Every friend group has that one person whose biggest problem is being single. They think that if only they were in a relationship, their problems would magically solve themselves and they would be so much happier.
For some, harmless daydreaming turns into a true obsession. And once those people find a partner, the disappointment comes very fast. So how do you know if you are that person? Why do our brains do that? And how can you learn to be single and happy? Keep reading to find out.
We live surrounded by books, movies, and television shows that keep telling us that once we meet our soulmates, we’ll be incredibly happy. Pop culture has created the idea that there’s one person out there who could fulfill all our needs and make us forget about everything else.
Then you grow up and realize that no prince will save you and no princess will turn your life upside down. There are different ways to deal with that disappointment. Some of us spend years chasing that unattainable ideal and missing out on imperfect people who could make us happy. Others idealize everyone they meet and refuse to take their partners for who they really are. As a result, single people feel lonely, disillusioned, and can't enjoy their own company.
We blame ourselves for our unhappiness and think we are doing something wrong. But in reality, that ideal match who will fix us simply does not exist. “The danger in these concepts is that we look to find self-completion in others. It's as if we are not whole without them. You won't have the one until you are the one to yourself. Once we are secure and confident in ourselves, we are then equipped to decide if someone else is right for us. We decide,” says therapist Rich Heller.
Love and relationship coach Nicole Moore warns that while we wait for the one to come and save us, we risk missing out on things that could really make us happy. Our physical and mental well-being, our careers, our friendships — those are the areas of life that dramatically impact our happiness, and we are the only people who can change anything about them.
When you are single and obsessed with getting into a relationship, you put the responsibility for your happiness into someone else’s hands. We are convinced that we know the key to our happiness, we just haven’t found it yet. So we don’t make any effort to improve our lives by ourselves.
The irony is that while we wait for someone to make our lives better, we lower our chances of meeting and attracting someone who will meet our high standards. We all feel drawn towards happy, confident people who look like they know what they are doing, but not all of us do the work to become that person ourselves.
So instead of looking for a happy self-sufficient person who could infect you with their happiness, become that person yourself. Start putting in the work and become your own savior. Taking responsibility for your own happiness may seem scary, but it’s also incredibly liberating. Once you reach it, no one can take it away from you. “Don’t wait for the one to make it better, make it better and attract the one who can enjoy the good with you and add to it,” says love and relationship coach Nicole Moore.
People who see a potential partner as a magician who will solve their problems miss one important point — happy long-term relationships are about giving, not taking. It’s about compromise and sometimes, putting your partner's needs above your own. To be able to do that, you need to make sure you’ve got all your basic needs covered, and you can take care of both yourself and your partner when they need it.
London-based sex therapist and relationship expert Tatyana Dyachenko says that taking good care of your mental health is a must for every single person who considers getting into a new relationship. “When you take care of yourself and your mental health, you’re in a better position to give to others. You can't give from an empty cup, so fill yours first before you even begin to think about having a relationship,” she says.
While it may seem contradictory, taking a break from the dating world and focusing on yourself can lead to a really happy and healthy relationship. When you’re single, you can focus on your emotional needs, set your boundaries, and work on becoming a better partner in the future. Here are some things you should do for yourself before starting a relationship.
work on your self-esteem and learn to respect your boundaries
set long-term goals so that you can be with someone who will help you reach them
create a healthy routine that will keep you grounded even if you fall head over heels
spend more time with your friends — single doesn’t always mean lonely
Listen to your heart, do what you want, enjoy your own company — we have all heard that so many times that we don’t really question how to do it. But in reality, it can be very difficult to separate what you really want from what your family members want, what your peers do, and what society expects of you.
When you are in a relationship, you spend so much time listening to your partner and compromising that you might not even realize that the things you do and the decisions you make would be different if it was only up to you.
“Sometimes we compromise too much because of our partner, and we might be surprised that we actually like something we never thought we would —for instance, new cuisine, activity, and so on,” says Nikolina Jeric, co-founder of 2Date4Love.
Of course, you can and should keep getting to know yourself while you’re in a relationship, but it’s much easier to do when you are single and the only criteria you need to take into consideration is whether you want to do something or not. When you know yourself, you know what kind of romantic partner you can be, you can communicate that clearly, and you can focus on getting to know someone else without fear of losing yourself.
When you are desperate to get into a relationship, it is difficult to keep your standards high. Instead of thinking that a fun and adventurous person will make you happy, you start thinking that any boyfriend or girlfriend will make you happy. As a result, you don't see any red flags and end up with a partner who is not a good match for you.
If you jump from one relationship into another, you get used to putting your needs and happiness into other people’s hands. You can compare how much one person gives you compared to the other, but you forget that those are the needs you can take care of by yourself.
In a relationship, you inevitably spend your time and energy on another person, and sometimes, you end up giving more than you get in return. If you feel that way, ask yourself whether that relationship is even worth it.
“By spending time single, you have the time and energy to ruminate upon what’s right for you and, with the right tools, gain the self-confidence to not settle for less than what you need in a committed relationship,” says relationship coach Charlotte Jones. Besides, you keep your mind and heart open for someone who will be worth it.
Since we live in a world where romantic relationships are idealized, it’s not surprising that many of us end up in codependent relationships that aren’t good for us. We attach our self-worth to our relationship status, so if we don’t have a partner, we feel miserable. And once we find one, we have a false sense of accomplishment — after all, that’s what society says will make you happy.
Then, we make that romantic relationship our life’s purpose and do everything to please our partners. Once you get into one codependent relationship, you start to think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Sooner or later, you start to feel unhappy in every relationship, but the idea of single life sounds even more horrifying.
“If you use your time single to pay attention to your own needs and honor them with self-care, your single days can be filled with so much self-love that sets the foundation for you to be less codependent when you do get into a relationship in the future,” says love and relationship coach Nicole Moore.
In many ways, being single is a blessing in disguise. When you’re not in a romantic relationship, you can truly focus on the most important person in your life — yourself. Take your time to analyze your past relationships, consider what areas of your life you want to focus on, and set realistic goals that can make you happy.
“If your goal is a relationship, be patient and explore ways of meeting the right partner for you. If your goals are your career, utilize your spare time, partner-free, to be able to reach your full potential. If your goal is self-fulfillment, read, talk, watch and listen to your mind and body”, recommends Charlotte Jones, relationship coach from the UK.
Therapist Dr. Lauren Cook, PsyD, suggests dedicating more time to your friends. Friendships don’t feel as threatening as romantic relationships, but being a good friend is a big part of being a perfect partner.
“With so many people saying they feel lonelier than ever, initiate more time with friends. Just because you're single doesn't mean that you need to sit by yourself all day. Spend time with the people you care about and practice leaning into vulnerable conversations. These dynamics may feel a little safer and can make opening up with dating easier,” she says.
Journaling can be a great way to work through your worries and emotions when you are single. Of course, nothing beats talking to a person who cares about you, but sometimes, the mere act of writing it all down can make a huge difference.
“Let your emotions and true thoughts out onto the paper and share as if you were sharing this with a partner. By releasing your emotions and thoughts from the day on a daily basis, your mental health will be better because you won’t be bogged down with anxieties and emotions that haven’t been processed”, says Love & Relationship Coach Nicole Moore.
All in all, no matter what the romcoms tell you, your happiness shouldn’t be defined by your relationship status. Being in a healthy relationship where you help each other grow is incredible, but so is being single and focusing on your own happiness above everything else. Partners come and go, so learn to appreciate people around you, but never lose touch with yourself.
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