Saskatoon·Point of View

Status — 'In A Relationship': Why reactions to my recent coupling rubbed me the wrong way

The world is changing. The idea that being in a relationship is the definition of success is over.
Dalman said he was flattered and then somewhat frustrated after announcing he was in a relationship online. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

I was tempted to see how it felt; to see if I liked it. I kept telling myself it wasn't a big deal; it was only a tiny redefining. 

But I had never done it. Did I feel left out? Not exactly. But since I'm in something that feels real and legit, I participated this time.

I clicked and within seconds — at 32 — I was in my first Facebook Official Relationship.

I tried to brush it off as nothing. I didn't need any external validation. Did I need my second cousins to know I had a boyfriend? I guess in some way I did.

I was not prepared, however, for the flurry of responses that this seemingly small action would produce. In seconds I had seemingly legitimized my relationship, and opened it up for people to comment on. 

I wasn't surprised that people reacted. I was, actually, a little flattered.

What caught me off guard were the sentiments shared.

A lot of them congratulated me -- fervently. That made my skin itch and, to be honest, was a little bit of a buzzkill.

Yes, my partner is a dreamboat (I am very much aware), but did nabbing him necessitate a congratulations? Had I really achieved anything? Sure, it's a nice thing for me personally, but what made others so invested? 

Daniel Dalman is a freelance writer in Saskatoon. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

In fairness, I had always thought I would end my life in some sort of Grey Gardens-esque manner -- in a ramshackle mansion with my sisters and a bunch of raccoons. But that was beside the point. Does a relationship change that inevitable outcome? Not if I have anything to say about that. (Sorry, honey!)

As I scrolled through the emoji reactions, written responses, and private messages surrounding this momentous Internet occasion, I couldn't help but feel a lot of backward-looking embarrassment. I wondered if in the preceding decades had these people been pitying me without my knowledge, categorizing me as a sad-sack single. I worried about them imagining me wearing a kaftan, microwaving meals for one and lamenting my single status in front of the TV. 

Their interest made it feel like they were previously convinced it was never going to happen for me.

"Poor Daniel," they must have thought when I would RSVP as single to their weddings, "just can't land a date."

I have a self-deprecating sense of humour, but I hardly felt I was a target for such sympathy. About the fourth time that someone who had never invited me out for any sort of social occasion before mentioned that "we should do drinks" (the "we" meaning them and their significant other and me with mine), I became resentful.

In 2019 are people really more comfortable with a coupled friend than with a single one? It's as if I am now a settled and valid member of society, one who is easier for you to be around and presumably split a blooming onion with.

It doesn't make sense.

The happily-ever-after narrative has shifted. There is an unprecedented number of single people, of all ages, for all sorts of reasons. It is estimated that when today's young adults reach the age of 50, one in four of them would have remained single their entire lives. That's a big deal.

Even more so the story isn't as simple as it once was. The definition of what being in a relationship means is shifting. There are many different relationship types (open, non-monogamous, polyamorous) and each one is as unique as the people it in.

Even Gwyneth Paltrow (glory be her name), the queen of conscious uncoupling (and one can assume, coupling) doesn't even live with her current husband.

The world is changing. The idea that being in a relationship is the definition of success is over. It should no longer define those in them, and choosing to not be in a relationship should be viewed as valid a choice as being in one.


This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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About the Author

Daniel is a writer and avid Instagram-er living in Saskatoon. When not leaving people on read he can be found enjoying a glass of wine, dining out, and taking a spin class — although he rarely does all three at the same time. Follow him on Instagram: @DanielDalman.

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