Having been a San Diego therapist for over 10 years now, I have encountered many people who are single and simultaneously feeling very bad about themselves. Typical questions and beliefs include, “What is wrong with me?”, “Why are my friends with someone and I’m not?”, “I must be bad at relationships.”, “I’m not with someone because I’m not attractive enough.”, etc, etc. While there is always the possibility that a person may have some behaviors that make relationship difficult and push people away, more often the reasons of why someone is single lie elsewhere. Below are, in my opinion, the two biggest reasons people find themselves single longer than they want to be.
Unhealthy Relationship Patterns
Many clients I’ve seen continue to be single and in and out of relationships because they are unknowingly repeating unhealthy relationship patterns. Until you come to understand what that pattern is and take steps to correct it, you will be quickly drawn to people that help foster the unhealthy dynamic and fill in the other half of the eqation. Ask yourself, “Is it a different person, but essentially the same relationship”? Do you find yourself in similar situations, upset about the same things or playing out the same pattern in different relationships?. If so, you’re probably not in the relationship you want because you haven’t come to understand and correct your contribution to the unhealthy relationship pattern. Once you do that, you’ll then be drawn to people who will match you and your relationships will be different. I always say we are drawn to people on the same level of emotional development as we are. Two people may seem like very different in many ways, but complement each other very well creating the unhealthy pattern that leaves you feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. So, if you grow emotionally, you will attract different people in your life. Remember, this “pattern” you contribute to is a very different explanation than you being the “cause” of you being single. Yes, you contribute to the unhealthy pattern, but the other person contributes equally. And, once you work on your half, different types of people will begin showing up in your life. Your boundaries, insight and self care will all change accordingly!
Holding Out for the Right Person
How many divorced or separated people do you know? How many people do you know who met and then married very quickly only not to have it last? Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Knowing who you want as a partner and holding out what is best for you is another reason why I see some of my clients single. And, that’s a good thing! I just wish more of my clients in this situation saw it as such. Instead, so many keep looking towards themselves for the “flaw” that is rendering them relationshipless. If you’re a person with a strong sense of who you are, your values and who you want as a partner and haven’t met that person yet, don’t give up! Your day will come and your boundaries and self care will only contribute positively to a healthy relationship.
If you are single and feeling bad about yourself, I strongly encourage you to consider the above two explanation. If it’s the second, keep at it! If it’s the first, it might be a good time to do some reflection and pattern changing. Remember, they are just patterns… not fixed parts of who you are!!
Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley. For more information, feel free to call or email me.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00.