Hey Singles - Stop Telling Married People What To Do
There's this whole problem with giving each other advice we need to talk about.
We all have those moments when we overhear a conversation we probably shouldn't.
Or, like the one I heard, feel pretty happy not to be a part of.
At one of my local cafes, I couldn't help listening to two women talk at the table next to mine. There was a married one, something I knew by her sparkly ring and conversation about her husband. The other was single, as announced as she gave the other woman advice.
The married woman was crying about her husband's inattentive attitude toward her career crisis.
The single woman replied;
"I know I'm not in a relationship but have you thought of leaving him?"
I don't how close the two women were. I mean, I would hope they were close enough to suggest such a drastic move. Yet the suggestion, despite how close they are, seemed, how should I say, inappropriate.
Because, in short, single people shouldn't tell married people what to do.
Let me explain (before you go off on me).
Everyone is a…
The problem we have now, more than ever, is that everyone is an expert. As long as we have a voice, somewhere to voice that voice, and people to listen, we can be experts.
Social media has reinforced this.
You can spout any old advice and become an expert. I include myself in this, by the way. Everyone is a culprit of asserting themselves even if simply by commenting on someone else's content.
With this thought, society is becoming slowly skeptical of advice. With everyone able to chime in, we're inundated with noise.
It means we're less likely to indulge in advice as much as we once were. I know it from my own experience; I don't listen like I once did. It's not that I believe I know better. It's more a feeling of overwhelm than anything else.
It means singles are like everyone else. Once you start talking about marriage, you join the noise.
If someone were to ask me about marriage…
I could give some advice to the woman at the cafe, had she wanted to know my thoughts. I would back my advice.
I'm not without form. I feel like I have some qualifications in that department if you could call it. My qualification is that I'm married. For the last five and a half years.
And it's not like I haven't been in a long-term relationship before. I lived with my husband for four years before our wedding day.
Would I give the advice? Only if a gun were to my head.
Because I know I have limited experience. It's true of any married person. Our experience and knowledge of what married life is like are purely from our perspective. It's narrowed to our perspective and it's highly personal.
I don't even know what it's like from the perspective of my husband. Every person is different, every problem is unique, and every marriage is special in how it operates.
Now, this doesn't stop me from giving general advice, generalised to society. But one-to-one? Highly tailored? I will leave that to the professionals, with insurance, too.
That leads me back to the singles.
You don't have the "marriage qualification" and you're not a psychologist. You're missing the credentials to have your say. And think of what you're uneducated advice might lead to.
We've been here before…
I've had marriage advice from single people before. I'm sure the woman sitting next to me has heard unsolicited advice from many people before, not only from this single friend of hers.
And I'm not talking about a supportive shoulder, or someone to listen to. When I talk about advice, I'm referring to the pushy, you must do this type of advice.
It's someone else's point of view about your life that is so rooted in misguided facts, there is no way you're allowed to ignore it. It feels like the brick wall is advising you; there's no pushing through it.
Here's the problem; most of this advice can be incredibly cliched.
It's the same old advice, the same old generic recommendations that don't sit well with the receiver.
The single woman telling the married woman to leave her husband oversimplified a complicated situation.
You can't just up and leave. It's not that easy.
As a single chiming in, you have to remember you're not the only one who has an opinion, and who has voiced this opinion too. You're more noise to drown out, once again.
But you can say what you want…
There is nothing preventing anyone from giving advice about marriage like the way this woman next to me did. She was talking to a friend, saying her piece. It was what friends do.
Despite my warning, I can't actually stop you from having an opinion. And I wouldn't dare try to.
But that doesn't mean the person hearing your advice is going to listen to you.
For the fact, you're not a professional, sure. For the fact, we're saturated with advice, again, sure. Yet, there will be something inside the married person's head that doubts you.
It's an unconscious doubt. The married person thinks, "If you don't know what it's like, how do we believe your point of view?"
Now, this has zero to do with the married versus single debate.
At this moment, the married person doesn't think that because they believe their situation is better than the single person's. Far from it.
It's all about experience and knowledge, and how the two are lacking when you talk like you know what it's like. Which, in truth, you don't.
I hate being someone who says marriage is different from engaged relationships, or a dating relationship. But it is.
I sound like this broken-record married person. And I didn't believe it until I got married and settled into married life.
The further I get into my marriage, the further away from the boyfriend/girlfriend scenario I grow. Problems are different. Planning is different. Approach to life and people and situations differ. You move through life in a completely different way.
With that in mind, I can't argue with the idea that singles don't know what they're talking about. It's not a bad thing, it's not said in a negative way. It's really because….
…This isn't a "single" thing
As a woman without children, I can't give parental advice.
Even a wry comment about the child, an observation, and parents tell me off for opinion. Stay in my lane, I've had people tell me. If I don't have children, I can't possibly understand, nor should I open my mouth and comment.
I once had a child vomit on my lap. A big vomit. There was liquid soaking through my jeans before the child even finished. The father looked at me. He didn't even need to say anything. 'Until you have children, you can't comment on other people's children. And when you do, it can't be negative.'
Children aren't the only taboo topic. I can't give medical advice; I'm not a doctor.
A friend of mine ended up in the emergency room with stomach pains. She also had this weird, localised back pain and reflux after eating everything and anything. I said it sounded familiar, like the pains I experienced only a year earlier before my gallbladder came out.
The emergency doctor didn't appreciate that I thought it was her gall bladder causing problems. "Let me do my job," he said.
I sat in silence as I watched a nurse wheel her away for a cholecystectomy, gallbladder removal, one day later.
So what's the enemy here? Advice.
Married to the singles. Singles to the married. Advice when we don't know what we're talking about or know all the facts. Or advice in general, no matter the specific details.
When we give advice, we're being bad friends. It's not what people want from us or need from us. And if we get it wrong, how do we fix things? How can we atone for our bad advice?
As much as we can chastise singles today, let's included married people in this too. Everyone for that matter.
To the married people wanting to dish out advice, to the singles who want to do the same, to everyone, let's not.
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