If you were to sit down right now and Google the phrase “only single friend,” you’d get one problematic, consistent return— the outdated and harmful idea that being the token single friend is a burden, on you and on everyone else. Something that needs to be fixed.
Headlines that use words like “struggle” and “cope” instill in single people that they are living the wrong way, especially if they are the only single person in their group of friends.
The real burden, of course, is the pressure this way of thinking puts onto people who don’t want the coupled life, who like to keep their dating lives private or who have experienced trouble navigating the world of romantic relationships.
If you’re the single friend, I’m here to tell you the opposite of all that.
Singledom isn’t a problem that needs to be solved, despite what your dating app-pushing friends (and parents and coworkers and grandparents) might tell you.
If you’re happy being single, great! There are nearly unlimited areas of life in which you can create and achieve fulfilling goals as a single person—work, travel, self growth and so many others.
Bella DePaulo, a project scientist who has dedicated much of her life to studying the idea of being single, believes that the research and the content curated on the life of the single person is misrepresented.
In an article for the American Psychological Association, she cited single people as being more connected to those around them, valuing meaningful work and being positively self sufficient.
Everybody has a different life path, and sometimes that’s hard for people to get. We all have an idea of what we want life to be like and what priorities we should focus on, and it can be hard to reconcile other ideas with our own preferences. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try.
Despite what your coupled friends and family may be telling you about what you need and what you don’t, singledom is, in fact, on the rise. Pew Research Center reported in 2014 that a record number of Americans weren’t marrying. In a more recent report, Pew confirmed the decline and further asserted that the average age for first marriage is higher than it’s ever been: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 for women.
Being single is becoming more common. While you might be facing pressure from the people who care about you, you’re not as alone on this as you might think.
It’s hard not to take it personally when friends and family and every living and breathing couple is volunteering to set you up with “so and so, he’s just so nice,” or telling you about someone they know who met their awesome partner on Tinder, and you should definitely try it.
It’s good to remind yourself that the constant commentary comes from a good place—your friends are experiencing something good that they think you deserve too. And with app-based dating the new normal, maybe they think you’ll find the happiness they want for you if you just do a bit of swiping.
But if what you really want is to be single, or to make your own dating decisions on your own terms, set that boundary in a polite way.
Clearly state your goals, what you want for your life and what you don’t. If your friends are good friends, they’ll understand, and they’ll tuck their (probably inadvertently) single-shaming comments away. Playful banter comes with any friendship, but tackling the issue in a serious and kind manner will help put you in a position move forward without feeling uncomfortable pressure.
Being single isn’t inherently a good thing or a bad thing. It’s whatever you want it to be—or whatever you let people choose it to be for you. When you choose to control your own narrative without letting the biased input of those around you influence your decisions is when you get to live the life that works best for you.
Natalie Maggiore is a journalist and teacher living in Chicago, whose passions include aggressive hockey watching, a quality bowl of queso and learning about the infinite void that is outer space. Her writing mainly pertains to pop culture and entertainment, but she enjoys creating content pertaining to mental health, social service, human interests and nature. Follow her on Twitter @nataliem31 and Instagram @natmag31.