Words: Singleness… and Marriedness

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The English language is missing some words. For instance, there are gender-neutral terms for a grandmother or grandfather (grandparent) and for a brother or sister (sibling) but no categorical term for aunt and uncle or niece and nephew. At the same time, there’s no gender-specific term for cousin (while other languages do have a term). This has always bothered me.

Recently, I realized another word that’s missing. The other day, I was trying to explain and how I’m trying to figure out how all of the things I’m already trying to balance fit into now being married, but couldn’t find the right noun to label being married. So, I made one up: “marriedness.” Before, I was single, and the state of being single was called singleness. It makes sense that now that I am married, the state of being married would be called marriedness.

I made it up in a random course of thought, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. To be fair, I’m not the first person to come up with the term. You can google it and find some usages. But it’s not in any major dictionaries that I can find. In fact, every time I type “marriedness,” my blog spellchecker is underlining it with that squiggly red line (yet, it didn’t have any problem with me typing “squiggly” just then).

Here’s why I like the term, “marriedness”:

  • Having a term for being married that matches a term for being single emphasizes that they are equal states. Different, yes, but equal. One is not quantitatively better than another, nor is a person who is married somehow more valuable than a person who is not (or vice versa). (And please don’t pull out Genesis 2:18, when God says it is not good for man to be alone, and then creates Eve. Adam was literally the only human being in existence at the time. Plus, Paul later says he wishes people could stay single as he is, even though he knows that’s not best for everyone).
  • Referring to one’s marital status as a state helps relegate it to being part of one’s story, not someone’s very identity. It can be a helpful way to remember the person in front of you is first and foremost a person, a person whose identity and situation are multi-faceted and cannot be generalized. It can also help when your own situation has changed (regardless of which way it has changed). As someone who struggles significantly with change, referring to my new “marriedness” (as opposed to always sticking with “I’m married”) helps me keep change in perspective.
  • Having a term for “marriedness” takes away some of the negative connotation sometimes associated with singleness. Especially in church settings, “singleness” gets brought up as this strange, undesirable phenomenon. By naming a parallel term for being married, we start to create a context that recognizes both singleness and marriedness as relative situations that may or may not happen to be a part of an individual’s life at a point in time.

I want to acknowledge that I’m only talking about two categories here, and there are many people in situations that don’t fit into the categories of singleness or marriedness. There’s also quite a bit of variation even within those two broad categories, and I’m not pretending to be able to represent them all.

I’m also not saying we should stop using the adjectives (“single” and “married”) rather than the nouns (“singleness” and “marriedness”). But we do need to be mindful of the ways our language has evolved to make certain things seem better–or at least more normal–than others. Language will always have its limitations, but that doesn’t mean we stop exploring ways to broaden it.

Part of the personal irony of this post is that one of the main reasons I have time to write it is because my husband isn’t around this week. I don’t have a lot of free time during the school year anyway, but my time was more flexible in the context of singleness. But marriedness isn’t the only reason that I haven’t had as much time (or haven’t felt up to writing). It’s just one factor. One factor that doesn’t make me more or less a person, just like it doesn’t make me more or less me.

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