Suddenly, everyone around me seems to be coupled up – buying houses and getting engaged. However, I haven’t been in a relationship for eight years, and even that was immature compared to the relationships that my friends have now. I feel like I should be getting on the property ladder, investing in my future and making plans. Every date I go on can’t develop into a relationship fast enough, before I realise he isn’t The One, or he ends up calling things off. It feels like I’m getting further away from where I want to be all the time, and listening to my friends’ plans – however happy I am for them – is making me feel more and more desperate. What can I do? Name supplied
I’ve just hunted out my copy of Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff. It’s a set of 100 short meditative essays which helped me enormously when my life was falling apart. I read your letter and was reminded of: ‘Life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been a real life, you would have been instructed where to go and what to do.’
You’re treating the actions of your friends like a set of compulsory instructions. You may have absorbed phrases like ‘getting on the property ladder’ or ‘investing in my future’ from a journalist who doesn’t practise what they preach. My technique for breaking this thought pattern is to redefine the word ‘could’.
Yes, you could be getting coupled up, on the property ladder, blah-de-blah. Or you could go to a poetry slam, or sign up for a bike ride to Paris or find small local start-up businesses that need your skills and let your friends listen to your plans for once. You don’t have to be like your friends to love them, or for them to love you.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line
Read Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson (Hodder, £9.99)
Read 5 Simple Steps to Get Out of Your Own Way on LifeLabs
Read You are in charge of your direction by Agatha Penney on LifeLabs