Too often I hear my clients verbalize that they are “doomed” in finding love because they are single. Of course it is not a simple cause and effect equation, but it seems like the human mind can make it into one if we aren’t aware. Some of my clients equate finding a partner with loving their lives and themselves. I can’t help but feel sad that they are missing the present moment and overlooking the fabulous qualities that they possess. They seem to be waiting for life to begin when love arrives and downplaying their accomplishments and strengths because they don’t have a partner to recognize them.
My role becomes helping my clients love and value themselves and their lives despite their singlehood (and the anxiety that it commonly brings). Our work together also involves separating their thoughts of permanent doom from reality and their goal to find love.
Sometimes it seems like the female mind (and older generations) has not caught up with what it is like to be a woman in 2016. Changing societal trends and cultural views have changed drastically over the years, creating more “hooks-ups” (and a decrease in relationships at a younger age) and more “shopping” for a partner due to online dating and the idea that there are more potential partners to pick from so there’s less of a need to settle. As women, we are more focused on our educational and career goals and are getting married later, causing women to be single for a larger portion of our lives than ever before.
We can rationally understand that working 40-plus hours a week leaves less time for dating and if we say no to every man that asks us out, we are making a choice to be single. However, too often I see and hear a disconnect when women beat themselves up for being single “when everyone else isn’t” and view themselves as damaged, unattractive and unlovable. For example, some of my clients (men and women) can confidently articulate how successful they are in their work lives or how joyful they feel when engaging in a favorite hobby, however, I notice their confidence is shaken and their happiness is forgotten when they talk about singlehood. It’s almost as if the positive aspects of their lives and themselves are not integrated into their self-esteem when a partner isn’t in the picture.
Although being loved is a human need, it does not serve us well to wait for someone to love us — instead, we are the healthiest when we cultivate love within. How can you be happy with yourself now and resist the idea that you are doomed in having love regardless of your single status?
1. Form and maintain a healthy, loving relationship with yourself. Yes, you! Treat yourself with compassion, kindness and love and get to know yourself. What do you like to do? What makes you feel the most alive and energized? When do you feel the most calm and at ease? When do you feel the most confident and joyful? How do you release stress? Incorporate what you have learned into your daily life while committing to take care of and value yourself. Choose to accept your strengths and weaknesses without judging them. Let go of perfectionist tendencies and be your authentic self. The key is to cultivate happiness from within and appreciate your strengths, accomplishments and gifts without waiting for a partner (or anyone else) to recognize them for you.
2. Change your thoughts in order to change your life. Our thoughts can be so powerful and overwhelming and even feel like facts or absolute truths when in actuality our thoughts are part of our mind’s natural wandering. The good news here is that we can let our thoughts pass and avoid believing them or getting attached to them. We can even train our minds to have healthier, more reality-based thoughts. So if you have thoughts such as, “I’ll never find a partner,” “Nobody will ever love me,” or “I’m single now so I might as well give up on love,” you can make a conscious choice to not let them determine your future or the way you feel about yourself.
I like to tell my clients to visualize a negative thought that isn’t working for them written on a chalkboard, mindfully erase it and write a healthier thought that is positive and hopeful in nature. When a negative thought creeps in (as it naturally will), repeat this exercise and avoid judging the thoughts you have. Positive thoughts to try as replacements may include, “I am committed to loving myself and not giving up on love,” “I am lovable and beautiful,” or “I am strong and can achieve anything that I want” or “I am deserving of love and happiness.” With patience and practice, you can change the story you tell yourself, which is so important because what we think we attract.
3. Don’t give up on finding love. If you are feeling doomed by your single status but are not actively meeting new people or dating, I urge you to take action. Take a proactive approach to your goal of love by joining a new activity, signing up for an online dating site or saying yes to a date. If you feel bad about singlehood and are constantly dating with little connection to your dates, I urge you to go back to number one. Take a look within to determine what you really want and what is important to you while making sure that you are truly valuing yourself and treating yourself well.
Dating can be exciting and exhausting all at once, so make sure you are engaging in self-care as you date. This will make it more manageable. By finding love within, gaining awareness of your thought patterns, changing your negative thoughts to more positive statements and not giving up on love, you will naturally feel less doomed in your relationship status and happier with yourself and your life. This is a shift that is significant to your own health and wellness and the health of your current and future relationships.
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!