Married or coupled up individuals often think nothing of asking single women personal questions, offering them unsolicited advice or commenting on their lives, and often without any consideration for how that woman might feel.
We asked Christina Steinorth-Powell, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships, for her thoughts on what to avoid saying to singles. (Consider this a service to all the single women in your life.)
1. "Your biological clock is ticking."
As women age, the term "biological clock" comes into play more and more, but by using the term to explain why a single friend needs to step up her search for a man, you are basically telling her it's more important to have a baby than to have a good relationship. Why can't she have both? "While it's true that many women opt for single parenthood, a lot of women do still want the father of their child to be involved in their lives, and they also want those interactions to be pleasant," explains Steinorth-Powell. If your single friend does want to have children, it's never your place to rush her, and you should never imply she should compromise her choice of partner just so she can start a family.
What you should say instead: Nothing. "A woman's reproductive choice is none of your business, regardless of your relationship with her," says Steinorth-Powell.
2. "It's your fault you haven't met someone yet."
While you may think you're being helpful by suggesting that a friend dress a little better, lose a little weight or dye her hair, you're actually doing her a disservice. "When you target something about a woman's appearance, you are, in essence, telling her she's not good enough for a man to find attractive," says Steinorth-Powell.
"When we do this to each other, we're perpetuating the myth that, to be happy and in love, one needs to be thin and beautiful. Nothing can be further from the truth," she explains. "Most men don't want a size-two woman, nor do they want a woman who is so wrapped up in her looks that she has little else to offer."
What you should say instead: "Be comfortable in your own skin, because when you are, the right man will accept you just the way you are."
3. "Men find you intimidating."
Powerful women often get a bad reputation and are thought to repel men, but this theory is not only out-dated, it's offensive. By telling a single woman she intimidates men, you send the message that a woman can't be who she is, "Simply put, if a man finds you intimidating, for whatever reason, he is not the man for you," says Steinorth-Powell. "Don't make yourself smaller, don't dumb yourself down, don't minimize your accomplishments just to please a man."
What you should say instead: "Any man worthy of a relationship won't be intimidated by you. He'll value your strengths."
4. "Other people you know are happy in relationships."
Many people are happy in their relationships, but that doesn't mean every person wants to be in one, or is ready to be in one. So by telling a woman she'll never be as happy alone as in a relationship, you're devaluing her life choices. Not to mention that it's just not true. "Many women are quite content being single. I was single for many, many years and thoroughly enjoyed it," says Steinorth-Powell. "Also, we never really know what goes on behind the scenes in a relationship, so while many people may seem 'happy,' they may just be putting their best foot forward."
What you should say instead: Nothing. Some women choose not to be in a relationship, and that's completely okay.
5. "Your career should not be more important than finding a man."
Having career goals and being focused on moving your life forward is never a bad thing. Suggesting to a single woman that she is too focused on her career to find a husband implies that her future happiness is tied to a man, which Steinorth-Powell says is ridiculous. "In order to be happy in a relationship, you need to be happy with yourself first. If your career or anything else makes you happy and you decide to throw yourself under a bus for the sake of a relationship, you will always regret it," she explains. "Do what makes you happy and the rest of your life will fall into place."
What you should say instead: "I know you enjoy your career, but don't forget to make time for your personal life."
"Saying something like this is a gentle reminder that while a successful career is a great thing, sometimes we need to be reminded to have balance," advises Steinorth-Powell.