Why are you still single?
I'm not a gambler, but if you're a single woman, I'm willing to bet you've been asked some iteration of this question before. And if you're in my boat: single for a handful of consecutive years and nearing 30, I'd wager that you’re hearing this question more often – and that you're running out of things to say.
For a while, my survival tactic when asked "Do you have a boyfriend?" was to counter, "I have a cat." Not that they’re mutually exclusive, of course. But responding this way got the person off my dating life and on to a topic I'm much happier to discuss at length. Simply saying "no" left an awkward silence that felt like it needed to be filled — typically with a well-intended, "You'll meet someone when you least expect it." As if I'm eagerly awaiting some guy to ride in on a white horse and rescue me from singledom.
There are plenty of reasons why being asked this question feels frustrating. Even when it's meant as a compliment, it still insinuates that I must be doing something wrong – or that there's something wrong with me.
But what really bothers me is that I have no answer.
I have no control over when, if ever, I'm going to meet the right person. Sure, there are things I could do that might increase my chances of meeting someone. But there's no guarantee that any amount of swiping left or right on dating apps or spending a certain amount of nights out will absolutely result in my finding someone I want to be with until one of us kicks the bucket.
Try telling that to whoever's asking you, though, and they're sure to have suggestions for how to make it happen: Expect it less. Stop being so picky. Let me set you up with Aunt Nancy's neighbor's nephew from next door (whom you have nothing in common with aside from the fact that he is also single and has a pulse). Or, what about the new dating app that matches you up with people based on what you both hate? That seems right up your alley.
"Control is an illusion," says psychiatrist Dr. Victor Fornari from Northwell Health. "Part of that has to do with the fact that we have our own ideas of what we'd like, and then depending upon our flexibility and a certain amount of luck, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t."
Ironically, the things in life that we can't control are the ones that tend to cause us the most stress. The catch -- whether we stress out or not, the outcome will typically be the same.
"Uncertainty in our lives is uncomfortable," says Amy Kirschenblatt, a licensed social worker from Northwell Health. "The things we can't control cause us angst and discomfort, which is unpleasant. We live in a world where there is so much 'unknown.' Anything that we can wrap our head and hands around brings about comfort. When we don’t get that, we feel stress."
People asking these questions are (usually) just trying to help. But ruminating on why you're single ends up doing more harm than good. "When you’re obsessing over things that are out of your control, there’s no timeline of when it's going to end, and it's exhausting," says Kirschenblatt. "It fundamentally affects your ability to enjoy things that you would take pleasure in. Whether that's a good meal, a good conversation, a TV show – nothing feels good because you’re worn out." And if the stuff you actually enjoy doing doesn’t feel good, that blind date probably won’t either – even if he’s cute.