Tag Archives: friendship

Cuffing Season: The Survival Guide for Singles.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

I love autumn.  Out come the chunky knits, long boots and I can kick at the fallen leaves whilst drinking my pumpkin spice latte.  But it also brings another horror alongside Halloween; Loved up couples are f*cking everywhere. Its cuffing season and if you are Single AF like me then you need a survival guide to get through it.

To the uninitiated, cuffing season is a phrase used to describe that time of year where our biological hardwiring makes us want to settle down and find a significant other.

It’s really is a thing.

Everywhere, newly ‘cuffed’ couples are changing their relationship status on Facebook and looking at each other with that dewy eyed look of love, and taking cute couple-y pictures.

 Why am I so bitter?  

Because I am uncuffed, and the person I want to be cuffed to, after telling me he did not want anything serious  is  now cuffed to someone else. Facebook status and all.  FML.

I am perfectly prepared to accept the fact that my laments as a singleton are borne out of a deep desire to be with my one true love.  But hey, I deal with my pain with humour m’kay.

The reality is that despite the thousands of apps and dating sites,  it can be difficult to find the right person. Just before Halloween my friend, Natalie, called me in floods of tears having been unceremoniously dumped by a man I was convinced was going to propose to her.

I took my resentment out on cuffed up couples on the dance floor at Ultimate Power. Everytime they got in our way with their kissing and squeezing of each others butts  I walloped them over the head with an inflatable microphone.  Fortunately, they were so into each other no one hit me back.

Cuffing season also brings the desperate and needy to your door.

 I have been online dating for a while and recent weeks saw me hit record numbers of messages and likes from various men.  I chatted to a few but the desperation was evident. It got creepy. From the guy photo-shopping pictures of me to the one talking about meeting his family and going on holiday before we had even met.  I decided that being single is better than cosying up to the insides of a body bag.

So I was left with one option.  I had to choose to be happy and in love with life.

Whether I was cuffed or not.

So I needed a plan.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #1: Take stock of what you DO have.

If you are reluctantly single, it can be easy to focus on the one thing you lack: A relationship.   Law of attraction principles state what you focus on brings more of the same. So if you focus on your lack of a relationship you will forever remain single. It figures.  Even if you don’t buy into The Secret and all that.  Focusing on what you lack rather than what you have makes you miserable.

So I decided I needed to shift my focus from being single to all the areas where things are going extraordinary well.

If you live in Manchester, with its relatively low cost of living and have a good job, you can have a great life.  For example, I live in a stunning apartment in media city, enjoy my work as a lawyer, have a side hustle as a blogger and novelist, travel when I want and enjoy a hosting a variety of activities with Social Circle.  I look better than I have ever done and I am fit and healthy. Any of those things could be taken from me at a moments notice.

So its wise to look at your life with gratitude and not focus on the things you don’t have.

Because really, being single does not prevent me from the privilege of having a good quality life.  

Word from the wise.  If you are not happy with any aspect of your life- apart from being single – then it makes sense to deal with that area.

Work on giving yourself a rich and fulfilling life and indulge your interests.  Start that fitness regime, start writing that book, learn cake decorating, plan your travels. You don’t need to wait to share your interests with your perfect someone. In fact being single is the perfect time to try all those things you always wanted to try.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #2: Focus on Friends and Family.

One of the reasons being single can be hard at times is that we are social creatures by nature.  There is a wealth of evidence to suggest those with strong social networks live longer.

But you don’t need a romantic relationship to enjoy the health benefits.  

The great thing about autumn and winter is the opportunity to connect with friends and family. 

Football season has brought with it the opportunity to spend time with my dad and go to my first football match. I am not a football fan, but I love my dad and will relish the time spent with him. Hey I may even enjoy it!    I met up with new friends to go walking in Heaton Park and enjoyed a vegan picnic. Both allowed me to take part in important parts of my friends and families lives and expand my own horizons.

FYI spending time in nature is great for the soul. Why not join me for a jaunt in Styal Woods?

So go out with friends to a film or even join your fellow single social circlers in laughing at how  awful dating can by joining us for True Dating Stories.  If you are watching the pennies ahead of Christmas check out last weeks blog for Socialising on a Shoestring.

But if all that activity is not beating the Singletons blues, then you need the ultimate antidote to loneliness.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip # 3: Love Yourself.

I am perfectly aware that you have just rolled your eyes at this bit.

I do too every time I see this advice.

Why ?

Because what does that actually f*cking mean? 

I wasn’t sure myself. Not really.  

Which is why I was chasing after love externally.  I didn’t know how it felt to love yourself.

I have been breaking through some bad habits with hypnosis and came across a download called ‘How to love Yourself’ .   It is amazing!

In essence, loving yourself involves having a relationship with yourself that you would envisage with another.  One that is fulfilling and playful where you are loyal and kind to yourself.  Be compassionate if you do fall back into bad habits. Apologise if you do criticise yourself too harshly. You are whole and unique regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not.

It’s amazing how such a simple shift in mindset has a profound effect on my mood and the way I go about my life.   I am now starting the day with the thought;

What is the most loving thing I can do for myself today?

Here is what that looks like in practice.

  • I went to the gym, and I have had my hair done,  because those things felt good.
  • De-cluttering my apartment.  Not because anyone may drop around – although they do! – but because I value how good I feel when everything is tidy.
  • Saying ‘No’ to needless expenditure because I am now focused on my long term financial security.
  • Dealing with the pile of paperwork regarding taxes I have been ignoring for months.
  • I gave myself a genuine compliment when I looked in the mirror.
  • Buying books on politics  because I am interested in the subject.

Now previously, I may have forced myself to do those things because it looks good on my relationship CV, but not really immersed myself in them.  My motivation to find a relationship was so strong, I was ignoring how much I enjoyed those activities.  I have started to recognise little acts of self-love – such as buying myself flowers or having a lazy lie in – rather than feel guilty about it. 

In short, I was putting the prospect of a relationship before myself.

Not healthy.  

This was also the real source of my pain and angst at being single.

So trust me on this. Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity or current relationship status.

Learn to Love yourself.  It is the only way to survive and thrive if you are single.

Too Fat to Fit in? Why size shouldn’t stop you socialising.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

Slimming World has recently come under fire for suggesting you should drop your fat friends if you want to lose weight. Well Thanks. What if you ARE the fat friend?  Are we are too fat to fit in?    The reality is that those of us carrying excess weight  are already put off  socialising and exercising out of fear of judgement and ridicule.   Yet it need not be that way. 

Having dropped 5 dress sizes (60lbs) and kept it off, I can confidently say that size has no influence on my friendships or social life.  At all.

Even today, my fellow social circle members have said how they want to introduce close friends to our events, but their friends put joining us to meet new people as ‘they had put on a few pounds.’

Its not a surprise that if we are reluctant to socialise given the daily fat-shaming we get from the media.

I was the same.

I used to proudly show my before and after pictures until one of my friends stopped me in my tracks. She called me out for body shaming myself.   I remember her words clearly:

“That girl was and is a friend of mine. I thought she was funny, brilliant and beautiful.”

Damn.  That hit home.

My size did not matter to my friends at all.

Some of my best friends are overweight. It does not detract from how I feel about them as friends, or the relationship we have.  In fact, my fat friends are often the ones who have been cheerleading the fact I am making healthier life choices,  encourage me to get out and socialise or ask the hottie out on a date. (“what have you got to lose?!)

Our true friends are those that share similar values and support you in this journey called life.  

Size is f**king irrelevant to that principle.

Being fat  does not mean you are a bad person, or any less worthy of love and respect and a life you love.

You are still more than your body and are perfectly entitled to pursue the life, career and relationships that you dream of.  

Love does not happen exclusively to thin people.  People of all sizes are making their dreams happen. Go anywhere and you will see a mix of people enjoying themselves.  

 

 Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

I found that as I took steps to enrich my life,  I lost weight naturally.

 Instead of gorging on takeaways when I had a tough week, I went out to a restaurant with friends. Eating food with friends means you take longer and can share dessert.  I made healthier choices when deciding what to eat too. 

My trigger was emotional eating and I felt the need to reward myself with food.  I replaced comfort food with treats such as theatre tickets or would take myself to a movie.  Of course, I made space to reach out to new friends for coffee, as well as taking time to pursue other hobbies such as writing and blogging. 

I started going on walks and to classes with friends so I could increase my physical activity without feeling like the only fat person at the gym. You are never the only one at the gym who has to lose weight but I appreciate its nerve wracking.

You know what happened when I tried those things as a size 20?  

I had fun.  I felt great.  I made friends.

No one laughed at me.  No one shamed me for my size.  

Of course they didn’t.

 Because to mock my body size would be an extraordinarily sh*tty thing to do.  

There is a sliver of truth in the slimming world research though.

To keep the weight off you have to keep away from toxic habits and people who keep you in the mindset that would let you believe you are not worthy of a happy healthy life.

When I realised that;  I slammed the door in a few peoples faces, and cancelled my slimming world membership.

So, don’t put off what you want to do because you are packing a few pounds.   

You can decide to be accepting of where you are at the moment and pursue your a life you love. Right now.

If  you don’t, you may be missing out on spending people who love you for exactly who you are.

 

 

‘My Bff is a serial killer.’ The Dark Side of Social Apps

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The last few years has seen a rise in social apps, where you can meet new people at the click of a button. It seems a great idea to make socialising easy. But are they really the best way to make new friends?  Will swiping right lead you to meeting your soul sister or will your new BFF be a serial killer or crazy stalker. We give you the good, the bad and the ugly so you can reach your own conclusions. Our research makes one thing clear:Using Social Apps has a dark side.

The need for friendship.

Research suggests quality relationships with friends are correlated to increased wellbeing. Friendship is a major predictor of happiness, says Meliksah Demir, a psychology professor at Northern Arizona University who edited Friendship and Happiness, Across the Life-Span and Cultures. “In every age group, friendship quality, friendship satisfaction, intimacy and support are all positively correlated with individual happiness,”

Lets face it, whilst our cry-for-help facebook status may get a number of sympathetic likes, it can be increasingly difficult to find new friends as we get older.

 Changing jobs, locations and breakdowns in relationships can all cost us friendships.

In a digital age, it is not a surprise that we would reach for our phones and Ipads when we want to connect with people.  Apps like Bumble BFF and MeetUp.com have become go-to sources to people seeking friendship.

The Good: I met my Best Friend Through an App.

Bumble t launched Bumble BFF where people can connect for platonic friendship. One success story is  tells of how several women connected and now do everything from 5k’s to champagne tasting together. #SquadGoals indeed.  Now other apps are following suit, using algorithms and location to bring potential buddies together.

One thing that became apparent on many of these apps is you can only create platonic friendships with members of the same sex.

We get that this is a safety feature.

It seems such as shame that these apps perpetuate the view that the opposite sex is just for that…sex.  It rules out any meaningful friendships you could have had, that started out by meeting in person

Plus, how can you know who makes a good friend from a picture?

We find our friends in unlikely places and people. Only looking for people of the same gender, same age with similar interests would rule out the friendships we have.  That would seem a shame. Judging people on a short bio and a photo seems somewhat fickle and has an air of Mean Girls about it.

Swiping on potential friends makes us feel like Regina George

Swiping on potential friends makes us feel like Regina George

The Bad.  When Its Not just Friendship they Want 

Where there are people, there are also the creeps.

You only need to turn to Reddit, Trustpilot and SiteJabber to see the horror stories for yourselves.

One user on Trust Pilot tells of a MeetUp group that was advertised as a language group for expats. Instead of focusing on language, the organisor would creep on the girls.  Henri describes the organisor as offering free drinks to girls who would dance with him.

Of course it is not just women who are falling prey to unwanted advances.

 

Some of the Reviews of MeetUp tell a cautionary tale...

Some of the Reviews of MeetUp tell a cautionary tale…

A Reddit user tells of going to a writers group. He found himself  stalked on facebook by a group member who would constantly message him.  Whilst this may not be the worst tale of woe, it is disturbing behaviour and not what you would expect of someone seeking friendship.

How did this creep get their contact details?

Easy, when you connect via these platforms your social media is fair game to everyone in the group, including the organisors.

These groups, on MeetUp.com and similar, can be run by Anyone.

Let us repeat.

Anyone.

 

The Ugly.  The Best things in life are (Not) Free.

MeetUp advertises itself as free to join and to socialise.  Just download the Social App and get started.  Disturbingly, there are a surprising number of horror stories from people have been fleeced of their hard-earned cash.

Let us explain how this happens.

If you cannot find a group that caters to your needs it is very easy to start your own group.  Just name your group, write a description of who you want to meet and then…

What?  You have to pay $9.99 and $14.99 per month to run a group?!

A trend we see in reviews is that there is little support for organisers and delays in events appearing on the website have resulted in people feeling fleeced of their cash.   This is a real shame, as there are plenty of opportunities for people who love socialising and are great at organising events that sees them rewarded for their efforts.

Reddit is littered with stories from attendees who think they are going to a free event but then find themselves having to pay hidden costs or subjected to marketing spiel from those who are using MeetUp as a low cost way to network. .

Whilst there are good people running quality groups.

There will also be people who just want to take your money and run.

It can be difficult to tell which is which.

Hillary Buck  left a 1 star review for a MeetUp group called Travel Buddies which organises short and long haul trips abroad. Her review says it all.

Buyer beware. It sounds as if these peeps didn't get what they paid for.

Buyer beware. It sounds as if these peeps didn’t get what they paid for.

These people paid to stay in Krakow.  The organiser did not deliver. They had to pay extra. Yet they  have absolutely no recourse?!  Disgraceful. Especially considering there are there are professional companies like Flashpack offering fully-insured singles holidays abroad.   

This is not an isolated incident either, we have first hand experience of a Social Circle member joining us after his MeetUP walking group left him stranded on Ben Nevis.  It was an unfortunate time to find that the leader had no first aid training, no insurance and little experience in leading these types of walks.

If you want to use social apps to meet new people who share similar interests; stay safe. Make sure you meet in public places. Let people where you are going and follow your instincts.  

Likewise, make sure any group activities are organised by a reputable organiser or company  If you are going on holidays or taking part in activities that involve risk – ask to see their insurance, their qualifications and check out other members testimonials before a cheap holiday costs you more than you bargained for.

What are your experiences of meeting friends on social media?

 

Want to meet new people in Manchester? I did and my life changed for the better.

 

Social Circle celebrated 10 years of introducing friends in 2017.

Over 10 years ago, I found myself alone in Manchester after my life and marriage fell apart. I took the first job I could.  I was a divorced 30-something father-of-two in a strange city with no friends locally. I missed company on a weekend. I realised that had to change and I needed to get out there and meet new people. 

My days of picking up strangers in a club were long behind me. I wanted something meaningful.  Something real that happened naturally. Even today, the large majority of people find their significant others through friends. I decided my social life needed a boost.

I told myself that whatever was meant for me, whether it be love or friendship, would not pass me by.

I set up dating profiles on every website going.   I even downloaded those apps and got swiping. But what could I bring to the table?  All work and no play made for awkward and dull conversations and my profile was like every other out there.  I got tired quickly of it all. I am a romantic at heart and believe that a good relationship starts naturally, without pressure, between friends sharing mutual interests.  

So I joined existing social groups. But  they were lacking in so many ways.  I could not find a group that suited my needs as a thirty-something.  It was either boozy nights out for students, gentle health walks for silver-haired retirees or clubs for semi-pro runners.  Come Friday, after a busy week at work, I just wanted fun on my doorstep with people who had similar interests to me. I did not want to be stuck to doing one thing on one night. I wanted my social calendar to work around me.

There had to be more people like me? Right?  Surely other singles were looking to meet new people?

Fortunately my hunch was correct.  Before long I had found other funny, genuine and smart men and women who had also experienced a major life change and wanted to meet new people – but didn’t know where to start.

 A pint at the Slug and Lettuce  turned into hiking adventures, meals out at restaurants and evenings at local comedy clubs.  I found there was always a new friend willing to join me at the cinema or share a laugh at the Frog and Bucket. As my social circle grew, so did my confidence. I found I wanted to try more events as my new friends introduced me to their friends.

It turned out I was doing everyone a favour by starting Social Circle.

 We all want to try something new, but we are often time-poor or exhausted from work (or both!) to organise anything ourselves.  Word soon got around that you could just book an event and turn up. I went from Billy-no-mates to always being the centre of attention at parties. I always had offers of dates.   After all, I seemed like a fun and interesting guy who found it easy to meet new friends!

Soon I had built an action packed calendar with events taking place at top Manchester Venues every night of the week and lots of new people joining us.  People, just like me and you. Soon I had to recruit a team of  hosts to make sure each event ran smoothly and that everyone got a warm welcome.  Of course, all our hosts are also members so know exactly what it is like to be a nervous newbie.

Yet, I am proud to say that after all this time, I am still close friends with the people who took a chance on having a drink with a stranger on a Friday night.

In fact it was one of my Social Circle friends,  who suggested that I organise a weekend away for Social Circle to Barcelona.   It just so happened that a new member Louise, decided that she would book the trip.  It was love at first sight and 2012 she became my wife.

Steve and Louise on their Wedding Day. A Social Circle Success Story!

Who knew that within years after turning up to my first event, that I would have a thriving business,  great friends and have met the love of my life?

So take a chance and step out there.  You never know where it may lead.