Being genuinely happy for others when you're single can be a challenge, especially if you're feeling lonely or unhappy about your own relationship status. Wedding season, in particular, can be difficult as there are countless events to partake in, from engagement parties to bridal showers and bachelorette trips.
It can be painful and frustrating to see others around us achieving something that we want for ourselves, specifically if we have experienced rejection or a recent negative dating experience. Sometimes, these negative feelings can also transform into guilt, as a result of struggling to feel happy for others as they celebrate their wins.
However, it is possible to cultivate true joy for friends and family members, even when you're struggling with your own sentiments of loneliness or frustration. And to help you navigate these feelings, we asked Roma Williams, LMFT-S, Rachel Montoni, Ph.D., and Simone Koger, LMFTA, to share their best professional advice. Ahead, here are eight tips on how to be happy for others in relationships when you hate being single.
Meet the Expert
- Roma Williams, LMFT-S, is a marriage and family therapist and founder of Unload It Therapy, an inclusive mental health space led by BIPOC therapists and staff for people of all backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations.
- Simone Koger, LMFTA, is a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, grief counselor, and CEO of Koger Counseling in Washington.
- Rachel Larrain Montoni, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist based in New York City. She serves clients ranging from teenagers to adults across the state of New York and Washington D.C.
Accept That Envy Is Valid
If you have struggled to feel happy or excited about a newly coupled up, engaged, or married friend, you’re not alone. The first step toward finding genuine happiness for others, especially when attending weddings, is accepting that it is normal and valid to feel envious, frustrated, or upset by your current circumstances.
“Acknowledging, validating, and normalizing negative feelings can be much more productive for our well-being than punishing ourselves or trying to avoid or push down uncomfortable emotions,” says Montoni. “Practice adopting a surplus, rather than a scarcity mentality. Someone else’s joy or happiness does not negate your own feelings of despair, and nor does it have to take away from your chances of finding your own.”
Let's face it, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have when we’re feeling down about our single status. But instead of giving into self-pity, remind yourself of certain aspects of your life you are grateful to have. Are you blessed with amazing friends and family? Do you have a career that makes you feel fulfilled? “Take time to appreciate all the good things in your life. Focusing on gratitude will help cultivate positive thoughts and feelings toward others—and ultimately make it easier to be genuinely happy for them,” explains Williams.
Focus on Self-Improvement
Use your single status as an opportunity to invest in yourself, leaning into activities that will boost your self-esteem and bring out the best version of yourself. “Whether that means taking up a new hobby or enrolling in a class, use this period of singledom as a chance to work towards your personal goals so that when romance does come along, you're ready for it,” advises Williams. “Not only will this give you something productive to focus on during this time, but it will also help boost your self-confidence, which is invaluable when entering into any relationship.”
Changing your perspective from comparing yourself to others to being inspired by them can provide more effective and motivating strategies for achieving your goals. Koger suggests reframing thoughts of comparison like "why is everyone getting married while I’m still single?" to "I see how happy my friends are in their relationships, and I want that for myself too." By reframing your emotions in this way, you can acknowledge and validate feelings of sadness, loneliness, and frustration, while also recognizing that it is possible for you to have what you want in the future.
Being happy for someone takes practice, and just like a muscle, we need to put work into strengthening it. According to Williams, one of the best things you can practice is a behavioral intervention called “act as if." This involves asking yourself questions like “if I were genuinely happy for this person, what would I do?” and then going out to it. “Perhaps if I were genuinely happy I would buy someone flowers, or send them a handwritten card, and the practice of following through on this action often engenders the happiness that feels otherwise hard to grasp,” she says.
Embrace What's in Your Power
“If your goal is to find a partner, what are the mini-goals that can lead you to that larger goal? It might be going on dating apps, going out with friends, trying to meet people organically, identifying the qualities you want in a partner, etc,” says Koger. “Take ownership of your part in this goal setting, and recognize that not everyone's path is the same. If your best friend met her partner at a ski slope one weekend because they bumped into each other, that is really unlikely to be your story too.”
Tend to Your Unmet Needs
Have you experienced neglect or mistreatment from a parent in the past? Did you feel like you were a failure growing up? Asking yourself these types of questions can help you determine if your feelings about your friend's relationship are truly about them, or if they're a reflection of what you need in your own life. Looking deeper into your feelings can help you to work on yourself and accept where you are in life. Additionally, it's important to remember that even your friends who just got married are dealing with their own emotions, just as you are.
Be gentle with yourself during this process as it takes time and effort to come into your own self-love and appreciation. “Don’t beat yourself up if progress isn’t coming as quickly as expected. Practice self-compassion, instead, by understanding where your emotions are coming from and allowing them space rather than pushing them away or judging them harshly,” says Williams. “Consider talking with friends or family about how you are feeling. Letting out those uncomfortable emotions can bring clarity and peace of mind so that ultimately, genuine happiness can blossom from within.”