It's officially January; the time of year to take stock of your life, pinpoint your issues and change your perspective for the better. Perhaps you've gotten off to a good start by following through on your New Year's resolutions of hitting the gym, not letting the dirty dishes pile up and/or finishing up that novel you keep telling yourself you want to write but never seem to work on. Or, just maybe, you've decided it's time to grow up, find love, get married, and start a family.
Wait! Wasn't "partnering up" last year's resolution, too? So why are you still single? It's not like you're not out there looking for that perfect person to complete you/take care of you/make your friends jealous... not to mention blow your mind in bed. Yes, I know, it's not your fault.
You've latched onto a string of lemons. Not one person you've gone out with has even come close to filling the bill. You light the fuses but the firecrackers fizzle, one dud after another. What a buzzkill. Of course, it is possible that the people you are dating are not the issue...
It's Not Them, Silly, It's You!
If you're single but don't want to be and you've felt this way for more than a year, it's time to stop blaming your dates, the friends who haven't found you dates and that online dating service you signed up for way back when and start taking a good look at yourself. Yes, yourself.
The first thing to consider is that you might not be dating hard enough. Finding a mate is sometimes a matter of sheer numbers. In fact, I've heard experts say that a single man or woman hoping to find a long-term partner should have somewhere between 15 and 25 NEW DATES (date = meeting a potential romantic partner for a cup of coffee) per year if he or she wants to find a good match! Unfortunately, a lot of people give up after four or five outings because, honestly, who wants to suck down all that caffeine with a person you thought you might like but don't want to know by the second sip? Even worse are the "I think this is the one, but he/she doesn't seem to like me much" experiences. Dates like that can be difficult to bounce back from. But, if you're really serious about finding someone special, when a date doesn't work out the way you had hoped, you need to get up, dust yourself off, and get right back in the game. The simple truth is: if you want to find a mate, you need to date -- a lot -- and be less tied to the outcome of each individual date than you are to the outcome of the whole dating process.
Of course, if you've had the requisite 20 or so new dates and still find yourself getting nowhere, the time may have come for you to engage in a bit of self-examination. To that end, consider the following six questions:
1. Do I have a life worth sharing? So here's the rub: You want a soulmate, a partner with whom you can share love, life, and happiness, but you have none of the above yourself. You are actually hoping that by being with someone else, your own life will show up. Meanwhile, you work so much that you don't have time for the friends you already have, much less a new romantic partner. Your hobbies consist of checking eBay for sales, writing late-night projects for work, and resentfully dragging yourself to the gym. You never cook for yourself, only eating take-out and a vacation is defined as spending time at the holidays with family you don't even like. No wonder you're single! People are attracted to individuals who bring something good to a relationship. Maybe you should take a few months out of the dating scene to try having a life of your own; develop some hobbies, social friendships and a healthy spiritual life. Being lively, creative and fun are the things that will draw others to you.
2. Am I high maintenance? You think your significant other should fulfill your every wish and desire physically, financially, emotionally and sexually. Even worse, you expect the other person to be a mind reader, knowing in advance exactly what you want, when you want it... eventually blaming the other person when he or she inevitably fails in his or her "duty" to please you. If this is the case, welcome to a long life of being single. In healthy, empathic and sharing relationships, the other person is NOT there to coddle and spoil you. Rather, the other person is there to partner with you, emotionally and in life. This means your duty is to give maybe just a little bit more than you expect to receive. Because let's face it, the idea of a surprise gift given to a loved one "just because" is a lot more fun for both parties than a gift given to meet a demand or expectation -- in this case, your demands or expectations.
3. Am I an angry person? You probably don't see yourself as angry. More likely, you see yourself as "right." You think/know that if the world and the people in it would just behave the way you think/know they should, then life would be just peachy. And when the world and the people in iit (especially your dates) fail to live up to your expectations, you can rightfully get a little resentful about it. If this is how you want to behave, feel free, but keep in mind the fact that absolutely no one wants to spend the rest of his/her days tied to an angry, indignant an eternally unhappy person. Try letting go of your need to be right, at least 50 percent of the time. If you can learn to accept other people as they are -- flawed, but still worthy -- you'll have a lot more relationship success. Besides, do you want to be right or do you want to be happily hooked up? My point exactly.
4. Am I a slut? Admittedly, people who "put out" can be a lot of fun, but often, they're not exactly marriage material. So, if you're having a lot of casual sex and thinking that eventually you are going to land "the one" by impressing him or her with your sexual prowess, think again. No doubt you'll get a lot of late-night booty calls, but you're not going to hear a lot of marriage proposals. Let's face it, recreational sex is called "recreational" for a reason; the other person is not taking it seriously. Expecting casual sex to turn into a serious relationship is just plain silly. Besides, it's hard to objectively find out who someone is when most of your time is spent between the sheets.
5. Am I a mess? You might think you're just out there having a good time, living la vida loca, but others see it differently. You drink too much, party every night, drive a car that is littered with fast-food wrappers and old soda cans and your apartment smells like feet. It's not pretty and you know it, which is why you try to hide it from the people you're dating. Maybe the time has arrived for you to face reality and accept that, if there's something you would rather other people not know about you, it's probably time for you to change your behavior altogether. Instead of forging secrets, forge changes. Perhaps you should even invite a good friend over to your house to make some gentle, loving suggestions as a way of judging your datability. Sure the truth hurts, but not knowing the truth hurts even more.
6. Are my expectations too high? This is a big one! If your list of criteria for the perfect mate reads something like "tall, gorgeous, well-dressed, rich, important, cultured, fertile and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound," then you're not ready for a lasting adult relationship. In fact, that list of wants reads like a tween's description of a dream date -- which says what about your emotional age? Think about amending your criteria to include "honest, open-minded, kind, self-reflective, spiritual, funny, willing to compromise and single." These are the kind of qualities required for a substantial, meaningful, long-term partnership. Besides, a person who is "out of your league," so to speak -- better looking, richer, smarter, and more cultured than you are -- would likely not be a good partner for you anyways since long-term relationships are built on equal give-and-take. As soon as you accept the fact that you are good enough exactly as you are, you can begin to look for a relationship with someone who fits with you... not Gisele Bundchen.
Happily, recognizing your issues is half the battle. Once you start the process of seeing yourself as you
are, correcting your shortcomings, and looking realistically at what you would like from a lifetime
partner, you can start in earnest the process of finding that lucky individual -- and, more often than not,
that's when he or she shows up. Yes it might take a little bit of time and effort, and yes you'll probably
kiss a few frogs along the way (or at least share a coffee and biscotti), but if you stick to it, you will
eventually find someone truly special. Sure, he or she won't be perfect, but neither are you. And guess
what? It's often those very imperfections and the constant learning and growth that stems from a
strong relationship that keeps two good people evolving, together.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is the author of three books on sexual addiction and an expert on the
juxtaposition of human sexuality, intimacy, and technology. He is Founding Director of The Sexual
Recovery Institute and Director of Intimacy and Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch and Promises
Treatment Centers. Mr. Weiss is a clinical psychotherapist and educator. He has provided sexual
addiction treatment training internationally for psychology professionals, addiction treatment centers,
and the U.S. military. A media expert for Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times, Mr. Weiss has been
featured on CNN, The Today Show, Oprah, and ESPN among many others. Rob can also be found on
Twitter at @RobWeissMSW.