What not to say to single people
Honestly I am exhausted and don’t even know where to begin. I’m 30 and single and have another ten years or so of being in my 30s and single/unmarried. Who knows what comes after that.
Now before you roll your eyes about how this isn’t that big a deal, or because there are bigger problems in the world, etc. etc., let me just say that I’m writing this for people like me who often feel left out and alone. I also want to say now only that I understand that relationships and marriages are hard, that it’s possible to be stuck in a lonely or toxic relationship, that being single is better than being with someone abusive, etc. I know and acknowledge all that.
This is not so much a “grass is greener on the other side” situation, this is just a “let me tell you about my side of the grass” situation. I honestly have no idea what the grass is like on the other side. I don’t know if it’s greener or browner or full of trash or whatever and I may never find out. All I know is that I’m tired of people telling me that the other side is where I need to be and that the side I’m on is just a phase that I’ll get through or a problem to be solved.
“So, when are you getting married?”
Why are we so confident this is a question of when? What is this assumption that it’s bound to happen and that’s it’s just a matter of time? Personally I’m not opposed to the idea of marriage, but at this point it feels like the idea of marriage is opposed to me.
Most women I know are still struggling to get “permission” to work after marriage — i.e. have steady, predictable, comfortable 9–5 jobs. Not even run their own businesses or freelance or prioritise their work over their husbands’ work. Sorry but all that isn’t going to work for me. So don’t ask me WHEN I’m getting married when the key word right now is IF.
For me personally, if I am to get married, my partner will have to be willing to make all the sacrifices normally expected of women. They’ll have to be willing to mould their lives around my work because for me, my work comes first. It’s the only thing that makes me truly happy and I’m not about to give that up. They’ll have to deal with my long days, late nights, days away from home, travel, temporary relocation etc. All the things women are expected to do for working men. So until that miracle happens, it’s just me and my rage against the machine.
“Don’t worry, when the time is right, it’ll all fall into place!”
Who said I was worried? Why should I be worried? What’s wrong with being single? Are YOU worried? WHY are you worried? What’s worrisome about being independent?
I’m lonely, yes, but I’m not worried. I can earn my own money, I’ve lived alone for many years of my life, I have wonderful friends and family I can rely on. If I complain about being single, it’s because the daily ups and downs of being single are exhausting. Just say “Damn, that sounds hard” and leave it at that. I just want to vent. I don’t want solutions.
The same way you want to bitch about your spouse and expect me to just listen rather than suggest divorce. God forbid I actually tell you that I think your spouse doesn’t deserve you, lolz, you’ll jump to their defence, no? Same here buddy. I’m 90% content. Just let me vent about the 10%.
“You’re too picky!”
I would literally rather be alone for the rest of my life than be with someone who isn’t worth my time. It’s this kind of fucked up logic that perpetuates toxic and abusive relationships. People settle for less, compromise, and stay unhappy because they think that asking for happiness is too much.
This is probably the most messed up thing you can say to someone, honestly. If you compromised, good for you. If you regret compromising, I’m sorry that you’re in that situation, and I hope you can get out of it. But don’t expect me to put my marital status above asking for what I deserve. You know what happens when people aren’t picky enough? Separation, divorce, abuse, a lifetime of unhappiness, among other things. No thanks, not interested.
Also, I’m not asking for anything that I am not. I’m asking for things that I know I am and that I know I can give. If I exist, surely there’s another person like me out there somewhere.
“You should learn to compromise”
Compromising with your partner AFTER you get into a relationship is completely different than compromising on the kind of person you want to be with.
Compromising on what kind of sofa to buy or where to buy an apartment is not the same as saying “It’s okay if this person has anger issues, at least they’re rich and good looking!”
“Your life must be so exciting!”
Oh yes, of course. Having the same conversation over and over again on dating apps, so exciting. Meeting every kind of horrible person and repeating the cycle of hope, excitement, disappointment, and heartbreak over and over and over and over again is so exciting.
I’m so glad that my stories of getting ghosted or two timed or cheated on or manipulated are so exciting for you! I’m so happy that you’re entertained by my heartbreak and trust issues.
Knowing that I want love, constantly looking for love, working on my issues around love, and still never finding it is not entertaining. It’s exhausting. If you expect me to understand that relationships and marriage are hard, then please extend the same empathy you expect.
[All other generic problem solving type gyaan]
It’s really really easy for you to say when you’re already where someone is trying to get to. It’s easy to forget how difficult things used to be. Or it’s hard to understand what someone else is going through if you’ve never been there.
Gyaan is free, homie. Gyaan is free. It’s easy for someone really rich to say that money doesn’t buy happiness — if they’ve never experienced the chronic stress of living pay check to pay check or being unemployed for long periods of time.
It’s easy for someone with an able body and neuro-typical mind to talk about how fitness comes down to will power — because they don’t have an eating disorder or a genetic condition or predisposition.
I’m not saying you don’t have problems. I’m not saying rich people or fit people don’t work hard. I’m sure they do. I’m sure you work hard at your relationship and overcame your own baggage to get to where you are today. I’m just saying, acknowledge your privilege. You had or have fewer issues to deal with.
A lot of the times, finding a partner comes down to sheer luck and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sometimes it comes down to circumstance. Sometimes there are other factors that make things harder for some people to find or sustain love.
Maybe someone has trust or abandonment issues because of their childhood, or they had bad role models growing up. Maybe they have chronic mental or physical illnesses, disabilities, or conditions that prevent them from participating in romance the way most people do. Maybe they just really love being alone. Maybe they’re truly exceptional or particularly odd and have a hard time finding someone who really understands them.
Maybe someone found and then lost the love of their lives to sudden death or terminal illness or to someone else. Maybe they aren’t ready or willing to love again. Maybe they want it but can’t handle it. There’s a million things about someone’s life that you don’t know about.
What can you do instead?
Acknowledge your privilege. Exercise empathy. Just listen. Say these things instead:
- I hope you know that you’re amazing and you deserve to find exactly what you’re looking for.
- I know it’s not easy to watch someone else get lucky when you’ve been trying for so long.
- Damn, that sounds hard. It must be difficult.
- I’m happy you’re no longer dating people who made you feel horrible.
- I’m sorry it’s been difficult for you to find someone to connect with.
- Whether you’re single or not, I hope you know how loved you are. You don’t need to be a romantic partner to add value to someone’s life.
Point 6 especially hit me while I was writing it. Honestly the main reason that I want a romantic partner is because investing in friendships at my age seems pointless. Friends seem to inevitably disappear into relationships and it’s really hard to remember that I’m relevant or important to them after they find a spouse. It seems like the only way to keep someone around and be their priority is to marry them.
When I’m on my own I’m not lonely. It’s only when I’m among other people and find myself being the odd one out that the singleness hits me. It’s the fact that society expects and favours coupling over all else that makes it difficult to be single. Honestly if I had a close group of friends who never wanted to couple up, and we spent our time together as a group that would be more than enough for me. But sadly that’s not how things work and it makes being the odd one out even more difficult.
And on top of all that there’s this constant, fragile state of conflict that I can’t seem to resolve. I want love but I don’t need it. I know I have issues but I work hard in therapy to be a better version of myself. But becoming a better version of myself raises the standards making it even harder to find an equal partner. Sigh.
Anyway, I know there are bigger problems in the world and more important things to talk about. But if you’re like me and you feel less alone reading this, here’s a hug. This one is for you. I hope we find others like us to lean on. I hope we can create a future where being single is just as normal as being married. I hope you find every kind of love that you’re looking for. Hang in there, it’s not easy, but it’s better than the alternatives.