When others make you feel bad about being single

There is no doubt that being single is not the preferred lifestyle for most of us. It’s nice to have that special someone to give you a hug when you need one, share your every day thoughts and feelings with, have a reliable plus one option for outings… not to mention the benefits and perks of regular sex.

But apart from the natural feelings that come to all of us when we’re missing the romantic part of life – singleness often creates a totally unnecessary, but very heavy emotional burden. It comes from a common perception that being single somehow by default implies being less happy or even less “worthy” than being in a couple.

Well, that is absolute and complete rubbish. And you know it too.

But if you believe in this misconception, and let it have a power over you, it can create a lot of anxiety, frustration and insecurity. Even make you believe something is wrong with you as a person because you seemingly can’t find a partner. Once you are in that vicious circle, it’s hard to get out of it, because you get reminded of your supposed “inadequacy” every single day.

This can happen in two ways.


You go to social gatherings and always get asked the same, dreadful questions about your love life by random people (super-nosy remote aunts, your friends’ spouses who hardly know you, well-meaning but annoying acquaintances etc.) – only to then have to endure their pitiful looks once you confirm you are “still single”. Your immediate family (mothers especially) are the ones who rub it in whenever they get a chance, as they wonder “when will you finally find someone”, or try to send you to blind dates with some friend-of-a-friend’s son/daughter – naturally thinking that they are doing you both a favour.

Friends can be annoying as well – they tend to “casually” match-make you with people you’d never pick yourself, and this can be particularly embarrassing if both you and the other person know you are being matched. Oh-oh. Talk about feeling awkward and not knowing where to look. (Happened to me once. I had a serious conversation with the friend afterwards to tell her to NEVER do that again. Ever.)

While you can’t stop them everyone around you poking around your life, you can choose not to be bothered. But how? Well, think about it this way. In many cases, people who know you well poke around your life because they actually care for you, not because they would like you to stay alone forever. Of course that doesn’t mean it helps you in any way – but try to see it in a positive way – as their poor attempts to help you find a partner, rather than to make you feel even worse for not having one.

If you’re in a particularly good mood, you might even be thankful to them. OK, that may be pushing it too far – but if you know they simply don’t know any better, you can feel much better about their misplaced comments. As for the people who hardly know you – they should be even easier to disregard. Since they really don’t know anything about you, whatever they say can’t possibly be of any relevance to your life. So just ignore. Respond with a polite version of “None of your business”. Or – if you prefer – simply lie about your status.

Whatever anybody says, being single is not a crime, nor a shame, nor a disease, and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. You are a person of many qualities and a few faults, just like everybody else. And you’re worthy of love even though you currently don’t have a romantic partner to prove it. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people in your life who love you to bits.

Besides, next time you see someone, the tables could be totally turned, so just don’t take it to heart much. Many people who were married when I was single during the better part of my 30s have already gone through bitter divorces. So don’t ever wish what other people have – you never know what’s their life really like.

Which brings me to the second part of the problem…


When you look around you and see you’re surrounded with people in couples, I understand you can’t exactly be happy about your single status. This happens a lot around people’s 30th birthday, plus minus a few years. But what you don’t see is what really goes on in their relationships. And you just – naturally, but without any logic applied to it – assume they are blissfully happy.

Another huge misconception about single vs couple life. Relationship equals happiness? Marriage equals bliss? Just look at divorce statistics. Or observe some of those people’s relationships more closely if you get a chance. Yes, most start off happy and full of hope, but for many that doesn’t last. Which means relationships don’t create this special/exclusive type of happiness that can’t be found elsewhere. People in couples are only human, just like you. And like you, they’ve been sold this story that all their problems will be gone once they enter a serious relationship.

Which never happens.

What actually happens is you just swap one package of problems with another. And if you don’t feel good in your own skin when you’re single, you won’t be feeling any better in a couple either. Maybe for a short while, when you first fall in love, but that doesn’t last. People in relationships are not in the same boat with you – but their boat can be sailing in equally stormy weather. So try not to envy them. What you see is always just a tip of an iceberg. And that’s why those “perfect” marriages suddenly crumble to pieces – they only looked so perfect on the outside.

So why in the world should you feel bad about being single? Only one legitimate reason: you genuinely miss sharing love and intimacy with another. Nothing else is worth it – people in relationships are not happier than you (despite some of those statistics that say they live longer, that’s not a measure of happiness), and nobody has the right to tell you what’s right or wrong for you.

Single life can be as fulfilled, fun and amazing as any – and it has its obvious advantages. I bet if you think hard enough you can come up with at least 5, right now, just off the top of your head.


Did you recognise yourself in situations like the above? How do you deal with them? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below. Thank you!

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30 Responses

  1. Nesrin says:

    Hi Petra. Nesrin here. This is pretty much the same as my case. I get super offended, annoyed even at times sad when people ask me if I’m in a relationship. Every time I said ” no” or “no one”, they start to babble religious stuff because in Islam, early marriage ( usually around my age ) are recommended. So that just put a whole lot of pressure on my shoulders…. 🙁 But I’ve decided to take my time anyway because dare I admit…My self-esteem is pretty much demolish into nothing. The good news is that I’m very determine to fix it before landing into a relationship again ( But I just don’t know how…><). I'm still confused X__x *depress*

    • Petra says:

      Dear Nesrin, I know that pressure from society can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially if you live in a culture where social norms are very strong, inflexible and it’s hard to be different. But long term it truly pays off to be you and follow your own path, no matter how different it is from the usual one. But don’t worry, those people who make you feel bad for being different are much less happy than you are. And probably envious because they would love to be like you but they are too weak. Wish you all my best, and all the strength and courage you need!

  2. Sheila B says:

    Being single – i have never done more, seen more, learnt more skills, talked to more people in the last 4 years Ive been on my own. Having a partner does cramp your style some times and can effectively disable you for all sorts of reasons. Just now and then loneliness pokes its head up and I get exasperated by the apoarent lack of suitable partners. But i keep bouncing back and remember that im willing to bet a lot of coupled people envy me. You cant delegate your happiness to someone else. You goyta find it in yourself.
    Hugs you singletons. X

    • Petra says:

      Great advice Sheila. We are indeed much better off (when we are single as well as in relationships) if we learn to be happy on our own and not expect from others to make our lives fulfilled. It’s also perfectly OK to feel good about being single and just enjoy it! Thanks for commenting.

  3. gigi says:

    I have had the constant questions and really silly comments such as dont you want to get married? When are you going to get married? You must keep in mind your not getting any younger. I attended a friends birthday pary and afterwards a former work colleague literally yelled at me to get married and have children as i dont want to be alone when I am older. I have decided ti stay away from certain people now it depressing yeah they may care but they ALL lack common sense they are not telling or asking me anything I have not thought about myself.

    • Petra says:

      Hi thanks for commenting. You are right to ignore and avoid people who make judgments and try to tell you how to live your life. Unfortunately it’s not always easy – but you can minimise contact and avoid getting into conversations about the topic with people who don’t know you, and basically don’t care either. Starting a family to avoid being alone in your old age is a very old, very worn out and very untrue reasoning. There’s no guarantee you won’t be alone if you have kids – you might just not get along well with them, and there’s always a way to find company elsewhere at any age. Most people who want to tell you how to live your life don’t know how to live theirs either. Those who tell you you should get married do it because they think it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the right thing for you, or anyone in particular. We are all capable of being happy and finding love in fulfilling relationships even if we don’t have a partner, and partner is no guarantee we will be happy.

      • gigi says:

        Thanks that is true. Of course I want to get married but its not ike I can just pluck anyone off the street. Very grateful you have this website. I am much better now I have avoided certain people and when I see they coming my way say a quick hello and go on my way.

      • Arpita Talapatra says:

        Hi Petra,

        This is Arpita from India. I am single and m happy with it. I feel irritated when someone wants to why I am still single and not getting married. They keep asking the same again and again in one way or the other. Moreover, they can feel that I am not comfortable in discussing this matter. To make things even worse, sometimes these people claim to be my well-wishers. Also I found it even more irritating when someone asks or I should say interrogate my parents about the issue. I wonder why they are so interested in something that my father is not interested in? Are they bigger well wisher than my father? I sometime feel to laugh at the face of my well wisher. This is my own experience and I think it is the right platform to share my issues as I already have like-minded people writing about the same or simila issue.


        • Petra says:

          Thank you for sharing. I agree it can be really annoying when our life choices are not so mainstream – everyone wants to teach us and get us on the “right” path. But just ignore them, and try not to get upset – everyone has their own opinions about what is best in life, and mostly those people who want you to get married, have children, do this and that – are the ones least happy with their own lives. People who are happy will never tell you how you should live, because they know it’s different for everyone. Take care.

          • Arpita Talapatra says:

            Dear Petra,

            Thanks for your reply. I totally agree with you that I should ignore these OPINION LEADERS. I shall not deny that these people sometimes make my upset, but as you suggested rightly, these people are not worth our attention. I shall follow your suggestion as I think you have understood exactly what I am trying to say. Thanks once again. Take care.

  4. PETRA, here the real problem I have found in my life ,that no–one ! ever told me ! I get your wife in your college yrs., two- quit listening to the regilious nuts, telling you not to marry ! three- elite-bankers have stolen our opportunity to marry because all the jobs are over seas ! 50,000 a day over 30yrs. !
    how can you have a wife and children ? when you girl-friend is so dreamy about your income ! and don’t give me that trash about education,when so many are on the unemployment -line with me.

    • Petra says:

      Hi Robert, not all girls dream about money. If you are only meeting women who are attracted to your income, you are probably on some level thinking you’re not worthy of love as you are, so the only way to get attention from a girl is with your income. This might not be the issue – sorry if I missed your point, but from your note I haven’t been able to decipher much.

  5. kg says:

    WhatI just feel like if people are judging you for not being in a relationship or married envy your freedom. Let’s face it marriage and commitment is hard work. And it’s not all what it’s crack up to be. A lot of married folk stay married knowing they’re miserable. But they stay because divorce is frown upon, and cost to much to get or they stay because of the kids. I want to get married one day but I’m not rushing because it’s a lot. I feel like take your time, really rushing or trying to meet society standards is silly. Why rush to have to be on lockdown by someone keeping tabs on you, cook, clean and have sex on a schedule. Why rush into a seconds job. Take your time enjoy your first job and be single. And being single is not lonely, you can still date many people, and do what you want.

    • Petra says:

      Agree with you. The grass is always greener on the other side! People in relationships envy singles, singles envy couples. The bottom line is if you’re not happy in your own skin, another person or a relationship will not make you happy either. You’ll always find a reason to be unhappy and will always be disappointed by your life. Thanks for chipping in.

  6. Chris Harris says:

    Dear Petra,

    Thank you for a good article, I have been combating this for a while. Im a 28 yr old single male and its tough. Im not going to lie it sucks sometimes. But, there were some valuable insights about how these couples are not that happy. Sometimes seeing people in “love” really hurts but I have to learn not to let it bother me somehow.

    • Petra says:

      Thanks for your comment Chris. I know it’s not easy to do that, but it does help us to feel better about our singleness.

  7. Ms Jones says:

    Hi Petra–
    I am still single and have had several short encounters with my affluent younger sister who has been married for 28 years to a rich man. They have no kids and seem to be happy in their marriage.
    My sister expresses such condescension to me. My life choices and tells me I must be kidding myself if I think I ll ever get married at this point in life. I have had to spend some time with her lately to settle some affairs of my late Aunt’s estate (a woman who was my very best friend). These encounters with my sister are so toxic I am sad to say that I have begun to believe that it is not worth the effort of trying to get together with her any more. She has a very superior attitude.
    Each person is different. That’s the way God made us. When people tell me they do not believe in God, I often wonder what they do believe in. I know this blog is not a symposium on faith, but I believe that basic good faith and enough imagination to envision and embrace the differences in others is humane. I stay away from people who seem to have no faith in anything but what they can see, touch or spend. They usually lack compassion and imagination and I find them toxic individuals.
    I know this is a little off topic, but It has been a great struggle for me to find someone and it certainly doesn’t help to listen to others who tell me it’s impossible. How do they know?

    • Sheila B says:

      Your sister should be more cautious in her attitude and what she says. Fortunes rise and fall and can change very rapidly! She could indeed find herself eating her words if things ‘go against her’. You never know what the future might hold. My very best wishes to you Ms Jones.

      • Ms Jones says:

        Hi Sheila B

        My sister and I were raised in the same home. I am 4 1/2 years older than her. When my mother, with 6 young children, got divorced I cleaned house, washed clothes and cooked meals for all my siblings.
        She has a very short memory.
        I have “been there” many times. She should exercise caution in what she says, but she does not.
        Anyway I really appreciate your kind words of support. She has said some really mean things to me and they are very hurtful.
        I agree that everyone should exercise caution in what they say. It is generally a good rule.

        Thank you.

        Ms Jones

  8. Dr Garima says:

    Dear Ms Jones,

    I can understand what you must be feeling… I’m a 28 yr old, recently divorced after 3 years of court battle. I loved my husband dearly and made so many career sacrifices for him in one year of marriage that I was in with him. He abused me, mentally tortured me and harassed me for dowry. My heart loved him but my brain knew it was all wrong. He pretended before marriage to love me like I was the only person he could ever love and I tried to save my marriage despite of all his atrocities as a typical Indian girl, though I’m a well educated pediatric dentist. But I stood against dowry and hence he divorced me by creating so ichthyologist troubles on my life that I went under depression while studying for my post graduation. My family did support me through divorce superficially but my parents including my extended family don’t ever miss a chance to call me a personal failure. They say they kept their marriages on for more than 25 years and no matter what the rough patches, or how arrogantly they may treat their wives, no divorce ever happens. My paternal uncle and aunt say I should have lived with my in laws no matter how they treated me and that how superior their own marriage Is and they are still in love with each other inspite of 25 Yrs together. I understand your situation as I know how it feels when your own family Whome you love so much tells you how much a failure you are because you are single and how great they are coz they are a couple. It sucks sometimes… When you are hurt and your own family members rub salt in your wounds. It’s best to ignore them. You just don’t get divorced from your Ex…. It’s a process where many personal relations are also divorced from you coz you see their true colours…

    • Ms Jones says:

      Dear Dr Garima

      Thank you for sharing your personal story with me. I am not Indian, but I do know about the dowry and so on in that culture.
      It is brave of you to get out of an abusive marriage. I hope you did not have children in the marriage to complicate things further, and if you did, well God bless you and them. What a fight it must be.
      I am glad that your parents supported you getting away from an abusive man. How he could treat someone who is so good him so badly is incomprehensible.
      He should be the one who is ashamed and ridiculed.
      I see you know how it feels when everyone around thinks you are a personal failure.
      You are an educated pediatric dentist.
      You can go anywhere in the world to practice and be treated with dignity and respect.
      My late Aunt was never married, no kids. She had a heart of gold. She was a very accomplished business woman and the kindest person I knew. She was my champion. She always told me when people criticized me they were jealous. I could never understand why they would feel that way as they seemed to have so much. She was an independent thinker like me. Perhaps the others do not think independently and just live lives of complacency. And perhaps they ARE happy, but you were not.
      It is 2014. I do know if you believe in God, but I do. Our parents brought us to this Earth but our lives are our own.
      I hope they come to see that you are a gem. I do not know where you live, but if you were to travel, you would see that others think differently than those in your family.
      I wish you luck and love. You sound like a very caring and understanding person. Even though I live in a free place it does hurt me very much that my family does not support me. I take courage from
      hearing your story.
      Thank you Dr Garima
      All the best to you. You are young. Chose a better man next time who does not require a dowry if you marry again. Make a choice based on someone whom is your equal – perhaps another dentist or professional who does not require your family’s money. I see you are an independent thinker. Be proud that you saved yourself from a life of misery and hold your head up.

      Ms Jones

  9. Sheila says:

    Just thought Id reread this thread to remind myself of a few things. I think society as a whole (and at this point in time) makes you feel ‘wrong’ if you have no-one. It lies in the media, advertising, dating industry, cultural obsession with ‘happy tappy lappy’ family and ‘momism’. Ive just been treated to a book by Zig Ziglar (US motivational speaker/writer). Much of what he says is excellent. However he gushes on as if everyone has a ‘marriage’ and family – there are many who do not -so he needs to think about his inclusivity. (Just an example)
    For society as a whole – well – what gets inculcated is a sense of entitlement. That causes problems in a lot of areas. Also getting ‘what you want’ may not turn out to be as wonderful as you think. I cant remember where I read this but someone said “getting married is not the same as being married”. Speaking from experience -too true!
    Singles are fighting back – ie there are blogs, forums, books etc supporting the single lifestyle without being concerned about dating or ‘finding the ONE’. Thats got a ‘way to go!’. ..? Reason – theres a lot of money to be made in it – but- at least its constructive and helping people to live a wholehearted life and not waste time (which I so occasionally) moping about the fact I am on my own. Lets rock the life unusual, subversive and enjoyable..

    • Ms Jones says:

      The truth of the matter is every human being has value and deserves to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuite of happiness. It’s even written into the Constitution. The rest is just preference and opinion.

      If a person has a very strong desire to find a partner, they will probably find one. If they feel they must find one in order to be happy because every one else does – well – I don’t suppose that is actually a reason to go off your rocker about it. Each person is individual. Some people have very strong connections with their friends and other relations. And some are married and have miserable “unions”.
      We’re all grown ups. Each person can decide for themselves what makes them happy. Everyone may dance to their own drummer as it makes them happy.

      Ms Jones

  10. Sheila says:

    Indeed – but the thread is about people making you feel bad about being single. They can do and societal pressures don’t help. Just makes you feel a failure – if that is your inclination and you let it affect you that way.

    ‘Some are married and have miserable unions’ – they sure do. ‘ I would not wish to be hitched to many of the plods some women get themselves lumbered with. But as you could say – that is their right.

    Petra has pointed out (elsewhere) that many people do not know how to make themselves happy. That is also true. It’s finding the ‘drummer’ that’s the difficult bit (I don’t mean a partner, spouse, or whatever term is favourable) it’s what you really need to do with your life. Need rather than want in order to be fulfilled. It’s very exciting and challenging.
    Ah! There’s much more to life than taking the bog standard route (which is OK if that’s all one wants and prepared to settle for)
    Best wishes to you.

  11. April says:

    I am happy being single, but my Dad upset me on our first father’s day together (only met him for the first time in my life at 27) now 28. He said what am I doing, why haven’t I found a man yet, said I must be too picky. I said no-one wants to commit to me, he said I must be saying something to them to make them not want to commit to me. He said you don’t want to be single all your life. This really upset and offended me. I have had four boyfriends in my life if he had bothered to ask me about my life. I have only wanted to marry two people. My first boyfriend dumped me claiming because of the long distance. I would have married him. I also would of married my friend, he was only interested in fwb. I told him how I felt and he future faked/used me for sex and continued to lead me on for another two years. I was heartbroken and it’s taken me a while to get back to happy. I have had some crappy relationships with men so being on my own I feel happier because I don’t have anyone bringing me down. I feel after dating it has broken me down a bit, if I hadn’t of had these relationships I would of been even more happier, without their mind insults, hurt and damage. I also feel I have achieved so much more being single due to the fact, I feel a lot of my boyfriends held me back/ where jealous of me, of my success/confidence. Couldn’t handle my independence. A lot left me for other women anyway. I would like to find true love, I would like to get married. Not sure about kids. At this stage in life, all I want to be is happy. That is my main goal, happy and at peace. Just over pressure from family/friends/society to marry & have kids. Its almost as if they see you as a threat because they cant handle being alone. the constant put downs about being single I have had enough and feel like cutting off certain people if they continue to do so. I’m sick of friends trying to set me up. I have never asked to be set up and half the time I am offended because I or they would not go for the person, or I feel I am being made fun of. I had one friend who everytime I went to catch up with her she would try and set me up even though I told her no, I told her flat out to stop and that I was happy single and she didn’t like that. just sick of comments of people really.

    • Petra says:

      It’s hard to be happy and single in a world that believes that the only way to be happy is when you’re with someone. I feel for you, and just to let you know – you are right. Don’t let them put you down. It’s hard to not be bothered, but you’ll see – the less you care about what people think, the less of their opinions you’ll have to listen to. And try to redefine your connections so you spend more time with people who are of a like mind, and understand you. Take care!

  12. Ms Jones says:

    Hi April –
    I agree with Petra’s comments and very good advice 100%.
    As for your father, it is very nice that you have reunited with him, but it is unclear to me how he is qualified to judge how your life has gone thus far as he has only just met you.
    It sounds like you know what you are doing with yourself. Do not let his uninformed judgements confuse you.
    Be an independent thinker. If he has not been around for 27 years, why is he so perfectly qualified to comment on all your life’s decisions to date? Where has he been?
    Think about it.
    You know yourself better than he does. I am sure you are happy to meet him, but you are a young lady already with a lot of experience and he has not been there at all to this point. Respect yourself for how far you have come and the good decisions you have made for yourself.
    Good luck April! You seem like a fine young lady.

    Ms Jones

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