Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Housebound and Single = Home Alone?, Part II

In "Housebound and Single = Home Alone?, Part I," we introduced "Marie," who has spent years trying to sustain a social life despite an existence that is largely confined to the boundaries of her home. She's looking for ideas to help her stay connected to those she cares about as well as to help her find new friends.

The housebound lifestyle is still something I'm figuring out for myself since I was diagnosed last October with a chronic illness that limits my mobility, and, unfortunately, information on the social aspect of housebound living isn't prevalent. However, I'll gladly share what has worked for me and others I've known in hopes that someone will benefit. If anyone out there is also housebound and single, please feel free to contribute your own suggestions to the discussion!

Maintaining Existing Friendships

1. Open up to your friends and family.

Just because someone cares about you doesn't mean they understand what it's like to be you or that they know what you want and need all the time. A lot of younger people have never known a peer who was housebound and may not be sure how to respond. They may assume that you're not well enough for visits or lengthy conversations. They may worry about saying the wrong thing or unintentionally making you feel bad by talking about their busy lives, which you can't participate in.

If they haven't been in touch as much since you've become housebound, make sure your friends and family know that you miss them and want to hear from them. For instance, you could say, "I know it might seem like I wouldn't be interested in ________ [whatever things you can't do anymore], but I'm relying on you to keep me informed. I love hearing about it, and I want to know everything! Hearing your stories is as good as being there."

Be upfront about your limitations, too; no one understands them like you do. Don't leave your friends guessing about what you can and can't do. If you can't handle visitors but can talk on the phone, let them know. If you get too tired to talk for two hours but can talk for one, let them know that, too.

2. Make technology work for you.

If you can't see friends and family in person, be creative. For all the flak that texters and tweeters get, we're incredibly blessed to have such convenient methods of communication at our fingertips. So when you don't have the energy for in-person visits, pick up your PDA and put technology to work for you. From Facebook updates to blog posts, you have a wealth of options for keeping current with the people you care about from the comfort of your own home.

Do you miss the immediacy of face-to-face conversation? Download Skype or similar free VOIP software, order a headset with microphone and a webcam, and your callers will be able to see every smile, nod, shrug, and wink on their monitors. (Yes, that means you have to change out of your favorite Buzz Lightyear pajamas before they call!) If your friends and fam don't have webcams, they make great birthday or holiday gifts.

3. Check your own attitude.

When you talk to your friends, does the conversation revolve around how much it sucks to be sick or hurt? Do you hit them over the head with a litany of complaints? Underneath it all, are you envious that your friends are healthy, and might that attitude be sneaking into your conversation? Chronic pain is a heavy burden to bear physically and emotionally, and you should be able to complain about it sometimes. But many people have a hard time dealing with a constant barrage of negativity, which makes them feel sad, helpless, and even guilty. So try not to contact your healthy friends when you're at your worst and save the gory details for your doctor, therapist, and support group (see 3. under "Building New Friendships" below).

Building New Friendships

1. Seek out other survivors.

Even though Marie has had a hard time finding new friends, her strongest friendship right now seems to be with another survivor of serious illness. As Marie notes, the beauty of the Internet is that it brings together virtually people who can't be together physically. Lots of communities have real-life support groups for people suffering from specific illnesses or injuries (ask your doctor for a referral), but if you aren't able to leave the house for even a limited time, an online support group is the next best thing. If you're suffering from a relatively rare disorder, the Internet might even be the best thing.

Some people who haven't ever been part of an online message board or mailing list may be dismissive of friendships formed this way, but those who've participated in groups like this know that they can provide tremendous reserves of inspiration, empathy, caring, and even humor. Friendships established through this medium, especially those that continue via email, IM, phone, and, eventually, in-person meetings, can be just as deep as friendships that form in the "real world," if not more so. Why? Because other people in a support group understand what you're going through since they have the same concerns. They're likely to be more interested in your progress, more tolerant of your limitations, and more open to developing friendships because they're in the same boat with you, experiencing the same hardships.

To find the right online support group for you, search Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups, Facebook Groups, Yuku, or any other site that has message boards, email lists, or chat. You might also run a search for web sites dedicated to the illness or injury you're suffering from. Online foundations may include forums. If you don't find what you're looking for, you can start your own group or maybe even your own blog or web site!

Prefer one-on-one interaction? Make friends with Craig--Craigslist, that is--and post an ad for a friend in similar circumstances in the Strictly Platonic section. In addition, lots of free dating sites such as PlentyofFish and OkCupid allow users to search for "pen pals," "friends," or "activity partners" and set their profiles accordingly. You can briefly explain your lifestyle in your profile and specify that you want to find others in the same situation. (If you choose to sign up at a dating site, though, don't be surprised if many of the members you encounter expect "friendship" to be an intermediate step to something more.)

2. Don't forget the 'Net for other interests, too.

Just because you're housebound doesn't mean you have to give up your interests and passions. The Web is a wonderful gathering place to discuss art, entertainment, sports, politics, or whatever else is on your mind. Although you may not find close friends among online communities built around special interests, not all conversation needs to be of the deep, soul-baring variety. In the "real world," most of our interaction is based on light small talk, and we need these kinds of loose relationships as much as we need strongly rooted friendships. The Internet allows housebound singles to continue participating in those broad social circles without setting foot out of the house. Furthermore, because communication isn't in real-time, those who struggle with pain, discomfort, or fatigue are free to respond at their leisure. And perhaps the best thing about the Internet is that it doesn't discriminate. Housebound singles can freely express themselves without worrying that others will perceive them through the filter of their physical problems.

You can find online forums for your hobbies and passions in some of the same places you found forums for the housebound. Also investigate large hub sites devoted to your interest, such as IMDb for movies or Care2 for environmental and social causes. Additionally, many companies, TV and radio stations, and print publications have web sites that encourage commentary and discussion.

3. Find good counsel.

As much as your friends and family want to help, it may be hard for them to understand or cope with the physical and emotional pain that are part of your daily life as a housebound single. A mental health counselor can offer you a sympathetic ear and a safe place to vent your frustration. She or he may also be able to suggest new ways to find social support, keep your current relationships strong, or meet routine challenges more effectively on your own. If you're depressed or anxious as a result of the changes in your lifestyle, a therapist can help you overcome that, too.

In Marie's case, a counselor helped her to accept that she was not at fault for the distance that had grown between her and her friends and introduced her to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which, according to the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, is "a behavioral intervention to help people learn strategies to live life more in the present, more focused on important values and goals, and less focused on painful thoughts, feelings and experiences."

Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist who has experience with those who are housebound, or search online at sites like,, or

4. Enjoy your own company.

As Marie's story illustrates, we can't necessarily change the behavior or reactions of others, but we can always change our own way of thinking. Whether or not you're chronically ill, disabled, or housebound, you probably already know that because it's the key to being happy as a single. Singles with singletude can be content in a coupled world because we've changed our thinking--we no longer believe (if we ever did) that a romantic relationship is the only route to a fulfilling life. When illness or injury strikes, we can use this same attitude to inform how we confront our limitations.

While everyone needs some contact with other people, sometimes we confuse our social needs with the desire to be popular, the obligation to fit in, or the fear of being alone with our own thoughts. The next time you feel lonely, ask yourself if it's because you truly miss and want to interact with certain people or because you're afraid of feeling bored, excluded, abnormal, or "uncool" if you don't take up your place in the social pecking order on Saturday nights. Chances are that, at least some of the time, your "loneliness" will be revealed as insecurity about being alone.

With a newfound awareness of the difference between being a lone individual and a lonely individual, you can use your time by yourself to explore interests and ideas you never knew you had. Before long, you may discover that you like being alone and embracing the opportunities it affords to set your own schedule, choose your own projects, and work, think, plan, relax, or dream undisturbed. There's a lot you can accomplish at home on your own. For examples, see "Top Ten Hobbies for Singles." Many of the activities described can be pursued in your own living room. You might also try writing a list of all the things you can do in your time alone that your friends can't and hang it somewhere you can see it every day.

Socializing remains challenging for singles who are housebound. You can't complete a 12-step program to guarantee that your old friends will stay in touch or order new friends from Amazon. But there are measures you can take to encourage the survival of existing friendships and the growth of new ones. Beyond that, you can embrace the circumstance in which you find yourself as an opportunity instead of a limitation. Most people spend each day racing from place to place, often hassled by thoughtless, uncaring people wherever they go. However, the housebound single has a rare chance to experience a degree of autonomy and peace that others may never know. Remember, your home is your castle. Isn't it nice to live like royalty every day?

Are you housebound and single, or do you know someone who is? If so, what have you done (or what has your acquaintance done) to stay in touch with friends and family or make new friends? Have you (or has your acquaintance) found any new activities that can be enjoyed at home alone? What do you do (or what does your acquaintance do) when loneliness strikes? Has the housebound lifestyle required a mental shift of sorts and, if so, can you describe that process?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have an unpublished rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a "Singletude Q&A" or your rant or rave in a "Singletude Sound-off"! Singletude makes every effort to republish submissions in their original form but reserves the right to edit your submission for length and clarity.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Housebound and Single = Home Alone?, Part I

Awhile ago, "Marie" (name changed for privacy) of Footloose Femails, a Yahoo! group for single women, requested a post about the social consequences of a housebound lifestyle for singles. There are a number of reasons why one might be housebound, most of them involving physical or mental disabilities. Occasionally, people also find themselves spending a lot of time at home when living in a remote location or telecommuting, which can be similar to, though not quite the same as, being truly unable to set foot out the door. When you're single and live alone, the challenges of a housebound lifestyle are compounded. Previously, in "Single in Sickness and in Health: Prepare for Medical Emergencies," Singletude covered some of the steps single individuals can take to prepare physically for long-term health issues that limit mobility. But the emotional consequences of living single and housebound are harder to address, especially when many singles rely on activities outside the home to meet their social needs.

I don't think Marie realized it when she asked, but I've been largely housebound since I developed a long-term illness in September. I'm able to go out, but, for various reasons, going out is not that comfortable or convenient for me, so I don't do it a lot. New Year's Eve was my first night out in quite awhile, and by the time the evening wrapped up, I was starting to feel pretty uncomfortable. I'm already learning ways to cope with my isolated lifestyle, but since I've only lived this way a short time, I don't consider myself that knowledgeable on the subject. So, I knew some research was in order.

My first instinct was to search the Web, where I found a lot of information about navigating the health care system, applying for social security, workman's compensation, or other benefits, and securing one's legal rights via a living will, power of attorney, etc. Unfortunately, this wealth of information didn't extend to solutions for maintaining a healthy social life while housebound, particularly when single. So I put out a call for housebound individuals who live alone to take part in an interview.

I received several responses from housebound singles, who generously sent me emails, blog links, and excerpts from their writing. What emerged was a picture of single people living relatively disconnected lives. It was amazing how soon after the onset of serious illness or injury these individuals saw their friends and loved ones start to drift away! Unfortunately, none of them wished to be interviewed for the blog. That's when I realized that I had overlooked my best source of information, one that had been in front of me all along--Marie! I asked to interview her, and she kindly consented.

For 12 years, Marie, age 43, has suffered from the effects of lymphoma, encephalitis, and a benign brain tumor that have left her housebound with debilitating, chronic pain, fatigue, and memory loss. When she was diagnosed, she was a popular young woman, "very social" with "lots of friends" and a boyfriend she was planning to marry. But the onset of her illness forced her to quit her job, and within two years, the strain of it took a toll on her relationship, which disintegrated. She has since decided to remain single.

Unable to manage the illness entirely on her own, Marie moved back in with her mother, who lives in a separate wing of the house, an arrangement that suits them both. "Life is excruciatingly lonely if you're housebound and living alone--so I'm lucky to have the option of living with mum," she says. However, Marie rarely sees friends--once every two or three months, at best. For two years after she became ill, she could still manage afternoons out, but this diminished to a two-hour maximum after another three years, and now she only leaves the house for short daily walks, medical appointments, occasional visits to her brother, and once-in-a-blue-moon shopping trips. If her friends want to see her, they have to make the effort to come to her, and most have proven unable or unwilling to extend themselves over time.

Another difficulty has been that friends find it hard to relate to her life. Explaining how her social circle has dwindled, Marie says, "At the same time as I got sick my good friends got married, moved, and soon had children--so our lives began to take on a completely different route--that ultimately, drastically, affected the friendship...I have lost all but a handful of friends, and those friendships have lost their 'spark.'" This drifting apart due to dissimilar life circumstances is something that many never-married singles experience, but it is magnified for the housebound, who have little opportunity to interact with more like-minded people and seek out new friends.

Throughout her prolonged illness, Marie's social refuge has been the Internet and, to a lesser extent, sewing circles and writing workshops when she was still reasonably mobile. Yet she has only made one new friend in 12 years, another patient whom she met through an online medical support group. This is now the friend that Marie sees most often. Marie's frustration is palpable when she says, "This is despite making a LOT of effort to make new friends--to find local hobby groups to join and hopefully, in time, to make a friend or two....Being housebound for so long has ruined many of my friendships and I have a regular, if not daily, feeling of 'loneliness' that can be fleeting or last for a few hours." Like the other housebound singles I heard from, Marie has clearly defined the problem but is still searching for a workable solution.

As stated before, I'm still new to the "housebound" lifestyle, which I put in quotes because I'm not nearly as housebound as some, so I'm not sure I have any valuable insight into how to form and maintain friendships in these very special circumstances. But next time, I'll offer some suggestions based on what I've heard from Marie and the other housebound singles who responded to my request, as well as on my own ideas, some of which I've already started to implement. Whether you're a single who's technically housebound or just isolated from your friends and family for some other reason, perhaps these ideas will be useful.

Are you housebound and single, or do you know someone who is? If so, has loneliness been a problem? Have friends and family withdrawn since you or your acquaintance became housebound? Has it been hard to establish new friendships or relationships?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have an unpublished rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a "Singletude Q&A" or your rant or rave in a "Singletude Sound-off"! Singletude makes every effort to republish submissions in their original form but reserves the right to edit your submission for length and clarity.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Singles in the News: 1/24/10-1/30/10

With this week's installment, Singletude reluctantly announces that the weekly "Singles in the News" feature is coming to an end. Those of you who've been following along know that I've looked for ways to cut back while preserving the column's flavor, but even those measures haven't been sufficient. The fact remains that Singletude doesn't have adequate funding to support a time-consuming weekly publication like "Singles in the News" while still covering other singles issues. For awhile, I considered turning this into more of a singles news blog, but the feedback I've been getting suggests that readers would prefer more variety. (Anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to speak up!)

Although I'm sad to say goodbye to "Singles in the News," working on the column for the past six months or so opened my eyes to a number of singles issues I was previously unaware of, especially in other countries. I hope it was similarly revealing for all of you. Although the regular news feature is ending, Singletude will continue to call individual noteworthy stories to your attention as they develop. Likewise, the Singles With Singletude Award and the Singleschmucker will still be handed out from time to time. And, of course, the Singles in the News reader on the homepage will keep reporting breaking headlines, so feel free to check in for the latest as often as you'd like.

In the future, should I find the means to do it, I hope to revive "Singles in the News" as a regular column. Anyone who has an interest in seeing that happen is invited to join me in contributing his or her time, talent, and passion for singles issues as a blogger for "Singles in the News." If I could find even one or two bloggers to divide news days with me, I'm sure the column could be up and running again in no time.

Till then, I leave you with the last "Singles in the News" post. Enjoy! Thanks for reading!


"Stop Looking for Mr. Right and Look for Mr. Right Now, Author Tells Women"
By Amy Willis
The Daily Telegraph
Summary: Sheeeeee's baaa-aaack. Not content with The Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb, who Singletude took to task in "'Marry Him' by Lori Gottlieb: A Singletude Response," has decided to target a wider audience with her matrimaniacal scare tactics by publishing a book. It's called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. The title should need no further explanation. This disappointing article is obviously on board with her views, even recruiting a psychologist to back them. Apparently, there's also a movie deal in the works, and Tobey Maguire is attached to it. (His spidey senses are really off on this one!) While the author and her supporters have a point about realism--anyone who wants to get married should be prepared for a lot of hard work and should by no means expect perfection from a partner--Gottlieb actually advocates marrying someone you don't love and seems to think women who prefer the single life are mythical creatures.


"Ladies Spread Love of Single Life This Valentine's Day"
Summary: Single ladies in Great Britain are sending snarky anti-Valentine's Day cards to each other.

"Single British Asian Mums Losing Their 'Honour Babies'"
By Ushma Mistry
Summary: This report sheds light on the plight of young, unwed mothers in South Asian immigrant communities, many of whom are forced to place their babies with adoptive families so as not to "shame" their parents.

"Trees for Cities Tree-planting to Help Singles Looking for Love in Manchester"
Summary: Singletude sees a lot of speed dating events every week, and most of them aren't newsworthy. But this one in Manchester, England offers a new twist on an old theme. Singles will be paired with partners to plant trees for the city in a community service project. We could sure use some speed dating events with a social conscience on this side of the Atlantic!


"Uncommon Law: Miss or Mrs.--What's the Court's Business?"
By Chinua Asuzu
Summary: In Nigeria, it's common practice for female attorneys to state their marital status in court, while men are subjected to no such requirement. To his credit, this male attorney asks why.

"Unlikely Alliances Work to Save Minnesota's Health-Care Program for the Poor"
By Casey Selix
Summary: Singletude has been following the fate of Minnesota's General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), a program for low-income, child-free singles. Encouragingly, individuals, businesses, and organizations from all walks of life--even conservatives--are banding together to support the endangered program at a rally on February 4. This article takes an in-depth look at the unprecedented action to save GAMC in the midst of an uphill battle for funding. In the meantime, Minnesota has agreed to extend the program for a month longer than originally planned.

"We Must Never Stop Searching for Mr. Right"
By Becky Pugh
The Sydney Morning Herald
Summary: It wasn't long before rebuttals to Lori Gottlieb's book (see above) were zinging back across cyberspace. This one was particularly well stated. Pugh protests, "We don't accept mediocrity from our government; we don't accept mediocrity in our careers; and we don't accept it in our friendships. Why should we accept it in marriage?" She goes on to explain why 30 can no longer be touted as a benchmark age for single women hoping to marry and urges these same women not to trap themselves in loveless marriages just because "if you're lucky enough to have a big house, a good car, a husband and some children, the consensus is that you've hit the jackpot." Finally, she makes room for single women to fire back. As one says, "'...Maybe Mr. Right won't ever come along, and maybe some of us will live out our years as spinsters. For some people, it doesn't happen at all. Is that thought so awful?'" Not for this single woman!


Singles With Singletude Award
"Singles Subsidising [sic] Married"
By Mary Minihan
The Irish Times
Summary: Leo Varadkar, an Irish politician, is quite possibly the first legislator in the Western world to criticize a tax system that discriminates against singles. (The Irish system apparently operates very similarly to ours in this regard.) Says Varadkar, who is single, "'There would be people in this House for example who have the same income as me who have stay-at-home wives who don’t work, yet they pay less tax than I do....You have single people effectively subsidising the lifestyles of people who happen to be married.'" Varadkar states that he knows he'll get a lot of flak for voicing this injustice. That's probably true, and it's sad that, after all these years, any industrialized nation would still actively oppose equal treatment for all under the law. Singletude hopes that US lawmakers will follow Varadkar's example and stand up for what's right and that singles here will unite to support any candidate who does. (Part of the problem, folks, is that we singletons are just not vocal enough in the political sphere.) This is a short article, but it wins the Singles With Singletude Award for helping a pro-single politician speak out for marital status equality and for doing so without a hint of the irony or condescension that often inform such pieces.

"Slopes Trails"
By Sarah Lemon
Mail Tribune
Summary: In Oregon, a singles club called Slopes and Trails helps single adults make friends while staying physically fit. Members say it's "'more of an activities group than a dating group'" and that some have found "'lifelong friends.'"


Singleschmucker Award
"Married Men Can Earn a Third More Than Their Single Counterparts"
By Keri Sutherland
The Daily Mail
Summary: This article opens with the statement, "Married men earn nearly one third more than single males because they work harder, new research reveals." Laypeople cannot access the study in question, "Marriage and Earnings: Why Do Married Men Earn More Than Single Men?" by Matthias Pollmann-Schult of the University of Bielefeld in Germany. However, the abstract and this article make it clear that over 12,000 men were surveyed and that the study was controlled for the effects of age, education, and work experience, yet married men still earned a third more than single men did. This is not because wives were picking up the slack at home, allowing their husbands to get more done at work, the research reports, but because "'a lower level of pay satisfaction induces married men to put more effort into their work, which leads to higher wages.'" Without reading the source material, it's hard to know what the study really shows, but count me among the skeptics. I can believe that men become less satisfied with their paychecks after they get married; their wives usually expect them to be "providers" and bring home the bacon to buy a house, new furniture, and piano lessons for the kids. But in order to assess whether married men actually work harder, we would have to compare the number of hours they work per week to the number of hours that single men work. This study also attempts to prove that the income disparity between single and married men is due entirely to the latter's alleged penchant for working longer hours at the office. In order to isolate that as the "cause," researchers would need to find some way to demonstrate that employers don't favor married men for promotions, raises, and big projects that could lead to either. This is difficult because chances are few executives will admit to discriminating against single workers. Nevertheless, until we have conclusive evidence that employers have leveled the playing field for single and married men, we can't say that married men are better compensated because they somehow earned it.

"Single, But Not Alone"
By Nandita Sengupta
The Times of India
Summary: In India, single women are just beginning to emerge from centuries of objectification and brutalization. But plenty still find themselves violently victimized. Now, instead of looking to husbands to protect them, they look to the law and advocacy groups.

Do you have thoughts on any of the stories above? (When commenting, please reference the title of the article.)

Want to stay current on changes in the world that impact singles? Read the latest news about singles every day! Check out the Singletude newsreader under Singles in the News on the homepage!

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have an unpublished rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a "Singletude Q&A" or your rant or rave in a "Singletude Sound-off"! Singletude makes every effort to publish submissions in their original form but reserves the right to edit for length and clarity.