I don’t really talk about relationships much. There are a couple reasons for this, the biggest of which being that it’s not something I really care to discuss at length. Sure, I’m happy to offer some common-sense advice when asked, but most of the time I’d rather let the matter drop. Today, however, I have something to say.
Over the past couple of years, it’s become more common for people my age to be single. It wasn’t strange to see people in my parents’ generation get married in their early 20s, but lately, it seems to me that people aren’t getting married until later on in life. I’m not here to discuss the pros/cons of that or even why it happens, but I have noticed one result: people have become more single-person-friendly.
Generally, this isn’t a bad thing. However, there are other times when this conversation comes off as demeaning or insensitive, even though that isn’t the intention. I don’t mean to say that all people in relationships have malicious intentions towards single people, but sometimes, we can get pretty frustrated. If you’re wondering how to stop inadvertently frustrating us, here are a few things you can keep in mind (as illustrated by pipe cleaner stick figures).
Stop assuming singleness is involuntary
Sometimes this is the case, but sometimes it isn’t. For many single people, we’ve chosen to focus our energy on other pursuits such as academics, careers, and our passions. In other cases, someone may be recovering from a bad or broken relationship, and they’ve decided to take a break from dating. This doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t open to future relationships, but we’ve made the choice to chase other things, and we’re content with that decision
Stop telling us: “Hurry up or you’ll be too old to have kids!”
Even though this is usually said as a joke, there are many reasons why it’s a bad idea. For starters, it assumes that the single person plans on getting married and having children one day, which may not be the case. Pressuring people to get married and start a family when they’re not ready to can also sometimes lead to poor or unhealthy relationships. And finally, this statement disregards the validity of adoption. Even if someone is “too old to have kids,” they still have the option to adopt children, which isn’t inferior to having your own.
Stop assuming we’re always uncomfortable with other people in relationships
Now this is a little tricky, so tread carefully. I know that many people feel insecure in their singleness and therefore don’t feel comfortable around other couples, but that’s not always true for everyone. Unless you’re the most annoying couple on the face of the planet, most of the time, we’re okay with having you around and even hearing about your relationship. And as long as you don’t make us the third wheel of your date or try to play matchmaker with your single friends, we enjoy hanging out with you!
Stop giving us overused advice
Single people aren’t stupid. We’ve made it this far, and even if we’re suddenly surrounding by peers in relationships, that doesn’t change things. Although kind words and encouragement are appreciated, please don’t use tired phrases like “Make the most of your single years!” or “Just be happy and enjoy this time of your life!” If your single friend does need encouragement, make sure it comes from the heart – get to know your friend and their needs, and encourage them accordingly.
Stop assuming we’re always insecure
As I said above, I understand that many people can feel insecure in their singleness, and I don’t want to ignore that. What I’m trying to say here is that you shouldn’t automatically assume that’s the case. In fact, many single people are much more confident in themselves than the internet makes it seem. Saying things like “you’re so attractive/funny/smart, I can’t believe you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend!” isn’t helpful, and can actually be hurtful. If you want to build up your single friend’s – or anyone’s – self-confidence, give them a real compliment that’s not dependent on another person “approving” of them.
Stop setting us up on dates
Unless the single person in question has given you explicit permission to find them a significant other, don’t. You don’t know if the person is interested in a relationship, and forcing dates on them makes it feel like you’re pressuring them to find a significant other. We’d just like you to respect our decisions and our privacy.
Stop telling us we’re “lucky to be single”
This statement is a massive contradiction. If being single is as great as you say, then how come you’re still in a relationship? These words feel empty, especially when they come from someone with a significant other. If you really want to reassure someone who’s feeling insecure about being single, talk about them as an individual, not in terms of their relationship (or lack thereof) with another person.
Stop assuming we plan on marrying someday
Don’t get me wrong, marriage is cool. But just because you’re dreaming of a fairy-tale wedding with your significant other, that doesn’t mean everyone else is too. Some of us may want to get married someday, but others may have other goals in mind, like finding our dream job or pursuing something we’re passionate about. When you say things like, “Well, one day, when you’re married…” it makes an assumption that may or may not be true.
Stop tiptoeing around us
There are two ways you can belittle your single friends: the first, and more obvious one is to outright insult them. The second one is subtler, and that is by being overly sensitive. Unless we’ve said something otherwise, we don’t need you to tiptoe around us. Don’t treat us any differently just because we’re single and you’re in a relationship. It draws even more attention to the difference, and can make the situation worse.
Stop assuming we’re unhappy
While there are many single people who are waiting for the day when they find a significant other, that doesn’t mean we’re always moping around. We’re able to find joy in everyday life through our hobbies, our friends and family, and our passions. Being single doesn’t mean we’re always sad – we have the same capacity for happiness that you do.
Of course, these are just general guidelines based on things I’ve observed and experienced. When it comes down to it, what’s really best is to learn about your single friends and what their needs are, and adapt your approach accordingly. Every person is different, so don’t lump us all in the same category – get to know us, and we’ll be happy to get to know you.