Some advice is especially bad, even if your intentions are good. Below, you’ll find six things that are best left unsaid.
1. ‘You just have to put yourself out there.’
Unless your friend has gone into full hibernation mode, they probably have been putting themselves out there. They probably don’t tell you everything about their love life, though. You might not be privy to the flirty coffee dates they’ve been going on with their co-worker, or the growing number of dating apps they’ve downloaded, deleted and re-downloaded in the last few months.
Trust that they’re handling the situation, even if you personally haven’t seen much progress, said Isiah McKimmie, a couples therapist and sexologist in Melbourne, Australia.
“Your friend has probably been on terrible dates, been rejected, and had people ghost them ― it can be overwhelming and they can lose their confidence,” she said. “Sometimes, people need to take some time to get their energy for dating back and find ways of meeting people that feel right to them.”
2. ‘You’re being too picky. You need to lower your standards.’
Standards exist for a reason, so be respectful of your friends’ non-negotiables. If your friend is adamant that they don’t want kids or is looking for a partner who’s their financial equal, respect those choices. Chipping away at those standards is likely to result in an incompatible match.
“When you tell a friend to lower their standards, you’re telling them to give up on essential needs they’re looking for in a partner,” said Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago. “Giving up on those needs might result in dating someone who they won’t ever reach compromise with, especially if they disregard goals and dreams for their future by dating them.”
3. ‘Don’t worry about online dating. Do what you love and you’ll meet the right person organically.’
While well-intentioned, this advice is outdated. There’s no reason your single friend can’t go out and do what they love ― say, enroll in a French cooking class in the hopes of meeting a foodie cutie who can cook a mean coq au vin ― and be on the dating apps all at once.
Dating is all about casting a wide net, said Susan Pease Gadoua, a couples therapist and the co-author of The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels.
“People’s time is so limited,” she said. “If your friend’s on the apps, they’re reaching a much larger pool of singles without a lot of effort. Plus, they’re weeding out prospects who don’t want the same things as them more quickly and easily. It just makes you so much more efficient in your search.”
4. ‘You need to find your soulmate. Stop settling for just anyone.’
This piece of advice is a little too prescriptive for its own good. You might be totally convinced that soulmates are a thing, but it might be an icky, eye roll-inducing concept to your single friend.
Plus, stressing your friend out about finding “The One” is only going to make their search for a decent partner even more cumbersome, said Tom Murray, a couples therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“Maybe your friend will start swiping on all the apps, to feel like they’re ‘doing something,’ but it’s unlikely to be all that rewarding and it might even contribute to depression,” he said. “Instead of focusing on finding a soulmate, suggest they focus on looking for personality characteristics they like in people, such as kindness or generosity.”
5. ‘Maybe you’d have better luck if you put more effort into what you wear.’
Yes, a little effort goes a long way when you’re going on a first date or looking to meet people at the bar or an event. That said, if your friend is comfortable and looks relatively put together when they go out, don’t suggest they take the trouble to buy a whole new outfit. Let them be, and cool it with the judgment, Kepler said.
“Putting on a façade by dressing different than you usually would dress, or putting in way more effort than you usually would, is kind of like false advertising,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to drastically change your appearance to attract a partner and putting yourself in that mindset doesn’t help your self-esteem while on a date.”
6. ‘I think you’re just choosing the wrong people.’
Well, yeah. If your friend was choosing the right people, they wouldn’t be single. This piece of advice comes across as ultra-meddling. If you’re worried about the “type” your pal is chronically pursuing, it might be best to gently suggest a therapist. A professional can offer advice in a much more neutral, less judgmental way, McKimmie said.
“Your friend might really be looking for someone different, but for deeper psychological reasons, they keep repeating the same patterns,” she said. “Just trying to choose someone different doesn’t resolve the issue. If your friend keeps choosing the same kind of person and running into the same problems over and over, hopefully they’ll think about talking it through with a therapist.”
Bottom line? The best thing you can do for your single friend is to just listen. Given how disappointing (and dick pic-filled) single life can be, they’re going to need a good sounding board.