“If I were still single…” my friend says as he stares at a woman from across the bar. He loves his girlfriend, I think he’s just had a few too many drinks — a suspicion that’s confirmed when he launches into an unprompted story about “college chicks.” People in long-term relationships tell stories about their weirdest hookups or their craziest nights out the same way an old man would sit on a porch and tell stories of how he could’ve played college ball if he didn’t blow out his knee senior year. A friend rolls their eyes when their partner texts because they know they’ll have to end their night early. “You’re so lucky,” they tell our single friends as they close out their tab. Or the classic, “If I had Tinder when I was single…”
There’s nothing wrong with being single. It’s great, and you should do whatever makes you happy. This isn’t an argument about whether being single or in a relationship is better; you can’t even compare the two. But if you’re in a relationship, you damn well better believe it’s better, or you should probably break up with your partner and stop complaining about it.
Either you have minor complaints that you can work on (or accept), or you’re better off single. If you’re just pining for the life of a bachelor(ette) because you’ve been in the same relationship for four years, there’s no real excuse. Sure, when you were single, the sex never got boring (when you had it). Yeah, you didn’t have anyone to answer to and could come home whenever you wanted. But seeing it that way means you’re forgetting all the times you were lonely or felt left out or wished you were in a relationship. It means you’re negating the love and support you’re getting in a relationship. It means you’re putting the value of some independence above everything your partner brings to the table. In reality, you don’t miss being single. You just miss being selfish.
Being single is hard as hell. I can’t even count the number of times single friends have mentioned fears that they’ll “be single forever” or complain about how they’re the third (or fifth or seventh) wheel when we go out. Greg, 26, says he’s irrationally worried about the dating pool shrinking. “There’s a legit fear that the longer I’m out there dating, the less likely I’m ever going to actually find someone, and eventually I’m just going to be ‘that single guy,'” he says. Lauren, 28, says that she’s wingwomanned for a recently single friend who was out of the dating game for a while. “She was like, ‘Now what?'” Lauren says, “I just took her to a few bars and got her to make a Tinder profile. She just kept expecting something else to happen. As if guys were just going to be running at her constantly on the street or something, or there was some kind of secret handshake.”
For every crazy jealousy-inducing casual sex story, they have five more awkward or downright unbearable dates. Or, you’ll run into them and they’ll say, “Oh, I’m not dating that person anymore. I thought it was going somewhere, but they just stopped answering my texts.” Brutal.
But being on the Internet 24/7 easily counters the IRL complaints we hear from single friends. I’m constantly reading studies about how single people are supposedly in better physical shape. Or how they have less debt and more friends. Even when studies show the benefits of marriage, it’s presented as somehow shocking. It’s a “grass is always greener and everyone is having crazy amounts of casual sex on that grass” type deal. We romanticize the single life. Hell, if the recent reveal of the 32 million people on Ashley Madison are any indication, some people are still pining for it. Craig, 27, tried to explain it as “it’s not like I want to be single. I just want days where I can … I don’t know, just punch out, I guess.”
If you’re still really unsure whether you’re missing something that never existed or are actually miserable (but hopefully, you can tell when you’re miserable), just go have a night out with your friends. If you feel like it’s out of your system, you’re fine. If it’s the happiest you’ve been in years, gather up your balls/ovaries and prepare your breakup speech. There is a distinction between wishing you had a little more freedom and secretly hoping your partner will dump you first so you’re not the bad guy.
So don’t sit there and pine for single life. Make a choice and own it. Your single friends, the ones you’re so jealous of? They’re dating because they want to have the thing you have. That’s literally what you miss. You miss the act of trying to have the thing you already have. You’re lucky. Deal with it.