The Monogamist: Retaining Your Individuality When You’re Part Of A “We”

Last month, I showed up at a party that my hubby, Andy, and I had been invited to, and I was greeted with silence. Now, I know I’m not that unpopular, so something had to be wrong. As I shrugged off my coat and people got back to mingling, my friend approached with a vodka tonic in hand. Passing it to me and trying to sound casual, she said, “So…where’s Andy tonight?” And then, in a stage whisper, “Is anything wrong?” Then it hit me. I’d shown up alone, and everyone thought my relationship was on the rocks. The truth of it is that Andy’s friends were having a competing party that night and we’d made the mutual agreement to split up (for one night only!) to attend different functions. It’s weird, because Andy and I generally don’t fight in public and we’ve gone separate places fairly regularly, so I’m not sure what, exactly, foreshadowed this group conclusion. Maybe it was just because it was a party with a lot of couples and I hadn’t told anyone I’d be attending alone. So alarm bells went off.

It’s one thing to retain your sense of self by keeping up with hobbies, but when it comes to social engagements, especially when attendance as a couple is expected, things become wonky. Once you’re at a party, in a bar or at a group dinner minus your significant other, there’s concern. Let’s put aside for a second the actual status of my relationship. What makes it okay, during one of these events, to inquire about it? If I had been having issues, would the middle of a party be the place to address it? What would be their reaction if I broke down in tears, blubbering, “No, everything sucks. I just found out that my husband ran off with his masseuse.” I know this sort of personal-life inquiry comes out of a place of genuine concern, but it’s also got that hard-edged tint of rumor mill to it that is just in bad taste.

I don’t regularly have much empathy for celebrities, but the constant monitoring of the state of their relationship has got to be exhausting. There are some who deal with it by always holding hands and being the perfect couple when in front of the paparazzi. Then there’s Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, who are never seen in public together because it causes too much of a frenzy. Whispers (and headlines, actually) of divorce abound for Chris and Gwynnie. Or Oprah and Stedman. And think of poor Jennifer Lopez, who didn’t wear her wedding ring to the Golden Globes because it didn’t match her dress, and it caused a tabloid storm. (Okay, hold on. I take that back. That excuse was just lame and weird.) As for us civilians, I think Andy and I hit bars and parties enough to quell any concerns. And you’d damn well better believe that our wedding rings always match our outfits.

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