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It's (Not) You

Common reasons one is told they're single, and why they're wrong

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You Have Issues

If everyone had to “get right with themselves” before finding a partner, the population would have died off long ago.

We know plenty of people who are screwed up in any number of ways who are in committed relationships.

Being normal isn’t important, finding someone whose flaws mesh well with your own is. The only real “flaw” is not having met your partner yet, and you have no control over that.

You Have Low Self-Esteem

There’s no proven connection between self-esteem and how much others like you - people just feel more liked.

We shouldn’t rely too much on self-esteem, since it depends on success and therefore isn’t always entirely in our control.

Self-compassion is more important - focus more on just empathizing with yourself and treating yourself better. Acknowledge your negative feelings and don’t try to deny them, accept them as a normal part of life.

[Try] talking to yourself as you would a good friend: “I’m so sorry you’re in a bad place today, but these feelings you’re having sound pretty normal to me. So why don’t you ease up on yourself? We all feel weak or insecure sometimes. You’re not alone.”

You’re Too Negative

Forcing oneself to be too positive isn’t healthy, since negative events and feelings are an innate part of life and can’t be shunned. Trying to over-emphasize the positive is a losing battle.

Simply accept the bad with the good without judgment, as life will always be a mix of both.

The really good dates were the ones where we shed the positivity facade fairly quickly. The ones where we talked about divorce and stepfamilies and melting ice caps. The ones where we forgot to censor ourselves, forgot to sell ourselves and just were ourselves—two somewhat lonely human beings trying to figure it all out.

You’re Too Liberated

Contrary to many beliefs, waiting later in life and having a stronger career decreases the odds of divorce.

We have, apparently, left many people with the impression that we’re mapping our personal lives with the same precision that we plot our careers—that we’re “putting off” marriage, as if falling in love was something you could plan.

Part of this is a trade-off that there’ll be less time for dating and marriage, but that doesn’t mean no time at all. It’s still possible to steal whatever moments you can.

You’re Too Intimidating

Playing dumb doesn’t make dating easier - it helps avoid people who believe two people in a relationship shouldn’t be equals.

If someone perceives competency and intelligence as being “intimidating” or “hard to talk to,” they’re likely not worth it. Plus, career success normally does the opposite and speaks well for someone’s interpersonal skills.

You’re Too Desperate, You Need to Be Happy Alone

Sometimes we feel lonely and desperate. That’s just a regular part of being a social animal known as a human. We’re wired to feel that way and it’s hard to just “shake off”, so there’s no shame needed. Wanting love doesn’t mean we’re unprepared or too immature for it. Loneliness is like hunger or thirst - a totally natural response when a need is unfulfilled.

Desperate is having child after child because your husband won’t let you use birth control or covering the bruises you got last night when you hurry to the market to shop for the evening meal. Women today may be anxious about finding a mate, but most could not even imagine being that desperate.

Simply learn to feel this loneliness without judgment - the pain isn’t the problem, it’s the thoughts we create around it.

You can live in your one-bedroom and move up in your job and visit your nieces and have a long and productive life. But your biological wiring doesn’t know that, which is why loneliness can bring on so much psychic pain.

You’re Too Picky

Don’t feel sorry for having standards. It’s called knowing what you want in a partner and not settling on someone who won’t make you happy.

Other people aren’t you and didn’t go on the dates, so others’ opinions on what you should have done are virtually never relevant.

Human beings are not houses—you don’t walk in and say, “Well, so long as we gut the kitchen and add a third bathroom, this could work,” or, “It has no charm, but it’s close to work and it’s all I can afford.” No. You love them as they are, or you let them find someone else who does.

You’re Too Available

One actual truth here: Don’t let another person determine your worth.

But the larger message is crap. If someone only falls for you because you hide who you are to avoid being too “available,” they didn’t fall for you. It will become either a bad relationship or one where you can’t be yourself at all.

Confident people are willing to be vulnerable since it’s, again, just part of being human. It’s also part of the innate power and riskiness with romance.

They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. . . . They just talked about it being necessary

Plus, isn’t a relationship where both partners freely show each other affection more likely to last then one where it’s withheld?

You Don’t Know How to Play the Game

Marriage is sold as a “market” and we’re “commodities” in it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a search for a loving partnership, which can’t really be compared to a kind of “business venture.” It’s not an effective way to cover up the fact that dating is often painful, it only makes the hurt more unexpected or tries to normalize it as “a part of the game.” Which is a pretty crappy way to frame a search for love.

Isn’t it stronger and braver to go into relationships—and first dates—knowing full well you could get hurt, and that you’ll also survive?

You Need to Grow Up

Talking like it’s easier to be single, when it’s actually more work. Have to go through lots of life obstacles, like housing, traveling, and retirement savings, without a dedicated partner to help.

All those years alone forced me to develop muscles that I never would have fired if I’d married at twenty-six

Plus it’s also a lot of work when you’re with the wrong person. So knowing when to stay single and avoid this extra burden, despite the pressures of everyone else, is a mature decision.

You’re Too Selfish

Makes no sense, since single people are more likely to be out and contributing society. Spending more time in public, paying for more goods and services, and have more time to volunteer or take part in public events.

Also still spend time with their family, extended family, and other people in the community. They’re a core aspect of society, not the fringe.

You Need to Put It Out to the Universe!

Hoping “the universe” can solve your single worries does next to nothing to actually help. When it doesn’t help, then you’re alone and “out of sync with the universe,” which is even worse.

Relying on fate or superstition for a partner will drag you down. Don’t let starry-eyed idealists who think love will always just happen “on its own” think fate has turned against you. Taking practical measures to find someone, like an online dating service, seems cynical but is much more effective. We’re not slaves to what would just “happen naturally” for things like this.

It’s wonderful to live in a home with harmoniously arranged furniture and who doesn’t like a good soak in a rosemary-water tub? But laying on the extra thing — I’m doing this so I can find a partner — will only diminish these pleasures.

You Need an Action Plan!

It’s hard to balance searching too much or too little. But the issue isn’t really in finding that balance. The true problem is what happens when you don’t get what you want.

“Action plans” suck people into the mindset of wanting things to go just the way they want, and when they don’t, they turn miserable. But it’s possible to accept the sadness of not finding someone while still enjoying life.

The problem was we weren’t having any fun. We were trying to force the evening to go one way, and we were caught up in a lot of storylines about why it wasn’t.

Don’t let the desire to actively find someone derail other sources of happiness. Let your dignity and sense of sense go above whatever the circumstances are.

You’re Too Fabulous to Settle Down

We don’t need to be extreme or exceptional as a justification for being single. It’s possible to live a meaningful life without someone that’s also normal. Don’t feel the pressure or panic to do so.

The real message is one of panic: You must be special. Ordinary is not okay. When I walked into a party projecting the Shiny Girl—she of the lighthearted flings and glitzy job—I was essentially doing the same thing.

You’re Too Sad

Imagine asking a married person if she were happy. It would be wildly inappropriate.

Trying to stamp out or control emotions to make yourself “ready” for a partner is pretty extreme when you think about it. If you need to do that in order to be together with someone, are they really right for you?

Happiness isn’t the only marker of success anyway. There’s plenty of other virtues: compassion, intelligence, spontaneity, passion, etc. Don’t get hung up on trying to force happiness for someone or because you just you “have to.” Sadness is another one of those things that comes with being human, and requires no shame.

You Are the Constant

It’s tempting to create a powerful, successful personal story to “justify” that we’re worthy of a relationship. But it’s just a way of deluding ourselves and puffing up our identities, hiding our flaws instead of accepting ourselves as we are.

You don’t need to do anything different; you don’t need to be anything different. You just need a little luck.

We all know our own experiences best. We only owe ourselves an answer and a story, we don’t owe it to someone else to prove we’re “worthy” of them.

You Have to Keep Trying!

There isn’t some “checklist of life successes” like having money or being in good enough shape that’s needed to find a partner. Most likely you’re already worth of being loved. So don’t feel pressured to make all other parts of your life focused around getting success for the romance part - that’ll suck all the enjoyment out of it fast.

I felt like I was studying extremely hard for an exam, only to see others ace it without cracking a book. And unfortunately, I allowed this goal-oriented view to siphon the very real happiness I was finding.

You’re Stuck

Being stuck in a cycle of self-defeating thoughts about single life isn’t a cause of the problem, it’s a symptom of another. One that can even persist after one has found a great partner. It’s a symptom of the natural human tendency to gravitate and obsess over what’s wrong with our lives.

The big problem is that obsessing over these thoughts makes their negative effects seek deeper into our psyche.

Meditation is a good way to deal with them - be aware of these thoughts when they arrive, identify them as negative, and catch them before you obsess over them too much. Then put them aside and move on with your life.

It won’t stop the junk thoughts from coming, but with practice I’ve found it significantly loosens their grip.

You Should Have Married That Person

I can really just use this one quote here:

How do you know if you’re settling? Easy. You’re settling if you think you’re settling.

Settling isn’t mature—it’s cruel. We all deserve to be loved and desired for who we are, for our essence—not our bank account, not our parenting skills, not because we happened to amble into someone’s life at the biologically optimal time. When you settle for a man, you’re preventing him from finding the woman who will love him for who he truly is. And that’s bad karma.

You Don’t Really Want a Relationship

There’s a powerful narrative of marriage “declining” with young people. They don’t want to marry and undermine the “institution of marriage” by waiting or not getting married at all.

This flies in the face of the logic that people who wait until they have well-established careers to get married, and know when to not marry someone who isn’t right for them, strengthens marriage as a whole. Not doing either of these would lead to more divorces and be bad for it.

Maybe you’ve remained single well into adulthood because . . . you know what you’re doing. Because there is something right with you. The culture may portray older singles as losers and narcissists, but the truth is the person who ends the mediocre relationship before marriage—or who never starts it in the first place—is a true pillar of the institution.

You Need Practice

Most people will develop lots of skills through normal life on one’s own that can also be applied to relationships. Not having a lot of dating experience doesn’t doom someone to being a bad date.

Finding the right person doesn’t decrease with that either - most often it’s just luck.

You’re Too Old

It’s tough to marry past the age of kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. For many people it’s still their own choice, and a person they haven’t changed at all.

You Don’t Know Love

How does someone not “know” love? Is there a class you have to take? At one point does someone “level up” and suddenly understand love. As opposed to it being a natural part of being human, like how we know “hungry” and “tired” pretty institutionally?

Even if that’s not the case, one can cultivate feelings of love in other areas beside romance. Being compassionate and caring in any other area, like doing volunteer work, is cultivating loving feelings that could be brought over to love later on.

Little credit is given to the person who has the sensitivity and intelligence to avoid the near-engagement or divorce—who takes months, rather than years, to realize the partnership isn’t working. No due is given the person who refuses to be jerked around—thus compelling the jerks to move on to easier prey. It’s assumed there is some love gene that you lack.

As the above quote shows, one can “know love” and still be single. They may even be more likely to be single, since they’ll know when the “love” isn’t there and the relationship should end.

You Suck

Saying someone is worse because they made different life choices, which can include ones related to romance, is just a jerk move. As much as we like to think our own life choices are automatically the best, it’s rarely ever the case. It’d be nice to “end the lifestyle arms race.”

Plus, if someone does something mainly to claim this makes them better then someone else, are they really a better person?

We shouldn’t feed into this by thinking we’re less of a person for being single, or having traits we think made us single. Accept our flaws as they are without feeding them with bad judgments, and they’ll start to fade into the background.

Self-compassion is not just about buying yourself an ice cream cone—it’s about accepting the fact that you’re an ordinary person with flaws.

You Need to Figure Out “Why”

There’s an understanding that inquiring about the reason two people marry is completely inappropriate. Singles are not afforded this privacy.

Single people owe no explanation to another. If asked why you’re single, simply say “I don’t know” and don’t do any explaining for them.

The real question is, why are near strangers so often compelled to demand answers?

You’ll Spend the Rest of Your Life Alone!

Life without a partner isn’t some second-class life, or just a waiting period for that day. We shouldn’t feed into the idea that marriage is some “permanent state of happiness that will complete us,” which is crap. Which is why it’s important to enjoy life irregardless of relationship status.

Enjoying things as they are but also working toward change isn’t living a second-class life; it’s living a full life—one where you clearly see what Tibetan Buddhists call “the truth of impermanence.”