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Are You a Married Single Woman or Man?

Married but alone much of the time, either at work far from home or at home with kids? A MSW tells her story...


Are you a Married Single Woman? Yesterday, arriving home after the school run, fresh coffee in hand, a Facebook post about marriage caught my attention. Scanning the comment thread underneath, I came across the phrase: ‘Married Single Woman’. Intrigued, a quick bit of Google searching led me to discover that I’m the archetypal Married Single Woman; part of a tribe I didn’t even know existed.


A Married Single Woman has generally been in a relationship for a good ten years and has at least two children. She’s often late, usually harassed and frequently complains about her life. You rarely see her husband because he either works away and returns home just for the weekend, or he’s a long distance commuter, arriving home late in the evening after the children are in bed. Most of the burdens and responsibilities of family life fall to her and she complains about that above all else. Life is an endless round of juggling, with never enough time to fit everything in, and at times the burden of all these chores can seem overwhelming.


In our large commuter town, there are many women like me, some of whom are known as the “Pyjama Wives”. They drop their husbands off early at the train station, still dressed in their nightclothes, with fractious half-awake children squabbling in the back of the car. When evening comes, they dutifully meet him at the station, squeezing the trip in between after school clubs and cooking the dinner. I’m fortunate that my husband drives himself but he still spends long hours away from home: he’s on the train to London by 7am, never returning home before 6pm and often later.


Steve, my close friend Sarah’s husband, lost his job six years ago and after searching for some time, he eventually accepted a post in Germany. For four years, Steve only saw his family every two or three weeks when he flew home on a Friday night for a weekend visit and during the long summer holidays when they went out to stay with him. He’s back working in the UK now but still only sees his family at the weekend.


“I’ve become a completely different person in order to cope with being on my own all the time,” Sarah says. “It’s up to me to sort out all of the children’s needs and manage the house too.” She’s become far more self-reliant and resilient than when we first met nearly a decade before.


Reading the comments on the Facebook post, few of the contributors seem to have thought about what life is like for our husbands. Would you want to spend the week away from your family only seeing them at weekends; or stand up on an overcrowded commuter train for an hour twice a day; suffer poor health due to the long hours you worked and miss school performances because you couldn’t take time off? Of course you wouldn’t.


Peter, an engineer in his forties, works away all week, staying overnight in B&Bs. “I’m always by myself,” he told me, his downcast face revealing his loneliness.


In many ways I have a lot to thank my husband for:  I wouldn’t have been able to stay at home with my children when they were tiny, which I really wanted to do, and these days, my second career would be impossible without his substantial salary.


Living this kind of life, however, is not good for a marriage. Many wives, seeking company and some stress relief, will invariably make a life away from their husbands. We arrange our social lives to suit ourselves, without giving much thought to their needs. And when our partners are at home, it can be difficult to connect. “Often when Steve walks in the door on a Friday night we’ll have a big argument because I’m not used to him being here,” Sarah confided, “then after that we’re OK.” It's almost as if they need to fight before they can function as a couple again.


Weekends can be hard too; tension is most likely to surface then. Realising you have the whole weekend together takes a big mental adjustment on a Saturday morning. Tired after a week’s commuting, my husband just wants to relax in front of the TV; whereas I want to make the most of the time we do have together and like to get out of the house. My children have come to view Mum as the person who does things with them, whereas Dad rarely does. Obviously, this isn’t entirely true and it’s also an assumption that hurts. A lot.


Sadly, many marriages crumble under the strain of coping with this lifestyle. The wife can become bitter about what she sees as her unfair domestic burden and the husband resentful of the lack of support and life his wife is making without him. By the time they realise what has happened, often the divisions are too wide and the recriminations too many for the relationship to be saved.


Increasing numbers of couples are feeling forced into marriages such as Sarah's and mine, compromises born out of necessity. The job market's structure and the ever-rising costs of raising a family are mainly to blame, along with the housing market in the south east, which prices many families out of living in London.


Naturally, we’d both prefer it if my husband didn’t have to commute but all the jobs that pay good money in his profession are in the City and so unless he accepts a 50% wage cut, we're stuck in this way of life. Also his salary gives us the chance to save money for the children’s future, which in these days of large university fees and the near impossibility of getting on the housing market without a substantial deposit, is becoming an essential part of parenting for those who can afford it.


Similarly, Sarah felt that she couldn’t move out to Germany with Steve when he decided to take the job: “We thought about it but the children were both happy at school and we didn’t want to move them away from their friends,” she explained. “Also, it was short term contract and he might have been asked to move to a different country after it finished, so it was easier for us to stay here.”


It would be oh so easy for me to grumble about my life like all those wives on Facebook but let’s remember that marriage is supposed to be a partnership. We’re meant to support each other "for better or for worse", whether that’s through illness, bereavement or a career that means one partner is away from home frequently. In the end, complaining about how you feel achieves nothing. Far better either to accept that this is your life and make the most of the time you do have together, or if you really want to change it, then take some positive steps to do so.


Top Tips For Surviving As A Married Single Woman


  • Ensure you have evenings out together regularly with your partner; the housework can wait.
  • Make time to do things as a whole family, so that the children stay connected to their father.
  • Have an activity that’s just for you during the week. It could be sport, music or book club; the point is for it to be enjoyable and relaxing and time off from your responsibilities.
  • Try to be organised. It may sound obvious but feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to do can be paralyzing. Make a list, if that’s your thing.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get everything done that you want to by the end of the week; you’re only human. Have more realistic goals next week.
  • If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed about coping with your life then talk to someone, whether it’s your husband, a friend or a professional. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up, when a simple conversation may sort out your problem.


Names and places have been changed to protect privacy.


Image credit: (c) author

Becky Killoran

About the Writer

Becky was a TEFL teacher for many years, including two spent in Japan. A keen reader, she is also passionate about music and is an enthusiastic member of her local choir, Rock Chorus. She lives with her family in Milton Keynes.


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