Since birth, I spent my life living with my parents up until the age of 21. When I was 16 my sister got married and moved out of the family home to live with her husband. I too got married at the young age of 21. With only relatively brief intervals between the next marriage and a third long-term relationship, I had lived with at least on other person and rarely on my own.
This had become a way of life that I was comfortable with but always appeared 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 having lived with others or in relationships.
In my adult and life as a part of a couple, I enjoyed a good social life and generally home and personal life. Omitting in this text, my internal struggle is another matter and not directly related to what I am raising in this perspective. When you commit to marriage and a family, become a house owner, and working at least, a 9 to 5 week, life can be demanding in varying degrees of difficulty in finding a balance. I am confident to state that I had a good balance largely and my life developed in the way that society would encourage and expect, perhaps I was a quite typical person in my own way. Albeit that I considered myself as quite an individual outside the pack mentality.
Here in France, that complete perceived reality was challenged head-on in the autumn of 2012. I found myself living alone, in a foreign land, with average language skills, no work, a miniscule income, and few hopeful prospects of 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, and needing to re-access the system of the UK that I was only too happy to break away from seven years earlier.
Change of perception
I remained in France and managed to find a way to turn my total perception and understanding of my life around 180 degrees to allow me to improve every aspect of my life from that point on. What I didn’t anticipate was a change in how others that I had known and been friends with would alter that still sits awkwardly with me today. I can see this is a deeply rooted part of society that I had never had the misfortune to experience before, but surprised when I realised it taking place in my life.
I began to notice that some couples that I believed to be good friends had not to be making contact with me. Once I had become aware of that, it became clearer that the same applied to more of my ‘friends. What had happened to create this avoidance of me in their social lives? My first thought was to throw in an idea that my ex was causing this impact with them and or, that I was seen to have acted or done something they considered to be bad enough to break contact with me. I was hurtful to feel that may have been the cause, but I had no real way to prove or to disprove any of those possibilities, hold on to those feelings was pointless and self-harming.
One day in particular sticks in my memory that became very clear how I was now perceived as a single person and in some strange way to be avoided or not included, when 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. This particular day was a Saturday in June in 2017, I had lodged in a room above the restaurant where I had been working for the past five days and this was my first evening back at home. 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 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. It was early evening and still light with some sunshine, what a perfect evening to sit outside, be entertained, relax having a glass of wine and a tasty plate of food while listening to some live music. I set off on my two-minute walk to the bar. 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, but what happened in the next minute took me a moment to comprehend fully.
As I passed the first group, only one person took any notice that I had arrived and spoke to me, although everyone knew me. I had not been treated in that way before in the village at a social event and it made me feel a little strange but chose to ignore it. Hardly anyone spoke to me when I arrived or during the evening! I refused to allow it to prevent me from enjoying the music and have a plate of tapas and some wine. It did translate in a way, where I left earlier than I had expected, partly due to the quality of the music but a feeling of being ignored for some reason. I left that evening, not as a result of feeling that I couldn’t deal with the atmosphere presented to me, just that it had been pleasant but not as sociable as I had hoped.
This experience has revisited me in other ways that I do not allow to be an annoyance or sense of failing on my part. I am able to distance myself from what happens 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 I can do it efficiently.
I have discussed this social exclusion with a few others who have also been in relationships previously, to find 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, but only entering my life nine years ago. 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, could be seen as a threat to a relationship by one or both members of the couple. From my side of this, it would be highly unlikely that I would be the person to break up a couple that I called friends, why would I wish or want to do that? I hope that 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? If that is the case I ask someone to point that out to me quickly.
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 does not stop me from hoping or inviting a partner back into my life. Not because I want the acknowledgment of others that I do not get as a single person, but to allow me to enjoy a more fulfilled life that I know I would enjoy, more 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 this is not how I like to finish an article.
I invite you to post your comment based on your own experiences.