I’ve been single now for what feels like an eternity, but is in actuality about four years. Through those four post divorce years, I’ve dated casually, seriously, taken long breaks from dating, paid for eharmony, signed up for Match, downloaded and deleted and downloaded and deleted Tinder, and been on more than a few really horrible dates.
And I’ve heard it all. Every “how we met and fell in love” story. Every dirty detail of first dates turned marriages, bad dates, awful dates, divorces and remarriages. Every bit of advice, every cliche. My eye has twitched at dinner dates with groups of well meaning married friends who gently rub my arm and tell me that there’s someone out there for everyone.
I get it. You’re trying to be helpful. You’re trying to be reassuring. But some of this is just getting really, really old. And so I present to you my list of 5 things to stop saying to your single friends, right now:
- “You’ll find him when you stop looking.” No, that’s not quite how this works. When I stopped looking (see aforementioned long breaks from dating), I literally stopped looking. I didn’t entertain anything from men – smiles, advances, attempts to get my number. I didn’t keep my dating site profiles active “just in case”. I closed the door and stopped looking, and focused deeply on myself. That was awesome, by the way, and also the goal. The idea behind “you’ll find him when you stop looking” is still a winkwink nudgenudge assumption that when you stop looking you secretly are still looking. See the problem?
- “You’re attracting what you put out into the world.” Apparently, I’ve been putting out some really awful stuff, then. There’s a suggestion here that having a hard time finding a suitable mate is due to some kind of broken radar signal, a flashing neon “douchebag” sign that is supposed to say “Prince Charming”. Hint: No one in the world is actually putting out into the world that they want to date an asshole, or an alcoholic, or a creep. Extra hint: If I’ve “stopped looking” then my radar signal is off.
- “First you have to be happy being alone.” Okay, caveat here. I agree that learning to be alone is very important, and that one should never hang their happiness on someone else being there. The problem here is the insinuation that in looking for a mate, you are not happy alone. I’ve been alone for awhile now. I like alone. Alone is great. Partnered would also be pretty great. But seeking to have a partner doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly forgotten how to be content on my own. To the contrary, it means I’ve learned it so well I’m ready to make space for someone else again.
- “You’re so lucky to be single. Marriage sucks.” Yeah, must be terrible having someone around who loves you. I really enjoy having a bunch of first dates that go nowhere, and getting ghosted by men who I actually sort of thought were cool. This shit is amazing.
- “Maybe you need to be more picky/less picky.” The advice here runs the gamut, from making exhaustive lists about what you want in a partner, to going on at least four dates before you write someone off. It seems there are many opinions about how attract the person you’re looking for into your life, but most of them are contradictory.
So many of the cliches we use to try to help a single friend feel better are actually hidden ways of saying one thing: you’re doing it wrong. Whether it’s your pursuit of a partner, your personality flaws, or the type of person you’re looking for, the underlying meaning is that you’re broken, and until you aren’t, you’re doomed for a lifetime of singlehood.
Recently, I posted a short list of things I wanted in a partner to my Facebook page. My friend, Joey Chandler, in reading the list, asked me one very very good question. “Yeah, but what do you bring to the table?”
And you know, I was at a loss for a bit. I really had to think about it. What DO I bring to a conversation? That one offhanded Facebook comment was more valuable to me than any of the dozens and dozens of platitudes and kitten posters I’ve been handed after each weird breakup or bad first date. It made me really think about what was awesome about me. (Lots of things!) And in doing so, it helped me further solidify what I’ve always known to be true: whenever I do find him, we’re both gonna be really, really lucky.
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
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