Fed up being single?
People often ask our relationship therapists at Online Couples Counselling “why am I still single?” We find there are variety of reasons that some people are single. Some simply choose to be and are not interested in being in a relationship at a particular point in their life, if ever. Others are single due to circumstances. They may have just come out of a relationship or just haven’t been able to find someone with whom the feel compatible. There are also a number of people who are constantly looking for an answer to the question “why am I still single”. In our experience at couple counselling Medway the answer is complex but more in our control than we might think.
When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s sometimes hard not to feel like a ‘victim’. Our couple counsellors we often hear people saying ‘I’m so unlucky in love I always seem choose the wrong ones’ we might have even said that our self. The reality is, most of us have experienced being hurt and rejected at some point in our lives. And although this isn’t necessarily our ‘fault’ the fact remains we do have some power over our romantic destiny. To a large extent, we create the world we live in. And although we are rarely conscious of this process, we do have a choice as to whether we wear the ‘victim badge’ or take control over our lives.
There is great benefit in focusing on what we can control versus what we can’t. We are able to become aware of the number of different ways we influence the reactions we get from others, even the negative ones. So, the question for a single person looking for love is – what challenges do I need to face about myself in the first of all?
Our couple counsellors fully understand that when we experience hurt and rejection it can feel like the worst pain in the world. And at that time we think we will never recover. Over time, these painful experiences can lead us to subconsciously build up varying degrees of bitterness and resentment. Which can lead to us becoming defensive.
However, this process usually begins long before we start dating, often during childhood, when hurtful interactions with other people can result in us putting up walls and perceiving the world through a negative filter. The way we begin to adapt to avoid hurt then causes us to become increasingly self-protective and closed off. In our adult relationships, this results in us resisting being vulnerable or writing people off too easily.
For example, if you were raised by parents/caregivers who were inattentive or cold, you may then grow up feeling distrusting of affection. You might feel suspicious of people who show “too much” interest in you, and instead seek out relationships that recreate dynamics from your past. This might result in you choosing a partner who is aloof or distant. It isn’t always easy to recognise that we have our defences up, and often as a result we tend to blame our being single on external forces which are out of control. We fail to recognise that we might not be as open as we like to think.
Our relationship therapists will help you understand – when we act upon our defences. Which leads to us choosing less-than-ideal partners, resulting in unsatisfying romantic relationships, because we choose someone who is emotionally unavailable. Because this process is largely unconscious, we often tend to blame our partner for the relationship failing. We then feel devastated by the repeated rejections without recognising it’s us who actually seeks out this pattern.
The reasons we do this are complex. And are often based on our own embedded fears of intimacy. Many people unconsciously seek out relationships that reinforce the unhappy beliefs they have had about themselves for years. It may be unpleasant, but breaking old patterns can cause us a great deal of anxiety and discomfort.
It can cause fear parting with the image we developed of ourselves early in our lives. And starting to see ourselves in a more positive light can make us feel uneasy. This feeling often triggers self-attacking thoughts such as ‘who do you think you are?’ or ‘No one’s going to like you’. These fears may result in us holding to relationships with no potential. Or feel attracted to people who are unavailable. That’s because they reinforce the negative image we have of ourselves. Which although painful feels more comfortable and familiar.
Fear of Intimacy
Many people who book Online Couples Counselling claime to want to find a loving partner. However, fears surrounding intimacy may manifest as concerns over someone “liking us too much”. Which is of course an irrational reason not to date someone. Or perhaps we punish the other person by being critical or nasty making sure we don’t get the loving response we say we want. The reality is that most people can only tolerate a certain amount of closeness. We are often defensive about letting someone else in, so on a deeper level; we don’t necessarily want the love we say we do.
Our own defences often leave us feeling picky and judgmental. This is particularly true after we’ve had bad experiences of being deceived or rejected by a person for whom we had strong feelings. We frequently hear women complain that “There are no decent men out there” or “All the good ones are taken.” Men also express thoughts such “You can’t trust a women” or “all Women are crazy and out to get you.”
We may have unrealistic expectations of a partner or may pinpoint weaknesses from the moment we meet someone. When we view the world from critical, mistrusting eyes, we tend to write off a wide range of potential partners. We think of dating certain people as “settling” without ever seeing how that person could make us happy in the long-term.
It might be that in fact that we are 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, we tend not to trust the people who really like us. However, when we give them a chance, we may well find that we’ve chosen someone who values us for who we are and who can really make us happy.
Many people our couple counsellors have spoken to have expressed the same view. They believe they want a fulfilling relationship more than anything else in the world. However, they hold the rigid belief that no one would be interested in them. This is often because we all possess what is known as a ‘critical inner voice’. And it’s this voice that tell us, that we are too fat, too ugly or too old, for example.
When we listen to this voice we tend to engage in behaviours that push people away. When we remain single, it’s not usually for the reasons we’re telling ourselves. Instead it’s our lack of confidence which gives off the signal that we are not ‘open’. This becomes a catch 22 when we are dating.
Many people even have trouble leaving the house when they’re feeling really down about themselves. Let alone enter in to situations where they are likely to meet potential partners. Some struggle to make eye contact or are reluctant to scan the room for who they might be attracted to. When they are drawn to someone, they may fail to pursue it through a lack of self-esteem.
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 we increase our chances of creating a relationship with the partner we really desire.
Set in our ways
As people get older they tend to retreat further and further into their comfort zones. However, as we get more comfortable, it becomes easy to surround themselves in a bubble. A bubble which becomes difficult to emerge from and it can feel harder to put themselves out there. After a hard day’s work, many of us just feel like putting on our pyjamas and watching the television instead of going out in to a potentially anxiety evoking situation of meeting people.
The encouragement we get to stay home often comes from our critical, sometimes soothing, inner voice. Which convinces us that we should “just stay in and relax or “you OK on your own, have a glass of wine and just watch TV”.
The problem is, the voice later turns on you with thoughts such as “you are so sad sitting at home on your own again”. “You’ll be lonely the rest of your life”. “You’re not getting any younger and one will want you.” Many of the activities we use to ‘comfort’ ourselves actually make us feel bad in the end. Because 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 our critical inner voice. We should make a concerted effort to get out into the world. To smile, and make eye contact along with letting our friends know we are looking for someone. We should try new activities and even try dating diverse people. This was we discover new parts of ourselves and what makes us happy.
As the years go by, we have a tendency to develop ‘rules’ for ourselves regarding dating. We effectively put what we have learned metaphorically ‘down on paper’. However, what might work on paper doesn’t always work in real life. When we act on rules based on our past experiences, we can end up create a 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. We may well get hurt but when we stop taking risks. But if we don’t we reduce our chances of meeting someone we could have a future with. Relationship rules tend to go hand-in-hand with game-playing. They can lead us to act with less sincerity and authenticity and we close ourselves off from how we feel. On the other hand, staying open, honest and real will lead us to find a much more authentic and substantial relationship.
Finding love isn’t always easy of course. However, it’s important to recognise that it’s the patterns inside ourselves that often hold us back from getting what we want. We can’t shield ourselves from the world or protect ourselves from getting hurt because that is when we miss out. We all have flaws and it these vulnerabilities that are particularly apparent when getting close to someone. Therefore achieving true intimacy can be an internal battle and takes courage. However, I’m sure most people would agree that finding a fulfilling, rewarding and loving relationship is a battle well-worth fighting.
Our therapists can help you understand any of your unhelpful patterns of behaviour. To hopefully enable you to find a fulfilling relationship.
To make an appointment for some help in finding the right partner. Please contact us via Online Couples Counselling today. Request an appointment
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