by Hayley Doyle
‘Oh you must come over for dinner,’ said the coupled-up friend to their single pal. ‘We know just the person for you!’
And so, another awkward encounter began…
It’s almost 21 years since Renee Zellweger graced our screens with a quirky accent and not-fat fat as Bridget Jones, the Ultimate Single Gal. In fact, movies of the 90s and the 00s were desperate to convince us that single life sucked. That your soul mate simply had to be found. Every best friend had too many good intentions on finding the protagonist’s “person”. Every family member scoffed in disgust if their offspring wasn’t creating their own offspring by the age of 30.
Scripts, books and TV might have moved on in recent years. The protagonist doesn’t always need to be saved by a knight in shining armour. But it’s still out there, the whimsical wish for love, in all types of entertainment. Look at the popularity of reality shows such as Love is Blind and Married At First Sight. Everybody wants somebody, and we become addicted to watching this unfold. It’s human nature, after all.
Thankfully, the era of internet dating has somewhat relieved the pressure on contrived pairing and forced expectations. However, that doesn’t mean being single around couples has become any easier. Sure, as individuals, we like to believe we choose our people wisely. I’ve had some brilliant times with couples, playing the part of the third wheel, but not in a negative sense. And now, as a wife, I never exclude single friends from hanging around with us because they don’t have another “half”. People are perfectly whole as they are, thank you very much. My husband and I went on holiday to Laos with one of our best friends and had the time of our lives. But there are occasions when it’s tough being the one on your own. A moment can hit you hard when you least expect it; a sweet glance, holding hands, or that effortless peck on the cheek just before one nips off to the loo. Both parties can experience a mix of pity and envy for each other’s lifestyle, and this will take you off the same page.
And we’ve all been there, on both sides of the coin, haven’t we? As soon as you go from single to coupled up, or vice versa, one connection breaks and a new chapter begins. There becomes a clear divide between the world according to one, and the world according to two. You might be annoyed or ashamed with yourself for having negative feelings towards your coupled up friends. My recently single friend tells me that although she doesn’t want a relationship right now, she does like to wear her cynical hat and convince herself that “happy” couples argue behind closed doors, that their public display of affection is just that; a display. Be kind to yourself, though. You might be single, but you’re not alone in having these thoughts. Your feelings are valid. And here’s why:
Grieving the Good Times
When your friend couples up, it’s normal to feel left behind. Senior therapist and author Sally Baker describes the shift as a bereavement. ‘Single mates you’ve shared some of the best experiences of your life with are now focusing their time and energy elsewhere,’ she says. ‘It can be heartbreaking to be excluded from their new inner sanctum.’ Friendship is a strong form of love. Although different from the romantic kind, it’s still a bond that breaks when you no longer share the intensity of your relationship together. Of course, you’re happy for your friend, but a new journey awaits you, too, whether you’re ready for it or not.
Pressure to be Perky
Do your couple friends see you as the Fun One? Always up for it? It’s because they want to live vicariously through your “crazy” experiences; hear every dating disaster and swoon over your butterfly tingles. But being the single friend around a majority of couples can put you under pressure to be constantly upbeat about single life. And this can be emotionally draining. You might want to vent about being frustrated, misunderstood, bored or lonely, since being single comes with a range of emotions other than just, Fun. In the same way that being in a couple does! No couple can be perky 24/7, right?
Ugh, Don’t Remind Me
Couples can be quick to forget about the challenges of being single, even if they’re in a new relationship. It can feel a little judgemental at times, too, like they always have the answer as to why you’re not shacked up with anybody yet. “You need to socialise more, you’ll never meet anybody if you stay in,” contradicted with, “Maybe you need to stop partying so much, it’s hard to keep up with you these days.” Oh, there must be a reason. When really, there is no reason. They’re just in a different headspace to you.
Double the Money
Being single can be expensive. As a new expat in Dubai, a colleague invited me to join her and her husband at the Rugby 7s. However, they were getting a minibus with some other couples and there was no space for little ol’ me. She suggested I get a taxi, which was a heck of lot more pricey than a shared lift. But I didn’t know anybody and it was a great opportunity to get to know people! Circumstances vary from person to person when it comes to finances, but I can say from experience that I was able to save more money once I met my future husband, than before. Perhaps we stayed in more, watched more box sets, ordered less take out. Rent and bills were shared. Hotel room costs were halved. When single, this can feel unfair, especially if you’re ready to find someone to share your life with.
It’s a thing. Us time. My single friends say that Sundays can be the hardest day of the week. It’s chill time for many, longer than your average weeknight, and if you don’t want to chill alone, you can feel excluded from the cosy activities your couple friends are getting up to and posting on social media. PJs and duvets with ‘this one’. I recall a friend’s birthday, one Sunday, when we went cruising on a barge with fizz and nibbles. I was the only single person in the group and it didn’t bother me in the slightest… until home time. It had been an early start and our time on the barge ended around 3pm. There were talks of roasts being cooked, movies to watch, even a bit of DIY with an affectionate eye roll. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to stay out. But really, I wanted what they had. Even if I hadn’t thought about that all day.
Seeing what you don’t have has a cruel habit of making you want it more. And it works both ways, of course. No relationship is perfect. All it takes is one argument with your partner to start wondering…would the grass be greener if I was single?