‘I Can’t Win With My Married Friends!’

Dear Sara: A few months ago I was out for drinks with two of my friends. Both are married to guys they met in university, so between them they’ve been single for about seven seconds. I was dating more actively then, and I was telling them how I felt like I wasn’t really getting anywhere—lots of messaging back and forth with potential matches that never seemed to turn into actual dates. And they responded to that by telling me I need to stop trying so hard, that love finds people when they least expect it and that maybe I should stop looking. Fast forward to last night, and I’m out again with the same two friends. Except now I’m on a break from dating (by my own choice, not because of the advice they gave before), and what do they say this time? That I’m never going to find someone if I don’t make an effort to put myself out there. Ugghhh! Sometimes you just can’t win! – M

Dear M: There is a weird belief in our culture that anyone who is married is necessarily a dating expert–even if they haven’t dated since Boy George was at the top of the charts (and we still said things like “top of the charts”). It’s maddening, and you have every right to be annoyed. But, as I’m sure you know, expressing your irritation will only give them another way to blame you for your situation—sooo negative.

Your friends’ intentions are probably good. They want you to be happy. They want you to find a partner. And they are also probably a bit uncomfortable with the fact that something that came so easily to them has been such a challenge for you. So to defuse the awkwardness, they offer advice, not realizing how disrespectful it is.

The first line of defense is to avoid the subject entirely. You don’t owe them an explanation, and even if you gave them one they probably wouldn’t accept it anyway. So saying something quick—“My dating life? Oh, you know it has its ups and downs. Hey, I’ve been renovating my kitchen and I found this great designer. Have you heard of ….”

If they insist on returning to the topic, then I would suggest a cheerful reprimand, something along the lines of:

“Ladies, I know you love me, and it’s awesome that you care so much. But you’ve both been out of the dating pool for liiiittle while, and things are a bit different now, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I’m doing my best, and that I’m fine.”

Or:

“I really appreciate your concern, and these questions that you raise in our conversations—when should you be actively looking? When should you relax and be open to what life brings you?—are ones I contemplate a lot. So I hope you’ll respect that I’m aware of the challenge of finding that balance.”

Or, if they have a decent sense of humor, you could jovially call them out on their dumb clichés. But it must be said in a super-cheerful, jokey voice:

“Really?! I need to get out there? Wait, let me write this down! The other day, someone told me ‘It always happens when you’re not looking,’ and I was like Whoa! How do you guys come up with this stuff?!”

Of course, even the most well-crafted zinger is not necessarily going to wake your friends out of their cluelessness. They may never get it. But if you can express yourself with dignity and gentleness, you may find that their response isn’t quite as important as it once seemed.

Sara Eckel is the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “‘I Can’t Win With My Married Friends!’

  1. I don’t think these are real friends since they lack the empathy to understand what you are after: some comprehension for your situation, hearing that they are willing and able to put themselves in your shoes, being able to understand your frustration at really wanting to be in a relationship and currently not finding a man who wants to same thing and with you. You don’t want them to give you advice and you don’t want them to criticize your approach. You want them to tell you that they understand how you feel and reassure you that you are accepted by them whether you are single or not.
    The married gals have it all, haven’t they? They have the life partner and the married life (the possibility to decide to have children with someone, the enhanced social life that comes with being married, the status, etc…). And on top of that “having made it relationally” contrary to their poor single friends. I am of course being sarcastic.
    So the single person who is already dealing with a lot of things herself, who feels sometimes desperate and other times frustrated, does not even have the luxury of having real good friends who are willing to listen to her with an open mind, without judging.
    This is also how it is and has been for many years in my life, as a long time singleton (not my choice, it is just not happening). I often find myself saying that being single against my will is one thing, but the worst thing is that I hardly have anyone in my life I can freely talk to about how it makes me feel. Always the judgment and the stupid advice. Thanks god I see a therapist from time to time, at least that one is paid for showing me empathy…

  2. I also think that you should not say anything in a super cheerful way if that is not how you feel. I think it is better to tell these women how you really feel by their reaction: reprimanded and not respected. Yes it is scary to make waves in friendships but believe me, sometimes rocking the boat will force people to show you whether they are willing to be real friends or not. Life is short and even though it is painful to end friendships, it is even more painful to spend time with people who cannot and do not want to be really present when you talk to them.

  3. I love the Boy George comment Sara. How true. I usually think the same about people who ‘havent dated since pussy was a kitten’. Some people find someone easily/straight away and they are not doing anything special. Its just the way it is. Difficult to accept but true.
    Whenever I get down I turn to Saras blig for support. Thanks Sara.

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