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Mark Goulston, M.D. Headshot

Are You Tired of Being Single?

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Are you tired of being single, but wary of getting into another lousy (or worse) relationship, especially when you barely got out of the last one with your sanity in tact?

If it's true that "when you are in love, smoke gets in your eyes," and even more true that when you're betrayed, hurt and outraged, smoke gets in your eyes, quickly followed by fire and then scorched earth retaliation and revenge, how can you increase the chances that your next relationship will not just survive, but that the two of your will live happily ever after?

A female friend of mine who was 47 and had never been married kept bringing up her single status with a therapist. Her therapist said, "Would you rather be in a miserable marriage, as apparently 50+% of couples are, or just accept that being alone is not so bad and doesn't mean you're any less than people who are married?"

My friend was miffed, but highly creative and resourceful. What she did next was brilliant.

She made a list of all the qualities in a man that she would want to spend the rest of her life with --traits to keep in mind so that she'd recognize such a guy if she came across him. This wasn't rocket science. Her list included:
  1. Smart
  2. Responsible
  3. Attractive
  4. Takes charge without being controlling
  5. Relatively successful
  6. Focuses on solutions vs. staying stuck in problems
  7. Doesn't complain
  8. Doesn't whine
  9. Doesn't indulge in self-pity
  10. Doesn't make excuses
  11. Takes life, but not himself, too seriously
  12. Great sense of humor
  13. Takes care of himself health-wise
  14. Listens non-judgmentally
  15. Gives people the benefit of the doubt
  16. Is not a bore
  17. Has some sense of self-awareness of how he comes off
  18. Dedicated to self-improvement
  19. Owns up to, takes full responsibility and faces consequences of his actions (and failure to act)
  20. Admits and learns from mistakes
  21. Has or had (if deceased) a good relationship with both parents
What made her exercise brilliant is that she then made a list of the qualities that such a great catch would be looking for in a woman. She reasoned, "What good would it do if he was the great catch and I was the lemon? If that happened, I would always be worried that he would realize that and not put up with it." As you can imagine, her list for herself was very close to that of her ideal mate, with the addition of traits she knew she had that were turn-offs, but never changed, such as:
  1. Being petty
  2. Being b-tchy
  3. Holding grudges
  4. Being obsessed with her weight
  5. Alternatively being a slob at times
  6. Being indecisive
  7. Becoming and getting highly emotional and screaming when she was upset
  8. Being gossipy
  9. Overly chatty
  10. Having one or two glasses of wine too many
It was so clear to her that she didn't want to lose a good catch, that she finally got the motivation to correct some of her traits that made her less than desirable. And not surprisingly, as she did that, her self-confidence and how she carried herself made her feel and be more attractive and desirable.

Then one day, she met Mr. Right in that he had all the qualities on her list and by that time, so did she.

And the result... married, ten years and counting and well on their way to living happily ever after.

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