I’ve reached that age where all my friends have found their someone in life (or at least a someone for the time being). One of my closest friends from college just got married this past summer. Another friend has a wedding set for the spring of next year, another one just got engaged on her birthday, and my best friend just had her third kid and is saving up to buy a house with her boyfriend in the suburbs.
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It’s like everyone around me is going through these transformative life experiences and then there’s me — the perpetually single friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. And I know that not being in a serious relationship at this point doesn’t mean I’m “stuck” or lacking in some way.
But I write a lot about love and relationships (it just happened to become my beat when I started my journalism career); I talk to relationship therapists and matchmakers on the daily, so I’ve pretty much heard every single piece of love advice in the book.
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In a very Taylor Swift-ian way, I have no problem rehashing the tales of my ghosts of boyfriends past. I also have zero shame when it comes to discussing the most “taboo” subjects, even about sex.
But I will confess that I purposely avoid writing about all the awesome perks of being single because I’ve been single for so long now that it’s become almost painful in a way. I know about all the awesome perks of being single because it’s just my every day reality.
But there just comes a point when “living your best life” or “keep doing you” become words you hide behind to mask the fact that each bad date or failed non-relationship contributes to your growing fear that you might possibly end up alone.
Being the only single friend can be both a blessing and a curse. When being the perpetually single friend has almost become your identity, there are some really important things you learn:
You’re single for a reason. No matter what you choose to believe, it’s most likely by choice.
It’s easy to adopt a “poor me” attitude when you’re surrounded by couples. When I get into my bitter, single-lady mode, I tend to whine a lot about how there are no good options out there, how everyone sucks, and how no one I’m interested in ever asks me out.
But the truth is, there are so many different ways to meet someone. If you’re super busy, dating apps make it really convenient. You can even give someone you’re not initially interested in a chance. If you really, really want a significant other right now, there’s probably one or two people who’d be down to date you if you’re open to it.
So if you really think about it, all of those complaints (i.e. nobody I like is asking me out) stem from the fact that you have standards. You’re choosing to be single because you’re not jumping at the chance to just date any rando. There’s really nothing wrong with that.
But just because it’s a choice, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Finding someone you actually want a relationship with can be exhausting.
Most dating advice you receive will probably suck.
The thing about dating advice is, a lot of us will ask for it, many of us will give it, but no one really wants to take it. Everyone you talk to will either tell you to “Get out there” or “Just be patient. Your time will come.” Eye roll, right? Like, what does “get out there” even really mean?
Other times, you’ll start dating someone new and people will give you all kinds of advice to not text them certain things, or act a certain way in order to make them want a relationship with you. While those people may have good intentions, they’re not in your situation. Everybody is different, therefore every situation is different. When you’ve been single for so long, you learn how to trust your gut over any outside noise.
You really have nothing to lose by taking initiative and asking someone out.
There are times when being single for a while can make you restless. If you don’t like the people asking you out, go after the ones you do. If they say no, they say no. So what? You’re still going to be single, so you really have nothing to lose. If anything, you have lot more to gain if you just go all-in and take the initiative.
Loneliness can be all too real.
Do you know the number one thing young people fear the most? It has nothing to do with global warming or terrorism or people you love dying. In fact, it really has nothing at all to do with anyone dying. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Vice, our biggest fear is never finding love.
Loneliness hurts not just mentally or emotionally, but physically as well. In fact, studies have found that your brain can interpret prolonged loneliness as physical pain. When you’re the only single friend, that pain can be all too real.
Feeling pressured to have a relationship can cause you to make some really questionable life decisions.
Like I said, being single is more of a choice than anything else. When you’ve been single for so long, it’s easy to get really excited about someone you actually like.
Sometimes your desire to finally make it work with someone you’re actually interested in can cause you to overlook all the ways they’re really not right for you. I know I’m guilty of putting a little too much effort into a non-relationship with a guy who didn’t deserve any of it just because I really wanted it to work out. Never again.
The grass isn’t always greener.
If there’s one thing you really learn from hanging around your coupled-up friends, it’s that the honeymoon period ends fairly quickly. People tend to long for what they don’t have. Many of my friends in relationships will come to me complaining about how their partners are “the worst.” Of course, they really love them, but they just always like to vent.
So you definitely learn there are positives and negatives to both situations. While being in a relationship might make your anxiety over ending up alone go away, it doesn’t mean you won’t stress out over other things.
A relationship is something you want in your life. It’s not something you need.
This goes back to the first point. When you’ve been single for so long, you really do get to know yourself. You know how to get things done on your own. You know how to have fun on your own. You’re independent and you just become your own person.
When you’re completely happy with yourself, you’ll make the realization that you’re choosing to wait for the right relationship because you’re not desperate for one. It’s not a necessity, it’s a want. Anyone you choose to let in your life should feel lucky enough to be a part of it.