Single? What is your Social Responsibility to Couples?
We both found ourselves suddenly single after many years of being part of a couple. And as singles, there were many times that we felt shut out from the vast protective umbrella that used to be our social lives.
But once alone, we were surprised that several couples inadvertently excluded us from evenings out and in their homes and clubs. It’s not because they are uncaring or malevolent. Some just don’t think to do so because they don’t know what it’s like to walk in “single-only shoes.”
At the basis of this might be the struggle with how to fit singles around a dinner table when they represent an odd number, no matter how inane that sounds. It becomes easier to include a single at a casual lunch a deux or with their gal pals. Also, there’s the unmitigated fact that there are some husbands and guy partners who want to be with guys and only couple friends. Maybe, they think-wrong! —that we’re only good at talking gal stuff.
We’ve written about what couples can do to make singles feel included. Regardless of the reason and in the spirit of supporting singles, that’s why we suggested more than a year ago our idea for a “Take a single to dinner” night. Perhaps, include them when you go to a favorite restaurant and even toast their specialness as your friend. What about asking single friends on other outings—for a hike, to a museum, on a bicycle ride and on a trip? Maybe, we assume they wouldn’t want to come along with us, if we are part of a couple. Maybe, we wonder if they’ll expect us always to pick up all the tabs. But we suggest inviting them anyway and wait to see how they react.
Now let’s flip the coin and analyze this from a couple’s point of view. When you’re a single, what is your social responsibly to those couples who keep including you? Singles may remember our birthdays or illnesses with wonderful cards and gifts, but what about their payback in hosting and returning the favors to those of us who are part of a couple? Do they?
Naturally, some do, and some don’t. Barbara knew from the get-go of being separated and divorced that she should have couples over to her home for dinner parties she hosted and even take them out and pick up the check, after many had taken her countless times. She knew the generosity would likely stop at some time if she didn’t. For her it was a no-brainer. She enjoyed being with people and socializing, and she liked to entertain and has always done so effortlessly.
Margaret also learned the ropes and found it quite fun to spend time with her couple friends, who after her husband died, initially included her all the time. To pay them back, she started entertaining at home, something she had never done before as a single. Some couple friends appreciated the gesture and continued to include her on weekend evenings and for certain outings, and others did not. She found that if she tried to take the check when the guest of a couple, they often refused to let her pay. That made her feel uncomfortable, and she earnestly would try to do something special for those couples to let them know how much she appreciated their generosity. Sometimes, she’d write a thank-you note that she mailed snail mail or dropped off a bottle of wine or a special treat, including her homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Now, almost eight years after her husband died, she has developed a system with those couples she sees on a regular basis. She’ll pay for dinner, and they’ll pay for the movie, or they’ll have her over for a holiday dinner and she’ll reciprocate and host another holiday event.
Like Margaret, several of Barbara’s single friends also entertain, some with great success and ambition, from small dinner parties to large cocktail evenings. Then there are the ones who never do and have also never had her and her now beau over to their home or suggested going out and picking up the tab. This has nothing to do with gender; some of her single friends are female and some are male. Despite that, she continues to invite all of them and hasn’t broached the subject. She realizes it’s not likely that speaking up would change their ways, and she enjoys their company greatly.
Yet, she silently resents comments when they complain about not being included at couples’ homes or not being asked to tag along on outings. Barbara wants to say, ever so gently, “But what about us?”
So, in the hope of helping singles extend invitations, we’ve come up with some ways they can repay their couple friends effortlessly:
- The easiest is to simply take them out to dinner. It needn’t be expensive but any place you love, they’re likely to be happy to be included, from your favorite Chinese restaurant or pizza joint to fancy French bistro. Do what feels comfortable both for your mindset and wallet.
- Invite them over. It doesn’t have to be for a full multi-course seated dinner. You can bring in food if you don’t like to cook or simply serve drinks and nibbles, a cheese board with different kinds, plus grapes and nuts, crackers, breads and maybe some sweets or chocolates for dessert. Everyone will go away full of good food and conversation, the most important ingredient.
- Invite all your friends for one payback bash and have it catered and keep it to hors d’oeuvres and desserts, so again it’s not seated and fancy. If you want to go the fancy seated route, so be it. Do it up lavishly! Many supermarkets also have catering departments. Or, have a theme. A widow Margaret knows who lost her husband three years hosted a French party recently and invited couples and singles. Next up in the planning stage is a Turner Classic Movie party.
- Call up a couple friend and suggest going to a movie together and maybe out for a bite afterward. Say in advance, you want this to be your treat. And if the couple start to argue about splitting the check at the end, say, Absolutely Not! And mean it.
- Eager to go on a trip but have nobody to go with and you don’t want to go on a women’s only trip as a solo? Consider picking your place or places and asking close couple friends if they’d like to go with you. Explain that you don’t have to do everything together, but wouldn’t it be fun to experience it as a trio. Maybe, other singles and couples will also go with you. You can also try this out for a weekend getaway rather than a journey halfway around the globe.
For those of us who are single, we hope our couple friends can see themselves in our lives and include us when they can. Singles must try to do the same.