Relationship Advice: How Do I open Myself Up to a Relationship and Not Feel Desparate? by Dr. Terri Orbuch, The Love Doctor ®
I just turned 30 and I’m still single, while practically every one of my friends is married, engaged, or in a serious relationship heading in that direction. While I’m confident in myself, have a fun social life, and feel happy overall, I’m starting to worry there’s not anyone out there for me—that all the good people are taken by now. I don’t want to seem desperate when I go out with people, but I also really want to be in a relationship. How do I stop feeling so down about being single? How can I open myself up to a relationship without seeming desperate?
Dr. Terri’s Answer
No matter where you look, from movies to magazine ads, you’re told that you need a relationship to be happy. These messages are wrong but they lead you to feel insecure about being single. You wanting love is natural, but unless you can be comfortable with yourself when you’re single, your dating behaviors will be desperate and not consistent with who you truly are. The only way to put your best self out there is to first get comfy with you and your alone time so that when you’re looking for love, you are dealing from strength rather than weakness.
Being single has many perks. You can be spontaneous, spend time with friends and family, focus on your career and interests, be your own boss, and enjoy solitude. That’s right, instead of focusing on what you don’t have, you need to highlight what is great about you and your life now. Whenever you’re feeling sad or desperate, remember those good points. It will take some practice, but almost any negative thought about being single can be switched to a good one.
Also, based on my research, I discovered that finding love is not about the right outfit, the right restaurant for a first date, or waiting three days after the date to call. It’s about looking inside you and asking yourself two questions: (1) what parts of life are the most important to you, and (2) what kind of partner do you dream about or need? Only after you know yourself, and how a partner would complement you, will you truly be open to a good relationship for you.
What parts of life are most important to you?
Key life values are the parts of your life that are the most important to you. They are the likes, beliefs, preferences, and goals that make up “you” at your very core. To tune into your own values, ask yourself about six central areas of your life: money, family, faith, work, health, and lifestyle. How do you view each core area? What takes priority in your life right now? Are you happy with your priorities, or do you want any of them to change? Then, which two areas stand out the most in terms of how you want to live your life in the future? Remember that there are no right or wrong answers or opinions. You are just exploring what is important to you.
Once you’ve explored and thought about these six areas of life, you’ll have a better understanding of what “you” are all about, which will also help you to identify compatibilities you should look for in a potential partner. You might be physically attracted to someone who is opposite to you, but studies show that partners who share key life values—beliefs about family, money, religion, health, work, and lifestyle—are more likely to stay together over the long haul. A couple can share all-important life values even when they have different interests and hobbies.
What kind of partner do you dream about or need?
Do you know what the “right person” would look like if you met that person today? Most people don’t take the time to think about what they want in a romantic relationship (or in a partner). But in order to open yourself up to a relationship and not feel desperate, you need to decide what you need or want in a relationship partner. Defining the type of person you want to be with is a little like making a shopping list before you head out to the grocery store. It streamlines the process, keeps you from making random or desperate choices, and helps you to not waste time.
Grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In the left column, list 5 partner qualities that you must have in a partner. Does the person’s age or physical appearance matter? What about if they are sensitive, inquisitive, easy-going, sexy, adventurous, or smart? In the right column, list another 5 characteristics that are your deal-breakers. These are the partner qualities that you can’t tolerate or allow in a partner. The person may smoke cigarettes, have financial challenges, or bad self-care habits (e.g., bad breath, body order, terrible hygiene, lack of etiquette). These are the five things that as hard as you try, you just can’t tolerate or allow in a partner.
Making a list will allow you to recognize and identify if someone you meet has the qualities you are looking for, or the characteristics that you can’t tolerate. When you meet people, your list will become an invaluable tool; it will remind you to make sure that your needs and desires are being met. Instead of worrying about what your date thinks about you, as you might have done before, your list will help you to determine if Ms. or Mr. Right will make you happy.
In the end, by feeling good about your alone time, and knowing what is important to you—in life values and a partner—you’ll be more assertive in getting what you need and want out of life, you’ll feel less desperate and anxious, and you WILL find the right partner for you.