When you’re single, you know it’s entirely your decision when you decide to start a new relationship. You choose when you start the next one, yet the kind of relationship you have –the quality of it –depends largely on you.
My point is simple. You can start a relationship any time, but you can’t start a quality, long-lasting relationship any time. The only time when you can start a quality relationship is when you are truly ready for it. To be ready, you must make sure that you are mentally balanced enough overall. What do I mean by “balance?” I mean you can’t actively suffer from any of the problems below without working on fixing them.
Still feeling angry toward an ex
Most men and women have had a relationship end and have felt angry or resentful toward their ex. The key isn’t that you shouldn’t feel angry; they key is that you should make sure you don’t feel really angry any longer when you try to start a new relationship. When you get to the point that you accept who your ex was, you aren’t flooded with emotions about it. Figure out what made you most angry toward your ex – the cheating, the emotional unavailability, treating you badly – and accept it fully. Clearly, that person was the not the person you were supposed to end up with. If you get too stuck on remembering your anger toward an ex, it means that you are way too focused on one particular person and are neglecting the overall lesson you need to learn to have a better relationship.
Disliking or even hating your body
Not everyone can be Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, right? The realistic goal isn’t that you feel like your body is pin-up material, but rather that you feel good enough about it to be with someone romantically. If you have significant hang-ups in your own skin, those insecurities will be transmitted loudly and clearly to anyone you date. In such cases, anyone who is psychologically healthy will sense that you aren’t quite ready to have an intimate relationship.
Letting your employment situation (or lack of it) or financial status tell you no one good will want you
If you are out of work, or you have an amount of debt that you feel embarrassed about, deal with those issues head-on. Don’t be insecure about it; do something about it. When you are out on dates or your dates see the reality of your situation (that you are financially having a hard time, or that you may be in between jobs), tell your dates honestly what steps you’re taking to improve your situation. Be proud of those efforts, and move on from anyone who doesn’t respect how real and honest you are about your circumstances. (The truth, of course, is that any one of us can fall on hard times at any time.)
Not giving dates you don’t believe are “attractive enough” enough of a chance
It’s true that you shouldn’t give some people a second or third chance. If you go on a date or two with someone and they don’t act interested enough, are rude, or are negative or judgmental in their overall demeanor, it’s understandable if you don’t want to see that person again. But too often, men and women cast dates aside for different –more idiosyncratic – reasons. Sexual attraction is important, but what most people don’t stop to think about is the fact that sexual attraction can also grow over time. What’s interesting is the opposite is also true: Lust fades! That man or woman you felt wildly attracted to in the beginning becomes less appealing over time after you sit through 50 dinners and realize the two of you don’t have enough in common. But if you find someone you are attracted to enough, and simultaneously love their personality and the things they have to say, your attraction will grow over time.
A few parting reminders
No matter how attractive or perfect your date seems at the time, reality will always boil down to some basic truths. No relationship or partner is perfect, and no relationship or partner will ever be enough to completely fulfill you. The goal is to find a relationship that is good enough, supportive enough, and positive enough to allow the two of you to wade through life’s unpredictable waters as smoothly and happily as possible.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.