All the single ladies: How many times has someone said something cringe-worthy to you right after a break-up? Put your hands up. We’ve all been there.
Surviving the end of a relationship is not for the faint of heart, and it doesn’t help that being single is heavy with expectations. You’re either supposed to be constantly searching for a soulmate around every corner or drowning your sorrows in a bottle of wine on the couch—two tired stereotypes of what it’s like to be single. But whether you’re paired up or flying solo, here are seven things I think we can agree to stop saying to anyone who is single.
1. What happened? You two seemed so perfect…
Well, if we broke up, we probably weren’t, ya know? I get it: People mean well, and sometimes the end of a relationship is a total shock.
However, you never know what a couple is like from the outside looking in. I’ve seen couples who bicker 24/7 continue to go strong for decades and others who seem solid as a rock file for divorce. Besides, what makes commitment work for one person isn’t always an across-the-board solution; you may personally want a partner who shares your interests while someone else may be attracted to their opposite.
Regardless, if the relationship ended, trust it did for a reason… that’s probably none of your business. Let your friend make the call about sharing any details and focus on offering support in helping them move on.
2. I never liked them anyway.
This response always trips me up. I mean, how do you even reply to that? Me too? You’re right, thanks for not telling me? It usually makes the newly single person feel like people were judging their relationship all along, which sucks, or validates a feeling of wasted time, which double sucks. It doesn’t help to hear that your loved ones thought the love of your life was never going to be “the one,” trust me… even if you eventually come to learn that on your own.
Let’s be real—sometimes it aids the healing process to talk shit about your friend’s ex. Relish in it for a few minutes, then remind them of what’s on the other side of the previous relationship: new opportunities, wisdom from lessons learned, and a fresh start.
3. You’re lucky. Now you can do whatever you want.
My little sister said she heard this all the time after going through a break-up. It made me laugh because technically she already did whatever she wanted—with or without a significant other.
Now, there is a certain truth to this sentiment. When you’re truly single, you are technically free to make plans without considering anyone else. You can set your schedule without thinking twice about anyone else’s calendar. You can indulge in secret single behavior, a la Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw, and eat a stack of saltines in your underwear at the kitchen counter.
But your newly single friend may not feel lucky in the least, particularly if she or he didn’t choose to end their last relationship. Be careful not to superimpose your experience of being single onto someone else. Maybe you view it as a chance to be up in the club doing your own little thing every night, but your friend might be devastated. Or maybe you’re worried they’ll end up alone forever, and they’re completely content to play it cool for a while. The point is, it’s not your job to define what being single is like for anyone else.
4. Have you tried online dating?
Online dating is usually viewed as the secret to success for modern love… or the worst thing ever invented. It’s hard to be freshly single and lauded with tales of so-and-so who met their fiancé on the Internet as if the fact that it happened to someone else is supposed to make you feel better. It’s equally challenging if you went the e-dating route to no avail, or you kinda want to give it a go minus the stigma often attached.
I’ll admit—as a recently married person, I’ve been guilty of judging Tinder in favor of movie-style meet-cutes. And that’s completely unfair, not to mention unrealistic for a lot of us. Technology has its faults with dating, but it can also serve as the connection point for many couples. And for others, it feels like too much, which is fine, too. So if your friend is diving back into the dating pond, support all the options available to them while encouraging an open mind, because you never know where or how you might meet someone you care about.
5. You have such high standards.
Newsflash: It’s okay to be picky. Sure, you might have really specific desires that may or may not be realistically met (shout-out to the ladies who claim they “can’t” date anyone shorter than them), but who am I to say what you do or don’t need or want in a relationship? You do you, boo.
However, when I think of the people I casually dated over the years—as well as those that my friends dated—my eyebrows go wayyyy up because TBH we all probably could have had higher standards.
6. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone!
People say this to be reassuring, I know. The same goes for the whole, “You’ll find someone when you’re not looking,” and “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”
These phrases are two-fold: They imply there’s something wrong with intentionally looking for a partner (there’s not), or you absolutely NEED to be in a relationship to be whole and happy, which isn’t true. Apparently, you’re supposed to just sit back and let it happen, or continually get set up with someone’s mother’s co-worker’s daughter’s friend. Which, if you’re into either of those approaches, that’s awesome! Just know not everyone is.
Being “worried” about finding someone is a weird type of social pressure. Your newly single friend might be ready to find someone or impatient to share their life with another person, but there’s no need to emphasize their potential angst over the journey or obsess about whether or not they’re bringing a plus one.
7. I promise there’s someone so much better out there for you.
Not only does this minimize any negative or complicated emotions your friend might be having post-breakup, it once again assumes their primary objective is to find a replacement partner, pronto. One of my best friends, single after a long relationship ended unexpectedly, said she wished more people—however well-intentioned—believed her when she said she wasn’t interested in dating right then.
Yeah, ideally there is someone “better” out there for your friend, but it’s also more than acceptable if they’re not hell-bent on looking. Being in a relationship is not the epitome of the human experience, contrary to what Disney movies tell us. It’s great to want the best for your friend, like joy and support and fun and sexy times. It’s also possible to have those things in one’s life outside the construct of a formal relationship.
What to say instead…
Even though we all reach for the relationship card first when catching up with friends, there are actually a lot of other equally important topics you could address instead. Ask, “Do you have any upcoming trips planned?” or “How’s your family doing?” or “What’s your favorite way to stay current on the news?” Talk about music, politics, pets, home decor, television shows, books, workouts, or style. Share how your relationship is going lately, even, and take the heat off of your friend’s love life for a minute.
Seriously: You can be happy with someone else, and by yourself; a relationship may or may not amplify your experiences. If your friend eventually does find another partner, that’s wonderful! But there’s plenty of reason for celebration in the meantime—you need no permission.