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10 Things NOT To Say To Single People

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10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

Ok, back to this conversation of being single!

Today I’m tapping into my inner Clinton Kelly, and am going to give you my conversational “makeover” tips on what not to say to single people. Oh baby, do I have some experience with this one.

I think I have heard just about every singleness cliche under the sun, notably coming from both single friends and married friends. 99% of the time, I fully believe that each of these comments are well-intentioned and meant to be encouraging. But the fact remains that they typically make single people feel the opposite of encouraged. So, I won’t claim to speak for single people everywhere, but I thought it might be fun and helpful to name my top 10 singleness cliches, and offer a little explanation for why the world might be a better place if we can avoid them from now on.

Big thanks to lots of my single and married friends who weighed in on this topic (especially my book clubbers!). Also, fair warning — I got a little doodle-y on an airplane ride and made some “visual aids” to illustrate each point. As opposed to my sister the AP art teacher, my stick figures never really advanced beyond the first grade, so prepare yourself. ;)

Let the top 10 countdown…..BEGIN!

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

10. “How are you still single?!”

I think the bigger question is — how exactly is anyone supposed to respond to this question?! I know it’s usually intended as a compliment to a single person. And whenever I hear it, I try to take it as such and avoid rolling my eyes and politely demanding that they owe me a dollar for adding to the ridiculous number of times I’ve heard that.

The problem with that comment is that it (a) infers that I (or any reasonably normal, cool, marrying-aged person) should not “still” be single and (b) makes me feel like I have to defend or provide some justification (or at least an explanation) for said singleness. The truth is that most days, I totally dig my single life. Yes, there are ups and downs that come with being single, just like there are with being married. But I would much prefer a happy single life to settling for the wrong relationship any day.

So if that means that I am “still” single at this point in life, bring it on!

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

9. “You’re just too picky.”

To everyone out there who has ever been accused of being too picky, I say the opposite — power to picky-ness!!!

Now, I know that there is a time and a place for giving someone a chance. But I would much rather have my friends err on the side of picky-ness and have the confidence to hold out for someone they feel is right for them, rather than yield to the pressure to be in a relationship with the wrong person.

So trust your single friends’ guts. If they aren’t feeling it with someone they are dating — even after just one date — support them. And if you do happen to strongly feel like they should give someone a little more time or a second chance, then if you are a close friend, say that. But do not accuse them of being too picky.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

8. “Oooh, I heard that __(insert ANY unmarried human being)___ is also single! Want me to set you two up?”

OH. And you think I’m exaggerating. :)

I cannot tell you the number of times I have told someone I’m single, and before asking if I even want to be in a relationship, the person instantly starts racking their brain for anyone — anyone — they could know for a set-up, no matter how distant the connection.

Don’t get me wrong, this is usually 100% well-intentioned and I totally appreciate friends in the past who have thoughtfully introduced and/or set me up on dates with people they think would be a good match. But the problem is that more times than not, the person either (a) does not know the guy very well, or (b) does not know me very well, or  (c) sometimes knows neither of us well at all but (d) always somehow thinks that this equation is fully sufficient for successful matchmaking. Suffice it to say, those set-ups usually don’t end well.

That said, my parents met on a blind date. And many of my closest friends have met via set-ups. So I’m totally open to the possibility. We just need to have a little more in common besides both being “single”.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

7. “You will meet someone when you least expect it.”

This comment was definitely at the top of the list for many single people I’ve talked with recently. And I know it is overused because it can be true. Lots of people do genuinely meet someone they love when they “least expect it”. I’ve seen it happen many a time.

But here’s the thing — telling a single person that they will meet someone when they “least expect it” is simply not helpful. Even if that may end up being the case, and even if it is meant to be encouraging, the comment comes off sounding like the single person is doing something wrong by “expecting” “it” — whatever those two words even mean. And how is a person even supposed to respond?

I think my bigger issue with the comment is the fact that it’s simply not always true! Lots of my friends have met their spouses in settings where they are fully expecting (maybe a better word is pursuing) a relationship — like online dating, or asking friends for set-ups, etc.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

6. “Man, I wish I were still single.”

In my experience, this comment usually comes with some sort of conversation about all of the “freedom” that single people have…which I get. There are definitely some stellar perks that come with being single.

Single people get to set our own schedules, manage our finances just as we’d like, make big decisions on our own, choose our own meals, have opportunities to travel, and all sorts of other freedoms — which I fully appreciate! But there are a lot of challenges that come with being single too.

On the flipside, there are tons of freedoms that come with being married or in a relationship. Married people have the freedom of not having to bear the weight of making every decision on your own, they have the (potential) support of a second income, help with housework, the freedom to start a family and have kids, and on and on. But there are a lot of challenges that come with being married too.

So while I “get” that there may be things about being single that married people miss, I’m pretty positive that most of the time people who say this really don’t mean that they wish they were single. (Unless they are in an unhappy marriage — that’s an entirely different conversation.)  So married people, let’s not glorify being single. And single people, let’s not glorify being married. Let’s just be real about them both.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

5. “…and that’s why she/he is still single.”

Please just promise that you will never ever say this to a single person or about a single person. Ever.

I like how my friend Sarah puts it. “Usually, this is said for comic effect when discussing the shortfalls of someone not present. First of all, let’s keep the discussing-the-shortfalls-of-someone-not-present stuff to a minimum. We’re (usually) better than that. Second of all, it implies that if someone is single, there’s a massive character flaw behind that social status. There are a lot of reasons someone may be single, and most of them have to do with choices, preferences and priorities…not huge hangups.”

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

4. “You must have so much time on your hands!”

Yes, single people definitely do not have the time demands of spending time each day with a spouse. And single people without kids do not have the time demands of spending hours a day raising children.

But most single people I know have other demands on their time, thanks to their wonderfully full lives. They spend time diving into their careers, they spend time traveling, they spend lots of time with their friends and family, they spend time living the best life they can. But they do not sit around all day with endless “time on their hands” watching rom coms and twiddling their thumbs waiting for their time to come. Oh my gosh, that would be miserable.

I also had a surprising number of single friends ask me to mention that being single and childless does not mean that they want to be asked to babysit constantly. If the single person loves kids and offers to babysit, awesome — ask away! But automatically assuming that single friends want to spend their weekend evenings babysitting while married friends go on dates? Not so.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

3. “So, what are you doing to meet people? Are you putting yourself out there? Have you tried online dating?”

Trust me — if a single person wants to meet someone, they have thought long and hard about what they want to be “doing” about it.

Everyone needs to be true to what feels best for them on this. Some love online dating, some love meeting new guys in bars, some love asking for lots of set-ups. But to be honest, I think most of my friends would say that they are over trying to “do” something about being single and are happy living their lives as they are. If a great guy comes into my life, then awesome! But in the meantime, I’d rather focus my time and energy on the people I already know and love.

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

2. “Scripture says that being single is a gift, so God must think you can handle it.” /  “You are lucky to have this time to learn from your married friends and prepare for marriage.” / “If being married is a desire of your heart, then God will give it to you.” / “You know, two are better than one.” / “I know an awesome singles’ group you should visit!” / “Just kiss dating good-bye.” / “When you’re ready, God will send the perfect person.”

Now these I have heard way too many times. That was one of the side effects of working in a megachurch for 7 years where often complete strangers felt it their duty to offer me their unsolicited advice about being single. Again, intentions were almost always good, but the results were often not.

Let me say clearly that I am a Christian and my faith and scripture and prayer and church absolutely play a part in how I process life as a single person. On the hard days, they are often what get me through. But soundbites like these are annoying and often flat-out theologically misguided. So if I want to talk about faith and singleness, I want to talk about it in a longer conversation with friends who know and love and want the best for me. Not in passing with someone I barely know.

Also, let’s not forget that Christianity is centered upon someone who rocked it as a single guy into His thirties…

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

1. “I know you’ll find someone.” / “Your time will come.”

This is another comment that is usually meant to make a single person feel better. But I feel like it is more often said to make the person saying it feel better, or to bring a conversation about being single to a close. For years, I always tried to make the person saying it feel validated, responding with something like, “I hope so!” or “well, we’ll see”. But I’m over it now, and try to respond instead with something like, “actually, it may not happen, but I’m ok with that”.

You see, telling a single person that they will find someone is problematic because no one actually knows if that “someone” will come along. And the single person may not even be looking for someone, and may not dig the idea that their good time in life has not already come. Either way, though, it definitely puts the single person in an awkward position for a response, since there’s no good answer to that one.

So instead of giving assurances about what we don’t know, why not celebrate what we do?  I know that at least I and my single (and married!) friends would so much rather focus on the good things in life today than whatever may be to come. So carpe the singleness diem, baby!

Check Out Other Posts In This Singleness Series:

10 Things NOT To Say To Single People |

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54 comments on “10 Things NOT To Say To Single People”

  1. LOVED the cartoons (and the thoughtfulness behind them)!

  2. To #1, I like to respond with, “WHAT?! WHEN?! It better not be anytime soon because I don’t have TIME for them just now!!!” Also takes care of #4, but can serve as an opening to #6. But you know what they say… Queso sera.

  3. Omg. I love you. That is all.

  4. I can’t even tell you how much I love this post. The cartoons, the cliches, your response – so well done! Yes and amen ;).

  5. Love this series you’re doing! So helpful and gets me thinking. Plus, you just totally gave me a few great ideas. I should put myself out there more and ask my friends and family for set-ups. I completely agree with you that being single is great, but I’m over it now and want to change that.

  6. Oh man! I love the cartoons!! They are absolutely perfect!!

    As is this list!! I have heard all of the above more times than I can count and mostly from married friends.

    And another point on #10… asking me “how” I’m still single feels like someone is implying that I have something to do with it and that I’m doing the whole dating thing all wrong!!

    LOVE this series!!

  7. Fantastic, Ali. Just pefect.

  8. This is absolutely perfect! I considered sending it to several people, my mom included, but their feelings might be hurt… If I had a quarter for every time I heard one of these, it would pay for a lifetime subscription on!!

  9. Couldn’t agree more with your list of 10 things to avoid saying (I’ve definitely heard all of those more than once!) and I can’t wait to see your list of 10 things to say!

  10. I love this…but I’m totally guilty of at least one of these. :( Sorry…and I’ll definitely keep this in mind next time I think about opening my big mouth! ;)

    Can’t wait for the next post!

  11. A wise and true list. Heard all of these and a few others when I was the last man (er, girl) standing among my friends and cousins at 30. I used to get so frustrated that the perception was that there was something “wrong” with my single life. I loved every second of it. Love being married now, too. All things in their own time.

  12. So true! Love your blog! You have gained a new fan! :)

  13. I love this! Thanks for posting!!!!

  14. Lovely illustrations, and I knew I would be guilty of at least one of these, which I was. I love you and am very proud of you.

  15. I didn’t realize how much these phrases bother me until I read them together in one place like that. I can definitely relate and am hopeful that you’ve brought a little more awareness to everyone else.

  16. Omg, I loved reading the cartoons! They actually made me LOL. I never realized how cliche-bad some of these were until I read the reasons why. I mean, I have definitely heard these said to me, but I never thought much about it. I assumed they just wanted to close the topic.

  17. While I do agree with some of these (actually most), a couple of them are people just being positive and loving. I mean what do you expect them to say? You’re a piece of ish and no wonder you are still single? Maybe the single person needs to lighten up and that’s why they are still single.

    • Maybe the commenter should actually read the beginning of the post, where it says there will be a follow up of suggestions of things to say that don’t make a single person feel bad? Love that the commenter also actually said #5 in this list.

    • <3
      You're awesome

  18. BEST. QUOTE.EVER!! “Also, let’s not forget that our faith is founded upon someone who rocked it as a single guy into His thirties…”

  19. I love your posts. I’m 27 and single. At this time of my life having a boyfriend isn’t a priority to me. And I feel like most everyone around me, especially my family (except my father) isn’t ok with that. Or they don’t understand why I prefer to be single over being with a guy. My favorite comment from one of my grandfathers friends who really doesn’t know me very well (was said to me this year actually) “Why hasn’t a guy snatched you up yet?” uhhhh whats that supposed to mean? I told her that it was because I was to busy enjoying my life to pay attention to boys. I know she didn’t mean it to be hurtful but I am not a princess in a Disney movie waiting idly for my prince to arrive and validate my presence in life, and that was exactly how this woman made me feel.

    As far as what to say to single people, if said single person didn’t bring up a relationship topic, I suggest that no one else does. And if said single person does bring up the topic, shut up and let them do the talking.

  20. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one Ali because I am guilty of telling few of these you mentioned above..because sometimes I dont know how to respond to some of my single friends who has been trying to date for so long.

    • Being single and having single friends (this works for dating and married friends) I have learned some healthy ways of responding to a disheartened friend. When the relationship topic comes up and said single friend is frustrated or upset about how hard they have been trying, or that the options for “good” men just aren’t out there. Here is where some of the above responses usually show up, but I prefer to ask them when was the last time they did something for the first time. This usually helps in developing a new hobby, which usually distracts from the “searching” for a boyfriend hobby. This also usually helps get them in a roll where they are not depending on someone else to “lift them up” and they can fuel their own self empowerment.

      “Something for the first time” can be anything from running a 5k to working in a soup kitchen. Anything that “distracts” them from the “hopelessness” feeling that they have and becomes something that they enjoy doing.

    • This is such a condescending attitude on your part. It’s like – “I’m in a couple; I don’t need to do anything anymore! But you do.”

      I’m sure your single friends roll their eyes at being ‘distracted’ from finding a boyfriend.

    • well said lisa..that’s how i perceived it too tbh

  21. OMG I laughed the whole way through, and loved the followup post too. LOVE.
    You’re such a great writer!

  22. Lovely post – funny because it’s sooooooooo true! I know how often these are well intentioned, but as a single person I always wanted to say ‘who are you to be worried about my love life?’

  23. Totally love your blog! It really brightens up things and enabled me to laugh at all the things/comments etc associated with being single at 30 :-D And it helps to know what others in the same situation are feeling…That I’m not the only one thinking about this

  24. I had a friend’s dad ask me (at the ripe old age of 21!!) at a wedding, “so when are YOU getting married??” I’m sure he had the best of intentions, but in the moment I was livid and dumbfounded.

    I also was looking through the housewares section at target, at about the same age, because I was planning on getting my first apartment, and my friend that was shopping with me asked, “wouldn’t you rather get something cheap for now, and wait and get nice plates and stuff when you get married and you can register for them?” SERIOUSLY?? I just got married this fall (I’m 32) – that would have been a lot of years eating off of paper plates! It’s just funny how some (loving, well intentioned) people in our lives can’t see past their own experience and understand that not everyone meets the love of their life when they are so young.

  25. Hi there;) i loves this article. May i quote it for my post on my blog? ;)

  26. Yes! I would also add the one that bothers me the most. “When are you going to get married?” Hmmm…good question. Wish I knew myself. When I find someone. When someone asks. I dont know, let me channelmy inner psychic. Or maybe I dont want to get married.

  27. Thank you so much for writing this :-)

  28. Can I just say that I heard ALL of these more than 1 biiiiilllion times when I was single (and 30)! Especially #2. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure my single and 34 year old brother would appreciate this… Hey, wait a minute, he’s single, you’re single, AND he likes to cook…. JK. Well, not JK (he does like to cook) but JK that I’m doing what you hate. :) LOVE your blog, LOVE your recipes. (Hope you can appreciate my humor).

  29. One thing I would say to happily married people is that they shouldn’t underestimate how lonely and unsupported a single person can feel and also be. I am single (not by choice) and over fifty with no family members, and it hurts when, as happened recently, a happily married lady I know (with three children and six grandchildren as well) that I wasn’t homeless. Yes, things could be worse, but these sorts of comments are not very kind or sensitive.

  30. I haven’t heard these…but that’s because I don’t have any friends or social life, etc, so there’s no one to say these things to me.

  31. Best comment ever: “Also, let’s not forget that Christianity is centered upon someone who rocked it as a single guy into His thirties…” 31 and rocking it!

  32. thank you!!!! Just so much thanks to you!!!!!

  33. I often feel that these thoughts are going through my friends & family’s minds, but more in a negative sense because they never try to be encouraging or uplifting about my being single. Not that it drives my happiness or self-confidence, but it would be nice if I knew they were rooting for me instead of feeling that they viewed me as a “single pariah”. I know I would be rooting for them if they were in my single shoes.

  34. I loved this! I’ve heard all ten of these time and time again {insert eye roll)

  35. Love this! I’m single and nearly 30 and I just attended a wedding and heard plenty of this stuff. I was feeling down about it until I found this list and it cheered me up! Thanks!!

  36. Ali I am 30 and single and was panicking until I found this blog. You are such a breath of fresh air! I see these posts were from just about a year ago… Are you still single? I would love an update!

  37. guilty of number 10…  See that is why I am still single myself.  I use number 10 as a pickup line. I have to say I hate being single…  Until I’m in a relationship.  Of course this is because I haven’t found the right relationship.  I have my two kids – that will have to do for now..  Enough rambling…  Funny cartoons!  Enjoyed the article…  

  38. Really enjoyed this, laughing at each one cause how true each one. Love it!!!

  39. Love this  – SO TRUE! I would love to see a post where you talk about things not to assume with your single friends and family members. Here is my partial list: :)
    * While I love your children, that does not mean I want to babysit. My babysitting days are behind me, I’m not 16. I will be on your emergency list but please don’t plan on me being the one to watch your kids.
    * I make plans – and sometime my plan is to stay home on a cold night, eating takeout and watching bad TV. I can’t break my plans to do things for you (say, babysitting), just as I wouldn’t expect you to break your plans. So don’t guilt trip me.
    * When we vacation together, friends or family, please count me as someone needing a bed and let’s plan accordingly. While I get that there are circumstances that necessitate sleeping on a couch (say, going to Grandma’s house for Christmas), vacation is not one of them. I will pay extra, if it comes to that, but I need a good night’s sleep like everyone else. Just because I am single doesn’t mean I should be expected to sleep on any random sofa, chair, etc.

    Keep doing what you’re doing!

  40. In 1a it should be implies not infers. Thank you 

  41. This is coming from a chronic, lonely single guy: Hearing “You’ll find someone” is like a cortisone shot in the knee after an injury. The first time may help. Then another injury, another shot, and repeat the cycle continuously.. . Not only does it not help, but the knee is now destroyed completely beyond repair. The breakup/”You’ll find someone” cycle is the same.

  42. I am one of those people who read blogs and forums on a daily basis and never comment but I couldn’t help myself.  This post is hilarious and so true!  When someone tells me I am just too picky, i could choke them, literally.  

    Also, when you said this statement below, it really made me learn how I’m feeling.  Usually when people tell me it will happen when you least expect it, I have this feeling of uneasiness just like you explained, like I am doing something wrong, and I never understood why.  But you putting it into words and showing that I am not crazy is so comforting.

    “But here’s the thing — telling a single person that they will meet someone when they “least expect it” is simply not helpful.  Even if that may end up being the case, and even if it is meant to be encouraging, the comment comes off sounding like the single person is doing something wrong by “expecting” “it” — whatever those two words even mean.  And how is a person even supposed to respond?”

    Keep on writing girly.  I’m 29 (30 in a couple months) and I can relate to every single word that you write on dating.  At least we all have each other! =)

  43. Did you know that I have announce april 4th to be Singles day. The day to celebrate our single-friends the way we celebreate mothers on mothers day. :-)

  44. This is hilariously awesome!!! And super duper informative!!! Xo

  45. So true!!! The cartoons are really cool.

  46. People are always telling me,
    “There’s someone for everyone”,
    “You’ll meet her when you least expected”,
    or “She’s out there”….
    Well, I’ve got something to say to those
    who only deliver lip-service instead of lining me up with a date…
    “I’ll Believe It When I See It”….
    After all, I’ll have to see living proof that such a girl even exists!

  47. #11 “Maybe you are still single because you haven’t given your hear to the Lord / there is something lacking between your relationship with God” Oh, my goodness! Me and my single friends are so tired of this. Your very salvation is put into question because you aren’t married. Besides this being flat-out theologically misguided, think of how dangerous this thought is for single Christians: You’re not truly saved until you’re married. This can make Christians depressed or desperate to get married.

  48. I love this telling me I’m too picky when I haven’t ever been asked & when I do I want someone kind not anyone yucky.
    Really annoys me