1. Giving up on online dating after just one negative experience. Here’s the thing with online dating: It’s much like wading through some kind of swamp near a nuclear plant, pushing aside the glowing kelp and the three-eyed fish, looking to find that treasure chest from a sunken pirate ship. You have to go through some moderate-to-serious digging before you find your gold doubloons, and giving up at the first sign of inconvenience is the only way to ensure it won’t work out.
2. Allowing your friends to set you up with people that you know you’re not at all interested in, but you don’t say no to because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. At a certain point, it just becomes a game of “You’re single??? I know a person who is also not currently in a relationship — you would be perfect for each other!”
3. Going back to an ex just to get the cuddles. Don’t let slip back into the quicksand of the easy cuddle.
4. Trying to construct a functional relationship out of someone who is clearly just looking for a little casual sex. Pretending like the times you meet up at 11 PM to have sex are “dates” and that they’re just “really busy with other things” is a one-way ticket to emotional eating while crying in your bed.
5. Focusing in way too hard on the “meet cute” aspect of finding someone, wherein you just happen to bump into one another at some bookstore while browsing the same section and get all charmingly befuddled trying to say excuse me. This also leads to trying to turn every brief moment of eye contact with a hot person on public transportation into the opening sequence of the movie that is your love life. (Full disclosure: I once stayed on the train to follow a guy I thought I was having A Moment with for about five stops too long, only for him to get off and completely walk in the other direction. Those are five stops I will never get back.)
6. Introducing them to your friends way too quickly — as in, before it’s even a real relationship — because you’re way too excited.
7. Sleeping with members of your friend group in the interim, because you’re horny, but you also want to be with someone that you can just chill out and order a pizza with afterwards. This sounds like the ideal situation, right up until someone wants out, and now the two of you have to hang out at group functions and pretend you weren’t recently inside of one another.
8. Imagining, even briefly, that grinding on a rando in a bar is going to lead to a fulfilling relationship of any kind. This is a slippery slope into treating every outing as a chance to “meet someone,” when most of the people you are going to come in contact with are more interested in finding a pizza place open on the walk home than having any kind of sustained conversation with another human.
9. Playing so much into the “sad single gal” trope — whether out of genuine self-deprecation, or ironic amusement — that you blur the lines between “Charmingly Lonely Mindy Kaling Figure” and “Cripplingly Lonely Cathy Comic Who Now Communicates Only In Hisses And Feces-Throwing.”
10. Setting weird deadlines for yourself over when you need to be in a relationship by, because after that arbitrary point it’s going to be “too long.”
11. Deciding that, if someone comes along who seems even remotely dateable, you’re going to abandon whatever interests or goals you have and just pretend to like whatever they’re into so that they will love you in return. (This seems like the right juncture to tell you all about the entire year I spent pretending to be into jam bands because I was desperate to be with a guy who was obsessed with them. That is, and always will be, the darkest year of my life.)
12. Taking advice from people who are in really dysfunctional, borderline codependent relationships, simply because they are not alone. Nodding along to their insane rambles with rapt attention because you are looking for any solutions to your current situation, at any cost.
13. Idolizing said relationships — even when you can clearly see that they are unhealthy — because there is something so appealing about pathetically needing someone and having them suffocatingly need you back.
14. Going on more dates than you should with someone you are definitely not that interested in, because, hey, free food and drinks. Now, before you fly into a defensive rage, allow me to soothe you with the knowledge that I, too, have gone on those #ShameDates. I went out with a guy who actually wore a real fedora, as well as a suit vest with his jeans and button-down, more than one time, because he liked taking me to nice restaurants. Was broke, single me happy for the luxurious treatment? Yes! But was it worth it in the end? No. We all need to be better than this.
15. Living the “hunger is the best sauce” philosophy in your love life, and setting your standards so low that your criteria become “Not a convicted felon, has a car.” I once dated a man with a pencil-thin chin strap after an overlong period of singledom. Looking back on that relationship is like looking at an unforgivable outfit you wore that you thought you looked really cute in at the time. I’ve essentially burned all photographic evidence.
16. Getting irrationally bitter at your friends who are getting married. Like, come on, let Becky have her day. Snark about her terrible bridesmaids dresses in private, like any normal human, but don’t get all weirdly pass aggro about it. Her happiness is not taking away from yours, even if that bitch totally stole your flower arrangements.
17. Defining yourself as “single.” Feeling like it is a part of who you are and what you have to offer the world, even if it has nothing to do with your personality or your accomplishments. Instead of it being a transitory circumstance, it becomes one of your personal labels, and only leads you to feel like you have to overcome it. And this is just guaranteed to make anyone unhappy.