Kill the jealousy. Save the singles.
The timing of this is on purpose. As of this week, we are entering prime Comparison Season, also known as the holidays. If you are single, and you have access to a cellular telephone, you’re about to be awash in a sea of couple content—with matching pajamas, for extra spice. This year, I’d like us all to challenge ourselves to not let this make us feel like shit. This year, I’m hoping for prevention instead of a cure, if you get me.
A common thread in the single community (a space I’ve dwelled within for 13 years like some sort of folklorish Lady of the Lake), is consuming information that pertains to other people, and and allowing that information to have an impact on us as singles—even though it has nothing to do with us at all. We allow what other people have to reflect back to us what we don’t have. It’s exhausting, it’s unnecessary, here’s how it works:
- Someone starts dating someone new, posts their first photo as a couple, and a single person feels frustrated and jealous.
- A couple walks down the street holding hands, and a single person feels angry.
- Someone gets engaged, and a single person feels deeply sad and lacking.
- Someone gets married, and a single person feels like nothing good is ever going to come for them.
There’s a common thread in all of these scenarios: they aren’t actually saying anything to or about the single person witnessing them. It’s the single person themselves that’s choosing to take in this information as reminder after reminder of what they don’t have. Let me be quite clear: Other people are not happening to you. Singles have a really bad habit of hinging their emotions on factors outside of themselves. Yes, I’m point out something that might make singles themselves, ourselves, feel a little shitty to realize. But I don’t have time to fuck around with niceties right now, I have a meeting with a client in an hour. We have to stop this. I’ll show you how.
Another example of how we take things happening to other people and make them about us is in the ways we make ourselves feel better about being single by using outside factors that have nothing to do with us, either real or imagined.
- Singles see a couple fighting in Ikea, and think to themselves, “I’m so glad that’s not me.”
- Singles take comfort in memes like, “well, at least I don’t have to worry about someone cheating on me!”
- Singles see confirmation that a couple’s relationship has ended, and feel instantly good inside.
- Singles see a holiday photo of a couple, and in order to feel better about themselves, they imagine that in real life, the couple argues all the time and is unhappy—because we only see manufactured perfection on social media, right?
Couples do not have to be miserable for you as a single to be happy. We have to stop being fueled by a steady diet of jealousy and comparison. I hate this, I hate this dynamic. I hate it when single people use couple happiness to feel miserable, and couple misery to feel happy. There’s another way to live, you know. We can live in a space where we allow the happiness of others to remind us of what’s possible, rather than remind us of what we don’t have. I believe this happens by reframing the way we think about what we’re actually viewing and consuming.
- Someone starts dating someone new, posts their first photo as a couple, and a single person sees this as proof that people really do meet each other and fall in love.
- A couple walks down the street holding hands, and a single person remembers she/he/they can be happy now, not only after they have this additional person, because they themselves are completely whole.
- Someone gets engaged, and a single person says to themselves, “I’m so happy someone I know is happy. That’s so good to see.”
- Someone gets married, and a single person is reminded that partnership is possible. “It happened to them, they’re not “better”* than me, therefore partnership can happen to me, too.”
*A key factor here is understanding that people in couples are not better than singles. They didn’t achieve some kind of magical fucking perfection that allowed them to partner. They just got luckier and met someone who liked them a lot. I explain more of this here, but for now I need to get back to the task at hand.
Happiness is not available in limited quantities only. Someone else finding happiness isn’t stealing happiness away from you. Someone else’s happiness doesn’t actually impact you at all, unless you choose to let it. Why not choose to let it impact you in a positive way? There is an infinite amount of happiness available to us all, and I guarantee you it’s not hiding inside the jealousy and lack you feel when you see a happy couple on social media or the street and can only see that as a reflection of what you don’t have, rather than as proof positive of what’s possible in life.
Needing people who have what you want to be actually unhappy in having the thing you want is a very low vibe kind of energy. It’s the energy of jealousy, of limited thinking, of pessimism, and also it’s just really mean. Singles don’t deserve to live in a world where all they’re thinking in their minds when they see couples is either “I’m so jealous” or “I hope they’re miserable.” Honestly, is that how you want to live? I don’t say these things out of harshness, I lived in this negative space for a good decade or so. I’m just here to tell you there’s a much better way to go about living and seeing other people exist in happiness without letting it crush your emotions into dust. If the only way you can feel happily single is by seeing couplehood misery, that’s a problem. One with a very simple solution.
I have a homework assignment for you. The next time you see a couple, either on social media or in real life, I want you to think one thought inside your head, and one thought only: “I’m happy for them.” That’s it. That’s the thought. Practice it. It might feel awkward at first, but just allow a different narrative to enter your mind, and see how it makes you feel. See if there’s a little bit of lightness, a little weight lifted off of you, since you’re no longer burdening yourself with jealousy and lack. Thinking shitty thoughts about other people will always require and suck up more energy than just being happy for them. Remind yourself that you’re allowed to just be happy for them, nothing more complicated than that. It’s easier, and I want you to see how it feels.
We don’t need couples to be miserable in order to be happy as singles. Please understand that this has to be true, otherwise why would we want to be in a couple at all? Being jealous of happy people is exhausting, and counterintuitive. You don’t have to be jealous or angry or sad when you see couples. That doesn’t have to happen. You can choose a new way to think about what others have that you want. I hope you choose to see people partnering, loving each other, and simply living life together as reminders of what’s possible for everyone. Freeing yourself of jealousy is a gift, and it’s one that I hope you give yourself starting right now. Tis the season.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.