Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What not to say to a single friend

Advice from friends is great, and always welcome. I've learned that even advice not taken can be helpful. I mean, even bad advice can help you find perspective.

But unsolicited advice is tough sometimes. Big used to say "unsolicited advice is criticism," which I always found to be wise. If a friend hasn't asked for advice, chances are, she either doesn't know there's an issue, or she already has a solution. Either way, pointing it out might feel like criticism.

Singles get advice all the time - most often from people in relationships. Sometimes it's helpful; other
Found it here
times, it's just frustrating. I like to think I have a fairly good handle on being single. I certainly have plenty of experience; I have also put a lot of effort into turning negatives into positives.

Still, now and then I get a little sad. I might feel rejected, or doubtful, or lonely, or even angry. The thing is, I know that's temporary, and I know ways to overcome. I think I'm still entitled to my feelings.

So sometimes, advice frustrates me. I feel like - wait, I'm pretty good at this whole single thing. Being single shouldn't automatically make me wrong. So why do you assume I need advice?

There are a few things I'm very tired of hearing. Inspired from this Buzzfeed list, my favorites are...

Trust God's Plan

I actually find this to be a helpful reminder. That's because I believe in God's plan for my life, and trust that if I listen to Him, things will turn out the way they're meant to.

The reason I'm not a fan of this advice is because if a single person doesn't believe in God, the advice could be a little discouraging. Who wants to think their happiness depends on a deity they either don't believe in, or don't have a relationship with?

If everyone felt this way, Christian Mingle would be the only dating site, and Stir Events would be at church. If you know this reminder will be helpful to a single friend, by all means, share. If you're not sure, keep your mouth shut and offer ice cream instead.

Maybe it's time to work on yourself

Unless you're new around here, you know I'm in favor in taking a break from dating. If you're single and dating long enough, it can start to feel like a job. Like any other work, you can get burned out. A break is good. However....

Growth and self-improvement should be a life-long pursuit. Something that should continue even in a committed relationship. Married people don't file for separation every time they start a new why should a single person have to be alone to learn or grow?

If you want to give this advice, tread carefully. It could come across as a suggestion that there is something specific wrong with your friend - that is keeping her from finding love - that she needs to improve. She might start to think that every bad date, every guy who treated her poorly was her fault - even if she knows she can't be more than 50% responsible for any issue.

Plenty of people find happiness without love

If there was ever a hot mess of relationship advice, here it is.

First - it sounds like giving up. Like you're suggesting that your single friend raise the white flag, adopt 100 cats, and become a hermit.

Second - it's a little unfair. Sure, people can choose to be single, and be very happy. But I guarantee your single friend is thinking, "Why don't I get to choose? What's wrong with me that I don't deserve a happily ever after?" You've just reminded your friend of every, single thing she dislikes about herself.

Of course we know that wasn't your intention. You're trying to be encouraging, and remind her there are other ways to find happiness. That's fine - but you might want to frame it as temporary, unless you want to find your friend on an episode of Hoarders.

Here's the thing.... Whether your friend is newly single (as in just through a breakup) or has been single a while but feeling down, she's in a sensitive place. Your advice, while very good and well-intended, might come across as critical. Be prepared that your friend, in her very vulnerable state, might see it that way.

The good news is, your friend probably knows this stuff already. She'll snap out of it, and come around on her own.

The truth is, if she hasn't learned the lesson yet, she probably won't take your advice, anyway. Some lessons we just have to learn for ourselves.

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