How to feel happy as a single woman

Shut down conversations about finding a man, and brainstorm new places to live

How to feel happy as a single woman

Hulton Archive/Getty Images, iStock, Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

For one woman, the most lonely night of being single came when she had to drive herself to the emergency room. The doctor “asked if I could get anyone to pick me up because of the narcotic medicine he needed to give me, and I briefly thought about it and said no. Maybe there were people I could have called in a dire emergency, but lots of my friends go to bed early and I didn’t feel comfortable waking them. So I had to wait until the sedative wore off, then drove myself at 1:00 a.m. to find a 24-hour pharmacy,” remembers the 41-year-old nurse.

“This should never, ever happen to anyone,” writes Michelle Cove in Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind. She spent three years interviewing single women, many of whom worry about a future medical emergency. Cove suggests lining up support well before you need it.

Start with girlfriends: “Let them know it would comfort you if you knew they could be part of a support team to help you in duress.” Each friend should know she’s part of a small team, not the only one helping, and be specific about what you are asking for, “such as being your emergency contact, taking care of your pets if you’re hospitalized, bringing you to the ER if necessary.”

However, cautions Cove, there are dangers to relying too heavily on the company of other single women, particularly if the conversation always focuses on finding a man. “While it feels satisfying to compare war stories, keeping the spotlight on your dating life feeds the idea that happiness rides on finding a partner,” Cove points out. “Change the script,” she advises. “Focus on what you did or saw that week that was interesting or lifted your spirits. If your girlfriend is obsessed with finding a man, let her know you’ve changed your ways. Tell her you’re expanding your horizons.”

Also, let married friends know you’re not the “project of the month,” Cove explains. Tell those who drive you crazy with relationship advice that you want them to “drop all the attention on your love life,” she writes. Again, change the script by asking about new restaurants in town and what TV shows they’ve been watching these days, she urges.

Fresh from a bad breakup? Ignore “well-meaning folks” who are “encouraging you to dive back in the dating pool,” Cove suggests. “These people are idiots,” she writes.

“No dating,” she stresses. Give yourself a few months to grieve. Otherwise, “your grief is going to come back to bite you at a worse time.” Let’s say you’ve just met a new, worthwhile guy who invites you out for sushi—but you burst into tears, “recalling the last time you shared a California roll with your ex.” As another cautionary tale, she cites a single woman who tried online dating, but wound up even more depressed and worried when a guy she contacted didn’t respond.

Unsure what to do with your time? Cove recommends “volunteering once a week to get out of your head. Whether it’s reading to the blind, mentoring a child, handing out food to the homeless, you’ll leave feeling charged by giving back to the world.”

For single women in small towns, consider a move to the city. Cove tells the story of Jillian, an artist who moved back home after finishing school and soon felt like the “town weirdo.” Jillian said, “It’s bad enough knowing you stick out as the old spinster, but people in the community are not shy about letting you know that your relationship status is unacceptable.”

Spend some time brainstorming new places to live, suggests Cove. “Let yourself dream of where you want to be.” She points out that you don’t have to act on your dreams right away.

For one single woman who stayed in a small town, life improved after joining a book club comprised mostly of divorced women. “I didn’t think I’d have much in common with divorcees, but they knew how hard it was to live in our town with no one to bring to the family picnics or holiday parades,” she told Cove. “Plus, they had to deal with seeing their exes around town. Honestly, it made being single seem less stressful.”

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