1. Make friends with your insecurity
We are all full of insecurities. Whether your favourite is ‘I’m not pretty enough’, ‘My clock is ticking’ or ‘I’m too picky’, make friends with it. That way you can have a laugh with it and not get tricked into thinking it’s real. Even if you find it hard to not believe these thoughts, if you can act like your insecurity is false — just work on the principle you are gorgeous and can afford to be picky — you will be in a far better mindset to enjoy being single and make the right relationship decisions for yourself. And if all else fails, may I recommend Tinder? As unlikely as it sounds, because Tinder mainly bases matches on photos, those who ‘like’ you find you attractive. And trust me, you’ll have plenty of matches. Which is a great self-esteem boost and something you can remind yourself of whenever that nasty thought comes up. Just see Tinder for what it is — low-effort dating on both sides — and don’t take it too seriously.
2. Know what you want
Search for what you truly want from a relationship. Avoid superficial qualities (eg they must be 6ft tall, have a post-graduate degree etc) and instead think about values and skills you want them to have (they must be a good listener, for example, and be able to compromise). Don’t criticise yourself as ‘oversensitive’ if you start to feel uneasy about your date. Your feelings are your hardwired responses and a great source of information about how things are going. And don’t settle, we all deserve to feel happy in our relationships (I remember in one of my earliest ones I even offered to give up my career and move countries to keep us together. I’m now very pleased he didn’t take me up on the offer!). But remember to give your date the best chance of correcting any bad habits they have developed or bad dating rules they’re following. Tell them what you need from them before ending a relationship. Giving the warning, ‘I need you to respond to my texts if you still want to see me’ — isn’t hard. And if it doesn’t work, having no relationship is better than one that doesn’t meet your needs.
3. Ignore man myths
We’ve all heard them — ‘all the good ones are taken’, ‘all men are players’ and ‘all men want younger women’. But know them for what they are: generalisations. I know it’s hard and after every disappointing date I’m tempted to listen to that voice that says, ‘There are no good ones left.’ But what’s right for one person is rarely appropriate for another. So try to ignore man myths when you hear them. And don’t spread them, either.
4. Care for your emotions — and embrace real life
There have been times when I’ve felt low and looked to blame it on being single. If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, depression or anxiety, learn how to care for yourself through these times — they will pass. Also remember that communicating via text message or email reduces the amount of clues you can use to accurately interpret someone’s true feelings and increases uncertainty, so if you do get matched with someone online, ask a simple opening question. If the person replies, have one or two topics of conversation and then ask them for a drink. Delete the match if they don’t get back to you in a couple of days. Delete the match if they become lewd on text. And delete the match if they make excuses not to meet up. Simple!
5. Find your tribe
Although changing our friendship groups can be challenging, if all your friends are at a different stage of life to you, finding people who are in a more similar place can be hugely helpful. We all need the support of like-minded individuals to create a sense of belonging in our lives.
Gemma’s book Doing Single Well (Trigger) is out now. Follow her @doingsinglewell
Is he available?
My strictest rule is to date available men only. Whether he’s unavailable because of his situation or because of his character, he is not special, and you are not soulmates. If you delude yourself into waiting for him, then you are wasting valuable time and depriving yourself of love that you deserve. Measuring all the new fabulous guys you meet against your fantasy of what your relationship with this unavailable man ‘might’ become is also a waste of time. He is unavailable if:
■ He is in a relationship or marriage, no matter how dysfunctional he says it is or how many years they have been sleeping in separate bedrooms.
■ He spends a lot of his time away or overseas — if you can’t have in-person contact with him once or twice a week then he’s unavailable.
■ He always puts something/someone else before you — whether he is an alcoholic, workaholic, overly involved with his kids… If he consistently prioritises something else over you, he is unavailable.
■ He doesn’t pursue you. No matter how attracted you are to him, if a man doesn’t put in at least 50 per cent of the effort to catch up with you, he is unavailable.
Celebs who have rocked the single life
‘We rush through being “single” as if it’s some disease or malady to get rid of or overcome. The truth is one day it will [likely] be gone… Why does no one tell us how important it is to enjoy being by yourself?’
‘Guys need attention. They need that nourishment, that little stroke of the ego every now and then that gets them by. I’ll give it to my family, I’ll give it to my work — but I will not give it to a man right now.’
‘When you’re in love, or dating someone, you filter your life decisions through their eyes. When you spend a few years being who you are, completely unbiased, you can figure out what you actually want.’
‘I’ve learnt I’m in a very modern fairytale but I also know I don’t need the Prince Charming to have a happy ending. I can make the happy ending myself. But I do still like London boys… except one.’
‘We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.’
Online dating meets TripAdvisor
The fact that online dating can be brutal is something few who have done it would argue with. And just when you thought it couldn’t be any more so, along comes a new gimmick from ‘slow-dating’ app Once, which now ‘enables women to rate their dates and their dates’ accuracy of pictures’, according to its blurb.
Female users of the app are able to access a TripAdvisor-style system that enables them to review their chats and dates (both parties can judge the accuracy of their date’s pictures). The aim of which is, apparently, to ‘put women first’.
How this ‘puts women first’ is unclear but one thing that does seem certain is the potential for skewed results.
Say a woman has a great date with someone but the feeling is not reciprocated, or the other partner ghosts them, how likely would the ghostee be to give a good review? Or perhaps they have a great date with someone and want to see them again… is that person going to sing their praises so they suddenly become popular? It’s unlikely.
As the saying goes, one person’s meat is another one’s poison. NICOLE MOWBRAY