While in grad school, I had the opportunity to study the experience young adults are having being single in today’s world. I had particular interest in the topic given that I myself am single and work with single people regularly in my therapy practice. After a year of study and research, I was asked to share what I learned at a regional mental health conference.
Early on in my presentation, a man in the audience (probably mid 50’s) raised his hand and asked, ”so why aren’t you married?” Thinking it was a joke, I chuckled and quipped back with something to the effect of, “That’s a great question, and I’d love to know the answer when you figure it out!” Everyone in the room laughed except for this gentleman. After clearly not answering his question, he fired back more intently: “No really, what’s wrong with all of these single people today? What’s keeping you guys from getting married?” By the looks on the faces of the audience members (a mix of single and married individuals), it was safe to say that the majority of us were taken aback by the question. Realizing that he wasn’t trying to be funny, I did my best to address his question as professionally as possible without becoming emotionally reactive. However, inside I was thinking, “how dare he ask me to defend/expose one of my greatest insecurities in front of this audience?” Another part was able to look past the abrasiveness of the delivery and focus on the underlying issue at hand. Which is, because relationships (or the lack thereof) are so personal, sometimes it’s hard for us to know how to talk about them.
Ironically, the core message of my presentation focused on understanding the experience, pressures, and judgement young single adults face in today’s society. I genuinely believe that my new friend had no malicious intent. Rather, he used poor tact when asking an honest question.
So, in hopes that we can promote more safety/support and less judgement in our conversations, here are 10 suggestions of “things no to” and “things to” say to your single friends:
10 Things NOT To Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch! I’m surprised you aren’t married yet.
2. What about ______? They’re single too!
3. I wish I was single again. Life was so much easier.
4. Maybe you’re just being too picky.
5. Don’t worry, there are always more fish in the sea.
6. Maybe you’re just not putting yourself out there enough.
7. You need to hurry and get married or you won’t be able to have kids.
8. Look aren’t everything-they will change after you’re married.
9. Your time will come. I just know it.
10. You’re probably having too much fun being single, huh?
10 Things TO Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch.
2. Let me know if you like being set up. I know some really good people.
3. Do you want to talk about dating? Or would you rather not?
4. I think you’re great. You deserve to find someone you think is great too.
5. You really seemed to like _______. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out.
6. I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing _________. How is that going?
8. I would really love for you to find someone you’re compatible with.
9. What do you have coming up that you’re looking forward to?
10. I’m headed to ________. Would you like to join me?
Have you ever thought to yourself, “why did I just get so upset by that person, place, or situation…?” If so, you’re not alone! Jordan Johnson, LMFT was recently featured in an online news article regarding traumatic events in childhood, their impact later in life, and what we can do about them.
By now you’ve probably seen Jason Headley’s parody on marital communication called, “It’s not about the nail.” [If not, let’s catch you up to speed…]
As comical as the sketch is, let’s be honest… there’s a lot of truth to it!
As a therapist who works with couples struggling to communicate, here are three recommendations for each partner in the relationship. For the speaker:
Request a specific time to talk
There’s nothing like trying to have a conversation when one or both parties are distracted by work, their phone, or a child. Instead, make important conversations a priority by intentionally setting aside time.
“Honey, do you have a minute later to talk about _____ after dinner? “
Explicitly ask for what you need
Sometimes part of the problem is that we don’t know what we need. Stating this at the beginning of a conversation, or providing our partner with suggestions sets them up to succeed at meeting our needs in the conversation. “Sweetheart, I’m really struggling with _____. Would you mind just listening for a minute.”
Say what you mean, and mean what you say
Your partner is not a mind-reader. “But wait. If he/she really loves me, shouldn’t they just know to ______?” Maybe, but if they aren’t getting it by now and it’s creating a problem for you, it’s in your best interest to bring it up.For the listener:
Be mindful of your body language. Do your best to help your partner know and feel that you are engaged in the conversation. As you listen, make sure your focus is on understanding your partners message, and not your response or rebuttal.
Reflect back what you heard
Often, the process of just listening to your partner’s message/issue can lead to a resolution quicker than providing a solution. Reflecting back their message not only helps make sure you understand it correctly, but it also helps them know you get it, and feel understood.
“So if I understand you correctly, you feel ______. Did I get that right?”
Empathize & Validate
This is crucial. The most effective communicators are able to empathize and validate their partner’s perspective, even when they disagree. Showing empathy and validating emotions is one of the quickest ways to diffuse an emotionally charged conversation.
“You know, I hate feeling criticized and attacked too. So when you tell me that that is how you feel, I can totally understand why you’re so upset.”In conclusion, it may or may not really be “about the nail,” but when it comes to relationships, there’s no question that improving your communication is the right choice, every time.