Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I'm the last of my friends and family to be married and have kids - I'm currently single and navigating the dating world. While I'm very happy for the people around me (and hope to have the same things one day), I can't help but feel so out of sync with everyone else. Every wedding, baby shower, engagement announcement, new house, etc., just makes me feel bad about my own life, even though I'm living in a city I love, taking new/fun classes, playing in sports leagues, and getting to enjoy some travel.
I've noticed I'm starting to pull back emotionally from these big life events and I've even removed my Facebook profile since signing on ends up just making me sad, mad, and, yes, jealous. How do you effectively deal with these feelings?
Answer: It sounds as if you're already dealing with your feelings in many productive ways, and they just haven't delivered results. Yet.
That doesn't mean they won't. It can take time for the dividends of your choices to become clear to you. For one, I think they're being obscured by the newness of this phase of life for your peers - and the fact that each is traditionally launched with a party. When you're in the flurry of weddings, showers, housewarmings, etc. - and it is typically a flurry - you're seeing many people who are at the height of their joy with these milestones.
I don't mean to sound cynical, just realistic. Some of these marriages will unravel; some of these houses will be money pits; some of these kids will be difficult and will wear out their parents, who will love them nonetheless but who will give up a lot of other valued things to make it all work. The highs and comforts inherent in marriage/house/children are real and significant, but so are the lows, and the mehs.
And this will become steadily more apparent to you as your friends and family get beyond the cake-and-gifts phase, and celebration mode gives way to the rigors of daily life. (If we had showers and receptions for singleton milestones instead, would the jealousy jump sides? Discuss.)
This will happen, possibly, as your "new/fun" activities and travels evolve into deeper commitments and pleasures.
This is a very long way to say "hang in there," but hang in there. You've had reasons for all of your choices, so don't be afraid to trust them.
Reader comment: I'm you. Except I am married, have a house, and a baby. But I want another baby, so I'm jealous of my friends who are now pregnant with No. 2. I wish I were like my friends who got the baby weight off immediately, but I still have 20 miserable pounds to go.
My point is that no matter where you are in life, it's hard not to covet things. It doesn't go away once you reach those milestones. All you can do is live your life to the fullest with where you are right now, and find a way to make peace with what you do have.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.