There is a scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary where she is at a dinner party, the single girl amongst several couples. These couples proceed to provide commentary on Bridget’s relationship status, and in typical Bridget fashion, she has a mental catharsis where she imagines herself taking a verbal diarrhea on her assailants. Except rather than the audience simply getting a humorous glimpse into Bridget’s thoughts, she actually blurts out everything she is thinking. Needless to say, the party gets a bit awkward after that.
I have always loved that scene. I imagined myself trading my restrained diplomatic sense for freeing foolish candor. I fancied delivering my masterfully constructed lines with such composed eloquence, my performance would only rival a Shakespearean master. The words would roll off my tongue in such a confident and calm manner that my antagonist would be left speechless. Dumbfounded. In fact, like Bridget, no situation brings me to that rehearsal more than when I have to sit through my own session of couple therapy.
Couple therapy: an unfortunate event in which a couple or a member of a couple provides therapy (usually in the form of unsolicited opinion or advice) to a single person about how said person can and should end the perceived malaise known as singleness. Forms of therapy usually include recommended doses of “losing some weight”, “getting involved”, and “joining” eharmony, Match, Christian Mingle, etc.
Having endured many such sessions, I would like to offer a little therapy of my own in the form of “dos and don’ts”. But first, a couple disclaimers:
1. Obviously the doubles in life care about the singles. That is understood and appreciated.
2. I’m not sure how much any of this applies to the male sex, but in the interest of fairness, I will be as inclusive as possible.
Don’t assume that every single person wants to talk about being single every single time s/he sees you.
If you are prone to assumptions, Do assume that when in a group setting where the single person is the minority, it is not appropriate to bring up that person’s relationship status. Single people are aware that they are single and don’t need you to remind them and everyone else of the fact.
Don’t look at single people at weddings and tell them, “you’re next”. You don’t actually know that information and it’s not helpful.
Do offer a single coworker/cousin/friend/you get the idea as a date so that single person doesn’t have to spend the evening dancing with the bride’s 10 year old niece/nephew.
Don’t suggest dating sites. Chances are the person has already considered it or tried a number of them and you can’t even begin to fathom how painfully disappointing they can be.
If you are so concerned about how many meals your friend enjoys alone, Do invite him/her over for dinner, and with the person’s permission, a single coworker/cousin/friend/you get the idea.
Don’t tell single people how lucky they are to be single because of all this freedom and limited responsibility they have.
Do realize that doing so: 1) reveals how ignorant marital bliss has made you of the stress of being solely responsible for every responsibility. 2) implies that at some deep level you believe marriage is some suffocating noose around your neck. 3) if number two is incorrect, then you are not being entirely truthful about the initial comment, so just stop saying it.
Don’t forget your single friends have other genuine needs besides getting a date.
Those of you with children, your single friends are more than happy to help you with your responsibilities (need I say free babysitting?) Therefore, Do offer to help them hang up curtains, or change a tire, or trim a tree every once in a while.
And this last one is more of a rant: please, please Stop asking people why they are still single! How on earth do you expect someone to answer that question!? “Well some say it’s because I quit eharmony, but others think it’s a weight issue.” Awkward silence. Now you are back-peddling and talking about what a godly young woman/man the person is. Seriously, that comment is insensitive at best and insulting at worst. And no matter how much your Christian friend believes the canned spiritual “the Lord withholds no good gifts from his children”, believe me, in that moment s/he is thinking “a man of understanding keeps silent”. So Do.
Thank you for joining me in this brief therapy session. I hope it was as therapeutic (or at least humorous) for you as it was for me. See you at the next dinner party.