Single or married? It’s a pretty straightforward question, right? Jess Jones laments the difficulty of filling in a simple form when your relationship doesn’t quite fit the box.


One question irks me when I fill out forms with my personal information: are you single or married?

Surely harking back to a quainter time, the question is based on a now absurd false dichotomy of relationships.

I’m neither single nor married, a situation I imagine is more common among queer folks than our straight counterparts, and I’m never sure which box to tick.

Over time the standard options have broadened to acknowledge de facto relationships and divorce as well. But for some of us, there still isn’t a neat box that accurately describes our status.

At this time in my life, I’m in a relationship with one person. We don’t live together, so we’re not de facto.

However, saying I’m single because we live separately just feels like an insult.

I had a partner years ago who was actually quite distressed when they told a doctor they were dating and it was recorded as single.

Why is there never a box that just says partnered? I imagine for places like hospitals that might want to compare data over time, it’s to keep things consistent. But it does make things difficult for people whose relationship doesn’t neatly fit into the progression of single, de facto, and married.

Even for people who are engaged, if they don’t live together they would have to pick between single and married.

For polyamorous people, things can be more complicated still.

Do you privilege a ‘primary’ relationship by nominating yourself as married or de facto, or insult multiple people by identifying as single? And for that matter, who gets the privilege of having their details listed as your partner when you have more than one?

I am divorced, in fact, but what does that have to do with anything?

I don’t see at all why my banking or medical records should say anything about a relationship I used to be in. Over time it will become even less relevant—who could possibly care when I’m in my sixties whether I was married half a lifetime ago?

For a number of years while we were still together and married, my spouse and I lived separately. Back then it was easy enough to tick the married box, but I got a little kick out of calling it a reverse de facto relationship.

Trying to get people to understand that we weren’t separated was always a challenge though.

I found it strange that nobody could fathom our being married and not living together. It’s not unheard of, and of course plenty of people in long-term relationships who aren’t married live separately.

It’s also sometimes called ‘living apart together’.

With the advent of same-sex marriage in Australia, I wonder if some LGBTI couples, being less shackled to heteronormativity, might embrace living apart together after marriage.

For now, whenever I have to fill in a form that includes my marital status, I simply leave that question blank if I can.

When my non-response meets a computer it usually defaults to a status of ‘child’, which I suppose I can wear, until I’m ready to suck it up and admit to being divorced.

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