10 things that are never okay to say to a single person

Life coach Emily Chadbourne shares ten things you should *never* say to someone whose single. Because “you’re being too fussy”, have you tried online dating?” and “I’m sure you’ll find someone soon” get old, REAL quick.

As a 39-year-old single woman with no children, I can often be found defending, justifying and even apologising for my singleness. Even though (according to the 2016 census) almost one in four households in Australia are lone-person households, there still seems to be some stigma about being single ‘at my age’.

Ignore the fact that I live in a beautiful flat in an affluent neighbourhood, or that I have a successful global coaching business, or that I live a happy and connected life. The thing of real interest for people is that I don’t have a partner.

In Australia, one in seven women in their 40’s has never been married, and for some reason society still seems to be of the opinion that these women live on a shelf marked ‘spinster’ and that there is something fundamentally wrong with them.

It’s like despite the gigantean progress women have made to liberate themselves we are still stuck in a story that being single is something to be pitied, especially in women.

The truth is, singles are on the rise, with the Bureau of Statistics projecting that lone-person households will rise by up to 65 per cent by 2036.

In a world (I’m speaking as a British woman living in Australia) where marriage is no longer an economic transaction; where it is socially acceptable for children to be born out of wedlock; where career choices are more abundant than ever before and where positive narratives around single life are proliferating… isn’t it time we began to address the outdated rhetoric around being single?

Because honestly, I am tired of well-meaning relatives and friends asking me insensitive questions or offering me patronising advice. I’m single. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks.

But on any day, the following things are never okay to say to a single person…

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1. How are you still single?

This is a double entendre at its finest. I appreciate that Uncle Terry’s surprised tone is meant to suggest that, on first appearances, there seems to be no obvious reason that I am single, but the underlying message is one that says there must be something wrong with me because I’m not in a relationship.

2. Don’t you want to get married?

Ah yes, let’s look at marriage. The first recorded evidence of ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from about 2350 BCE when the sole purpose was to bind women to men, ensuring that offspring were really his. It is documented that while she had to stay home, he could continue to enjoy sexual encounters with sex workers, concubines and teenage boys.

Religion got involved in 1563 but marriage was still an economic transaction. The idea of marrying for love didn’t enter literature until the middle ages. Still, women became the property of men (literally giving up their identity by taking his name) until the right to vote in 1920 when, for the first time, the union of marriage consisted of two full citizens. It wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that laws were passed making marital rape illegal. Until 2017, gay marriage was illegal in Australia. So, no. I really don’t feel the need to enter an institution that has its roots in female slavery and homophobia.

Having said this, I love love, and I am good at attending other people’s weddings (even if one third of them statistically end in divorce). What I also love, is the idea of wearing an outlandish dress and being the centre of attention at a lavish party. Luckily for me, my friends will celebrate anything if there’s free cake, decent wine and a dress code, so my 40th birthday party is set to be amazing.

3. You’re being too fussy

You’re right. Better to spend the rest of my days silently hating the person who I wake up with, share finances with and have children with.

4. Have you tried online dating?

Yes. Like the other active 1.7 million users, I have tried online dating. Have you? Because if you had, you wouldn’t ask that question. You’d know the horror and the exhaustion and the disappointment that swiping brings. And please, please don’t regal us singles with the story about how your friend Janice’s daughter married her Tinder match. We don’t care.

5. Aren’t you lonely?

Yes. Sometimes. But never have I felt lonelier than when I have been in a relationship that wasn’t right for me.

6. Don’t you want kids?

No. But if I did, this question would literally break my heart. Apply some sensitivity. Not everyone is single by choice.

7. You have to love yourself first

Pass me a pillow so I can scream into it. This sweeping generalised statement assumes that all people in relationships have healthy self-love and those who are single, don’t. Maybe it’s my high level of self-love that means I don’t need a relationship right now.

8. It’ll happen when you least expect it

Like the slap that’s coming your way.

9. I know there’s someone out there for you

Do you though? When we singles hear those words, what we’re really hearing is “I feel uncomfortable in my pity for you so I’m going to make a wild sweeping statement that I can’t support with any evidence, to make myself feel better”. We really appreciate the sentiment, but you can pop your crystal ball up your…

10. Oh, that’s a shame

What is? Being single? Look I know I might have veered into sounding almost bitter in parts of this article but let me share with you that it is the greatest gift, to learn to be alone; to face this world with curiosity and learn where my values really lie without mistaking another’s for my own.

Being alone has taught me the power of my own voice, the value of friendship and the strength of my soul. It has taught me to hear differently in the silence, to feel my courage and to see my worth. Do I want someone to share the next part of this crazy ride with? Absolutely. Do I feel defective or broken that they haven’t appeared yet? Only when I believe that like Cinderella, Snow White and the throng of Disney princesses that conditioned my thinking as a little girl, I can only live my happily ever after when I find my Prince. Because that’s a fairytale. It’s simply not true.

I am enough, just as I am.

Emily Chadbourne is a Melbourne based life coach, author, speaker and founder of The Unashamedly Human Hub, a six month transformational lifestyle programme.