Sometimes when you’re single and struggling to find the right partner, seeing friends, colleagues and everyone around you getting engaged can feel like a punch to the gut. It is common and quite normal for women (and men) to feel as if they are being "left behind" when others around them are getting married or entering into long-term relationships, explains Támara Hill, a licensed therapist who regularly helps clients dealing with this issue. “In some ways, people, especially young people, put pressure on themselves to achieve certain things in order to feel 'arrived' or 'accomplished.' When a marriage or long-term relationship isn't happening, this chips away at self-worth (which it shouldn't).” Hill even adds that just since the reveal of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement, she’s seen a few women around her begin to make self-deprecating remarks. “It's that feeling of not being able to 'achieve.'”
If you feel like these feelings speak to you, here are some expert-approved tips on how to cope when everyone around you is getting engaged or married and you’re still single.
Everyone comes to the table with a different story to tell and perhaps your story is completely different, explains Hill. “Different stories result in different endings. This doesn't mean that you are any less than the person who is getting engaged and seeming to be living a good life.” In other words, perhaps you spent your 20s traveling for your career while your friend stayed local and it was a lot easier for her/him to meet more marriage-ready guys or girls.
It's really hard feeling like you're the one who's being left out, that your life is standing still while everyone else's seems to be moving on. “Perusing through Facebook and Instagram and seeing post after post of shiny engagement ring photos can be really triggering, bringing up feelings of jealousy, sadness and fear that this may not happen for you,” explains licensed therapist, Annie Wright. You might feel bitter or a bad friend for feeling this way, but Wright adds that what you're going through is a very common experience and there are many others out there feeling the same way.
This may mean taking a break from social media for a while (so you don’t see all those engagement photos and wedding countdowns), suggests Wright. “It may also mean not attending any more engagement parties or weddings; or perhaps you will just need some solid escapist Netflix time with a show like Stranger Things, where engagements are the last thing on anyone's mind!”
If you’re trying hard to date and meet people and feel like you keep striking out, relationship expert and author of, Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work, Lesli Doares, says you must be clear about what a good partner looks like and if you are a good partner. “Are you engaging in behavior that is counter to creating a long-term, lasting relationship? Perhaps your actions are mirroring someone who needs to be in a relationship instead of wanting to be in one, and you could be giving off the desperate vibe without even realizing it. Until you are truly comfortable on your own, you won’t be able to be in a lasting relationship.”
Whether you never had one or did but got lazy with it, it’s time to recommit to daily gratitude journaling, says Wright. “This practice will help you notice and focus on what's going well in your life regardless [of whether] you’re not engaged or romance is not happening for you just yet.”
Though this may sound harsh and a bit bitter, it puts things back in perspective. “It isn't your time to experience this 'good moment' yet but perhaps that is coming sometime in the future. The person getting married will encounter some rough patches. It won't all be positive. That's life…” says Hill.
Dr. Scott Carroll, a psychiatrist and the author of Don't Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For, says asking yourself some key questions may help you realize you’re better off single than with the wrong person. “Would you really marry anyone you currently know or are you just lonely? Do think getting married is going to solve some challenge you are struggling with like your finances or helping you get away from your small town? Are you ready for a lifelong commitment?” Thinking about your answers, you might actually be grateful you are still single and can focus on solving your own problems first and work on finding the right person for you.
Instead of letting those feelings of jealousy and sadness make you resent others, go shopping or binge on ice cream and reruns of Sex and the City, use those feelings as motivation to get actionable and get back in the dating scene or work on how you date and do relationships, suggests Wright.
Hill suggests setting short-term (one year) and long-term (two years) concrete goals focused on things you want to actively seek to accomplish while you are single, "free" and focused. “Setting these goals keeps you accountable and focused while those around you are focused on their lives. Stay focused on your life.” In other words, enjoy the single years while you can, because one day, you won’t be!
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