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14 Things to Stop Saying to Single People

Love your single friends? Here's what you should never, ever say to them.

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Singles Awareness Day

There are so many wonderful advantages of being single: the freedom to make your own decisions, focus on your career, travel as you please, and binge whatever you want on Netflix.

However, if you’re still single now, you’ve likely heard all of the rude, annoying, and frustrating comments in the book. And if you’re in a relationship, unfortunately, it might be you accidentally frustrating your friends and hurting their feelings with well-meaning advice or questions.

The day after Valentine’s Day is Singles Awareness Day, and it’s a perfect time to take stock of how you’re treating your single friends and make sure you’re not saying anything awkward, preachy, or otherwise unwelcome. These are the best gifts to give yourself on February 14 or 15.

 

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“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“This question implies that being married is superior to being single and further enhances the stigma around being single,” explains Mark A. Mayfield, PhD, licensed professional counselor (LPC), Board Certified Counselor, and founder and CEO of Mayfield Counseling Centers. With more people than ever choosing to stay single—happily so!—assuming that everybody wants to get married simply isn’t true. “A different question could be something like “What are your hopes and dreams for your future?” says Dr. Mayfield. This allows them the opportunity to tell you about their hopes and dreams for their relationship future as well.” Already in a relationship? Try this simple test to predict your partnership’s future.

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“Stop being so picky”

“Just because other people aren’t as discerning in their dating selection, doesn’t mean that you need to be the same way. You are the expert of you, and if you feel like you don’t want to say ‘yes’ to every date, you don’t have to,” says Jaime Bronstein, LCSW, psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in relationships. She stresses the positive advantages that come from being “picky.” “It’s okay to be selfish, as we have one life to live, and with the high divorce rate, there’s nothing wrong with knowing who you are, and what you want; instead of just dating anyone that comes your way,” she says. “It’s actually quite empowering to tell someone that you honor your heart, you trust your gut, it hasn’t felt like the right fit yet, but you will know for sure when you meet your ‘person.’ You’re not willing to settle for something that doesn’t feel good to you. You’d rather be single than be in a relationship just to be in a relationship.” So instead of chastising somebody for being picky, why not say: Good for you for knowing what you want; that’s impressive and inspirational! And, of course, if a relationship is your ultimate goal, being single for years will make you a better partner in the end.

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“Have you tried…?”

Sometimes you simply want to vent or share frustrations with friends—but when the person on the receiving end goes into problem-solving rather than listening mode, it can be frustrating. “This is a bad question because it suggests that the single individual is stupid and hasn’t tried anything to find a date,” says Mayfield. Instead of the whiff of condescension this non-question implies, gently start a dialogue. “If you are in a close relationship with this person you might have the trust built up to ask them what they’ve tried and help them brainstorm new ideas,” Mayfield suggests. Want to build trust? Try playing one of these games.

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“Don’t worry, keep waiting for The One. He/she is right around the corner”

“Don’t be brainwashed by the idea that there is only one person for you,” says Karen McGregor, best-selling author of The Tao of Influence. “This ‘romantic’ idea may be a fit for movies, but in real life, it hurts your ability to be open to a new way of relating to others. Specialness is not the goal—connection is,” she explains. “Being convinced that The One is out there waiting for you deprives you of being in the moment of now where all real connection happens. Aim for connection, not the perfection of an idealized relationship.” Instead of persuading friends to hold out for something imaginary, focus on the positive aspects of their life now by saying “The world is your oyster. What a fabulous time to be alive and meet new people!” These are the 20 things you should never do to get over a breakup.

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“You’re special and unique. Don’t settle for just anyone”

“While this may seem like a soothing and loving suggestion, the reality is that when we convince ourselves that we are special, different, or one of a kind, we separate ourselves from others,” says McGregor. “We take on a pattern of withdrawal or even superiority with thinking or behavior to protect ourselves from being disappointed or hurt.” If people keep reassuring themselves that they (and they alone!) are special, it could lead to problems in future relationships with partners unable to meet unrealistic standards, McGregor explains. “While it’s important to know what makes you tick, you miss out on loads of fun, personal growth and opportunity to develop deep relationships.” Instead, say, “How wonderful that every person you meet is giving you an opportunity to expand your viewpoints and see the world through new eyes.” Try these 56 secrets from life coaches to create the life you want.

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“Don’t worry, you’ll meet somebody when the time is right”

The perfect partner landing in your lap precisely when you’re least expecting it—it’s the stuff of rom-coms and romantic dreams, right? Unfortunately, it can also be an unrealistic fairy tale. “This statement is placating because there is ‘no right time,'” says Mayfield. “A lot of times meeting the ‘right’ person is simply chance. So remove this statement from your list of things to say.” Mayfield advises friends to stop focusing on the singleness of the one they’re trying to ‘help.’ “They are not a three-headed monster and there is nothing wrong with them. Instead champion them as an individual. Celebrate their uniqueness, their diversity, their identity, be inquisitive and curious, but don’t make their singleness the main focus.” Find out 10 things to do for the best-ever Galentine’s Day.

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“I know somebody else single…”

It should go without saying, but just because two people are both single does not a good match make. “People have great intentions when they say something like this, but it’s extremely naïve and ignorant to assume that their matchmaking skills are up to par,” Bronstein says. “There are so many more aspects to a love connection than simply being single. Many times, the well-intentioned person doesn’t know one or both parties well, so it’s a waste of time on everyone’s part.” Equally important: the person you’re trying to set up might not want to be. “Don’t assume that the single person even wants to get fixed up; maybe they are on a dating hiatus.” Instead, Bronstein recommends a tailored approach. “I’d like to fix you up with my best friend. I have no idea if it would work out, and if you’re interested in a fix-up, but I know you well, I know my best friend, and I know that you have a lot in common with one another, so that’s a good start. Are you open to this?” You and your friend will both have a laugh over these 17 ridiculous dating tips from the 1950s.

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“Why are YOU still single?”

No matter how well-intentioned, this question can rub the wrong way. “This implies that there is something inherently wrong with the single person—when the truth is, the single person doesn’t know why they are still single, and it makes them feel like they need to provide some sort explanation or justification for their relationship status,” says Bronstein. “People are single for all sorts of different reasons and sometimes it’s their choice. For the ones who would like to be in a relationship, it usually comes down to the fact that they haven’t met the right one yet and/or their past relationships didn’t work out for whatever reason.” Bronstein also points out that the emphasis on the word “you” can be problematic. “It can actually be a back-handed compliment because that’s nice that the person who is saying it thinks that you’re amazing enough to be in a relationship, but at the same time, it is implying that it’s your fault that you’re not in a relationship.” What should you say instead? Try: “Good for you for not rushing into something that’s not right, and for not settling.” Add this question to your list of things never to discuss at the family dinner table.

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“Who broke your heart?”

“This question assumes that you are in pain, bitter, and resentful when, maybe you got your heartbroken—if you’re human, you’ve gotten your heart broken—but maybe you broke someone else’s heart,” says Bronstein. “People assume that single people are all angry and resentful when they’re not.” Instead of asking this question, which is slightly laced with an accusation, try a positive take, like ‘Do you have any good dating stories to tell me? I want to live vicariously through you!'” Or ask if they’ve ever heard any of these 50 cheesy pickup lines in real life.

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“It must be lonely being single”

If there were ever a loaded, hurtful statement, it’s this one! “This is completely making an assumption that every single person is lonely, and that’s absolutely not the case,” says Bronstein. “Maybe they felt lonely when they were single, but that doesn’t mean that everyone feels lonely. On the flip side, being in an unhappy relationship can leave you feeling way more alone than you ever did when you were single.” In fact, we live in an era when more people than ever are single and living their best life. “People are getting married later because they have the rest of their lives to be married,” points out Bronstein. “Singles are getting out there and having a life filled with freedom and independence. They don’t need to answer to anyone, and they are only responsible for themselves; that’s freedom and they are embracing it fully. Singles are social, and surrounded by colleagues, friends, family, and dates. Their schedules are full and there’s not a lot of time to feel alone—and if they do that’s okay, but it’s fleeting.” For those who are feeling lonely, Bronstein recommends therapy, self-care, and reaching out to trusted friends. “Singles (and everyone) need this to help them get to a better place. Also, it’s important to feel connected to themselves and the ones in their lives who love them.” And if you must say something, instead try: “You have lots of opportunities to embrace your alone time and really get to know yourself before jumping into a relationship. I wish I took advantage of that time while I was single.” Find out all the reasons these fierce, independent women embrace being single.

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Are you putting yourself out there enough?

“There is so much that is wrong with this question,” says Bronstein. “It puts pressure on the single person. The truth is, someone can be on every dating app and going to a different singles event every night, but when it comes to finding true love, the ‘way,’ the ‘how’, and the timing is not in their control, regardless of whether someone stays home four nights a week or two.” With different relaxation styles and different ways of relating to people—some are introverts, while others crave connection and excitement—the most important thing is doing what feels comfortable. “If it’s someone’s style to lay low and not make themselves crazy about making sure they go to everything all the time, that’s their choice,” says Bronstein. Instead, he recommends a phrase like, “No matter what you do or say and no matter where you go or don’t go, I hope you meet your person eventually.” Introvert? You’re in good company; here are 9 famous people you’d never guess were introverts.

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Is it difficult that your younger sibling is getting married before you?

Family dynamics are already complicated enough without throwing relationship timelines and expectations into the mix. “This statement just puts more salt into an already salty wound, while at the same time it is making an assumption that the single person is bothered by their younger sibling getting married before them,” Bronstein says. “One sibling’s timeline should have nothing to do with the other one. Everyone goes through life at their own pace, and that’s all that matters.” Instead, short and sweet is best: “Congrats on your sibling’s wedding (period – end of sentence.)” Don’t miss these 11 ways to be single on Valentine’s Day and love it.

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“I’m sorry you can’t come out with us, but it’s only for couples”

“It hurts to be left out when all of your friends are in relationships and you are the lone single one,” says Laurel House, founder of Love Actually Academy. “That being said, it’s also hard when you’re included and you’re sitting there looking at all of these happy couples and you are the lone single one. So what do you do? Whether it’s a casual dinner or a wedding if you have that one single friend it’s best to ask them if they want to come based on the reality of the relationship status of the other guests.” Rather stay home than go out with friends? Here’s how to say ‘no’ to an invite.

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“You’re too intimidating, you need to change your attitude and your priorities…”

“While that might be correct, sometimes it’s the presentation or even the person who’s doing the presenting that is the problem,” says House. “You might actually be putting your friend on the defensive, raising her guard, and making her even more difficult to break through because you have now put her on the offensive.” House recommends a more loving conversation beginning with simply asking permission to give your insight based on what you see, plus gentle suggestions about what they might do differently. “Just telling them what’s wrong without suggestions as to what they can do better can actually inflame the problem—and more than that, you can truly hurt and offend your friend.” Next, read on for seven pieces of advice from your grandparents to take—and five to forget.

Nadine Jolie Courtney
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a Virtuoso travel advisor and regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering travel, culture, and health. A former magazine editor based in Santa Monica, she also covers lifestyle and parenting, with regular outlets including The Healthy, Oprah Mag, Town & Country, Business Insider, and many other publications. Courtney is the author of four books, including ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL, a Kirkus Best Book of 2019. Follow her on Instagram @nadinejoliecourtney