhaps as Mormon’s we focus so much on family that people forget the value of friendship. If there is any doubt on the church’s stand check out President Henry B. Eyring’s talk on friendship. He says:

“All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, to listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us so that we may retain the companionship of the Holy Ghost. You must be such a true friend.”

I understand that the single lifestyle has some selfish aspects.  For example, I don’t have to ask anyone’s opinion when I order a pizza.  I can get whatever toppings I want. I can watch whatever movie I want to watch at night, spend any money I have to spend,  and I have complete control of the remote control!  However, I think where it really counts we can be remarkably unselfish and sometimes we aren’t given enough credit for that.  We can be the most loyal, loving, service-oriented people in our churches, communities and families.

I suppose both groups have the potential to be selfish. We all do!  Isn’t it interesting how selfishness is the only sin which could apply to each of the seven deadly sins?  There are some economists who will try to persuade you that selfishness is a good thing (Ayn Rand anyone?). Maybe in economic theory this is true (I believe strongly in the free market) but in regular every-day life and interactions with others it leads to misery- married or single.

I will be very curious for thoughts on this topic.  Please add your comments!

I thought this was funny.

10 thoughts on “Selfish Singles?

  1. Well, I think that this comes down to individuals and not their marital status. However, there are aspects of married life where having a healthy relationship requires much sacrifice and also a pooling together of resources. I have heard people say single people are selfish. Some of the most unselfish people that I know are single but not always by choice.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree that as a couple married people learn selflessness. It was more their interactions with other friends and the community where I’ve seen selfishness.
      I also agree that singles are not always unselfish by choice- as I said sometimes they ‘are forced into being less selfish’ by their inherent dependence on others for certain parts of life. if I’m in crisis I do not have a partner to lean on, which forces me outward.
      Neither group is perfect when it comes to any attribute. I just feel like (at least here in Utah) singles get pegged with the selfishness label more frequently, which led me to write the post. You are right. It depends on the person.

  2. Dear Rachel,
    After reading your post I feel inclined to caution you about the assumptions and generalizations you are making here. I do not wish to offend you but I hope to make my point clear. I do not believe it a good practice to make such absolute and hasty generalizations like you are doing. Saying that “married people” are selfish is simply unfair to all those unselfish or less selfish or extremely selfless married people who are undoubtedly in this world. I am sorry to hear about your friend whom you feel has abandoned you but I hope you can agree that you have married friends who have not abandoned you. Please take caution when passing out judgments of character. We know that we will be judged according to how we have judged.
    Now, you have mentioned that married people are stingy with their time, resources, etc. What you fail to understand is that all of us, married or unmarried, have limited resources of time, ability to serve, strength to care. The strength to care really is a resource and some have more than others. But the point is that all the things you have listed are limited and what really happens when people get married is that these resources quickly become exhausted. All of these resources become dog-eared, as it were, marked for use by the spouse. Not only is this not selfish, it is the way it should be. The design of marriage is such that any resources that one has are first allocated for use by the spouse. What ever, if anything, is left over then usually tends to get spent as personal time. Not only is this not selfish, it is the epitome of selflessness. Have you never noticed in the scriptures how Jesus Christ calls himself the bridegroom? He compares the relationship that He has with us in the atonement to a marriage because He has dedicated all of His resources to us. This atonement which is so often referred to as marriage is the most selfless act ever.
    Up to this point I have only mentioned people who are married and have not mentioned children. Children bring a different dynamic into a relationship because suddenly what resources existed between two spouses are suddenly being reallocated to this new person (child) who is inherently selfish. Once this happens resources of strength and time and ability to even function properly are so thinned out that it is a wonder that anyone survives it. Whatever time one had to one’s self before is now gone and the baby is also sucking resources previously allocated for other spouse. This is why children put strain on relationships, not strengthen them.

    I believe I may be about to get carried away so I’ll stop because I believe I have made my point. To summarize: it is not wise to generalize, it is not our place to judge, marriage is a contract designed to turn one’s attention to a specific person, marriage done well is the most selfless performance that exists (it just effects very few people).

    1. I apologize if I offended you with my generalizations. I tried to make it clear that there were exceptions to the rule and that I love married people. I am also sorry if it came across as judgmental. I was just trying to share my experiences and make the point that there are aspects of both lifestyles which can be selfish.

      I love my married friends. I love marriage. In fact, I even said that I still loved the person who had abandoned me. The thing is, it is not an isolated incident. You almost plan on rarely speaking to your married friends it happens so frequently. You ask any single and they will agree with this experience.

      I am very grateful for those friends who have stood the test of time. It means more than you know.

      I certainly don’t think that all married people are selfish. I didn’t mean to imply that. I was trying to make a more nuanced point- that parts of married life can be insular. It can be so focused on the couple that they forget their outside friends and community. I’ve never been married so I make this comment based on my experience being the person on the outside who is often (not always) forgotten.

      I know the spouse is the priority but shouldn’t cultivating friendships also be important? I’m not asking for a phone call every day- twice a year would suffice, just some effort.

      I think you make a good point about limited time resources. I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms. Giving up friends might be the right thing to do, as you say, but it is still painful for those of us on the other side. I also think by nature of our situation single people are required to reach outward more because there is no partner to lean on. That’s all I was trying to say- single people are given the label of selfish because they are alone. That is not necessarily true.

      I don’t know if I can explain it well enough. I know inside what I’m trying to say but it isn’t coming out right. Again, sorry if I offended you. I love marriage. I love married people. I was just trying to respond to my friend’s blog where she said that now that she is in a couple she isn’t a selfish single person. In my view both groups can be selfish. Doesn’t everyone have that potential?

  3. I just want to add after many weeks I wish I could delete this post. I knew what I was trying to say but it didn’t come out the way I intended.
    All that I meant is that couples can be insular where singles are naturally more reliant on their community. I still think that is a valid point. Adding the label of selfishness was a mistake.
    I apologize for the tone of the post and will try harder to express my emotions more accurately in future posts. You live and learn! Rachel

    1. I just came across your blog as I was feeling down about yet another married friend not being there for me when I need them. I noticed you mention you wished you could delete your blog well I think you were actually quite polite and fair in this blog. I think the person who criticised you was out of line.  

      I have had friends who I have been there for when they were single and now they are married with kids and they have no time for me, I do not expect them to see me every week or anything extreme like that but I said to one friend could we please have one Sat night a year, I do not think this is unreasonable yet she was unable to do this. If we do meet I am expected to go to their house on a week night (because their weekends are family time) and their whole family is there so I never get a chance to talk alone with my friend, I used to go out of my way to accommodate my friends by doing this but now I’m not prepared to do this anymore if they are not willing to accommodate me by occasionally meeting on a weekend by themselves so we can have a personal chat.  

      They think it is admirable they are putting their family first and often they are encouraged by society and religion to do so, but I consider some of these people to be very selfish as they do not appear to care or have time for anyone or anything else other than their family. Naturally a parent and spouse should care for their own family, I’m not suggesting they should be out painting the town red, but I think people should be encouraged to have balanced lives where their family is NOT the only important thing to them. Women in particular are encouraged by religion and society to spend all their time with their kids, I do not find this admirable that someone has so little interest or concern for anyone else, if someone is spending all their time with their kids then obviously they are neglecting others, yet this behaviour particularly of mothers is often praised. I do know that people when they get married and have kids don’t have the same amount of time as they used to but to completely devote yourself to your family and therefore neglect all others I do not find virtuous yet most people seem to admire this.

      I have also had the case where a married friend has dropped off the tree and then suddenly their husband leaves and all of a sudden they are in contact with me and I’m expected to baby sit them for the next year until they find some guy to breed their next batch of kids with.

      Also it never seems to occur to these people that one day they might actually need a friend, death of a spouse, divorce, etc could mean they might end up being the single person who their married friends have little time for. Of course not all married people with children are like this but unfortunately I have found many are. 

      Also a different point about selfishness is that I’ve noticed some spouses can at times be quite selfish with each other in that one might make all the decisions about which restaurant to eat etc because they know their spouse is unlikely to leave them on this issue, whereas when you are single you have to learn to be at least somewhat accommodating and make compromises because most friends won’t put up with such selfish behaviour but a spouse often has so much invested in the relationship that they will. 

      So thank you Rachel for your blog it has helped me reading it. 

      1. Thanks so much. I felt like I was trying to make a nuanced point and it came across more critical than I intended. I’m glad that you got what I was trying to say.
        Its annoying when you hear things like ‘you are so lucky to be single so you can focus on yourself’. I even hear all the time singles say ‘I’m in a selfish time in my life’. I happen to think that being single forces you to look outward in the community for support more than a married person needs to. Isn’t there something unselfish about that? I was just trying to say that in my view there is nothing inherently selfish about being either married or single. Selfishness can exist no matter our marital status.
        I relate to many of your frustrations. I think most single people if they are honest could relate. It sucks to be dropped and then have to make all new friends. Sometimes I have felt like I’m just needed to fill up the wedding party.
        At least I have some friends that have persevered despite the marriage. I’m really grateful for those people.

        1. Hi Rachel
          Thanks for the reply. I was a bit angry the other day so some of what I posted may have been a bit strident but I think your posts have been made very tactfully and you (unlike me) gently made your point.  You showed understanding of your married friends’ situation whilst expressing your disappointment that they have been unable to find time for you, so I can’t see how anyone could be offended by anything you wrote. 

          Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I can see that married people particularly those with children have a lot on their plate but I think both of us in our posts mentioned that we don’t expect them to drop everything for us but the occasional catch up would be appreciated. 

          I think there may also be another issue here, many woman are made to feel guilty if they are away from their husbands and in particular away from their kids, if they say they are going out with a friend people often have the idea that they will be up to some wild mischief painting the town red. The disapproval of others can lead to these women neglecting their friends. I think they should stand firm and say to their families (or spouses) “my friend was there for me when I was single, so I need to be there for her now, and whilst my family are my first priority, she stuck by me before I had a family so occasionally I need to make her a priority.” then hand the kids over to hubby or grandma for one evening of babysitting.  Also the occasional absence from the house will make hubby and kids much more appreciative of everything she does when she is there. I’m not suggesting any woman neglect her family but the occasional catch up with a friend is all that we single friends wish for.

          By the way Rachel I too sympathise with the single situation I would prefer to be in a relationship but whilst I’m not I try to focus on all the things I can do whilst I’m single, I have some great single friends too and I have a lot of outside interests too, of course days like yesterday when I left my last post are the occasional day when I’m a bit fed up, but there are many other times that I think I’m fortunate to have the freedom I have at the moment. 

          Also re selfishness to those who say that single people don’t need to take other people’s views into consideration is not true because we all have dealings with other people whether we are married or single. I’ve personally found though that being single I have to be quite accommodating of other friend’s wants because friends generally will not put up with extremely selfish behaviour whereas in some cases spouses will put up with an extraordinary amount of selfishness to stay married particularly if they have kids. The people who start off their married lives being kind and unselfish generally stay that way, but for anyone who is a bit selfish or immature when they marry it’s hard for them to evolve out of that pattern. But having said that I do agree with you that some people are selfish or unselfish by nature whether they are married or single.

          So once again Rachel thanks for your blog and reply. One day you may be married yourself so in the meantime I hope you can enjoy your time as a single and think of all the things you can do right now that would be difficult to do as a couple, even though I too know how difficult it can be sometimes to stay positive about this, but if I really think long and hard about it I can usually think of quite a number of things that I can do much easier as a single (like posting this blog with no interruptions!)

        2. I understand. Feel free to vent whenever you need. Everyone has their moments where they are frustrated with their life.
          I think you are right about focusing on the benefits of being single. I decided years ago to try and go to concerts when I could afford it because that is something which is more difficult when you get married. I’ve also made it a point to travel whenever I get the chance.
          I think one of the challenges with married/single friendships is the difference in schedules. Most singles are free in the evening and this can be a tough time for mom’s to get away. I honestly appreciate any effort that can be made, even just responding to me on facebook or reading my blog, a quick chat on the phone. I have friends that I rarely see, married and single, but it doesn’t really matter because the line of communication never fails and when we can we get together. When I wrote this original post I was frustrated because a friend of mine who I had traveled to be in her wedding, never returned my calls or emails. The thing that made this particularly frustrating is we lived in the same complex! I really felt used. Oh well. That’s life.
          I guess in the end I’m grateful for any of my friends, who make any effort to make my life better. Being single can be a lonely experience so I suppose we rely on friendships as more of a quasi-family so it can be hard when those families change. Change has never been my strength in general.
          Glad my post allowed you to vent and helped you feel understood. Good thing I didn’t delete it 🙂

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