Clearly, some people are single because they choose to be. They are simply not interested in being in a serious relationship at this time in their life.
Others are single due to the circumstances of their lives. They may have just gotten out of a meaningful relationship or have dated relentlessly and just haven’t found someone with whom they’re truly compatible. The point of this article isn’t to stereotype all single women or men or to put anyone in a box. However, for people, particularly those over 30, who are looking for answers to the puzzling question “why am I still single?”, here are some unconventional answers that lie within.
When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s hard not to feel that you are a victim. After all, others can be cruel; you will get hurt, and no, it isn’t always your fault. But the reality is that we hold more power over our romantic destiny than we often think. To a great degree, we create the world we live in, although we are rarely conscious of this process. We can, in fact, make a choice whether to see our fate through a victimized lens or choose to be goal-directed and take power over our lives. We benefit from focusing on what we can control and not what we can’t. We can become aware of the myriad of ways we influence the reactions we get from others, even the negative reactions. So, the question for the single person looking for love is: what are the internal challenges I need to face?
Most people have been hurt in interpersonal relationships. With time and painful experiences, we all risk building up varying degrees of bitterness and becoming defended. This process begins long before we start dating, in our childhoods, when hurtful interactions and dynamics lead us to put up walls or perceive the world through a filter that can negatively impact us as adults. These adaptations can cause us to become increasingly self-protective and closed off. In our adult relationships, we may resist being too vulnerable or write people off too easily.
If, for example, you were raised by parents or caretakers who were negligent or cold, you may grow up feeling distrusting of affection. You may feel suspicious of people who show “too much” interest in you and instead, you seek out relationships that recreate dynamics from your past. You may then choose a partner who is aloof or distant. It isn’t always easy to see when we have our defenses up. As a result, we tend to blame our singleness on external forces and fail to recognize that we aren’t as open as we think.
2) Unhealthy Attractions
When we act on our defenses, we tend to choose less-than-ideal relationship partners. We may establish an unsatisfying relationship by selecting a person who isn’t emotionally available. Because this process is largely unconscious, we often blame our partner for the relationship’s failed outcome. We tend to feel devastated or hurt by the repeated rejections without recognizing that we are actually seeking out this pattern.
Why do we do this? The reasons are complex and often based on our own embedded fears of intimacy. Many people have an unconscious motivation to seek out relationships that reinforce critical thoughts they have long had toward themselves and replay negative aspects of their childhoods. These may be unpleasant, but breaking with old patterns can cause us a great deal of anxiety and discomfort and make us feel strangely alien and alone in a more loving environment.
Our fears of parting with the image we developed of ourselves early on and starting to see ourselves in a more positive light paradoxically make us feel uneasy and may trigger self-attacking thoughts like, “Who do you think you are? You’re not that great.” These fears may cause us to hold on to relationships without potential or to feel attracted to people who aren’t really available, because they reinforce our negative image of ourselves, which feels more comfortable and familiar, albeit painful.
3) Fear of Intimacy
As my father, psychologist and author Robert Firestone, wrote in his article “You Don’t Want What You Say You Want,” “Most of us profess that we want to find a loving partner, but the experience of real love disrupts fantasies of love that have served as a survival mechanism since early childhood… Pushing away and punishing the beloved acts to preserve one’s negative self-image and reduces anxiety.”
Our fears surrounding intimacy may manifest as concerns over someone “liking us too much,” an understandably irrational reason not to date a person. Or we may punish the other person by being critical, even engaging in nasty behavior, essentially making sure we don’t get the loving responses we say we want. The reality is that most people can only tolerate a certain amount of closeness. We are defended about letting someone else in. In effect, on a deeper level, we don’t necessarily want the love we say we want.