I still recall when 27 Dresses came out. Remember, the movie where Katherine Heigl played the friend who was always a bridesmaid, and never a bride? What was even more striking was the fact that she saved all of those dresses. When that movie came out, I was single, in my mid 20’s and it seemed like everyone was getting married except for me. While I felt honored to be invited into the inner circle of friends union, after awhile, weddings became old. Let me rephrase that, weddings didn’t become old…as much as being single did. In my field of counseling I also empathize with the myriad of stories that unexpectedly lead to singleness as well. People who were once married and that union ended due to their spouse’s untimely passing away, a divorce, serious illness, or in some cases abuse. For anyone who is weary, disappointed, and did not anticipate singleness at this point in life, this blog post if especially for you.
The Struggle Is Real
Naming your sadness, loneliness and confusion is so brave and okay to feel! Noting these feelings and sharing them with someone doesn’t mean that there aren’t still good things happening in your world. In fact, I’ll just say it even though I may not have met you :), I think you’re amazing! You’ve likely achieved good things in your life. Acknowledging your dissatisfaction in this area of your life, doesn’t minimize those accomplishments. There is room to experience joy and sorrow at the same time.
This is how counselors distinguish between someone who is struggling with depression vs. grief. Depression is a lack of joy or motivation to engage in things that once brought joy. Grief, while mirroring the low mood and low energy of depression, gives way to moments of happiness. There is room for you to experience great joy while also experiencing this grief.
Disappointment and sadness often creates isolation if you let it. How often do we say, “there’s no one else talking about this struggle, so I must be the only one?” While singleness can make you feel lonely, it is not true that you are alone. Try out this experiment: find someone you trust and tell them how you’re feeling. While they may not be able to resonate specifically with the struggle of singleness, most have struggled with longings and disappointment. You are not alone, friends.
Are There Any Triggers?
What have you noticed that heightens your sense of loneliness and disappointment? Is it social media? The magazines that you’re reading? Do you keep watching romantic comedies where the guy always gets the girl? Who do you spend time with? Are you spending time with only folks who are married? If you are a person of color, do you see others within your friend group dating people who look like you? Are you spending time with others who have similar values/perspectives on dating as you? Does the number of weddings you attend have an effect on you? These are all good questions to ask yourself when looking for triggers.
Am I Believing Any Myths or Lies?
In addition to noting what triggers your sense of loneliness and disappointment, it’s helpful to consider, “are there things that I am believing about myself, dating, and relationships during this moment of singleness?” Often our disappointment connects with our core beliefs about our sense of worthiness to be loved. We wonder if we’ll ever be good enough to be accepted genuinely and fully by another person. This is when the voice of our inner critic may sound louder than anything else. What is that inner critic saying? And whose voice do you hear in the inner critic? What is the evidence for and the evidence against the critical thoughts? Do those thoughts need to be re-framed (i.e. looked at from a different perspective)?
Maybe you are wondering if your view or approach on dating were ever correct? It’s common to experience a “crisis of meaning” during a time of singleness. For example, you may have thought that “not settling” your preferences of a partner was important, but now you’re not so sure. Or you take out the “list” and decide, does that characteristic really matter? Questioning can be good as it will help to solidify your beliefs, values, and approach with dating.
Last and certainly not least. Be kind to yourself. There are moments when being single won’t be a thought and other times when the disappointment is all consuming. If you need to take a break from some of the things that trigger you, tell somebody and do it. If you decide to take a break from Facebook, tell your friends alternate ways that they can get a hold of you and receive updates on your life.
Do the things that bring you joy! Surround yourself with those who you feel known and accepted by and borrow hope from others.
Walking through a season of disappointment can be difficult. Know that you don’t have to do so alone. I’d be honored to journey with you during this time. If you haven’t already, consider that a counselor in your life could provide a sense of collaboration and support to help any single feel like they can re-grasp their own narrative once again.
Written by therapist Pamela Larkin