I am single and everyone around me has a partner. How do I handle it?

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Dear VICE,

I am 29 years old and blessed with several groups of friends that I trust. However, there is a ‘but’ to this story. Currently, everyone is in a relationship, while I myself have been single for almost five years. Most of the time I am either surrounded by couples or by people talking about their partners. At such times I sometimes feel so much discomfort and boredom.

I’m especially sick of people talking about their partner and then telling me how jealous they are of me. They say they find me really interesting: the girl who goes on dates with different people and sometimes even ends up sleeping with them; the girl whose partners can be analyzed if they get attached too quickly or get lost in the whole fear of commitment story.

I like to admit that I like talking about my life, but then people say things like “Just wait, you’ll find the right one eventually” and then suddenly I enjoy it a lot less. These things are said out of a good heart because they think that’s what you’re saying, or maybe because they have no idea what else to say.

I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times when I miss a partner, or the kind of sex you can only get with a certain amount of intimacy, or someone to share and save money with. Sometimes it makes me quite sad. But that’s not the biggest problem. It’s about the pressure I feel when people say they have no idea why “a girl like me is still single.” It’s a sin in people’s eyes when they look at me.

Everyone around me seems to follow a certain standard script. Despite being surrounded by people who love me, I feel more and more lonely. How do I avoid the urge to throw my phone against a wall when my best friend asks me to go to the movies with her and her partner? How do I feel less lonely if I don’t get invited and I have nothing better to do? And what if I remain single for a while, whether voluntarily or involuntarily?

Thank you, P.

Dear P.,

More and more people are choosing to be single, according to Israeli sociologist Elyakim Kislev, author of “Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living”. Precise data on single life is remarkably difficult to find – most governments only record who lives alone, who has never been married and not necessarily those who are not in a relationship.

But according to Kislev’s research, singles are the fastest growing population in the world. And this is due to several things: women, for example, no longer need a man to take care of them, which has made them value independence more. As a society, however, we have become more individualistic and career-oriented, and we have more opportunities to migrate.

And yet people still have a negative image of singles, a phenomenon there singleism is called: stereotyping and discrimination against people who are not in a romantic relationship. These stereotypes include people thinking ‘something is wrong’ when a nice person doesn’t have a partner. And although quite outdated, such views can be persuasive. They can make you feel somehow guilty about being single, even if you’re really happy with your relationship status. “Our way of thinking hasn’t really changed with the times,” Kislev said earlier interview with VICE. “We still believe that bachelors cannot be trusted.”

Federica Micale and Giulia Amicone, couples therapists and co-founders of the mental health platform Apsicologa, argue that people often think that being single equals being alone. “However, people can feel alone when they are single, in a relationship, physically alone, or even when they are with a large group of people,” they write in an email.

When your friends talk to you about it, you sense some pity in their words. Whether they mean well or not, it’s normal to have an emotional reaction to what they say, which can show in expressions or frustrations like wanting to throw your phone against a wall.

You rightly say that you are not inferior just because you don’t have a partner. So when someone asks why “a girl like you” is “still single”, remember that these judgments say a lot more about themselves and their prejudices than they do about you. “Before you are single, you are P., with your body, your personality, your interests, your history, your daily life,” the experts continue to write. In other words, being single or part of a couple does not define you as a person and is likely to change many times over the course of your life.

These comments can be especially hurtful because you are likely comparing your life to that of friends or to milestones that society says you should have achieved at different ages in life. It’s completely normal, it’s part of human nature. But it can also burden you. “That’s why it’s so important to really understand what we value most when we feel unsatisfied,” the couples therapists continue.

For example, despite what your friends and acquaintances say, it seems that you want a relationship. But you’re also fine with waiting for the right person. It sounds like you’re not putting yourself under any pressure at all.

If someone says, “Wait, you have to find someone too,” even with the best of intentions, it triggers you because it puts you in a powerless position. “The verb ‘find’ is an oversimplification and is very passive, while ‘choose’ is proactive,” Micale and Amicone wrote. “Think how different it would be to hear, ‘You’re choosing someone, too.'” The process of choosing a long-term partner simply takes time and can vary. based on luck, priorities, maturity and all sorts of factors.

Furthermore, “every state brings both satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and this is healthy and normal,” Micale and Amicone write. As long as it doesn’t become a prison or comfort zone, it’s always an opportunity to get to know yourself, experiment and do new things.

The same goes for your friends – if being single doesn’t mean you’re missing out on anything in life, then being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have everything you want and need. In a way, the fact that your friends are too eager to talk about what’s going on in your dating life may be a response to the loss of the sense of adventure that sometimes comes with being in a relationship.

There is nothing wrong with that in itself, and you also like to share. But sometimes it seems like it also makes you feel different, alienated, judged on some level. If so, talk to your friends and explain your point of view, or set some boundaries – things you don’t want to talk about with friend A or B because of the response you expect from them.

You also write that you are sometimes lonely in your spare time, especially when your friends go out without you, or when everyone resorts to couples talk. One solution might be to “ask your friends to meet with you separately,” suggest Micale and Amicone. “Even people in couples like to have moments to themselves.”

But you should also consider expanding your circle of friends to include people who correspond with you more now. “It is always stimulating and helpful,” the psychologists continue. “Not because you want or need to leave good old friends, but because of the simple fact that we don’t always have the same interests or can share the same things with them at every stage of life.”

Also, hanging out with couples alone can also be limiting for meeting romantic partners. “There may be friends with whom we get along really well and enjoy going out to dinner or to a show or a walk,” Micale and Amicone write, “and others with whom we prefer to dance and meet people. ”

It doesn’t mean you don’t love or value your friends. But single or not, we change throughout our lives, as do our needs and expectations. Distinguishing between what is good for us and what we have been taught to believe is good for us is a difficult task – but you are well on your way to achieving it.

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