There are great things about being single. A whole bed to yourself, all the time in the world to spend with friends, the list goes on. But what if you’re more than a little sick of being single, and no amount of “learning to love yourself,” therapy, and flipping through Tinder is getting you where you want to be?
Many of us have been the perpetually single friend or been close to someone who is — and sometimes it sucks. Aside from setting him or her up with great matches, what can you say (and more importantly, not say) to help?
What Not To Say
1. “It’ll happen when you stop looking.”
Megan Bruneau, a therapist and executive coach who considers herself the friend who’s always single, says this is not a helpful nugget of wisdom. “While this is true for some, hearing this as a frustrated single person is confusing,” she explains. “Why? Because half the time, people are telling us to ‘be specific about what you want. Write down every characteristic you want in a partner and manifest it. You need to put yourself out there — are you on apps?’ and [the other half of the time], we hear things like this. It can also make us feel like we’re coming across as desperate or needy, and are shamed for ‘looking.’”
2. “You have to love yourself first, or no one else will.”
Self-love is a journey — and a long one, at that. According to Bruneau, telling someone they shouldn’t date while they’re learning to love themselves is flat-out unfair. “The idea that we need to take on some ominous, ethereal task of self-love before we can find the relationship we so yearn for makes it seem like it’s totally our fault we’re unlucky in love,” she explains.
3. “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone!”
According to New York-based psychotherapist Alison Stone, LCSW, reassuring a friend that they’ll find someone isn’t particularly encouraging. “This can generally come across as unhelpful and condescending, even if it’s well-intentioned. It’s similar to telling someone who is agitated to ‘calm down.’”
4. “That person is an asshole.”
Your friend may have told you so many awful stories about the last person they were dating that your first thought when they told you it finally ended was good riddance. But while you may think that person was a total asshole, Stone says this statement is a little too simple — not to mention pretty irritating. “It may be true, but again, it’s probably unhelpful, and a quick judgment considering you as the friend have [possibly] never met the guy or girl.”
5. “I think you need to lower your standards.”
Ouch. Bruneau says that while there can sometimes be some truth to this, it hurts every time. “When you’re feeling frustrated, rejected, and alone, it’s not what you want to hear,” she says. “Most of us don’t struggle with dating because our standards are too high, it’s because we either don’t feel a connection with someone or because we end up dumped or rejected when we do.”
6. “You need to stop being so available.”
If dating never seems to work out for someone, they’ve probably already considered this perspective and “played the game.” “Saying this feels shaming, and like it’s the person who’s messed up, not the system,” says Bruneau.
7. “Have you tried XYZ?”
Guess what? If your friend is always single, they have probably tried what feels like everything. “Unless they are directly asking for concrete suggestions, I’d steer clear of this one,” says Stone. “It can make someone feel exasperated and like you are judging them for not doing enough to find a partner.”
What To Say Instead
1. “How can I help?”
Stone is a big fan of this line. “Saying this allows the person to guide you, the friend, into being supportive in the right way,” she says. “Maybe that means staying in one night together or grabbing dinner to hash out whatever is on their mind.”
2. “Dating in 2019 is a shitshow.”
According to Bruneau, validating your friend’s experience and acknowledging their resilience is key. “You might want to throw in the line, ‘forget meditating in a monastery — you’re basically becoming a Buddha warrior in this process.’”
3. “Rejection is protection.”
When we get rejected, we tend to think it means we’re unlovable or undateable. Bruneau suggests reminding your friend that sometimes, rejection can be a good thing. “In reality, there are so many reasons we get rejected: they’re not over their ex, they’re questioning their sexuality, they don’t know how to be loved. Help your friend see that it’s not necessarily about them, it’s just not the right fit.”
4. “I’m so sorry this keeps happening to you.”
According to Stone, acknowledging just how tough this is for your friend is important. “Validate the difficulty and frustration your friend is feeling,” she says. “Dating is hard. It’s filled with disappointment and rejection, and sometimes people just want to feel like their friend gets it.”
5. “Let’s make plans.”
Being the only single person can be lonely. One thing you can do to help? Do something fun with him or her. “Help your friend [by providing] a distraction,” Stone says. “Remind them that dating is one aspect of their life. Sometimes taking the pressure and focus off that part can be helpful.”
6. “What a frustrating process!”
Bruneau says that expressing empathy is key to helping your friend feel a little better. “At the end of the day, empathy never fails, and it’s exactly what we need in our moments of frustration, exasperation, and loneliness,” she explains. “You don’t need to have answers — sometimes hearing and validating is the best thing you can do.”