Being single and looking can be incredibly frustrating. How many times do you want to lash out in anger when a person in a relationship tells you “it will all work out”? And you just want to scream, “No it won’t! Stop lying to me!”
One of two things tends to happen when single: 1) The longer you are single, the more your self-worth and self-esteem decreases. You may start thinking, “If it’s taking this long, then it must be me.” (which can lead a person to unhealthy relationship decision-making); or 2) The longer you are single the more you may become set in your ways. This can create an environment that makes it tougher to sustain relationships because you’ve become used to living for yourself. Creating the space for another person can become more difficult in this situation.
On the surface it all sounds so simple — just go out and meet some people, pick one you like, and go for it. However, it’s not normally this easy. Sure, meeting people is important, but also managing internally during this time is very important. How do we maintain our self-esteem? How do we maintain a sense of flexibility in our lives while we search? How do we get our family and friends to understand that just because they think we’ll be fine that it doesn’t feel that way?
The answer is, we have to do something that society can make us feel we’re not allowed to do: we must embrace being single.
Yes, it’s one of life’s true paradoxes. Embracing your singlehood in a healthy manner can actually serve to strengthen the environment for a positive intimate relationship. It’s really not easy to force yourself to meet your future partner. And one of the toughest issues when searching for a relationship is that people often tend to be on their best behavior, rather than just being who they are. When embracing singlehood, people get to know you as you. What people tend to forget when their self-esteem is low is that your partner must not only pick you, you must also pick them.
It’s important to distinguish embracing singlehood from embracing isolation. We’re not seeking to embrace loneliness as much as we are looking for you to make the most of the opportunities that are in front of you: seeing friends, going to movies, going on hikes, going out to dinner, reading a book, etc. We need to learn about ourselves, understand our values and what motivates us in our lives, and allow others to visit our world while we also visit theirs. The hope is that in time someone will visit and want to stay, and that we will visit theirs and want to stay, too.
In addition, self-care is important. You may meet someone and want to stay in his/her world, but if you don’t take care of yourself the feeling most likely won’t be mutual. This isn’t only something like showering or doing your laundry (however, that’s also important), but this includes emotional self-care. For example: if you have tendencies that you feel cause more conflict than good — getting easily irritated, angry, stressed, stubborn, high-maintenance, etc., these are things to take a look at, learn about, and improve. Even ask yourself, with respect to your difficult qualities, “would I want to deal with these tendencies if I were my partner?” These are all things to look at when thinking of self-care.
I see people in therapy all the time who are single and not only looking to get to know and improve themselves on a deeper level, but also looking to create room within themselves and their lives for a relationship and partnership to find its way in. You’d be surprised how many people struggle to find relationships because they in many ways are closed off to it. Desire for a relationship is one thing, openness to it (on a deeper level) is another. It can be really easy to sabotage relationships if not aware of how we can stand in our own way, at times.
It has been said that “choosing a relationship is choosing a set of issues,” and we all have our own issues, as do others. The idea isn’t to rid ourselves of issues or find a perfect person, but it’s to make our positive qualities shine and have our struggles (or “issues”) become a less prominent feature of who we are. By embracing our singlehood and taking care of ourselves, the hope is to make our world welcoming to ourselves, as well as to anyone who visits, and keeping ourselves open to their world as well.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.