The most common phrase uttered in the most confident manner comes directly after any romantic miscue. We utter it to ourselves for reassurance or hear it from our friends and loved ones in their attempt to rectify a situation beyond their control. “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Now, I understand the premise. The phrase is meant to be comforting, letting a friend know that there is someone else out there, just for them, seemingly swimming alone in a school of fish. What people never specify, though, when definitively speaking the phrase, is what role the friend will play in going about finding one of the fish in surplus.
Do they fish for sport, casting their line until they feel a tug? Do they reel in their catch and bring it out of familiar waters, gasping for air, just to throw it back?
Do they fish for game, casting in the depths of the unknown? Do they steer their boat toward the deepest waters inhabited by the biggest fish to catch a trophy fish and mount it back home?
Or are they a fish themselves, swimming along directionless, hoping to find another fish who’s lost its way?
What good does it do to tell someone that there are people out there in the world who are also looking for someone to be with? That’s like telling a homeless person that there are plenty of houses for sale.
It’s obvious. Yes, of course there are other people out there. That doesn’t lead anyone to a realization. That doesn’t help anyone move on. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” You can teach a horse how to drink but it won’t matter if there’s no water.
There may be plenty of other people out there, but in the days, weeks, and months after a relationship ends, there is no vision to go about moving on and finding someone else. Oftentimes there is no desire.
Point being, that phrase doesn’t really help anyone. It reaffirms a fact that people already know, but doesn’t begin to make them feel better about their situation. They aren’t any less heartbroken. They aren’t any less alone knowing that others are alone, too.