Sunday, 7 February 2016

How To... Be Loved Up Without Annoying Your Single Friends

Me, illustrating being happy for my loved up friends.  You totally got that, right?!

Yes, it's that time of the week again, everyone!  Part three of my "How To..." series on love and relationships is finally here.  I know, I've been waiting for it all week, too.

Now, there are few things that make me happier than seeing a friend fall head over heels in love and having that love returned.  I would be a pretty lousy person if I wasn't happy for my loved-up buddies.  And, on the whole, the majority of my coupled-up chums are really good at conducting their relationships in a way that doesn't make every single person they know collectively nauseous.  But some folk just really don't know how to behave around their single mates, once they become attached.  It's like they enter a relationship and their brain gets scrambled.  I've seen it happen over and over, so I've decided it's time for a handy guide...


As irritating as it is to have to point this out in my own little corner of the Internet, just for the sake of clarity: this blog is not being written in order to shame couples (I have loads of loved-up friends who would rightly lynch me if I did that), or to express my enormous bitterness at being single, because whilst love in my life would be really nice, I'm not angry or sad that I'm unattached, right now.  Indeed, the final instalment of this series will be released next Sunday - yep, Valentine's Day - and will be entitled "How To... Be Happy Being Single."  So, stay tuned for that.

But first, let's imagine you're reading this and you're in a brand new relationship.  Hooray!  Congratulations!  Or, perhaps you're reading this and you're in a long term partnership with someone you're planning on spending the rest of your life with.  That is awesome; I'm chuffed to bits for you.  Now... Do you know how to avoid becoming that person that unintentionally annoys many of their single friends?  No?  Then read on...

1. Please DON'T forget we exist.

We get it.  A new relationship is exciting and you want to spend as much time as possible with your new beau (please stick with me and I swear never to say the word "beau" again).  But your friends were in your life long before this new, sexy person was and if your relationship breaks down, they'll be the ones picking up the pieces.  If they're good friends, they'll be the ones on whose shoulders you can cry snotty tears.  If they're really good friends, they'll be the ones taking you out and getting you drunk, or the ones who'll be stalking your ex's Facebook profile just so you know what terrible hair (s)he has since you broke up.  So, you might want to keep them in your life, even though your life now revolves around a person you like in a very different way.

Let me tell you a story.  Several years ago, I had a bestie with whom I did everything.  We hung out as often as we could, were forever texting or calling one another and life was pretty damn good.  We'd had boyfriends together (not the same one mind, we weren't that close) and we'd been single together.  We'd even been in the position of her having a boyfriend and me being single before, so I was certain that nothing and no one could ever come between us.

Then, she met a guy.  Except I didn't actually know she'd met a guy.  I just knew that she went from being in touch with me on a daily basis, to not being in touch at all.  After a month - and at least 4 or 5 messages asking if she was okay - she finally told me she had a new boyfriend and had been too "busy" to reply.

Now, I was happy for her, but also pretty annoyed that she'd let me panic for weeks, before she let me know that she was, you know, alive.  Still, our friendship got back on track and, a few months later, when she and the guy broke up, I was there for her with chocolate and wine and a family sized box of tissues.  We went back to hanging out all the time and being in constant touch with each other.  Until she met someone new and... Well, have you seen the movie Groundhog Day?  It was basically that, without the added bonus of lovable Bill Murray.

Funny how life repeats itself.  
Funny how life repeats itself.
Funny how life repeats itself.
Funny how... Oh, you get it.

To summarise: your friends will definitely understand that you want to have time alone with the new guy or girl in your life.  They'll be pleased for you!  But they won't be quite so thrilled if you literally stop calling, texting or having anything to do with them, because you've decided they're not important anymore, now that you're getting regular naked cuddles.  

Besides which, having outside interests in a relationship is important.  If you spend every waking moment with your significant other, you lose your own significance.  And then there's the fact that if a relationship is going to get serious, you're surely going to want to introduce your new partner to the people who are important to you?  You'll have a tough job doing that if none of them are talking to you, because you've completely ignored them for weeks...

2. Avoid metaphorically patting your single friends on the head at ALL costs.

It's great when you fall in love, isn't it?  And you kind of wish that everyone you know could feel as happy as you do, right?!  That's brilliant and it comes from a really sweet place, but for the love of all I hold dear, do NOT do the whole "pat you on the head" routine with your single friends when they don't need it. 

Don't know what I mean?  Let me explain...

I had a chat with a friend once that went something like this:

Me: I really want to go to that thing in London.  I might have to try to sweet talk a friend to come along!
Them: I'd offer, but I'm with my boyfriend that weekend.
Me: Oh, that's okay.  Doing anything nice?
Them: Just spending some quality time.  Might go out for dinner, if we manage to leave the bedroom...
Me: Haha!  Cool, that sounds nice.  That new restaurant in town is meant to be good.
Them: You'll find someone, Em.  You'll meet him when you least expect it, okay?  Don't be sad and try not to be so sceptical.
Me: What the...??!!


I'm sure all coupled-up folk feel like they're merely expressing their desire for their single friends to experience the mind-blowing joy they're currently feeling.  But... Well, it's massively patronising to have someone suddenly start telling you not to give up hope, or that "THE ONE is waiting out there, somewhere," when we've not brought the subject up.   I've had several friends do this to me over the years out of nowhere and I literally don't understand why they don't see how incredibly insensitive it is.  Unless a single friend actively says to you: "I wish I had someone in my life," do not proceed to give them the "it'll happen when you least expect it" conversation, especially if it has literally zero relevance to what you were previously discussing.  And even if it is relevant (say, you've been telling us about your new partner and we've been oohing and aahing accordingly), DON'T NECESSARILY DO IT.  Sometimes, all single people want a bit of reassurance that we'll find someone eventually, but we don't want it to come out of nowhere and nor do we want it to sound like pity. Nobody wants to think that their loved-up mates all feel sorry for them, after all.

Like a lot of unintentionally upsetting or annoying stuff, this almost certainly comes from a good place.  The people who randomly blurt "don't be sad, you'll meet someone someday" are almost definitely doing it because they hope their single friend will find "THE ONE" and experience happiness.  But that's kind of my point, here.  You can experience happiness whilst single.  The implication that we're sad and lonely and missing out is much more likely to upset us than our single status does.

Seriously, ignore this advice at your peril.  You might think randomly dropping the "diddums, don't be sad" line into an otherwise casual conversation is a good idea, but it almost certainly isn't. It won't make your friend feel all warm and fuzzy and wanting to bathe in the glow of your newly discovered romance.  It'll leave them wanting to stick party sausages up your nose and feed you to a ravenous husky.

Following on from this...

3.  Don't assume all your single friends are sad/lonely/bitter.

The other day, I saw something on Facebook that made me howl with primal rage.  It was almost worse than seeing someone write "should of," when they blatantly mean "should have."  Almost.

This person wrote a status basically saying all single people were bound to be bitter and jealous, come Valentine's Day and that they should all "go away" (swearier words were used).

Now, sure.  Some of us do dread February 14th.  Some of us sometimes feel sad and lonely (for example when confronted with Valentine's stuff everywhere) and that's perfectly okay - experiencing a touch of envy or regret when you're long-term single and everything around you seems to be geared towards couples is actually pretty normal and entirely acceptable, as long as you're not letting it boil over into actual nastiness towards your loved-up pals.  But not all of us singletons feel that way and the ones that feel like it often don't on a daily basis.  It's like pizza.  I love pizza, but I don't have one right now and that's okay.  Sometimes, I might get a real craving for one, but other times, I'm like "ooh, I fancy some ice cream."  I seem to have lost track of this analogy; I swear I had a point, but now I'm just hungry...

Basically, single people aren't all constantly living in sadness, or being consumed with jealous rage every time they see a couple walking hand in hand.  Take me, for example.  I like seeing friends, eating out, writing, spending hours watching other people play The Sims on YouTube (shut up and don't judge my life choices) and a whole host of other things.  A boyfriend would be great, but I'm not sitting here, weeping because I don't have one.  Yet, some people in relationships feel the need to make assumptions, like that total berk on Facebook did.

Don't jump to the conclusion that because someone isn't in a relationship, their life must be devoid of all meaning and they must be drowning in their own lonely tears.  This goes hand in hand with the point above, but just don't be all "aaaw, poor you," unless we specifically tell you that we're sad and that the root cause of that sadness is not having a partner.

4. Invite us to stuff.

Okay, nobody wants to be a third wheel and equally, nobody wants to feel that they can't be all soppy and romantic, because their unattached friend is sat right there.  But you know, single folk can cope with being in the presence of couples.  Even ones who hold hands!

One thing that's almost certain to annoy a single person is finding out that their loved up pals have all been getting together and leaving them behind.  Presumably, they think we're too busy eating ice cream straight out of the tub and crying into our flannel pyjamas to interact with the outside world.

Look, if you're going on a double date to a restaurant, fine, by all means leave the singleton at home.  But if you're just hanging out at the pub, does it really matter if someone is there without a partner?  Besides, how are we supposed to meet the potential love of our life if nobody ever invites us anywhere?!

5. By all means tell us how happy you are, but please don't purposefully rub it in our faces.

Last year on Valentine's Day, someone I used to be friends with decided to tag me in her status on Facebook, in which she told her boyfriend she loved him and posted endless photos of the flowers and chocolates he'd given her.  Why did she tag me?  Because I had said earlier that I was feeling a bit sad about being single on Valentine's Day and she thought it would be funny to rub it in.  Notice I said I used to be friends with her...

I have a bit of a beef with people posting photos of their Valentine's gifts online, anyway.  In my eyes, your private life is called your private life for a reason.  I feel like there's a massive difference between posting a status saying: "Happy Valentine's Day Steve, thank you for being the love of my life," and posting a series of photos of the card Steve gave you, the gifts Steve presented you with (both wrapped and unwrapped, obviously) and a series of pictures of the two of you having a supposedly intimate, romantic Valentine's Day, together.  The first is a touching status, expressing your love and you know what?  Most single people would "like" that status (or at least smile on seeing it).  The second is just: "LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF I HAVE!"

Look, this is just my opinion, but...

...By posting photos everywhere, you're kind of reducing the romance of being given the card/gifts in the first place.  When I received a really thoughtful gift from an ex years ago (on my birthday, rather than Valentine's Day, but the point stands), I didn't think: "Oh wow, the WORLD needs to see this."  I thought: "I can't believe he remembered me mentioning that ages ago" and then I gave him a kiss and we went out for dinner.  Unless you get something hilarious or SO incredible that you're in a state of over-excited shock, you probably don't need to share an intimate gift from a partner with the entire World Wide Web.  

To further explain my point: until a few years ago, I used to post photos of my "haul" every Christmas morning.  Then, I suddenly had the horrifying realisation that I was reducing my favourite time of year to just the amount of presents I had and that it was way more important than that.  Besides which, I knew a few people who had struggled financially and were massively scaling down their gift-giving as a result and I thought: "Do I want to be the person rubbing their noses in it by going "I HAVE LOADS OF PRESENTS" on Facebook?"  And the answer was no.

Seeing people write messages of love to their partners on social media actually makes me smile.  It makes me realise that love exists and that someday, I might find someone to write about, too.  Seeing photos of bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates and mass-produced teddy bears simply makes me wonder why people have to show that stuff off, rather than just enjoying the fact that their partner gave them something nice in the first place.

Obviously I don't believe that everyone who posts photos of Valentine's gifts is doing so to show off, but with some, you can kind of tell that there's an element of that and it's a bit sad, really.  It's not just Valentine's Day, either.  I've known people who can change literally every conversation into a chat about their partner and you end up feeling like they're not interested in hearing about your day or listening to your opinions on anything.  They just want to talk about the one thing you don't have.  At first, you shrug and think "oh well, they're happy, they're just excited."  But after a while, you do start to feel as though maybe they're being a bit disrespectful by making everything about their partner and no longer showing any interest in your life, because you don't have one.

It all amounts to respecting your single mates, really.  You don't have to avoid mentioning your partner online, or in person, but maybe remember to ask us how we are, too?  And if we say we're feeling low, please don't tag us in statuses about how you have someone and we don't.  That's not funny.

And finally...

6. Don't feel the need to post photos of the two of you in bed together.

Single bed on holiday - woooohooooo!

Look, we get it.  You are having more sex than we are.  Well done on that (although please for the love of GOD, shower before you meet up with us).  But we don't actually need evidence of said coupling, okay?  I mean, we know you share a bed.  We don't have any desire to be gifted with photographic evidence.  And WHY are you taking selfies and uploading them to Facebook, when you are IN BED WITH YOUR PARTNER??!  There are better things you could be doing, frankly.  Even I know that. 

By all means, take a selfie when you're both snuggled up under the duvet, all semi-naked and probably a bit whiffy and shiny.  But keep it for your own personal collection.  What possible reason is there for uploading a picture of yourself in bed with your partner to social media other than showing off your sex life?!  I said it before, but really, your private life is called "private" for a reason.  It just doesn't need to be shared to that degree.  Again, this is my opinion, but I can't think of anything I'd be less likely to do in bed with my partner (if I had one) than say: "Hey, let's take a selfie of this intimate moment and share it with Facebook."  

Unless your bed selfie is utterly hilarious and posted with the sole intention of making your friends laugh, just keep it to yourself.  Pretty please.

So, there we have it.  Look, if you're reading this and you're in the throes of a passionate relationship, I am genuinely, genuinely pleased for you.  Love is rare and if you've found it, bloody good for you!  Hold onto it.  There's nothing worse than a bitter, jealous person, who can't be happy for their loved-up friends and I hope I've never been that person, because for everyone I know who is in love, I feel a real sense of joy.

The fact is, dear attached readers, some of us singletons would really like to be where you are.  And others absolutely, definitely don't want to be.  But however we feel about our personal situation, we should all try to be respectful of your happiness.  Essentially, this blog isn't a dig at couples, or a long list of moans.  It's about how we can respect each other, regardless of how different our personal situations are.  Respect is a two-way-street, after all.

  I could summarise this whole blog with the simple words:

"Don't make assumptions, don't be overly boastful, or rub your relationship in single people's faces on purpose and just remember who your friends are."

Do that and we're cool.

Which reminds me: it's totally cool to be fine being single, everyone!  And if you're not fine with it, there are plenty of reasons why you could be.  Tune in next week, for How To... Be Happy Being Single!

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