‘You do wonder if it’s a case of – the grass is always greener,’ Jenna* tells metro.co.uk.
Jenna, 29 and from Manchester, has been in a relationship with her partner for seven years. They’re happy she says, completely in love, talking about trying for a baby in the next few years.
And yet, sometimes, she finds herself completely consumed by jealousy of the lives of her single friends.
‘They literally do what they want,’ she says. ‘Most of them live on their own now, they have their bedrooms exactly how they want them, their so clean, they eat whatever they want, they watch whatever they want on TV. Honestly, sometimes I do wish I could have that.
‘I don’t want to not be with Harry*, but the thought of that complete freedom is incredibly appealing to me.’
Jenna has been with Harry for most of her 20s. They now live together, go on holiday together, spend their weekends together. Jenna loves spending time with him, but says she does miss having more time for her friends.
‘I think what I’m most jealous of are the possibilities. My friends tell me that dating is sh*t, and I do know that. But sometimes when they’re talking to someone new and they’re describing the butterflies and the excitement of a kiss and all the what-ifs – I feel sad that I might never get to have that again.
‘I like my life. But it feels like my choices are set. I’ve found my man and, for the most part, I know what our future will look like. My single friends still have all those choices to make. I am definitely envious of that.’
Jenna isn’t alone in feeling like this. Anyone who has been in a relationship for a long time will tell you that they have had moments of wondering what else is out there, and wishing – however fleetingly – for a taste of the single life.
Sex and relationships expert Julia Kotziamani, who partners with gambling site Mr Q, says feeling envious of our single friends is common – even in committed and generally happy, healthy relationships.
‘There are great things about single life for many of us, and it’s totally normal to feel nostalgic about some of these perks, or even straight jealous of those who still get to do all those things we tend to give up when we enter a relationship,’ Julia tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Consider it like a form of FOMO, or just a process of considering the positives and negatives of all the choices we make in life.’
Julia explains that single people tend to have more individual freedom over their social lives, and schedule, and you’ll notice this even more if you have children or other material responsibilities as a result of your relationship – like a house and bills, or DIY projects.
‘There are also things like promiscuity, not having to run decisions past anyone, and being able to spend your money how you want, which are common areas of envy for those in long-term relationships,’ she adds.
‘Longer-term entanglements can start to feel mundane or monotonous without us noticing, so this type of envy is something most people recognise to a certain extent.’
Is ‘singleness envy’ always a bad sign for a relationship?
For the most part, Julia says this is totally normal, and often even inescapable.
‘It’s totally normal to evaluate your life and consider the alternatives and this isn’t necessarily a bad sign for you or your relationship,’ she says.
‘In fact, it can be a really good opportunity to check in with yourself and feel out areas you may want to address in your life and partnership.
‘Do you want a bit more freedom in your current dynamic and in what areas? Is sexual exploration, or even non-monogamy intriguing to you? Would you like more time to peruse your own passions? Do you want more control over your personal finances?’
So, feelings of envy for single life can be a starting point for actually deepening your connection and expanding your relationship, which Julia says could make it more enjoyable, adventurous and sustainable.
How to know when your envy might mean you should break up
Daydreaming about a smoldering encounter with a stranger in a bar every now and then is one thing, but persistent longings for single life may speak to a deeper problem.
Julia says if you’re feeling jealous of single friends on a frequent basis, it may reveal a desire to leave your relationship and explore a new path.
‘If you are preoccupied with thoughts wishing for singledom you may want to ask yourself if this relationship is really right for you at the moment,’ she says.
‘Similarly, if your feelings of envy have left you feeling like areas of your relationship need to change to be sustainable for you, but your partner is unwilling or they are areas where change is not possible, you may want to reevaluate whether it’s a good fit.’
How to cope with ‘singleness envy’
The first thing to do is to free yourself of shame. Don’t feel bad about what you feel – it is normal and valid to feel this way.
‘Know that feelings of envy are very common and that they can be opportunities for developing and growing your current dynamic, rather than a terminal issue,’ says Julia.
Dating and relationships expert Callisto Adams adds: ‘To cope with such feelings you first have to note them and their source.’
She says you have to ask yourself – where are these feelings coming from?
‘Is it a product of your fantasy of what the single life could look like – because you forgot – or is it a product of unhappiness and lack of freedom in your relationship?
‘Once you find the causes and reasons behind your feelings, it’ll be time to sort it out with yourself without being judgmental towards yourself.’
She says it can also be really useful to talk it out with trusted friends.
‘The feeling of not being the only one feeling this will help you with the guilt it comes with,’ she adds.
‘Don’t resist it. See if it’s reasonable or not, take your time to think about it, and finally, contemplate what would be the best thing to do in your situation.’
Negative feelings in relationships don’t have to be resisted. In fact, they can pose an opportunity for us to develop a deeper consciousness with our partner and make our connection even better.
Julia says: ‘Use them as an opportunity to evaluate where you may want to make changes and make your own rules.
‘If they are more than fleeting, it may be a good time to talk to your partner and honestly share what you are feeling. This poses an opportunity to be more open and vulnerable with each other and deepen the connection between you.’
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