This time of year can be tough for single gals or those of us who are not quite at the engagement level yet. Between having to explain your relationship status to your aunt at the dinner table or running into old high school friends who’ve already gotten married, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out. Maybe you’re seeing others getting the thing you want and wondering why it happened for them and not you, or maybe that’s not what you want (like, at all) and you’re over feeling like it’s supposed to be.
Personally, I have a lot of anxiety surrounding my relationships (more on that another time), so I’ve spent many therapy sessions discussing engagement envy or anxiety over where I’m “supposed to be” in my relationship. My therapist has provided me with lots of tips for when I start to think something is wrong with me or my relationship just because we haven’t taken that next step yet, so I’m sharing them with you. Read on for five things to keep in mind when everyone around you is getting engaged.
1. It’s OK to set boundaries (even if that means muting your newly engaged friend)
Do you have a friend who only talks about wedding planning (even after you just got ghosted)? Or does your mom love to remind you that she can’t wait to have grandchildren one day—if only you could “settle down?” Yep, you deserve to set some boundaries. Boundaries serve as a roadmap for people in your life to follow (and sometimes as a reminder to yourself) when it comes to topics and behaviors that you won’t tolerate. It may seem unnecessary to spell it out for some people, but maybe your bestie is just caught up in the excitement of her engagement that it slipped her mind that you’re going through a dating dry spell or your mom doesn’t know that the reminder is actually very stress-inducing. It’s OK (and healthy) to remind your loved ones of how you feel and what you need from them. That way, when you’re ready to talk about wedding planning with your friend, you can be fully present with her and not feel like you’re sacrificing your mental health.
2. You attract what you focus on
Have you ever been around those people who feel like something bad always happens to them? Yeah, me too. And it seems like they only attract more negative things into their lives, right? According to the Law of Attraction, that’s because your thoughts manifest your reality. For example, if you’re constantly complaining about being single, focusing on how you’re “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” or joking about how all the good partners are taken, that’s what you’re going to continue to attract and experience. Likewise, if you constantly worry about not wanting to get married, you’ll feel resentment and annoyance for the people around you who are getting engaged instead of just feeling happy for them for reaching a milestone that they want. Rather than focusing on what you’re missing out on, focus on all that you have. Your reality will manifest accordingly.
3. Your timeline does not look like anyone else’s
I’ve always been a big rule follower, so when my friends started getting engaged before I was ready, I thought I was doing something wrong by not following suit. I’d graduated when I was supposed to, gotten a job when I was supposed to—did I totally miss the point when I was supposed to get married? I had to reframe my thinking that just because I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing didn’t mean I was failing. We all have different lives, which means there’s no one “right” timeline.
Instead of comparing your life to some imaginary timeline that the people around you seemed to follow, focus on your own timeline. Are you landing your dream job or getting a Master’s degree? Are you having the time of your life with your friends, prioritizing travel, or working on your self-love and well-being? There are so many huge milestones and important moments throughout the entire timeline of your life, it doesn’t really matter when (or if) you get married. Instead of questioning why your timeline looks different from someone else’s, expect (and appreciate!) that every timeline is unique.
4. It’s OK if your values and goals look different
If you’ve always dreamed more about traveling the world or owning a business than you’ve dreamed of being a bride, it’s not wrong to ditch the “bride” idea altogether. Even if it feels like everyone around you is getting engaged, the value and importance of your life is not determined by whether or not you (ever) get married—it is determined based on how you lived out your truest, happiest life. Recognize which values are most important to you so that you live the life you want, not the life someone else wants for you. Despite being in a wonderful relationship, owning my own home has been a bigger priority of mine than getting engaged. Not everyone has understood that, but that’s OK. I’m happy fulfilling my own goals in the order that feels right to me.
5. Relationships don’t have to end in marriage to be successful
I used to think every relationship I was in had to be “The One” or else it was a waste of my time. While I still enjoy being in long-term relationships, I’ve learned that marriage doesn’t necessarily have to be the end goal, and whether or not a relationship ends does not dictate if it was worth having. There are ways to measure the success of a relationship other than if it ended in a proposal or not. If you learned about yourself and your needs, then consider that a win. Did you spend a few months or years having fun and making memories with someone you love? Consider that time well spent. Dating is meant to be a fun process, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your relationship. If it’s meant to work out long term, it will. And if it doesn’t? You have a long life ahead of you of meeting interesting people, finding connections that feel more fulfilling, and figuring out what makes you happiest (single or otherwise). Now that’s my kind of timeline.