What if married people were treated like singles?

(A guest blog by Lisa and Christina from Onely)

We (Lisa and Christina, co-bloggers at Onely) both identify as white, middle-class, heterosexual women who are single and happy. We’re tired of cultural stereotypes that suggest we’re not supposed to be.

According to a U. S. Census report published last July, single people comprise 92 million, or 42%, of the American population (though several other sources put the number closer to 50%). 54% of us are women, 60% of us have never been married, and 40% are divorced or widowed (note that these breakdowns do not account for those who wish to be married but are refused that right by the law). 30.5 million, or 27%, of the U. S. population live alone, and 12.9 million of the general public are single parents. Singles comprised 36% of actual (not eligible) voters in the 2004 presidential election (numbers weren’t readily available for the 2008 election).

We define “single” as anyone who is unmarried: including coupled-but-not-married and domestic partners; anyone who identifies as GLBT and are either legally unable to marry or refuse the institution of marriage altogether; those who identify as polyamorous or asexual; divorcees and widowers; single parents; and, of course, anyone else who is just plain single. (Note: When we refer to the social [as opposed to legal] stigmatization of singles below, we’re referring more specifically to anyone who is uncoupled.)

In the PWI spirit, we’ve asked (and answered) a few questions to highlight the material, social, and legal restrictions habitually placed on adult singles, more often than not in favor of those who are married.

What if married people were treated by the media, friends, and family like singles (in this case, uncoupled singles)? They would encounter statements such as:

  • “Don’t worry, you’ll get a divorce someday!”
  • “Oh, you’re married? I’m so sorry!”
  • “You’re so great – how come you’re still married?”
  • “It’s okay to be married for a while, but eventually you need to grow up and become single.”
  • “You’re so lucky to be married and not have as much responsibility.”
  • “But don’t you feel bad not having a life, seeing as you’re married?”
  • “When are you going to get a divorce?”
  • “It’s so sad having to come home to a house with someone in it all the time.”
  • “Well, I would’ve invited you to book group, except you’re married and I thought you wouldn’t want to be around all those happily single people.”
  • “What’s a beautiful woman like you doing married?”

What if married people were treated by the government as singles? They would have to:

  • Fight to be recognized as a legitimate and powerful voting bloc, no matter how much of the American population they represent.
  • Lose the 1,138 federal provisions that currently accommodate married people on account of their marital status in the distribution of rights, benefits, and other legal privileges.
  • Come to work even if their spouses, children, or parents are sick and in need of their help. After all, they don’t get to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Leave medical decisions for their loved ones to doctors and immediate family not related to the able spouse.
  • Live in the barracks like every other soldier.
  • Give up that extra cash-per-month and increased housing allowance that the military currently grants married soldiers.
  • Testify against their spouses in court instead of being granted immunity.

What if married people were taxed like singles? They would have to:

  • File individual returns only and never gain a tax “bonus” for filing jointly with a spouse.
  • Pay income tax on their spouses’ employment benefits.
  • Give up as much as 60% of their assets to the government in death taxes.
  • Lose all social security benefits when they die.
  • Give up benefits for those children living in the household who do not meet the criteria for a “qualifying dependent,” or those children who are not related to their caregivers by blood or marriage.

What if married people were paid and treated in the workplace like singles? They would:

  • Make, on average, 26% less than they currently do; they would be paid the same as everyone else regardless of their marital status.
  • Not be able to negotiate salaries and other work-related perks using marital status as a factor.
  • Be expected to stay late and work during the holidays, just like everyone else.
  • Have to give up vacation privileges (or implied benefits that assume that single people are not as invested in their families and personal lives as married people must be) – singles like to travel just as much as, if not more than, married people do!
  • Have to pay for expenses related to whole-family relocations due to work.
  • Encounter no support from employers in helping spouses find jobs.

What if married people had access to the same health and other insurance policies as singles? They would:

  • Be unable to add anyone, even spouses, to their employer-provided health care plans.
  • Have considerable trouble paying for independent health insurance, especially if the married people work part-time or if they freelance.
  • Have to decide between buying a high-deductible, bare-bones health plan and no plan at all because they can’t depend on their spouses to help them afford the low-deductible, full-coverage model.
  • Pay more for car insurance, especially if the married couple is young.
  • Have access to only limited options when it comes to life insurance; there’s only one or two plans in which married people can invest through any given company, whereas singles get many options.

What if married people were treated like singles in the marketplace? They would have to:

  • Convince real estate agents to sell to them by promising to pay on time, not relocate, and generally be financially responsible.
  • Also have to convince real estate agents that they really do want to look at the spacious house with the view, instead of the tight quarters that real estate agents insist would “be just right” for the married people and their families.
  • Pay more for travel packages so that single people could receive single-traveler discounts.
  • Pay more than singles for club and gym memberships, so that singles could reap the benefits.
  • Purchase single-serving sizes of food at the grocery store in order to receive a decent discount.
  • Dine alone so as to get the better deal at restaurants (especially large chains that cater to the singles population, like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s).

(Many thanks to the following blogs and resources for providing much of the above information: see the Alternatives to Marriage Project; Bella DePaulo’s Living Single Blog; Rachel’s Musings; National Singles Association; American Association for Single People; Reuters and U.S. Census Bureau; and Cracked.com)

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Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 11:18 pm  Comments (33)  

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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Marriage is about creating property. By not marrying, you can’t be part of the property management system!

  2. Marriage is about creating property. By not marrying, you can’t be part of the property management system!
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  3. Nice post, thanks

  4. Thanks Meep and WuWu! Meep, I think we could also say that marriage has a lot to do with “asset allocation”. = ) Christina

  5. Great post!

    Just out of curiosity… what are are your (poster, commenters, whoever) view about marrying for convenience, economical, and/or for the illusion of having a heterosexual relationship? I can understand the appeal of it, but I also know that to some, it’s a religious travesty.

  6. “Don’t worry, you’ll get a divorce someday!”
    “Oh, you’re married? I’m so sorry!”

    I know they’re not exactly the same but there are jokes about men not wanting to be married or marriage being bad for men. Because you know, marriage is great for women and a drag for men.

  7. Great post. As someone who after years of “living in sin” decided she wanted some free stuff from people her parents know (aka a commitment ceremony / legal marriage), it was amazing how quickly the privilege set in.

  8. A survey of 1,500 motorists has revealed that while almost two-thirds are beating the credit crunch by using their car less or adjusting their driving style, many are putting their car insurance at risk just to save cash.

  9. I fail to see what that last comment by PICKNICK INSURANCE has to do with marriage… spam?

  10. Lynne Skysong,
    Thanks for raising those interesting points!
    Re. marrying for convenience/economy: ideally we should’t *need* to marry for convenience or economy.
    Re. marrying to keep up the pretense of a heterosexual relationship: again, ideally we shouldn’t need to do that, either.
    Society should offer us the same conveniences, economic rights, and social acceptance whether we are married or single. But until this happens, then everyone should have the right to marry and take advantage of the accompanying perks. However, by lobbying for “marriage rights for everyone” we also encourage the prevailing view that marriage should be the norm, the standard, something to aspire to secularly. It’s sort of a devil’s circle, I guess!
    Christina

  11. I am so applauding this post.

  12. I hope we can start a singles rights movement some day ;)

    singles-rights.blogspot.com

  13. [...] The Herald mentioned our guest post at Professor What If’s blog: What if Married People Were Treated Like Singles? [...]

  14. [...] Onely Guest Blogs at “Professor What If” March 12, 2009 Posted by onely in Just Saying., We like. . .. Tags: guest blog, professor what if trackback Today, we hope you’ll visit one of our favorite blogs, Professor What If. The illustrious Professor invited us to write a guest post and it’s up today! See “What if Married People Were Treated Like Singles?“ [...]

  15. this guy i know out in calif, got married about 2 months ago,
    I guess things are ok with him and his wife,
    but he never talks about her or mentions her name much at all when i talk to him on the phone here in Kansas,
    I mean im wondering if hes trying to act single when hes married?
    Ive not even talked to her on the phone or heard her voice,
    Ive seen guys that are married but dont act like it,
    and then act like thier ashamed of her like they cant act single again and heve her too,
    If I had a loving understanding woman id dote on her like nothing else,
    But where or who know’s where someone like that is?????

  16. get real. What a bunch of BS

  17. FINALLY! Recognizing single people and showing that there really isn’t anything wrong with us! And it is SO true that married people get so many more benefits than we do! Even at the grocery stores, I’m so tired of being bombarded with great deals offered when buying “family sized” anything. Why should I have to pay more for buying just one box of cereal for myself? I think that there should be a special check out lane for single people so we don’t have to wait behind some mother with a grocery cart filled with her “family sized” items looking like she’s shopping for Y2K!

  18. On October 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm Carol said:
    FINALLY! Recognizing single people and showing that there really isn’t anything wrong with us! And it is SO true that married people get so many more benefits than we do! Even at the grocery stores, I’m so tired of being bombarded with great deals offered when buying “family sized” anything. Why should I have to pay more for buying just one box of cereal for myself? I think that there should be a special check out lane for single people so we don’t have to wait behind some mother with a grocery cart filled with her “family sized” items looking like she’s shopping for Y2K!

    Reply

  19. I’m an advocate of marriage. I think its the corner stone of society. I think married couples are much happier. I think married couples are able to save more money and are under less stress. I feel like getting married is one of the most spiritual things a person can do. If you marry the right person, it can bring alot of piece.low price stun guns

  20. Some interesting propositions. I’m definitely not anti-marriage. But am getting sick of the differential in treatment …. the couple that complains because they can’t sit next to each other on the plane– then the stewardess makes you move to a crappier seat to accommodate the couple. Hey couples: want to travel together– buy your own jet- otherwise, you are just like the rest of us… hoping you don’t sit next to someone smelly.

  21. I am married, but don’t think that kids and married couples should get special privileges via the tax code. Kids are expensive and tough to raise, but singles shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes to subsidize welfare checks for thousands of low-income families with too many kids.

    Unfortunately, some people see a spouse and child as a tax break or extra source of goverment handout. If you can afford a child without tax breaks or government handouts, have as many kids as you want.

    However, If you are going to rely on tax credits and lower tax rates (i.e. Married filed jointly status) as economic aid for your family, you should stay single and get your tubes tied.

  22. [...] railed against Marital Privilege both on this blog and on Psychology Today, Professor, What If, Change.org, and other venues. We use the term Marital Privilege to represent the institutionalized [...]

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