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Clearly, some people are single because they choose to be. They are simply not interested in being in a serious relationship at this time in their life. Others are single due to the circumstances of their lives e.g. Financial et al. They may have just gotten out of a meaningful relationship or have dated relentlessly and just haven’t found someone with whom they’re truly compatible.
Most people have been hurt in interpersonal relationships. With time and painful experiences, we all risk building up varying degrees of bitterness and becoming defended. This process begins long before we start dating, in our childhoods, when hurtful interactions and dynamics lead us to put up walls or perceive the world through a filter that can negatively impact us as adults. These adaptations can cause us to become increasingly self-protective and closed off. In our adult relationships, we may resist being too vulnerable or write people off too easily. As a result, we tend to blame our singleness on external forces and fail to recognize that we aren’t as open as we think.
2) Unhealthy Attractions
When we act on our defenses, we tend to choose less-than-ideal relationship partners. We may establish an unsatisfying relationship by selecting a person who isn’t emotionally available. Because this process is largely unconscious, we often blame our partner for the relationship’s failed outcome. We tend to feel devastated or hurt by the repeated rejections without recognizing that we are actually seeking out this pattern.
3) Fear of Intimacy
Our fears surrounding intimacy may manifest as concerns over someone “liking us too much,” an understandably irrational reason not to date a person. Or we may punish the other person by being critical, even engaging in nasty behaviour, essentially making sure we don’t get the loving responses we say we want. The reality is that most people can only tolerate a certain amount of closeness. We are defended about letting someone else in. In effect, on a deeper level, we don’t necessarily want the love we say we want.
Our own defenses often leave us feeling pickier and more judgmental. This is particularly true after we’ve had bad experiences, where we were deceived or rejected by a person for whom we had strong feelings. Many women start to have thoughts like, “There are no decent men out there” or “All the good ones are taken.” Men may have thoughts like, “You can’t trust a women” or “Women are all out to take advantage of you.” We may pinpoint weaknesses from the moment we meet someone. When viewing the world from critical or distrusting eyes, we tend to write off a range of potential partners before even giving them a chance.
5) Low Self-Esteem
They believe they want a fulfilling relationship more than anything, but they believe even more firmly that no one worthwhile would be interested in them. We all possess “critical inner voices” that tell us we are too fat, too ugly, too old or too different. When we listen to these “voices,” we engage in behaviours that push people away. When we remain single, it is not for the reasons that we’re telling ourselves. Our lack of confidence leaves us giving off signals of not being open.
6) Fear of Competition
A lack of self-esteem often leads to fears of competing. It’s easy to put ourselves down in relation to others, especially when it comes to dating. When we meet someone we like, it’s all too easy to think, “He/she could do better.” When we see that someone else is interested in the person we like, we may be quick to back away. We may feel unwilling to compete, particularly as we get older, and we start to have self-attacks like “Your time has passed, you’re too old for this.” Our fears of competition can lead us to avoid putting ourselves out there. We may be afraid of looking like a fool or of not being chosen. We may even have fears about winning the competition, thinking we will “hurt the other person’s feelings” or that our success will result in aggression from the loser. The simple truth is: dating is competitive. It is scary to take a chance and go for what we want and compete, but when we do, we most often find it is well worth it to face our fears.
7) Isolation and Routine
As both men and women get more comfortable, be it financially or practically, it is also easier for them to form a bubble from which it is difficult to emerge. It can feel harder to take risks or put themselves out there. After a long day’s work, many of us may feel more like putting on pajamas and crawling into bed than going out into the uncertain and anxiety-provoking world of meeting people.
The encouragement we feel to stay home or stay safe often comes from our critical inner voice. This inner coach offers self-soothing words, “Just stay in tonight and relax. You’re fine on your own. Have a glass of wine. Watch that show you like.” The problem with this voice is that it later turns on you with thoughts like, “What a loser you are, home alone again. You’ll be lonely the rest of your life. You’re not getting any younger! No one will be attracted to you.” Many of the activities we use to “comfort” ourselves actually make us feel bad in the end, as they result in us avoiding pursuing what we really want in life. It’s important to resist falling into a comfort zone and to repeatedly challenge the influence of our critical inner voice. We should take action and make an effort to get out into the world, smile, make eye contact and let friends know we are looking for someone.
As years pass, we often develop rulebooks for ourselves regarding dating. In effect, we put what we have learned “down on paper,” but what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life. When we act on rules based on our past, we can create a perpetual cycle of disappointing relationships.
It’s important not to make fixed rules or to buy into other people’s rules when it comes to dating.
Staying open is one of the most important things we can do when looking for a loving partner. Yes, we might get hurt but when we stop taking risks, we reduce our chances of meeting someone we could really have a future with. On the other hand, staying open and honest will lead us to find a much more authentic and substantial relationship.