The Never-Married Woman: Coping In A Couple-Dominant Society -- By: Kristin L. Ellens

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 07:4 (Fall 1993)
Article: The Never-Married Woman: Coping In A Couple-Dominant Society
Author: Kristin L. Ellens

The Never-Married Woman:
Coping In A Couple-Dominant Society

Kristin L. Ellens

Kristin L Ellens is a CBE member employed at Amway Corporation and also studying counseling psychology at Western Michigan University. Upon completion of her M.A., she hopes to practice as a psychologist.

In our society we have been taught to view marriage as the only natural arrangement and singleness as somehow “deviant.” Adulthood and emotional maturity are synonymous with marriage and parenthood while social psychologists tend to refer to singles as “those who fail to marry,” or as “those who do not make positive choices” (Stein, 1976). Although there is a notable dearth of research on this topic, latest studies show that a growing number of women are remaining single by preference (Peterson, 1981).

As a happily unmarried woman I decided to explore my “deviance” by way of reading and asking questions of myself and others to discover why aloneness is so appealing to those of us who have chosen it and appalling to those who have not, both married and single. The amount of positive material and feedback that emerged was surprising. Naturally, as with any lifestyle, the never-married situation also has its shadow counterpart.

In this article I will explore some of the positives, negatives, problems and solutions experienced by the never-married woman as she lives and ages within the framework of a couple-dominant society.

Myths and Stereotypes

Since marriage is usually viewed as the only acceptable lifestyle, especially by a single woman’s mother, those who do not choose it are immediately stereotyped. These stereotypes run the gamut of extremes. An introductory question to a single woman might be, “Why aren’t you married?” That question, besides being rather ill-mannered, is rhetorical, since the curious party already “knows” the answer. Obviously, if a woman is not married she must be unattractive, unfeminine, odd, prudish, boring and probably leading a dull life. On the other hand, she might be a foot-loose and fancy-free swinger, sexually promiscuous, and attending wild parties every night of the week (Payne, 1983). She also risks being considered a man-hater, and even a lesbian.

The labels do not improve with age. An older single woman is viewed as a complaining “kvetch,” a senile old lady, an ugly witch, an old maid, or as a helpless old “rocking chair grandma” who never complains, makes no demands, and is a “perfect target for muggers” (Lewis, 1985).

Stereotyping of single women is not new. Nineteenth-century folks assumed that every unmarried woman suffered from low self-esteem, lack of identity, eccentricity, and most probably possessed ...

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