It’s almost like a bad breakup: One of the most painful things about dating can be losing your partners-in-crime, the friends who went with you to Saturday night movies, Sunday morning brunches, and even family occasions. I’m not talking about losing a romantic partner. I’m talking about being the last single friend in your social group, and while it’s not quite the same as a breakup, it can leave you feeling just as lonely and abandoned by your now-coupled friends.
But just because everyone suddenly has a significant other (who’s not, well, you) doesn’t mean your friendship is doomed. In fact, if you embrace the change, it might not only strengthen your friendships, but help you flex some dating muscles yourself. Here are some tips:
1. Beware falling victim to the green-eyed monster. It’s natural to feel like the last man (or woman) standing when your friends — especially the ones with whom you’ve shared all of your dating adventures — are off the market. If there were at least two of you, you reasoned, you weren’t doomed to stay single forever, you were simply pals who hadn’t yet found The One. But now, all your friends have found someone special and you haven’t, and — while you’re happy for them, obviously — you wish it would have happened by now for you, too. It’s an envy double whammy: not only are you jealous of your friends’ relationships, you’re probably also jealous of their partners, who seem to have replaced you entirely on weekends.
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Here’s some advice from L.A.-based dating coach Evan Marc Katz, author of Why You’re Still Single: make sure you separate the issues. “You don’t have much choice in the matter, so better to be supportive and happy for your friends than to let envy chip away at those relationships,” he says. “Unless someone is marrying the person of your dreams, there’s no real reason to be envious.”
Need another positive way to look at the situation? Cindy Chupack, author of The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays (www.betweenboyfriends.com) and a former writer on Everybody Loves Raymond, suggests that instead of focusing on the envy, “Try to think of it as just more proof that love exists, that other good single people are out there, and that maybe you’ll be the next person to find their special someone.”
2. Get out there and start socializing on your own. Admit it: Hanging out with your single friends may have made weekends more entertaining, but if going around trolling for dates in groups really helped with your dating life, you’d be in a relationship right now, too. Being forced to fly solo, on the other hand, might move you out of your comfort zone just enough to make you more proactive on the dating front. Maybe you’ll take up a new hobby, like salsa dancing or scuba diving, which can expose you to potential love interests. Or, as Chupack says, the situation “might force you to find new single friends, who might lead you to new and improved prospective dates in their social circles.” And, she adds, there’s nothing wrong with stepping out alone on occasion, “since a person alone is sometimes more approachable.”
If you’re not ready to venture out without your buddy just yet, Katz suggests starting out with online dating. “It’s the perfect way to generate your own social life without ever leaving the house,” he says.
3. You don’t have to feel like the third wheel around your married/partnered friends. Don’t assume your now paired-up buddies want to leave you behind when they make plans. Jennifer, 30, a marketing manager, feels like she almost lost her best friend for no reason when she finally found her special guy. “When I met my boyfriend,” she says, “my best friend started avoiding me. She said she didn’t want to be the third wheel, but the truth is, I needed her as much as she needed me.” It makes sense: Sure, your friends may be spending a lot of time with their significant others, but outside friendships are important to the paired-up, too. “It’s not like I want to spend every waking moment with my boyfriend,” Jennifer says. “Besides, there’s not that much difference between being single and dating. You still want to talk to your best friend about what’s going on in your life — both in and out of the relationship.”
Patty, 34, a single recruiter whose close friend recently got into a relationship, suggests reserving a special night just for spending time with your same-sex pals. “This way,” she says, “resentment doesn’t build and you won’t feel like you’re always having to hang with someone plus the boyfriend or girlfriend.”
And while you probably won’t be spending as much one-on-one time with your formerly single friends, Katz advises letting go of expectations that nothing is going to change. The reality is that most relationships change over time, and this way, he says, you won’t be disappointed by the new arrangements.
4. Talk about your feelings in a non-confrontational way. Don’t bottle up those feelings of abandonment and resentment. Then again, don’t lash out, either! David, a 35-year-old newlywed lawyer, says that friends should talk about how awkward they feel instead of pretending nothing’s wrong. “My best buddy had to act like he was happy for me, but I knew he was miserable inside,” David says. “And I had to pretend I didn’t know he was miserable, because I thought it would make him feel worse if I called him out on not being happy for me.” Once David had the courage to talk openly with his friend about what was really going on, not only did their friendship get stronger, but they both felt relieved that they could be themselves and express themselves around each other again.
5. Take advantage of the benefits as a standalone single. Instead of wallowing in your feelings of loneliness and/or resentment, adopt a new, more promising perspective. Katz says he doesn’t mind so much when a good friend gets into a relationship because he now realizes there’s a potential payoff for him, too. “Having a friend who’s part of a couple could potentially double your social circle — because you now have this person’s friends taking part in your life as well,” he explains. And recruiter Patty sees yet another advantage: your friends, she says, “have been through all the hassles of the dating game and now are working through the typical issues in a relationship. So you can learn from their dating experiences and put those lessons to use” as you go through your own dilemmas with dates.
While watching all your single buddies get paired up and leave you behind can be hard, if you put the advice above into action, it can wind up being a positive experience for everyone involved — for you as a single person and for your friendships, too.