People — divorced, widowed or perpetually single — ask me how they can find (and keep) a romantic relationship. What is it that prevents a person from finding the love they want? The answer usually boils down to a combination of factors that stand in the way of a loving, long-term relationship.
The first reason is simple: They’re not searching persistently enough. This means always being on the lookout — always ‘following a lead.’ Though this might certainly include dating services and bars frequented by singles, it also means pursuing and finding out more about anyone who interests you — to a degree that’s appropriate, of course. This does not mean obsessing at the expense of all else, or engaging in any behavior that could result in a restraining order. It does mean being open to considering anyone who pops up in your life and piques your interest.
Another reason is fear of rejection. Unfortunately, in the realm of romance rejection is the norm. It goes with the territory. Most people that you like will simply not like you back. (Of course, you’re not going to like everyone who likes you, either.) Love happens when two people like each other a certain way at just the right time — an admittedly unlikely, but ultimately probable occurrence.
People can short-circuit their efforts to find romance by wasting time and energy on people or activities that distract them from overcoming the two factors I listed above. Sometimes we allow toxic people to deplete the sense of serenity and inner happiness required to attract a potential mate. The best time to attract a good person is when you’re contentedly engaged in your career, your interests, and your friendships. The resulting ‘inner calm’ creates an emotional glow that appeals to others. Obviously, someone who meets you wants you to be single, but they also want you to be happy.
People sometimes assume that they’ll never find love because ‘There’s something wrong with me.’ It’s important to challenge this feeling. It also helps to know where this unfounded belief is coming from. For example, in counseling it sometimes becomes apparent that a person didn’t feel loved by his or her abusive, neglectful or otherwise emotionally distant parents. People have to realize that the fact that they weren’t loved the way they wanted to be as children doesn’t make them unlovable as adults. That was their parents’ problem, not theirs. If you fail to stand up to this insidious belief, then you’re going to approach new people as if you already ‘know’ there’s something wrong with you. This dysfunctional attitude can scare good people away.
Online columnist Lisa Stuart offers a sensible perspective on coping with singlehood: ‘Being single does not have to mean feeling lonely. Distract yourself from feeling lonely by making it a point to spend time with good friends, take up a new hobby, read the books you’ve been wanting to read ‘ watch whatever you want to watch on television whenever you want to watch it ‘ spend quality time with your children and/or pets ‘ or doing anything your heart desires while you’re single and waiting for the love of your life to come along.’
The silver lining around the dark cloud of singlehood is that you’re free to do whatever you want. Once you’re with someone, you give up some of that — willingly, one hopes, but there are tradeoffs to everything. Some single people are ‘set in their ways’ and prefer to do things without having to consider someone else’s wants and needs.
Compatibility is the key to relationships that work the best. Ideally, the partners want to do many of the same things, but at the same time they’re not threatened by their ‘other half’ sometimes doing different things. Relationships usually don’t work quite as well when one or both partners are convinced that they must enjoy exactly the same things, do everything together, and be completely alike in every way. Ridiculous — and a recipe for disaster.
Single life is not necessarily a prescription for loneliness. Sadly, some of the loneliest people I meet are married. For whatever reason, they feel little or no connection with their spouse. At the same time, they have to constantly be around that person, so every day is a sad reminder that they don’t have what they want. Relationships like that are proof positive that being coupled doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never be lonely.
It’s psychologically healthy to enjoy your own company and the company of friends whether or not you’re in a romantic relationship. That positive point of view can play a big part in attracting equally healthy partners. Sounds like a paradox, but it’s true: In order to find the love you want, you have to be content with being on your own. If you’re OK in your own company, you can attract someone who will be just as happy there too.