We know you mean well, Coupled-Up Friends. You care about us, your Single Friends. You’re only trying to help! You have married-person wisdom to share!
We get it. You beat us in the very traditional game of life. Congrats on meeting society’s expectations of getting married by the accepted “deadline” (which differs wildly by region, religion and class, by the way).
And so, you say things you think might be helpful — but are actually hurtful — without asking what we might need or want. You dole out advice and diagnose what’s “wrong with us” when we’re just looking to vent. You find not-so-subtle ways to tell us that we, your wonderful single friends, matter a lot less in your lives now that you have a significant other and we do not.
I’m here for an intervention. Coupled-Up Friends: We need to talk about the way you talk to us, your Single Friends. Remember, the game of life is long. Treat us well and we’ll still be around if you get divorced and suddenly need our wisdom on how to be single. We have plenty of experience, after all. In the meantime, the next time you’re about to utter any of these phrases, take a breath, think about how it might land. And then maybe say something else instead.
— Are you still single?
The offensive word here is “still,” as if singlehood is a condition your friends are stuck with and can’t quite shake. How would you like it if we asked you: “Hey, are you still married?” Instead, you might try the less judgemental and perfectly benign: “Are you seeing anyone right now?”
— Let’s hang out next week. My spouse is out of town.
Partnered people love this one! And the rest of us? It really gets under our skin when you state that you’ll make us a priority only when your More Important Person is out of town. After all, we make plans with you without first checking whether our cooler friends might be free that night. It is possible to make plans with a friend without mentioning what’s on your significant other’s Google calendar. And please, not another “ladies night.”
— We should hang out! My girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse has a friend in your area, so we should be out that way.
Translation: You don’t like us enough to make an effort to see us. Any effort at all. Seeing us is like an errand you might do on your way to more important things.
— Sorry we didn’t invite you to [fill-in-the-blank event]. Everyone else who’s coming is in a relationship. We didn’t want you to be uncomfortable.
You know what’s uncomfortable? Finding out that all our friends were hanging out without us! Your single friends are worthy of invitations whether or not they have a plus-one. Let us decide whether we want to attend solo rather than making that decision for us.
— You’re so great. I just don’t get it.
Funny, neither do we! Some of us are single because — gasp! — we want to be. Or because it’s our best option at the moment.
— Have you tried [this hot new dating app]? My friend met her boy/girlfriend on it.
Of course we have. But thanks for rubbing in that it works for someone else and thus we must be doing something wrong. Which brings me to...
— “You know what your problem is ...”
Ah, how we love sentences that start this way! This preamble has many an ending: You’re too picky; you’re too desperate; you’re too shy; you’re too aggressive; you have to put yourself out there; you’re in the wrong city; you work too much; and so on into the horizon of judgemental phrases.
Coupled-Up Friends: If your single friends have been dating and having trouble finding someone worth keeping around — which is normal! Dating is hard! — we’ve already spent too much time wondering what might be wrong with us or what we might be doing wrong. Unless it’s a persistent BO problem we’re oblivious to, please resist the urge to diagnose why your friends are single. We probably didn’t ask for your opinion, anyway.
— You’ll find love when you stop looking. (Or when you least expect it.)
The smuggest of smug marrieds love this one. This comment is like asking your single friends: Why are you trying so hard? No, wait: Why are you trying at all? Love will hit you on the head while picking out a cantaloup at the grocery store. The not-trying tack might work when you’re in college and surrounded by young single people; but in your 30s and beyond, meeting people requires effort. In a similar category ...
— You need to love yourself first.
Yes, self-esteem is important. Everyone should love themselves, regardless of relationship status! But saying this to a single friend only telegraphs that you think we have low self-esteem. Ergo, we need to fix that — ahem, we need to fix ourselves — before someone will love us. Guess what: Self-improvement, personal development and self-love happen over a lifetime — and ideally continue even after we get into a relationship.
— I wish I knew someone to set you up with.
If your friend is looking for a partner and you know of someone who might be a good match, great! Go ahead and ask if we’re game for a set-up. But if no one springs to mind, why mention that you know absolutely no one who’s worthy of an introduction? “I’ll keep my eyes out” is a fine alternative.
— I’m so jealous that you’re single. You get to make all your own plans!
No, you’re not. If you were, you would choose to be single, too.