A single mother’s ears are always burning. People just can’t seem to resist talking about us. I wrote about the tendency society has to talk about — not to — unmarried mothers for The Atlantic last weekend (and if you haven’t already, take a minute to bookmark The Atlantic’s Sexes channel, where our article appeared. It’s great!), but what I didn’t say is that we aren’t completely ignored when talk of marriage emerges. Sometimes, people do, in fact, address us directly. And when they do, it’s hard to believe some of the things that come up.
Here are a few of the untruths and half-truths we single mothers are often told about marriage. (If you’ve heard one we haven’t mentioned, feel free to add your own in our comments section.)
1. If he left, he never loved you.
We get this one a lot — and if someone believes this, there’s little you can say to convince them otherwise. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Loving and leaving are not mutually exclusive. The former isn’t always enough to prevent the latter. As painful as it is to have someone walk away from a relationship — especially after children — the last thing you need to feel is pressure to defend yourself as lovable.
2. If he’d married you, he wouldn’t have left so easily/quickly/cavalierly.
Not only does this comment assume your partner left “easily,” it also presumes that marrying a person who would be inclined to leave at all would somehow change his core personality. Legally, marriage makes dissolving a romantic partnership more difficult. But it doesn’t prevent a partner from walking away, especially if he would consider a child, a hardship, or an emotional trigger as a reason to do so.
3. If you’ve been married before, you’re not “really” a single mother.
Women from various backgrounds and with a number of different relationship statuses identify as single. Divorced women are among them. In some cases, they are the sole or primary caregivers and providers for their children.