I’ve learned how to be the same kind of friend I am to them to myself.
I have always been a late bloomer to love. When my friends first started dating as teens, I was the one stuck fantasizing about my first celebrity crush, Jesse McCartney. Don’t get me wrong: Jesse McCartney was — and still is — a babe, but as a 16-year-old, I felt secluded from a whole new world that my friends had already entered.
Of course, it wasn’t their fault that boys weren’t interested in me (or that I was interested in all the wrong boys) but this didn’t stop me from developing a bruised self-esteem and feeling unwanted, lonely, and confused. Thankfully, I grew out of these feelings and by the time I was 18, I became used to always being the token "the single friend" of the group.
The single friend sometimes gets a bad rep, a reputation that is mostly created by ourselves, but also enhanced by others. Singles often throw themselves pity parties or have pity parties thrown for them. We are victims of bad blind date set-ups and being the third wheel. But as a loyal member of the single friend committee,
I’m here to remind you that there’s a lot more you can learn from being the predominately single friend than you may realize. So lets stop victimizing ourselves as the single friend and instead LEARN from it.
Here are 7 things I've learned as the single friend, hopefully they will help you, too.
1. There's no better way to figure out what you want in a relationship than having the time to figure yourself out first.
I've achieved a great understanding of my personal relationship goals by becoming more in touch with myself as well as witnessing the dynamics of my friends' relationships. Being a witness to their relationships has given me a better idea of what I'm willing or not willing to put up with in a relationship.
2. No one is immune to loneliness.
But when you’re single, those lonely feelings are harder to fight off. As the chronically single friend, I naturally spend a lot of time alone. However, instead of letting those feelings overwhelm me, I've learned to enjoy my alone time. I've pursued many passions and interests on my own. I've sat at tables for one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have learned to make do through very cold winters.
This strong sense of independence not only gives me more confidence but it will also help me when my single status (hopefully) changes. It’s no secret that all successful couples need to know how to spend time apart. I believe by my next relationship, I will have conquered the ability of spending time alone. And because of this, I won't be a Stage-5 clinger or a smotherer, because I crave my alone time and NEED my own space.
3. Take your own advice.
As the predominately single friend, I've been my friends’ relationship speed-dial and have given out large amounts of advice to them whenever they're in need. My advice is good since I can look at their problem(s) through an objective perspective. Oftentimes my friends could have come to the same conclusions on their own — but they didn't because they didn't know how to step outside of the situation they were in and silence their emotions long enough to come to a reasonable conclusion.
However, since I've always been on the outside, I believe I have extra insight. The advice I've given to them is engrained in my mind and I'm certain it will assist me in resolving similar issues I'll inevitably experience myself.
4. Never compromise your self-worth.
There are many times my friends have come to me telling me horrible things their significant other did or said to them. Naturally, I react with sympathy toward them and anger toward their partner. Along with my angry and sympathetic words, I always tell them the same phrase.. "You don't deserve that." While I attempt to repair my friends' confidence, I remind them of their good qualities. I make sure they remember how beautiful, smart and wonderful they are and to not let their partner make them feel like anything less.
This is not only a vital and empowering reminder for them but for me, too. By reminding them of their self-worth, it simultaneously reminds me of my own. My friends are all beautiful, intelligent, wonderful women — and so am I. I know that by taking these thoughts with me into a relationship, I won't allow myself to accept the kind of treatment that is not acceptable to me. I’ve learned how to be the same kind of friend I am to them to myself.
5. Never prolong your unhappiness.
Although I’ve been single the majority of my life, there was a guy whom I briefly dated last summer. Being that he was my first boyfriend, it was exciting to relish in my new relationship status as a taken woman. However, the relationship quickly turned toxic. I was being mistreated and my first reaction was to alienate myself from my situation and deny reality.
I spent weeks justifying his behavior but at night I would cry into my pillowcase uncertain about what to do. It was less than three months in but I felt stuck. Finally, I found the strength to end it. It wasn’t easy and I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a wreck over it. But in the end, cutting ties with him was one of the smartest and empowering decisions I’ve ever made.
I didn’t think I had it in me. I thought I would allow my emotions to be played with, that I’d spend a long time allowing this man to pull me on his string. I’d be lying if I said that contact ended the day I broke up with him but I’m not when I say that was the day that I realized I shouldn’t be with someone who makes me unhappy. It may sound obvious but many times ending the wrong relationship isn’t as easy as you may think. However, once you realize how much happiness this person or situation is taking away from your life, it makes cutting the cord a HELL of a lot easier.
6. The blame is never just one person's fault.
I've seen several of my friends play the blame game in their relationships. They've been quick to assume a relationship issue was entirely their partner's fault. Being the one who is often presented with my friends relationship problems, I've analyzed the issues from both sides. There have been times when I agreed with them completely and times when I called them out on overreacting or being ridiculous.
My experience with my friends' relationship issues will remind me to try to remain level-headed rather than jumping to conclusions. Through the experiences that I have encountered with them, I'll better recognize when I'm overreacting or being absolutely ridiculous.
7. Never put your life on hold for someone else.
Obviously, relationships are a lot of work. You have to make personal sacrifices. But as a witness to other relationships, I've realized there are things I will never give up — or even consider being asked to give up. Even without the experience of being in a long-term relationship, I know that a good and respectable partner won't ask me to give up everything (my career pursuits, my relationships with others, etc) in order to be with him.
When one of my friends was having problems with her husband, she told me "I gave up everything for him. I wasted so much time being here for him that I don't even know what I'm doing or where I'm going with MY life." I could hear the resentment in her voice and can only imagine how unfulfilled she felt. It was a striking revelation, one that will resonate with me for a long time. I look at her situation and it has allowed me to evaluate what sacrifices I'm willing to make in my future relationships.
I can't predict the future — but I do know that I will not make sacrifices so large I'm incapable of living a meaningful life along with my partner.
We must remember that being single isn't a prison sentence. Sure, you do your time (and at times it may feel like a long, 10-year sentence of loneliness), but unlike prison, you have unlimited freedom and opportunities. And these opportunities allow you to learn important lessons about yourself that will be beneficial to bring into your loving relationship(s) in the future.
It will be well worth the wait, I promise.