How To Handle Single Shaming Around Valentine’s Day
From the pairing off of unmarried women to men via the lottery, to the formation of a lovers’ court, where women were given the opportunity to rule on romantic disputes — Valentine’s Day has known many faces before it became the modern marketing behemoth it is today.
February 14th is now the exclusive domain of young anonymous crushes, and for anyone over sixteen, the “couples holiday”. For singles, it’s also become the international single-shaming holiday: an entire day where singles either go into hiding, or attend counter-Valentine’s Day events, such as Galentine’s, that openly reject the mainstream narrative that being coupled-up is superior to being on your own.
What is Single Shaming?
For many singles, especially those who don’t subscribe to counter-culture events, Valentine’s Day can be a challenging time where it can feel as though every colleague, family member and coupled-up friend suddenly has an opinion on your relationship status. Pitying comments like “I can’t believe you’re still single” or “you’ll meet someone soon” coupled with unsolicited advice ranging from “you need to lower your standards” to “have you considered men/women?” can often leave singles feeling attacked and singled out.
This is amplified by retail giants as well as the media, who send out messages months before the day itself that make you feel like you’re not “whole” unless you’ve found your other half, or as though you’re “less than” for not being showered in overpriced flowers, chocolates and teddy bears.
For those who have felt the pressure of single-shaming year in year out, it can be an especially confronting time of year that makes you feel like your singlehood is something to be embarrassed by. But the “couple’s holiday” doesn’t have to be that way for the singles among us. With the right mindset it can be a great time to reaffirm your sense of self and own your single status.
The Mindset Singles Need on Valentine’s Day
Whether you are single-and-looking or single-and-not-looking, it’s worth reminding yourself of the following:
Your Relationship Status Does Not Define You
Despite the single-shamer’s assumption that everyone wants to be in a relationship, remember that you are a lot more than your relationship status. Being single should not be frowned upon. It can be a great opportunity to meet new people, pursue goals, develop mentally and emotionally, and do things you otherwise wouldn’t have had the time or freedom to do. Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate connections of all kinds, including the love you have for yourself, your family, and the people you care about.
The Grass is Always Greener
Many people in relationships spend a lot of time fantasising about being single. They want the freedom and autonomy it brings, just like people who are single-and-looking can pine for the benefits relationships have to offer. On Valentine’s Day it’s worth remembering that the grass is always greener, and to water the grass you do have because you might find yourself reminiscing about your single days sooner rather than later.
The Modern Dating Landscape is Changing
Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, not everyone grows up wanting to get hitched, have children and settle down. It’s 2022, and a growing number of “single-positive” people are challenging the notion that “true love” is the only route to happiness. This has been shown by a stark demographic shift towards singledom in the United States and around the world that, according to the Pew Research Center, will mean that about a quarter of young adults in contemporary America will have been single their entire lives by the time they reach the age of 50. Others are embracing polyamory and other non-conventional relationship structures in greater numbers than ever before.
You’re on Your Own Timeline
When responding to single-shaming comments, don’t feel the need to defend, excuse or cover up your single status. Remember you’re not on anyone else’s timeline but your own and you don’t have to be in a relationship for the sake of societal expectations and pressures. There is no “right way” to live your life when it comes to relationships. All you can do is decide what is best for you and your circumstances at any given time.
We should be using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to rethink singledom. A new cultural narrative should be developed that doesn’t attach so much importance to the romantic status of individuals in our, increasingly single, society. For those of us who are coupled-up, let’s focus on avoiding the faux pas of making single-shaming comments this Valentine’s Day and instead celebrate everyone regardless of their relationship status. Or maybe it’s worth creating a new holiday, celebrating singledom and all it has to offer?
Nicole Colantoni is a dating and mindset coach and 30-something-year-old women’s advocate who is fascinated by human potential, and dedicated to building a community of empowered women. As POPSUGAR Australia’s dating columnist, Nicole will share updates on dating trends, advice, and answer all your burning questions. Slide into her DM’s, to share what you’d like her to answer next. Nicole hosts a podcast, Single At Thirty, which you can learn more about and listen here.