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If there’s such thing as a quiet engagement, my social feeds don’t know it. From approximately Labor Day through Valentine’s Day (shout out to engagement season), proposal snapshots, “I said yes!” selfies, and targeted Kay Jewelers ads plague my scroll for like #forever.
I used to think that when the people around me got engaged I’d pop the Champagne, flip the La Croix, and spit confetti like I’d become a confetti cannon on their behalf.
Alas, my congratulatory ceremony looks more like me rocking 10-year-old Birkenstocks and socks and dishing an obligatory double tap while contemplating my singledom. If I’m being honest, the whole charade makes me feel like one of those cymbal-clapping toy monkeys.
Don’t get me wrong, I really am happy for my friends (and most of my acquaintances) who are getting down on one knee and committing to plod through life *not* alone. (Really, I am!). But the more engagement posts I see, the harder it is not to wallow in my own singleness (no matter how insistent I am that I’m consciously uncoupled) while wondering if I’ll catch a case of Tinder-induced tendonitis before finding my #oneandonly.
At first, I chalked it up to a personal problem. Had my recent breakup soured me that much? But when I started getting texts and screenshots from my similarly single friends with sentiments like, “So-and-so got engaged and I want to die,” I realized I wasn’t the only one. So, I decided to talk with a few relationship coaches and experts on the subject.
In a nutshell, most of us are conditioned from an early age to think that life follows a certain timeline, and that somewhere in your mid-20s comes coupledom, engagement, and marriage, explains Stella Harris, Juicebox sex coach and author of “Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships.” “Our culture gives us strict rules and timelines. In the age of social media, we can become especially prone to measuring ourselves against those timelines and what other people are doing.”
It may be helpful to know that across the board people are getting married later, says Harris. The median age of marriage has risen from 23.2 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970 to 29.8 for men and 27.8 for women in 2018. But marriage is an incredibly big life decision, not one that should be made out of obligations or pressures. “Rushing into marriage is bound to lead to heartache down the line,” says Harris.
On a hopeful note, Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Dating.com says, “When it comes down to it, there is no right time to get married. No one should feel worried if they haven’t gotten married by an arbitrary time. Everyone finds love at different stages in life, and you shouldn’t put a timeframe on it. It will happen when it’s supposed to happen.” Phew.
With that in mind, here are a few actionable ways to deal when your friends are saying “I do” — because blasting “Wake Up Alone” by Amy Winehouse won’t cut it.
If the Christina to your Meredith just got engaged, part of your ambivalence probably stems from the fact that from here on out, you’re no longer your bestie’s No. 1.
That’s OK. Jane Reardon, relationship expert and founder of RxBreakup app, says that you can be happy for your pal, and also acknowledge that the friendship might shift.
Bonding with your other single pals over a boozy brunch can help normalize what you’re feeling. Just don’t wallow in your solo status for too long. “We have stories that we tell ourselves to explain how we’re feeling,” says Harris. “But we can control those stories if we don’t allow them to make us negatively spiral.”
Dating feels like a full-time job, but you already have a full-time job! Yep, there’s a lot of pressure to do it all. That’s why Reardon suggests that if you’ve been prioritizing your career over finding a mate, give yourself credit. “It’s hard to find love and get your career on track because they’re both competing for your time,” she says.
Her suggestion: Take stock of your life and the things you’ve accomplished in the last few years. Then, clap it up. Have you built a strong network of friends? Are you working at (or toward) your dream career? Do you experience gratitude? “Be positive about what you do have! That’s an infinitely attractive quality,” says Reardon.
Harris offers a similar perspective: “While engagement and marriage is a goal for many people, keep this goal in perspective. Your academic, work, social, and emotional goals and accomplishments are equally important.” Who says LinkedIn can’t keep you warm at night?
While it’s natural to feel left out or jealous if all of your friends are getting engaged, don’t let bitterness get the best of you. Read: Don’t be a jerk. “It’s like the old adage says, ‘If you can’t say something nice, keep quiet,’” says Reardon.
If you can’t help yourself from offhand comments or jeers, New York City-based therapist, Kathryn Smerling, PhD, recommends asking yourself: “Are you able to be happy for other people? Are you able to be happy with yourself?” If the answer is no, she suggests therapy. Perhaps, your emotional reaction to your friends’ and acquaintances’ engagements is symptomatic of a larger and deeper unhappiness.
So maybe you don’t have someone getting down on one knee. Fine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience love, adoration, or affection — even if it’s from yourself. Or your own hand. Wink.
Smerling suggests using your friend’s commitment to their boo-boo as motivation to commit to yourself. “Keep a gratitude journal, get physical, try yoga, make new friends, clean your apartment, drink more water.” Your pal might have a ring — but is she hydrated? #perspective
If your jealousy stems from the fact that your friend is engaged and you can’t even remember the last time you went on a date (let alone a second date), get out there!
Sullivan suggests using what you’re feeling to motivate you to go out more, join an online dating service, or ask your friends to set you up. “Not only will getting out of the house and socializing help take your mind off of things… who knows? You might even meet someone special,” she says.
And hey, if you’ve been dating but just haven’t found someone yet, stay hopeful. “The right time to get married is when you meet the right person — the one who loves you to the moon and back, who you love just as much. If you want to get married, you have to believe this person exists,” says Reardon.