Stories with titles such as “10 things never to say to singles” always catch my eye. The latest was originally written for Women’s Day and reposted on Shine at Yahoo. It was offered as a bit of advice to people tempted to offer their unsolicited suggestions to their single friends.
First, I’ll list the 10 things, without any of the commentary from the article, so you can generate your own critique.
1. “Why aren’t you married?”
2. “Have you tried online dating?”
3. “Stop being so picky.”
4. “You’ll find the perfect guy when you’re not looking.”
5. “What ever happened with [insert ex's name here]?”
6. “You’re so lucky to be single!”
7. “If you’d get out there, you’d find someone.”
8. “You should smile more/flirt more/wear your hair differently/wear more makeup.”
9. “You’re still young. You’ll find someone.”
10. “Maybe you’re meant to be single.”
What strikes me about these 10 pieces of advice that people are tempted to offer to their single friends is that just about all of them (I’m not sure about #6 – more on that later) assume that what single people want, more than anything else, is to become unsingle.
I don’t doubt that some single people want to be coupled, but it is utterly clueless to believe that every single person wants that. Many single people are single-at-heart – single is who they really are, and living single is how they live their best and most authentic life. Others want to be single for a while. It is presumptuous to offer advice based on the assumption that what all singles want, all the time, is to escape their single lives.
Happily, the author interviewed me for the article, so I got to have my say about the bias and mythology behind the various pieces of advice. Another person who was interviewed, Helen Friedman, made a similar point. Asked to comment on the advice to try online dating, she said: “…remember that offering dating advice implies there’s something wrong with being single.”
The one piece of advice that seemed a bit ambiguous was #6, telling the single person “you’re so lucky to be single!” Sometimes coupled people say that and mean it. They got coupled for the wrong reason, can’t or won’t get out of their situation, but wish they could live single. Other times, though, that advice is offered disingenuously and condescendingly – and usually, the attitude is totally obvious.
One of my favorite ways of thinking about advice like this list is to flip it and write parallel suggestions for married people. So in that spirit, here are my 10 things never to say to married people:
[Note. Thanks to Simone for mentioning this article.]
Man giving advice photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 5 Apr 2013