I’m Single — Here’s the (Well-Intended) Advice I’m Tired of Hearing

I was inspired to write this story for two reasons.

Firstly, I was at dinner the other day with a friend who is in a relationship (12 years!) and a single friend (I’m single, too, in case you missed the headline). “Tell me if I have no idea what I’m talking about, but have you tried…” my friend in a relationship prefaced a piece of dating and relationship advice offered to us single girls. We’d been swapping stories about our dating lives. While I was all ears to hear my friend’s advice, I was surprised by how hesitant she seemed to be sharing it. By how concerned she seemed to be that she might be saying the wrong thing.

Secondly, another friend got me onto an account on Instagram, @yourdiagnonsense, that shares tell-it-like-it-is dating advice, and a recent post really resonated with me. It read “Stop saying this” and then listed all the things single people are tired of hearing, like “Don’t settle”, “Wait for the right person”, “Don’t be picky / you’re not picky enough” and “Love yourself first”.

They’re all things that I, myself, have heard countless times before, along with “Have you tried getting off the dating apps?” and all kinds of other well-meaning pieces of advice, most of which I have tried already, thank you.

“Dating is the literal worst; it’s a mindf*ck,” the post continued. “A string of first and second dates, interpreting text messages, disappointment, apps, being ignored, feeling undesirable, feeling rejected, bad (mostly bad) sex with strangers, ghosting, being vulnerable then down vulnerability only to force yourself to try again. The list goes on because the herculean efforts are boundless.”

But here’s the thing – why I felt compelled to share my two cents as a single person — I totally get why my friend in a relationship felt so unsure of what to be saying to a single person. Because it would be confusing figuring out what we do and don’t want to hear.   

So, for the sake of a) people in relationships who have no idea what to say to support their friends, and b) the single people who might not have been able to articulate these thoughts, but now (if they agree with them), will be able to communicate them to their friends in relationships, I thought I’d explain what single people actually do want to hear.

I’ll start with the bottom line first and work my way backwards: single people simply want to feel seen. Dating is the literal worst. It is a mindf*ck. It’s disappointing, hurtful and takes a truckload of resilience — particularly in the age of dating apps when you can be dating upwards of five people at a time.

Single people simply want a bit of empathy. They want people in relationships to really put themselves in the single people’s shoes for a minute and then to acknowledge that they understand what they’re going through.

And then, whatever advice comes out of that, we want to hear it. I’ll caveat this by saying, a) check that the single person actually wants any advice because they might not be open to it (which is fine) and, b) check they actually want a relationship because, again, they might not and that’s also okay.  

Tell us why you think your dating eventually landed you in a relationship and why you think your relationship works so well now (or doesn’t). As long as you’ve really taken the time to understand how sucky dating can be for us and expressed that to us, we want to hear your advice.

People currently in relationships and even people with past relationship experience — actually anyone with any relationship experience at all — have valuable insight to share. And this goes for sharing any advice, really — before you share it, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and make them feel seen. Doing that might even change what you say next.

The other thing to note, too, is that dating advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. People’s attachment styles play a big role in dating, and telling someone with an avoidant attachment style “don’t settle” is probably not the best advice for them. If you’re not familiar with the avoidant attachment style, it’s someone who is afraid of getting too close and who puts up barriers, with a resulting behaviour of always finding something wrong with a potential partner. So, yeah, you wouldn’t want to be telling them to keep being far too picky.

So, to summarise all this, single people do want to hear advice from people in relationships, but they also just want to be seen and acknowledged for their, as @yourdiagnonsense calls it, “herculean efforts”.