Self-absorbed is self-absorbed, and marital status has nothing to do with it

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Single or married, self-absorbed people are going to be that way

Washington, D.C.: A friend and I (both married for 10-plus years, with children) have a theory that will sound awful at first, but I do really want your opinion.

We find, as we get older, that our friends who are single are very self-involved. As we take into consideration our husbands, our children, we inevitably end up being more aware of others in general.

With our single friends, it's the polar opposite. They seem to only really have a focus of what is going on in their individual lives with little to no awareness of how they come off to other people.

This is something we have noticed for years. I'm sure I'll open the floodgates on this, but doesn't it make sense that because a person in a relationship/with children is constantly aware of others, they just tend to have a better perspective than just their own selfish one?

Carolyn: Nope, it doesn't "make sense" to me.

People who are self-absorbed are going to be self-absorbed. When they have spouses and children (more the latter than the former) that usually means they expand their Ring of Me to include the spouse and kids. So, yes, they do care about and think about other people, technically — it's just that those other people are limited to their spawn and thus (in their eyes) to extensions of them. And, accordingly, they blather on about them without asking their friends (single or married, parents or not) anything about their lives.

People who aren't self-absorbed, on the other hand, will have an admirable capacity to consider the well-being of others in addition to and sometimes to the exclusion of their own. The ones with spouses and kids will often manifest this trait through generosity and inclusiveness in their approach to their extended families, friends, schools, neighborhoods, etc., as well as through more individual means.

The ones without spouses and kids, meanwhile, are often the ones families count on to travel farthest to family events, to nurse ailing parents, to work late when everyone else has to bail, to throw themselves into volunteer work in ways that people with more demanding ties simply can't, to be the best uncles and aunties (or Big Brothers and Big Sisters) around.

In fact, I have two friends in mind, single, sans kids, who are deeply involved in youth leadership at their churches. Your observation offends me on their behalf.

Now, one area where you might be onto something (and a sliver of a something it is) involves the people who dwell on a pre-awareness fence, who have it in them to see beyond their navels — but their experience hasn't awakened them yet to this capability. The experience of having one's own family, of having needs besides one's own that must be considered, can bring about that awakening.

But so can, say, the death of someone close, or travel to a devastated part of the world (or just news footage of something tragic), or even just a friendship that opens you up — and all of these are available to people who haven't married or raised kids.

Tuesday: An exception taken, and a spinoff question.

Self-absorbed is self-absorbed, and marital status has nothing to do with it 11/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:23pm]

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