Being single for a certain amount of time has its benefits. I personally experienced the most growth and self-awareness during my years as a single girl, and while there were some painful and lonely moments, they all led me to a place where I could break through some of my walls and do some necessary inner work.
At the same time, most people don’t make it a goal to be single forever. Most of us want love and a partner to share our lives with, but we mistakenly go about trying to attain this thing we want so much in all the wrong ways. We continue to live life in the same way and hope that it will somehow lead to different results. We know that this doesn’t really make any sense, and yet we continue to operate from our ingrained default setting.
Being single isn’t a curse and being in a relationship isn’t a cure-all. No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s important to take a personal inventory—to look at the habits and choices that are helping you and the ones that are hurting you. It’s not a matter of putting yourself out there more or of signing up for every dating site and side-swiping app—finding a truly amazing, healthy relationship is much more about being ready for such a relationship. It’s about identifying faulty patterns and thought processes that may be blocking you from getting what you want.
To solve a problem, you need to understand it. So let’s look at some of the main reasons why you might still be single when you don’t want to be, and what you might unknowingly be doing to push love away. (And before we begin, I just want to say my goal isn’t to shame or blame anyone. I’m not trying to place all the blame on you; I’m just going to discuss some of the most common areas I’ve seen women go wrong in their quest for love.)
1. You’re Too Needy
There’s no faster way to repel a man than to need him. Wanting a man is not the same as needing one.
Neediness is a state of mind where you feel incomplete, or have an emotional void, and try to fill this empty space with a relationship or male validation. A lot of women confuse men’s aversion to neediness with men’s supposed aversion to commitment. But men aren’t commitment phobes (at least, the majority are not). A man will happily enter into a relationship with a woman who sees and appreciates him for exactly who he is. Conversely, a man will run far away from a woman who sees him as an opportunity to feel good about herself or fill some void.
A guy wants to feel chosen by a woman he had to earn. He doesn’t want to feel like he’s just filling a spot that could have easily gone to any other man with a pulse.
Solution: Neediness usually stems from a lack of self-esteem or sense of worth. You feel like something is missing within yourself or in your life and erroneously believe a relationship will be the cure. If you were unhappy before the relationship, you’ll be unhappy in it. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself about being single, work on your relationship with yourself. Work on feeling your best and looking your best. When you are the best you that you can be, you won’t be able to keep men away!
2. You’re Too Picky
Most women are usually at one extreme or the other: desperate and willing to put up with anything, or too picky and unwilling to “settle” for anything less than their dream man.
In this day and age, we’re saturated with unrealistic love sagas and have developed an idea of what love should be and not of what love is, as I discussed in chapter two. We’re told that love conquers all, but in truth love alone does not make for a good and healthy relationship. (I mean, just about every divorced couple loved each other at some point.) We want to be swept off our feet and taken over by this all-consuming feeling of euphoria and harmony. If we’re not feeling the intensity on the first date, we’ll write the guy off and say there was no “spark.”
Another problem is that most women have adopted a sometimes inflexible idea that it’s “better to be alone than to settle.” Taken to an extreme, this mindset causes many women to close themselves off to guys with amazing traits just because of some superficial flaw that rules him out as their dream guy. The longer you’re single, the worse this can get because you might start telling yourself, “Well I’ve waited this long to find the one, I am not compromising on anything and deserve to get exactly what I want!”
It’s OK to have standards and to have an idea of the kind of guy you want to be with, but it’s also important to be a little flexible and realize that you might not get every single thing you want, and that doesn’t mean you’re settling.
Maybe you don’t like his job, maybe you don’t like the way he dresses, maybe you think his hobbies are lame. This all might be true, but it’s important to realize that these things don’t tell you who he is, and who he is might be a really wonderful, kind, caring person.
Solution: Make a list of three non-negotiable qualities you need in a man. This does not include things like how much money he makes or how far back his hairline is. Money won’t make for a happy marriage, and neither will a full head of hair, a chiseled jaw, or six-pack abs. Obviously you want to be attracted to your husband, but try not to get so caught up in the physical details. Also jot down three deal-breakers. This will help you gain clarity and perspective and take you away from relying on the long dating checklist you may have formed in your mind.
Next, when you go out with a guy and don’t feel that all-consuming spark, don’t write him off. Unless there was something that absolutely repulsed you about him, give him another shot. A lot of women are way too quick to dismiss a guy before really giving him a fair shot. I know more stories than I can even count of women who went on a few meh dates with the men they eventually married. Who knows where they would have ended up had they not given their future husbands another shot.
My husband doesn’t have some of the main qualities that I used to swear up and down I couldn’t live without. Through our relationship, I can now see how the type of guy I thought I wanted would have been a disaster when paired with my personality type. I, like most people, thought I knew myself way better than I actually did. Now every day I realize, with increasing awe, just how wrong I was about what I thought I needed, because I am with a person who couldn’t be more suited for me.
When you open your mind just a bit, you might find yourself very pleasantly surprised!
3. You Haven’t Worked on Yourself
The number one way to attract love is to make yourself into a vessel that can receive it.
A successful relationship comes down to two things: the right person at the right time. The first thing that’s important to remember when it comes to relationships is that in general, like attracts like. That is, what you are or think you are is what you will attract.
If you don’t value yourself, you will go for someone who doesn’t treat you well, and you will be OK with it because he’s just validating how you feel about yourself.
If you are emotionally unavailable, you will attract a guy who is emotionally unavailable. Now, you can want to be in a relationship and at the same time be unavailable in your own way. If you’re afraid of getting hurt or feel like the guys you want always leave you, then you might subconsciously be putting up walls to protect yourself.
In order to attract a real relationship, you first need to make sure that you are in the right place emotionally. Make sure you want a relationship for the right reasons, not just to fill a void or make you feel better about yourself. You also need to develop a firm sense of who you are and learn how to be happy without a relationship.
It may seem like finding a great guy who likes you and sticks around, whereas the others couldn’t or wouldn’t, will take the sting out of past rejection, but it doesn’t work that way. If you’re still holding onto hurt from the past, then it will spill over into you relationships in the present.
Good self-esteem attracts someone capable not only of healthy interactions but of loving you for who you are. If you’re not sure of yourself inside, you’ll seek validation outside.
Solution: I have a friend who asks herself every day: “Would I want to date me today?” I think it’s a pretty amazing exercise and will help you realize where you’re falling short and what you need to work on.
If you want an emotionally healthy, confident, stable guy, then you need to make sure you mirror those qualities at the same level. I mean, why would a guy like that want to be with someone who is an insecure emotional mess? If you want that kind of guy, you need to be that kind of girl.
As soon as you’re in that place where you are your best self and you mirror the qualities you want, you’ll notice an instant change in your love life; you’ll find that you can easily get the kind of guy and the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted. This path with be different for everyone, but try as best you can to discover the best path for you.
4. You Want Guys Who Don’t Want You
One of the biggest obstacle standing in your way and stopping you from having the relationship you want is wanting the guys who don’t want you. It’s a ubiquitous phenomenon. Every day my inbox gets flooded with questions from women plotting and strategizing to capture a man who does not seem to want to be captured…at least not by her.
I am an expert on the subject because for far too many years the only guys who held any sort of intrigue for me were the ones I couldn’t quite have. And the ones who were head over heels in love with me and willing to do anything for me? Blech, I didn’t want them. I wanted to want them and everything they offered, but I just didn’t. And the heart wants what the heart wants, right?
Before I started dating my husband, I dated a guy I’ll call Kevin. Kevin was yet another classic case of the type of guy I just couldn’t seem to resist. He was charming, charismatic, confident, fun, and always slightly beyond my grasp. He also had some deep-rooted emotional problems to deal with and some major commitment issues.
He was a classic “damage case,” a guy who has a lot of potential hidden under a pile of issues. The “bad boy” who needs to be saved. And like many women, I wanted to be his healer, to be the woman who inspired him to break through his walls and finally commit.
Damage cases are like a pair of super sexy shoes that are brutally uncomfortable. When you look at them they’re amazing—they’re beautiful and sexy and you have to have them. But when you wear them you’re in agony. Then you take them off and experience euphoric relief, the most incredible feeling. But this feeling doesn’t come from gaining something positive, it comes from removing something negative—pain. This experience is the same as dating an unavailable guy.
He seems to be everything you want, so enticing you can’t resist him. But when you have him, you just feel pain and discomfort. Your stomach is in knots as you wait for the next text, or for a sign that he truly cares. Then he gives you some sort of indication that he does, and you’re ecstatic; you feel a rush of euphoria. But then he pulls back again and you’re back in those unbearable shoes. Then he comes back, and relief. And on and on it goes.
When I was younger I kept chasing the high of removing those painful shoes. And I thought if only X would happen, then I would have that taking-shoes-off feeling forever. As I got older, I realized I didn’t want to be on this roller coaster ride anymore. I decided that a comfortable pair of shoes that gave me the support I needed and a steady feeling of ease was much better than a sporadic shocking jolt of relief.
Kevin was the catalyst for this realization. It had been a while since I’d chased after a damage case, and I thought I’d nipped that problem in the bud until he came along and got me all twisted like a pretzel. It was devastating on many levels, especially to my ego! I mean, I was supposed to know better at that point—I was a relationship expert for crying out loud!
Solution: After a series of letdowns, of high hopes and thinking things would be different, followed by crushing disappointment and feeling like a fool for once again thinking the same story would have a different ending, I made a firm resolution to end this cycle for good. To make a lasting change that would lead me to the kind of love and relationship I really wanted. I was going to finally figure out why I kept going after the guys who didn’t want me.
After being crushed by Kevin yet again, I decided to sit down and ask myself some really tough questions. What was I getting out of this relationship? Why was I so drawn to him even though I objectively knew he wouldn’t be a good long-term partner? What had he even given to me? I did a lot for him, but what had he ever actually done to show me he cared? (The answer was nothing.)
I was getting nothing out of the relationship except for quick shots of temporary validation whenever he seemed to reciprocate my interest, and that is just so very sad. And then I realized that I am not the kind of woman who needs that sort of thing anymore. Maybe I did when I was younger, but I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t need to repeat history in order to subconsciously mend some old wounds.
Next I looked at why I kept going back to Kevin even though it was clear that the relationship was a dead end. I thought long and hard about what I was getting from him that kept drawing me back in, and the answer went beyond validation. I realized that with Kevin I felt less alone and maybe a little understood. Like me, he was a little lost and hurt, and that made me feel better in my own world of lost and hurt.
I also considered what I was giving to the relationship (if you could even call it that) and why. Why was I so invested in solving his issues? Why was I so wrapped up in getting inside his head? The reason, I believe, is that getting lost in his drama was an escape from dealing with my own. I had a reprieve from my own life and my own issues, one of which was why I was so drawn to damage cases like Kevin! I felt like I had a mission and a purpose, and that felt kind of nice…at least for a little while.
Once I saw the situation for what it was, it lost all appeal for me. Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t get him to commit in the way I wanted, I felt sorry for him for having so many issues, issues that prevented him from committing to a great woman he had right in front of him.
Soon after I processed all of this and healed, my high-school sweetheart, the one I’d never quite gotten over, resurfaced. On our first date I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he was already smitten, that he had graduated from being a damage case (back when he was 17) to husband material, that he was taking me and this seriously, and that I could trust him. There was no hunt, no chase, no guessing games. I knew how he felt; I didn’t even have to ask, it was just so obvious. And I knew I was cured from my damage case addiction because the fact that he wanted me didn’t turn me off. Instead it made him even more appealing.
And now we’re married! (And in case you’re wondering, Kevin is still as single and afraid of commitment as ever…no hard feelings though, I still run into him here and there, and we’re friendly. I can’t help but laugh to myself when I think about all the inner turmoil he caused…although he was also the catalyst that got me emotionally ready to be in a relationship with my husband, so maybe I owe him a thank you!)
Remember, damage cases are a waste of time and energy. Wanting a guy who doesn’t want you is a tragedy. Time is a precious thing to waste, so get to work and undo the faulty wiring that leads you to the guys who can’t appreciate you.
More than anything else, the path that leads to lasting love involves making yourself a vessel to receive love. If you only want guys who can’t want you back then you are blocked, so make the decision, right here and now, to push yourself to break free and clear away all the obstacles preventing you from getting what you truly want.
5. Faulty Filter Systems
A bad filter system sets you up for failure before your relationship has a chance to get off the ground, if you even get that far.
Everyone has a certain ingrained filter system. This system is partially due to genetic wiring, but it is largely shaped by our experiences. This filter system is often based on our interests, desires, and fears. For instance, if you are afraid of rejection, all you’ll pick up on is being rejected. A hundred people can tell you how great and wonderful you are, but it won’t sink in. All that will stand out to you is the one person who didn’t seem to be interested in you.
If you put ten people in a room and have them listen to a class and then ask them at the end what the class was about, you’ll get ten different answers. The reason is we hone in on things that appeal to us and serve our interests in some way and ignore the rest. And what is focused on and what is ignored varies from one person to the next.
So how does this affect your relationships?
Your reality is created in large part by your filter system. If you believe that the guys you want will never want you, you will find a justification for this fear even if it’s far from the case. Once you come to expect the behavior, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whether consciously or not, you will start to behave in a way that turns men off (this can be very subtle and might not come across in anything you say or do), thus feeding into your original fear. If you are afraid your boyfriend will never commit in the way you want him to, you will ignore all signs of his commitment and will only focus on the signs that he doesn’t want to commit. Your fear will manifest itself in behavior like clinging more tightly to the relationship or being on guard for its inevitable end, which will, in turn, cause the relationship to unravel. (I’m not talking about situations where a guy clearly won’t commit, like a guy not calling you his girlfriend after an extended period of time. I’m talking about more subtle signs.)
If you believe you’re unattractive, you will dismiss everyone who compliments your appearance and will write it off as them just being nice. When someone says something that implies they don’t find you attractive, you’ll grab hold of it and will use it as proof of your original belief.
We have an innate need to justify our thought patterns, even if these patterns don’t serve us in a positive way.
Want proof? Close your eyes and pick a color. Visualize the color in your mind, picture items that are that color, see yourself dressed in that color, think about the emotions that color evokes. Spend about 30 seconds to a minute doing this and then open your eyes, what’s the first thing you saw? I guarantee it will be that color unless you did this in an all white room. If we dwell on something, even for under a minute, our mind becomes programmed to pick it up.
We’re all wired to look at the world in subjective ways. Reality is not objective; it is shaped by both what happens to us and how we interpret the things that happen to us.
Solution: In order to have more success in love and relationships, you need to adjust your filter system so that you see the good all around you. You need to be able to appreciate and acknowledge the goodness that is in you and in your relationship. If you let your fears run the show, you will set yourself up for sabotage.
First, you need to weed out faulty thought patterns. Anytime a negative thought pops into your mind (I’ll never find a boyfriend…I’m going to end up alone…Men always leave me), pluck it out and tell yourself the opposite. This applies not only to relationships, it applies to and can be used to enhance all areas of your life. Our thoughts have a huge impact on the way we feel, and since we can control what we think our thoughts are a very powerful tool once we start using them.
I am also a big fan of keeping a gratitude journal. Every day jot down 1-2 things you’re grateful for (and pick different things every day). This will re-train your brain to focus on the good. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I’ve done this exercise and I recommend it to readers all the time, and the results are truly transformative.
6. The Ex Factor
Most of us are unaware of all the ways our past can bleed into our present—and even our future—if left unchecked.
I have been hurt a lot over the years, for which I am thankful. The pain has served me well in that it’s given me invaluable insights into relationships (and provided me with a plethora of content to write about!) but I also came to a point where I realized the extent to which I never fully processed and let go of some of that toxic baggage.
They say time heals all wounds, but I find that is only partially true. Time makes you forget or it makes the memories more distant, but it doesn’t automatically heal the wounds left behind. Healing from a devastating breakup isn’t a passive process; it is something you need to actively work on.
A relationship is going to unfold in only one of two ways: it will either last forever or it will fall apart. In order to get the relationship that lasts, you have to come to terms with all the ones that didn’t.
When I first started dating my husband, even though I felt very sure about his intentions I had a really tough time fully trusting him and the relationship. More importantly, I had a hard time trusting myself and my own judgment. Even though I knew my fears had absolutely nothing to do with him, I couldn’t get past them.
I knew these feelings were coming from me because he did nothing to make me think he was anything other than fully committed to making the relationship work. But sometimes seemingly small, innocent things would trigger my fears and insecurities. For example, anytime he would try to reassure me by saying “I’m not going anywhere,” I would feel
my guard reflexively come up and I would become a bit more distant, withdrawn, and uneasy. He was understandably hurt by this and thought I didn’t believe him or didn’t trust him, but that wasn’t it.
With a little self-reflection I was able to pinpoint exactly why it was happening. You see Eric used to say that line anytime my insecurities would flare up. And I believed him. Those words gave me an instant feeling of calm and security (it never lasted long because it wasn’t the right relationship, at all), but it did assuage my fears temporarily. Even though the relationship was far from ideal, I believed he would never leave. I believed he couldn’t live without me, just as I couldn’t possibly live without him or fathom a world without him in it.
The relationship had its ups and downs … and even though the downs were becoming more frequent and long lasting, I believed we would power through it. I believed we were in it together and would make it work. But we didn’t. Instead, my greatest fear became a reality… he left me for someone else and showered her with all the love he had been incapable of giving me. Saying I was devastated doesn’t do justice to the state I was in. Rather than process what had happened, I partied like there was no tomorrow. I made sure to leave no open space for the pain to slip in. I was going, going, going, no time to stop. No time to think, or worst of all, feel.
In the years that followed, I became hardened and my once open heart was now unable to feel anything for any man I dated. One by one they would fall hard for me, but I would feel nothing. There were a few guys who managed to stir something inside of me, and I would inexplicably fall hard and fast. My stomach would be in knots waiting for the next text, I would endlessly analyze everything he did to determine whether or not he liked me, I would constantly plan and plot what I would say and do to win him over. But
nothing ever came from those “relationships”—save for me being left devastated—because the only guys who could get me to feel anything were the emotionally unavailable ones.
My objective mind couldn’t see this, though, because my attraction to these guys was rooted in my subconscious. My last relationship had instilled a belief in me that I was unworthy of love, that I would never get the guy I wanted, that no man would love the real me … so I sought out guys who weren’t in a place to love anyone, really, and was proven right time and time again. That’s the thing about the subconscious, it always seeks validation, even if it’s in the form of a painful reality.
What happened to me is something that happens to many women after a toxic relationship and crushing breakup: I internalized faulty beliefs about myself and never challenged them.
Almost a decade after the relationship that broke me, I realized just how deep the scars were. I realized I had adopted a set of beliefs about myself that was sabotaging my efforts to find the love I’d always wanted. So I decided to dig deep into the darkness to purge these beliefs. I looked at that relationship through an objective lens and realized the way it had unfolded had absolutely nothing to do with who I really am.
At the time, I thought he’d left me because I wasn’t good enough … because I was unlovable … because I was unworthy. I also stopped trusting my own judgment. I had stayed with him even though he was clearly bad for me. I had trusted him based on the few words of assurance he would provide when I was feeling insecure, and ignored all the glaring red flags. How could I trust myself not to make the same mistake again? As a result, I became a woman who believed she couldn’t trust her instincts, who couldn’t trust men, who couldn’t open up and be vulnerable and let anyone else in.
As I’ve written about before, good relationships bring all your unresolved issues to the surface. Even though I had done a lot of internal work before I started dating my husband, there was a lot more that needed to be done. It started with realizing that this relationship is the complete opposite of the last one, and I am a completely different person now, so it is absurd to think I would repeat the same mistakes.
The subconscious doesn’t operate from a place of reason and logic, it operates from a place of emotion. What I needed to internalize was that even though certain things felt real (like that he was going to just leave me out of the blue one day, and I needed to be on guard at all times lest I miss some warning sign), they were not reality. Feelings aren’t facts, and when you look at a situation objectively, you often see just how silly and unfounded your beliefs truly are.
Once I realized what was happening, I was able to challenge some of those old faulty beliefs and replace them with newer, happier truths. I was able to finally relax and let love in. My guy noticed the change immediately, and our relationship improved drastically.
Solution: If you’ve been hurt in the past, try to see if you can identify any old wounds you’re still carrying around with you. Think about how you interpreted the situation at the time and see if you can spot any faulty beliefs about yourself that may have developed. Then do whatever you need to in order to correct those. It isn’t always easy, but is so worth it.
Sabrina Alexis is a writer and the author of the book Everything You Need To Know If You Want Love That Lasts.
For more about Sabrina and her book, check out howtomakelovelast.com.