In my work as a counselor, I frequently hear things like this: “It seems like all of my friends are engaged!” “I’m happy for them, but it’s hard not to feel jealous.” “Why is everyone moving to the next stage of life and I’m stuck here?” “Is there something wrong with me?”
It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others. It’s hard to see someone else find a partner when you want the same thing for yourself. It’s normal to have conflicting feelings: Happiness for the joy your friends are experiencing and jealousy that you don’t have that same joy for yourself. Many people would deny feelings of jealousy because we believe any negative feeling is “wrong.” While acting on feelings of envy would be harmful to both us and our relationships, simply admitting that we are struggling is a step toward maturity and healing.
When you’re tempted to compare and despair, do the following instead.
Give yourself grace
Start by giving yourself the space and grace to grieve the fact that you have not found someone yet. Your wants are valid, and the desire to be partnered is one of the most natural drives we are given. It’s okay to lament the fact that it hasn’t happened for you yet.
Be wary of resentment
A constant feeling of resentment toward your friends’ engagements is going to harm you and your relationships. If you find yourself moving toward envy, it may be time to look at what’s behind your feelings — fear, insecurity, pride or other matters of the heart — and examine what’s really going on. Jealousy may be a way to defend against being single. It can be hard to be alone when we want to give our heart to a life-long partner. It’s OK to want these things for yourself; just don’t let envy take over.
Be open to growth and discovery
Waiting is a mystery, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and discovery. The time that you spend as a single person is time that you’re being formed and learning more about yourself, your gifts, your talents, and your desires. A masterpiece would be ruined if it were rushed into completion too soon. If your heart desires a healthy, loving, and peaceful partnership, then allow yourself the room to grow.
When I was in my 20s, my best friend from college, my sister, and my closest sorority sister all got engaged within six months. I was in each of their weddings. Not only was I a bridesmaid, I was a bridesmaid (and maid of honor for two of them) without a date. I struggled with being jealous and with my own sadness. It was many years after that I finally met my husband. I am grateful I didn’t marry sooner because, at the time, I wasn’t fully prepared for it. I needed to grow and mature emotionally and become more of myself. And I learned there is always enough time to wait for the right person.
Originally published on May 19, 2016.