Your friends can be a great source of inspiration and consolation when you’re looking for love. They’ll laugh with you about a dud date or help you decode a baffling text. (Not sure what to write back? The smiley face emoji always works!) They’ll dust you off when a promising romance fizzles or simply remind you to “hang in there” when you’re losing steam.
Yet certain negative friends don’t always help your cause. Their sour outlook seeps into your consciousness and zaps some of your enthusiasm for dating. Your friends might not even realize they’re being discouraging, but the toll of their negative vibes is undeniable. When you’re feeling vulnerable, it doesn’t take much bad juju to nudge you into a hopeless place.
Have you experienced any of these toxic friend dynamics? (Note: I’m referring mostly to women’s relationships because that’s what I know. Some might apply to the “bro code.”)
- The Generalizer: When I moved from New York City to San Diego a year ago, several women offered to give me the lowdown on San Diego men. “They’re totally passive,” said one. “They’re self-absorbed and boring texters,” said others. The funny thing is that I heard the same “truths” about Manhattan men.
- The Basher: Mention that a match asked you for a last-minute brunch? “Typical!” says your friend. “Men are such bad planners.” Your friend has a talent for trotting out every gendered dating stereotype. You can fight the statements in your head or even out loud. “Well, that’s not true. His son had an unexpected play date,” you might say. But no matter your efforts to stay positive, you can’t escape the subtle sting of their words.
- The Consoler: “Don’t worry. You’ll find someone!” she tells you in an unnaturally upbeat voice. Never mind that you’re doing just fine. Her tone suggests you’re on a difficult mission and that you need her unsolicited encouragement.
How do you know your friend is too negative? You just kind of feel bad. Their comments make your shoulders tense or stomach lurch. Or they make you question your own judgment and actions. You can count on dating to bring enough self-doubt without your pals piling on more.
The problem is that your friends aren’t necessarily trying to bring you down. Yes, there’s always the scenario of a friend sabotaging your happiness because she doesn’t want less of your time or attention. Or your friend is jealous. But usually they think they’re being helpful or “real” by seeing your dating adventures through their own wounded, slightly misguided filters. They’re not speaking universal truths; they’re just reflecting their own disappointing experiences.
What should you do?
- Tread lightly on dating talk
Be mindful to change the topic as soon as the vibe shifts. And spare the “analysis sessions” of what you should do in a particular situation. Sometimes it’s better to stumble around on your own rather than get bad advice from people who see the downside in everything.
- Surround yourself with positive people
This includes people who generally seek and find love in the world – or at least believe it’s available to them and everyone else, no matter their age, weight or income. Boost your own outlook by surrounding yourself with emotionally healthy people.
- Don’t go hunting with them
Go out with your friends to enjoy their company or engage in an activity together. If you’re going out with negative friends with the intent of meeting potential love interests, it never ends well.
- Remember your own reasons
Sometimes friends’ bad vibes can be helpful – if only to reinforce your own motivations. “I’m not going to be like her!” you might vow to yourself. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to find love.” Use their negativity to keep you on the right track.
How do you handle your friends’ downer attitudes?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.