5 Unhelpful Suggestions Single People Hate to Hear
In between the time when my husband and I got separated and we actually signed our divorce papers, there were quite a few difficult instances. Getting used to the new schedule of shared custody of our daughters, explaining to two preschoolers how mom and dad will always love them even if they stopped functioning as a couple, getting used to waking up in an empty bed after more than a decade of sharing it, telling people about the long-story-short public version of our messy lives — these were just tiny moments of a tumultuous period of my life.
I remember the big things and I graciously allowed myself to forget about the daily struggles — difficult times dotted with glimpses of hope that I made the right choice; sleepless nights torturing myself until sunrise that I ruined several lives.
I remember clearly the day when I was changing my Facebook relationship status from married to single. Such a mundane, stupid thing to remember — it tasted like defeat. I was staring at it for long minutes — it wasn’t the celebration of a new life, the promise that I will find happiness with someone else; it was a moment when I felt I failed. I failed as a woman and a partner, and all I could do was hope that I wouldn’t fail as a mother too. I hid my relationship status from my profile, hiding my singlehood, my failure, my hopes.
When people get engaged or married and they gleefully post about it, there is a tsunami of hearts and celebration balloons, endless comments of congratulations and good wishes. When you get divorced or you get separated after a relationship, there is nothing to celebrate, congratulate, or to be proud of. Clearly, you have done something wrong, or else you would be still together, you didn’t have to leave or they wouldn’t have left you.
Being single is difficult. Not for everyone, but it is for a lot of us. It has several layers to it, starting from the practical financial part and the disappearing intimacy layer to the feeling of killer loneliness and being unheard and unseen.
When I started dating again and I told my friends about my sometimes funny, sometimes horrific dating stories, that’s when it started. The flood of unsolicited and only mildly helpful advice from friends and acquaintances have knocked me off my feet.
I want to believe they meant no harm and their helpful advice wasn’t about suggesting how inferior singlehood is to being partnered, but nevertheless I grew to hate talking about being single. Eventually, I stopped talking about it, shrugged it away, or told them I was too busy to think about a relationship. Deep down I was dying for a reassuring word that I am loveable and worthy and that I will find another relationship, I will find love again.
Whether someone is single by choice or by chance, there are a few things they won’t find helpful but offensive and insulting. No matter how well you mean, it can easily backfire and make your single friend retract to their shell. After all, who likes to be humiliated, doubted, and fed with useless advice?
Here’s what to avoid if you want to be a decent friend:
You Need to Stop Looking For It
No, you shouldn’t! It might seem romantic to bump into the love of your life on the street, falling in love with a stranger sitting next to you on an airplane, or accidentally spill orange juice on your future spouse in Starbucks, it’s not too realistic to count on these unexpected scenarios. It happens that you meet someone by accident or you start to see an old friend through a different lens all of a sudden — and it might feel like serendipity, but there has to be a certain openness to accidentally bump into someone or fall in love with them.
You need to be ready and open to the possibility of finding love, because if you are not ready to recognise the signs even if they are in front of you, then your chances of getting dragged into it are quite slim.
You need to look for it, you need to keep your heart open, you need to expect the unexpected — to have a chance of finding it.
You Should Go Out More
When you are single, people automatically think that you are a recluse, an irreparable introvert, closed off from the world, living in your own bubble. Well, no wonder you are alone when you keep to yourself, and the cure to it is that you need to go out more.
Obviously, if you go out more, if you have friends to meet and hobbies that you do, it will make it more likely that you meet someone but it’s not a guarantee that you will find a relationship.
Why not? Because finding a good match is not easy. Most single people don’t have problems finding hook-ups or having friends with benefits — they are easier to come across. To find a good match, you also need a dose of luck and while regularly going out might increase your chances, it’s not a sure way to find your next partner.
You Should Enjoy Your Own Company
There is a concept that single people are miserable and only a relationship can fix them. As if it were impossible to be complete without your ‘other half’. Yet there is a contradictory concept that you need to be whole on your own and enjoy your own company.
Amazingly, it is possible to enjoy your own company and still long for someone else’s. Being in a good relationship means that you are understood, seen and supported for who you are and it allows you to spend time on your own, individually. It doesn’t work because two people need to complete each other as individuals but because they make each other’s life better — in their togetherness.
You can enjoy your life, you can be happily single, you can have dreams and goals and plans and you can be whole — yet you can still need someone to trust, to love, to want, to share your thoughts and life with.
You Need to Work On Yourself
We all need to work on ourselves — we can always grow, improve, heal a little bit more. Yet interestingly, it’s single people who are suggested more to work on themselves, as if their relationship status would suggest that they have something to fix.
Maybe you need to work on yourself and if you do, I trust that you know it and you already do it — self-improvement is not linked to getting into a relationship, it is an integral part of life that emotionally mature people do whether they are single or partnered.
You don’t need to get better to be loveable and enough. You don’t need to change to be worthy of love. You don’t need to improve yourself to deserve a partner. You are already enough, loveable and worthy — and you can improve yourself if you want. But not for anyone else, but for your own sake.
Maybe You’re Not Ready For It
Life is not like school that you get ready, you learn and then you pass a test. Life works backward. You get a lesson that you learn from and then you get ready for it as you go. Love is the same. You can’t get ready for love.
You can be very unprepared, immature, and emotionally incapable — but that usually doesn’t stop people from getting into relationships.
Being ready won’t save you from heartbreak or toxic people and it won’t guarantee you finding love either. You can’t get ready for a relationship, you can only get ready to be open for one. Relationships are fluid constructs, made of daily choices of two parties who keep choosing each other and evolving together.
Getting ready is usually just another form of procrastination, staying away from risk and rejection — so if you are reinforcing their belief that they need some more time, you might do more harm then good.
If your single friends complain about being single — about how difficult it is, how much it sucks, how lonely they are, you don’t need to offer them a word of advice. Maybe you just need to listen, ease their loneliness as friends do, assure them that they are enough and loveable, and offer your support however you can. That’s worth more than empty advice.