I Spent A Week Asking Coupled-Up People Why They're In Relationships

As a single woman, I get asked a lot of intrusive questions about my love life. "Have you tried dating apps?" (Yes. Every single one.) "Have you considered moving out of a major city? It might be easier." (Considering my job and friends are here, I'm not going to uproot myself to maybe land a man.) "Don't you worry about having kids one day?" (Thanks for reducing me to my womb, pal.)

And while all of these are terrible, awful, no-good inquiries, there is one that bothers me more than the rest: "Why are you single?" It's a ridiculous question to ask a person — right up there with, "How are you still single?" It's like asking a person why they're not taller, or why they were born with brown eyes. I'm not sure why I'm single. If I knew, I might not be single anymore.

And honestly, have you ever heard someone ask coupled-up people why they're coupled-up? Probably not, because why would someone ask such a nonsense small-talk question?

But because I thrive in nonsense, I decided to spend a week asking coupled-up folk why they aren't single. I had some rules for this, though. Since I consider this a rude question that would inevitably lead to the person telling me to fuck off, I'd only ask people who I didn't already intimately know. No badgering my friends and fam about their duo status. (You're welcome, guys.)

Ahead, find out how my week went. Spoiler: I only got told to fuck off once.

I feel more myself in a relationship.

On the first night of this experiment, my friend invited me to a dinner party she was hosting with a bunch of people I'd never met before. When I arrived, I tossed my coat off, grabbed a glass of champagne, and started talking to the first person with whom I made eye contact. Her name was Tara* and we started chatting, eventually talking about the fact that she and her boyfriend had recently moved into a new apartment. I asked her if this was their first time living together, and she said yes.

"Can I ask you a weird question?" I said. She nodded, and I went in for the kill. "Why are you in a relationship?"

Tara looked at me totally stunned. I think, for a second, she thought I was hitting on her. But then she started laughing. "No one has ever asked me that before!" she said. I quickly explained why I was asking — that, as a single woman, I get asked all the time, but never hear people asking couples — and she said she'd never realized that before.

"I guess I just feel more myself in a relationship," Tara said, after taking a minute to think. "I really love him, and I love our life together. And I like the security of being in a relationship."

I loved that answer. When I was more cynical about love, I probably would have considered the idea of being "more yourself" in a relationship too dependent and clingy. In the past, I probably would have shaken her and told her, "YOU DON'T NEED NO MAN!" But coming from Tara, it sounded really honest and beautiful.

We've been together so long that it just makes sense.

A couple of nights later, I found myself alone in an Uber Pool. After a couple of minutes, the driver picked up a second passenger — a cute guy who looked like he was in his early 30s. Usually, I'm not interested in chatting in an Uber. But this guy looked friendly enough, so when he asked how my night was going, I decided to actually talk to him, too.

I asked where he was coming from, and he told me his boyfriend's's place. "Oh! That's awesome!" I said, a little too excitedly. (Thanks, vodka.) I'd found my second person to talk to for this story! He gave me a little side-eye, so I laughed and explained what I did for a living. "I'm working on a story, and I wonder if I could ask you — why are you in a relationship?"

His eyes widened. "Whoa, that's heavy," he said. He started listing off a lot of basic factoids about his S.O. — he's funny, they have a lot in common, and they have good sex. I asked him if that was all, and he sighed. "We've been together so long, that it just makes sense," he said. "But is that a good reason?"

Fearing that I might have just initiated the breakup of what seemed to be a lovely (and sexually compatible, by the sound of it) couple, I quickly explained to him why I was asking the question, and then starting yammering on about the other kinds of stories I was working on. He was sweet and engaged, and we talked until we got to my stop. But I could tell that my question still lingered with him.

I don't really know. But I think we're happy.

One of the reasons why I love the bar around the corner from my apartment is because the bartenders are always up for a chat. But on this particular night, my guy was busy, so I struck up a conversation with Wyatt*, another patron sitting near my stool. We eventually got to flirting, and I was getting some serious vibes from him. So when he got up to leave, I asked for his phone number, but was surprised when he told me he had a girlfriend.

"Really?" I asked. "Why are you in a relationship?" Wyatt laughed and asked if that was my way of hitting on him. I told him no, I respected another person's claim, but that I really wanted to know.

He leaned in, looked into my eyes, and said, "I don't know. But I think we're happy."

For some reason, I didn't believe him in that moment. Why would he be flirting with a woman at a bar if he had a partner back at home? But I tried to remember that everyone is on their own journey, and every relationship is different. Wyatt bought my next drink, paid his tab, and then walked out of the bar — presumably, back to his girlfriend.

What kind of question is that?

After Wyatt left, I struck up a conversation with the couple sitting to my left at the same bar. They'd just moved to the neighborhood, so I started giving them suggestions of places they should try out.

It must have been the beer talking, but out of nowhere, I just blurted out the question: "Why are you in a relationship?" They were both stunned, but then the woman answered me. "What the fuck kind of question is that?" I laughed, but she didn't think it was funny. "That's a really rude question to ask, don't you think?" she said.

I tried to explain why I was asking, but she didn't want to hear it. Her partner, on the other hand, didn't know what to say. I was totally embarrassed, and figuring that there was no graceful way to extract myself from the conversation, I paid my tab, apologized, and left the bar.

The lesson there? Maybe this is a rude question, after all.

So, what did I learn?

I'm not sure there's a grand, life-altering lesson to be learned here. But I certainly confirmed my belief that relationship status doesn't really tell you much about who a person is at their core. More importantly, I was reminded that I actually don't have to answer intrusive questions about my dating life.

So the next time someone asks, "Why are you still single?" I won't answer the question as it's asked. I'll say, "I'm not really sure, but it's opened me up to some really amazing experiences." And then I'll go about filling in the blanks of what makes me a fully fleshed-out person who just happens to not be in a relationship. Because, for the most part, the people who are inquiring are likely well-meaning — and telling someone to fuck off isn't really my preferred strategy.

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