We all have that one friend that has never been in a relationship but that gives out relationship advice to everyone. I’m that friend. I have always been there for my friends when they were having trouble in paradise. And I will say, it’s fucking hard to always be the single friend. And in most cases, you are the only one in your friend group dealing with that. So it’s not like you can talk to them about it and they’ll completely understand it. They will, to a certain extent. And if they’re good friends, they will try to support you. But it can get very lonely.
I have come a long way with how I feel about being the single friend. It’s been a long and difficult journey, but with reflection, reading, crying and the help of my therapist, I can finally say that I am in a good place with this. Because I know just how awful and lonely it can get, I want you to know that you are not alone. This post is quite personal and I hope that being open and honest with you will help you feel less alone. Being the single friend can be really tough, so here are the main things that I have learned these past years to make it a little easier. Hope you find it helpful.
Avoid being the third wheel
Like with most unpleasant situations, we tend to put ourselves into them. We know just how much we are going to be bored or unhappy going to this thing, but we often do it anyway. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with societal pressure. Think back when you were younger and went to a school friend’s house party that you didn’t want to go to. But you went anyway because your friends were going or everyone was going or only the “cool kids” were invited. Whatever the reasons were, we’ve all attended an event that we would have much rather skipped and spent an evening on the couch watching our favourite show instead.
The same goes for being the third (or worse, fifth, seventh, ninth…) wheel. Don’t get me wrong, some people are absolutely fine tagging along with couples, but these people are often in a place where they feel okay with their singlehood. Now, if you are one of those people, that’s great! You can skip this section if you like. If you are not and, too often, find yourself being the only person in the room that doesn’t have a plus-one, I have some tips for you.
First things first, if you do not feel comfortable or if you think it will have a negative impact on your mental health, you are allowed to say no to invitations or events. If you struggle to do that, give F**k No! by Sarah Knight a read. Second, if you really want to attend this outing but don’t feel like being the only person that’s there alone, bring a friend! Who said plus-ones had to be romantic partners? And if your friends/the people organising this event won’t let you bring your friend, even though everyone else is allowed to bring their partner, they are assholes and do not deserve to be in your presence. Third, organise special “no partner/ partner talk” outings where it’s just you guys enjoying each other’s presence and where “being single” is not even a feeling that is on the table.
Talk to your friend(s)
It can be difficult and embarrassing to admit to a friend that you’re having a hard time seeing them with their partner because you are not coping well with being single. However, I have always found that as soon as I shared how I felt with my friends, they were understanding and hoping to be able to help. Opening up to your friend can help them understand why you do and say the things that you do. For instance, if you’ve cancelled a few outings or if you’ve snapped at them at times, they will realise that it was probably due to you being uncomfortable with being exposed to (happy) couples when you are struggling with your singlehood.
That being said, this should be a conversation and it is important for you to understand that your friend will want to spend time with their partner. If you are not comfortable being the third wheel, discuss with them if you can bring another friend next time so you’re not the third wheel. Plan some friend dates where it’s just you and your friend and maybe set rules for these: no talk of partners/relationships, no being on your phone, no bringing someone along… Do whatever feels right for both of you and compromise. Don’t play the victim but, rather, try to come up with solutions that work for both of you.
If it were to happen that you opened up to your friend and they made you feel like your feelings weren’t valid, then they are not a good friend. Take some time away from them and when you feel ready to, have a conversation about their reaction with them. You can even write them an email or a letter with all of your feelings (how their reaction hurt you for example). And if they still don’t want to hear it, you are probably dealing with a toxic friend (find out more about toxic friendships and how to deal with them here).
Understand your feelings
As I mentioned earlier, I have come a long way. I used to have very low self-esteem and, although I was desperate for someone to love me, I didn’t actually believe that anyone ever would. This got especially bad when my uni course wasn’t going well and my mental health took a turn for the worse. I got to a point where seeing couples and people in relationships annoyed me. I found myself being jealous and thinking “how can they be in a relationship and I can’t even get a date?” – not nice thoughts at all. And very counter-productive.
If you find yourself being jealous or sad when you see your friends with their partner, there is an underlying issue that you need to look into. There are many reasons why you could be feeling this way: loneliness, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, depression, fear of being abandoned by your friend, etc. It can take time to find out what the more deep-rooted issue might be. It took me years and seeing a therapist to sort things out. It’s definitely not easy but you will feel so much better and in control of your life once you know the issue and can work on it. It might seem impossible right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Take care of yourself
Self-care is very important. You may see, whether in real life or in movies, that people get spoiled and treated by their partners. Who doesn’t want to come home to their favourite snacks and feel-good goodies that their partner left for them? I know I would love that! Some of us singletons are lucky enough to have friends that treat them like that (my flatmate bought me a few cute presents on Valentine’s Day because she knew my single self would be sad!). I like to think I am one of those people. To others, but more importantly, to myself.
You need to take care of yourself, whether you’re in a relationship or not. And treating yourself to your favourite snack or a hot bath for absolutely no reason is something that you should do every month – or even every week! I have found this cute small business that sends out monthly positivity packages (more on that here) which is my treat, to myself, every month. Being single doesn’t mean that you can’t be treated to your favourite coffee shop or restaurant. Take yourself out on a date! Learn to enjoy your own company. Because if you don’t like being with yourself, why should someone else?
Enjoy focusing on yourself
In direct link with this last, rather powerful, statement I made above, being single is the best time to work on yourself. No one is perfect, we all have things that we can (and should!) work on. Being single means that you can spend all your free time and energy on you. You can work on your side hustle, you can go to therapy, you can read all the self-help books, you can pick up new skills, you can go on trips and much, much more – and all that without having to run it by anyone first! When you are in a (healthy) relationship, you should decide on things together when they affect both of you and your relationship; like, for example, a 3-month solo trip across South America.
Being single means that you can do (pretty much) whatever you like, whenever you like. Fancy eating ice-cream and binge-watching a new show on Netflix? No problem. Want to walk around in your undies and have a dance? Go ahead. Want to plan a last-minute trip to Paris? Be my guest (yes, I did put in a Disney reference – you’re welcome). You can cancel any of these plans that just involve you at the last second because you’re the only one that is affected by them. Enjoy this freedom to do things that you want to do; and use this time you have to work on yourself so that you can be the best possible version of yourself for when an amazing relationship comes around.
You are not less of a person
This one hits close to home. Growing up, I always believed something was wrong with me for never having had a boyfriend. Was I too fat? Too ugly? Too boring? Let me tell you right now, I am not any of these things. Whatever your fears and anxieties are saying about why you’re single, don’t listen to them. You are not your fears and anxieties. You are an amazing, deserving human being. Of course you will find an(other) amazing partner and fall in love and have fun and so on. Just because you are single doesn’t mean that you are less of a person.
No one’s worth should be measured by whether or not they have a partner. Because quite frankly, who gives a shit? You should be your own person, whether you’re single or married. Being in a relationship doesn’t magically make you a perfect human. No one can fix your issues or make you happy. No one but you. Read those last two sentences again. And again. Remember them because they are so important. I always believed that if I found a boyfriend, my problems would disappear and everything would be great and I would be happy and living my best life. Well, guess what? That’s not how it works. You have to work for those things yourself. No one will serve them to you on a silver platter. And if someone claims just that, walk away. They’re full of shit.
You are the love of your own life
I strongly encourage you to read Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given. It’s an amazing book, especially for women. In this book, Florence Given mentions how you are the love of your life. As she puts it, why settle for someone’s crumbs when you have your own damn cake? Working on yourself, feeling comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth is what make up your cake. You shouldn’t settle for anything less than you deserve, no matter what your fears might be telling you. So treat yourself the way you wish to be treated by someone else, work on yourself to be the badass you were meant to be and learn to be happy by yourself. It will change your life.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Please feel free to reach out on Instagram if you want to have a chat. Sending you loads of hugs and I look forward to seeing again next week.