For those who have been single for years, the holiday season can be an emotional trigger. Another year has passed—along with dozens of dates—and you’re back to your childhood bedroom again. Relatives who mean well parade you with questions about your non-relationship status, and newlywed pals kindly say ‘I just know it is your turn next!’ Despite all of the smiling, nodding and biting your tongue, for people who want to be paired up but can’t seem to get it right, the holidays are less delightful and more distressing.
Remember no one is perfect, and that no one is going to ‘perfectly’ meet every quality and characteristic you would like to have in a partner
Not only does it make you face your fear of being alone forever, but psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., explains the longer a person is single, the harder their self-esteem takes a hit, leaving many feeling demoralized, unlikable, and even unlovable. These difficult perceptions are hard to shake, especially when another one-month love affair turns sour. It’s easy to proclaim ‘all the good ones are taken’, but experts recommend taking a long, hard, critical look inward. There are many habits, routines, choices or mindsets you may be harbouring that are keeping you from finding the right match. Being honest with yourself about your expectations, your approach to romantic relationships and your attitude is the first step—and often the hardest.
But hey, would you rather keep sitting at the kiddie table until you’re 40? Here, experts reveal the reasons you might still be single:
You are overly picky.
There is no question standards are important to have. And everyone has preferences on the type of person they’re attracted to, both physically and intellectually. But when you weed through potential suitors, pinpointing one thing after another that makes them a ‘no’ on your list, you could be leaning too much on the harsh side. “Ultimately no one may be good enough for a hyper-selective person whose perfectionistic standards may make it impossible to find the right one,” Dr. Thomas explains. If you refuse to date anyone who is shorter than 6-foot, or you won’t entertain a woman who is past the age of 30, you are omitting a huge part of the eligible market. And more than likely, some really incredible people.
Dr. Thomas recommends taking stock of what priorities are necessities or deal-breakers—and seeing where there is wiggle room. Chances are high there are areas you could compromise on, and still be starry-eyed. “Remember no one is perfect, and that no one is going to ‘perfectly’ meet every quality and characteristic you would like to have in a partner,” she adds.
You aren’t expanding your circle.
Do you often feel like your only choice in dating these days is to get online? While many couples have found spouses via the web, and the stigma attached to cyber connections is decreasing, most still prefer to stumble across their partner IRL. Licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST says too often singles stick to their same inner circle instead of branching out. This goes for the company you keep socially and your career, both of which could be a roadblock. “Maybe you’re a teacher who works mainly with women and children all day though you identify as heterosexual, or you’re a lesbian who works in film where there are more heterosexual, male co-workers,” she gives as an example. Or, perhaps you’re mid-30s and all of your best friends are coupled up, married or parents, so they aren’t able to introduce you to a so-and-so. Maybe your closest pal is co-dependent, and you end up giving much of your energy to a friendship, rather than a relationship.
“If you feel this may be a reason preventing you from coupling up, try to expand your social group or join a more diverse social group. You could also consider volunteering outside of work where you may expand your interactions with others,” geter recommends.
You aren’t doing what you love.
Last Friday you went out with someone who showed up 30 minutes late—and was already tipsy. On Tuesday evening, a date showed up who looked nothing like his or her profile picture. As you thumb through singles, you’re struggling to muster up the courage to give it another shot, when really, you’d much rather be doing anything else. When you feel this way, couples therapist Sarah Schewitz, Psy.D., says you’re getting dangerously close to dating burnout, and it’s time to refresh your soul. One of the reasons people remain single is they stop doing the activities and passions that bring them joy because well, they’re exhausted and anxious about the act of finding a partner. “Travel, try new hobbies, do the things you love and make yourself happy rather than waiting around for somebody else to help you feel fulfilled. Most of the time, you attract ‘the one’ by doing the things that make you happy,” she explains. “Positive, fulfilled people tend to radiate an energy that is attractive to everyone.”
You’re still hung up on your ex.
Pop quiz: when was the last time you contacted your ex-partner? If it was within the last week—or worse, within 24 hours—your former flame could prevent a current one from igniting. Psychotherapist and dating coach Shaina Singh, LCSW-S explains those who see their ex as ‘the one who got away’ or continuously go over what went wrong in their past relationship prevent themselves from moving forward. More often than not, Singh says singles are perhaps ready to let the person go, but they are clinging to the idea of the relationship they thought they had. “This can deeply impact dating because people often hold themselves back while trying to put themselves out there or spend so much time comparing a potential date or partner to this idea of their ex,” she explains. If you have been nursing a heartbreak for far too long, Singh shares a therapist can help you go deeper under the surface to see what is it that you’re holding on to—and more importantly, how to let go and have peace.
You are only attracted to the same type of person.
Every friend group has someone who seems to have the same type of relationship over and over again, just with a different person on the merry-go-round. Maybe it’s your best friend who attracts emotionally-unavailable men, or your buddy who chooses women for their looks, and ends up disappointed in their lack of wit. You might rag on ‘em for their Groundhog Day way of dating, but have you thought about your own process? Dr. Thomas reveals many people maintain a single status because they keep chasing after people who aren’t right for them.
Most of the time, this is an unrequited-love type of deal, where you are smitten with someone who doesn’t pay you affection in return. “You need to start being conscious and aware of not falling for prospective partners who aren’t interested in you back. This is usually pretty clear from the beginning if a person is willing to see the reality of how each person feels about the other,” Dr. Thomas explains. Here’s the kicker: when you decide to spend your life with someone, you don’t want to have to chase them for decades. You want a partner who is fully committed and well, fully in love with you, to share all of the milestones with. Going after men or women who don’t give you the affection and love you need is a waste of everyone’s time—but especially yours.
You don’t know what you want.
Before you start to roll your eyes, stick with us here: while plenty of single people think they know exactly the type of person they dream of being with. You can list off lust-worthy characteristics and maybe even see him or her when you squint your eyes. But when you’re in the actual process of dating, you focus more on what you don’t want, instead of seeing what you do. Geter encourages hopefuls to be mindful of what they actually want in a partnership—whether it’s an adventure buddy who shares your interest or a free-thinker who challenges you to new perspectives—and less about the negatives that set limitations. When you are honest with yourself about what actually gets you going and makes you satisfied in a relationship, you will approach swiping or happy hour meet-ups with a renewed lens.
You’re not ready for a relationship.
Consider your everyday routine. Now, imagine considering another person in every last decision you make. And your Saturdays? They’re shared with not only another person, but their family, and perhaps one day, a child. While many singles believe they are ready for a relationship, when it comes down to it, they’re not prepared for the reality of what it means to be coupled up. Or more so: the compromise and patience required to make it the long run. “Many people don’t realize the work that is required to maintain a happy and healthy relationship and once the fun has worn off and the real work begins, they break up,” Schewitz says. “If you are jumping from short relationship to short relationship, it might be that you just aren’t in a place to maintain something serious right now and that’s OK.”
You aren’t making time for a relationship.
So much of what we create in our lives, we work hard for: friendships that have endured many changes, careers we have built from nothing to something, a slender frame thanks to hours in the gym, to name a few. When you take an audit of your calendar, it’s easy to see how you have allocated your time between conference calls, international business trips, bridal showers and boxing classes. But where does dating fit in?
Geter says many singles say they dedicate hours to finding a partner, but really, they only squeeze it in when it is convenient, rather than making it a priority. “Just like careers and friends need your time and support, so does the person you’re interested in dating. If you see that person once every few weeks, it will be hard to form a connection,” she explains. “I suggest looking at your time and trying to rearrange your time to include more face-to-face and connecting time with your date or explore if this is the best time to try dating and building a relationship.”