How many times do you get asked why are you still single? Clearly, some people stay single because they choose to be. They are simply not interested in being in a serious relationship at this time in their life. Others stay single due to the circumstances of their lives. They may have just gotten out of a meaningful relationship or just haven’t found someone with whom they’re truly compatible.
The point of this article isn’t to stereotype all single women or men or to put anyone in a box.
When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s hard not to feel that you are a victim. After all, others can be cruel; you will get hurt, and no, it isn’t always your fault. But the reality is that we hold more power over our romantic destiny than we often think.
To a great degree, we create the world we live in, although we are rarely conscious of this process. We can, in fact, make a choice whether to see our fate through a victimized lens or choose to be goal-directed and take power over our lives. We benefit from focusing on what we can control and not what we can’t.
So, the question for the single person looking for love is: what are the internal challenges I need to face?
Most people have been hurt in interpersonal relationships. With time and painful experiences, we all risk building up varying degrees of bitterness and becoming defensive. 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. A resistance to being too vulnerable can cause us to write people off too easily therefore choosing to stay single. .
If, for example, you were raised by parents or caretakers who were negligent or cold, you may grow up feeling distrusting of affection. You may feel suspicious of people who show “too much” interest in you and instead, choose a partner who is aloof or distant. It isn’t always easy to see when we have our defenses up.
2) Unhealthy Attractions
When we act on our defenses, we tend to choose less than ideal 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.
Why do we do this? The reasons are complex and often based on our own embedded fears of intimacy. These fears may cause us to hold on to relationships without potential or to feel attracted to people who aren’t really available. This is because they reinforce our negative image of ourselves, which feels more comfortable and familiar, albeit painful.
Choosing to stay single can seem like the path of least resistance.
3) Fear of Intimacy
Most of us profess that we want to find a loving partner, but the experience of real love disrupts fantasies of love that have served as a survival mechanism since early childhood. Pushing away and punishing the beloved acts to preserve one’s negative self-image and reduces anxiety.”
Our fears surrounding intimacy may manifest as concerns over someone “liking us too much,” an irrational reason not to date a person.
Or we may punish the other person by being critical or rude to make 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. 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. 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 have unrealistic expectations for a partner or 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. Dating certain people can make you feel like you are “settling”.
A friend of mine felt closed off to a man who pursued her for more than a year. Although she saw him as kind, funny and smart, she convinced herself that he was “too into her.” She said he was too needy and was sure he would wind up getting hurt by her. She often stated that she just wasn’t attracted to him.
The men she was drawn to instead tended to be unreliable and emotionally distant. At her friends’ insistence, she finally agreed to go on a date with the man who’d been pursuing her. What she found, to her surprise, was a high-level relationship choice, a partner with whom she shared a great deal of mutual interest, and, ultimately, genuine love.
What hers and so many similar stories show us is that when we think we are “settling” for someone, we may not be settling at all. We may actually find ourselves in a relationship that is so much more rewarding than those we have experienced. Ironically, initially we tend not to trust the people who really like us, Giving them a chance will let you know we’ve chosen someone who values us for who we really are, someone who can really make us happy.
5) Low Self-Esteem
So many people I’ve spoken to have expressed the same sentiment. 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 undesirable. When we listen to these “voices,” we engage in behaviors that push people away.
The reasons people stay single are lies that we’re telling ourselves.
Our lack of confidence leaves us giving off signals of not being open, creating a catch 22 in the realm of dating. Many people even have trouble leaving the house , let alone pursuing situations where they are likely to meet potential partners. Some even struggle to make eye contact with who they might be attracted to.
6) Fear of Competition
Fear of competition comes from a lack of self esteem. 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.
Our fear of competition can lead us to avoid putting ourselves out there.
Being afraid of looking like a fool or of not being chosen can hold us back from finding love. 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. We end up with a stronger sense of self, and have increased our chances of finding a relationship.
7) Isolation and Routine
People tend to retreat further and further into their comfort zones the longer they are single.
It can feel harder to take risks or put themselves out there and just easier to stay single.
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.
Our critical inner voice offers self-soothing words like you are choosing to stay single and you are fine with it. 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.”
Activities we use to “comfort” ourselves can actually make us feel bad in the end, as they result in us avoiding what we really want in life.
Resist falling into a comfort zone and repeatedly challenge the influence of our critical inner voice. By making an effort to get out into the world, trying new activities and even try dating diverse people you will discover new parts of ourselves and what makes us happy.
We often develop rulebooks for ourselves regarding dating resulting in disappointing dating experiences. A perpetual cycle of disappointing relationships is created when we act on rules based on our own past.
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. Our chances of finding love are greatly reduced when we stop taking risks. Relationship rules tend to go hand-in-hand with game-playing. They can lead us to act with less sincerity and authenticity, to close ourselves off from how we feel.
Seeking love isn’t an easy quest. It’s important to fight the patterns inside us that hold us back from getting what we want. We can’t shield ourselves from the world or keep ourselves from getting hurt. We all carry flaws, and these vulnerabilities are especially apparent when getting close to one another. Thus, achieving intimacy is a brave battle, but it is one well-worth fighting for.