By Jerusha Stewart
So you really and truly want to be in a relationship but find yourself singing solo in the shower? Do you know you’re a great catch but can’t figure out why you’re not paired up like most of your pals? Unwittingly, you could be engaging in a little self-sabotage when it comes to finding your special someone. With a little digging you can uncover the silent saboteurs preventing you from achieving “I’m taken” status—and learn how to overcome them.
Silent saboteur #1: You’re ignoring your relationship needs. Often people with a lot on their plate will say that they’re open to a relationship and are willing to make room for one. But in reality they’re not. Some tell-tale signs: Every time your co-workers or friends extend an invitation to join them for a little after-work socializing, some unfinished project on your desk convinces you to say, “Not tonight, but once my workload lightens up” (as in, never). Or, you find yourself saying things like “I’ll start really looking for someone once I get my promotion/graduate degree/finances in order” (which, alas, may not be any time soon).
Solution: Put yourself first. Have an honest chat with yourself: Do you really want a romantic relationship in your life right now? If the answer is yes, make at least one step toward carving out some space for it, whether that’s signing up for online dating, telling all your friends and family you’re open to a set-up, or establishing a once-a-week night out with your single friends. And don’t let a few bad dates drive you back to your workaholic ways—once you have a good one and see what you’ve been missing, you’ll understand what all the hubbub is about.
Silent saboteur #2: You’re too quick to decide whether you’re interested. In today’s fast-paced culture, it seems natural to decide whether someone’s right for you in, oh, about three seconds. Alanna Rayford of San Francisco often cuts flattering male attention short. “In the first five seconds I know whether or not I’m going to continue to have a conversation,” she confesses. But think about it: Most of us aren’t great at making a killer first impression. “It sure could explain why I haven’t had a date in a year,” Alanna continues. “I don’t give men a chance to show me who they are. A little patience would probably help.”
Solution: Avoid making snap judgments. If you find yourself making snap judgments like Alanna, adopt these two new rules to end your dating drought. Rule one: Promise yourself to withhold any dateability decisions about someone until after a cup of coffee (the whole thing, not the first two sips). You should be able to talk to anyone for as long it takes to drink a latte. Rule two: Adopt a second-date rule. If you like the person, even just a little bit, make plans to see them again. At that point, you two should both be more relaxed and ready to reveal your true selves.
Silent saboteur #3: You’ve got options but none are “good enough”.We’re not saying you shouldn’t have standards. But see what your friends (especially the single ones) think of your prospects. If none of them get why you didn’t follow up with that person you thought was, oh, an inch too short (or too tall), or a freak because he wore a bolo tie, then you could be guilty of having too many must-have traits on your list.
Solution: Re-evaluate what’s really important. We all have our best-case scenario in terms of height, weight, hair color, and so forth in a partner. But how many relationships do you know where two people in a couple fit that wish list to a tee? None or not many, most likely—which is all the more reason why should you probably take a closer look at the qualities you deem ideal, or deal-breakers, on a date. A solid relationship is more often based on shared values and common interests—so make sure you keep those things in mind on your next date rather than obsessing about his too-short trousers.
Silent saboteur #4: You’re not entirely over your ex. You and your ex are history... so what’s up with the long, warm-and-fuzzy phone conversations to “check in” with each other? Sure it seems harmless. But if you find yourself comparing every new potential love interest to this former flame (or if you conveniently “forget” to tell your ex about the people you’re dating), then it could mean you’re still harboring some feelings for the one who got away, which makes it difficult to really focus on someone new.
Solution: Give yourself permission to meet someone new. You could be holding on to your past because you haven’t been building your post-breakup support network—a mix of friends and family members you can comfortably dial for no reason at all. Weaning yourself off your ex can be hard, but it largely comes down to re-directing those impulse calls. The next time you’re tempted to call your ex to vent about something awful that happened at work or just something funny that happened you’re dying to share, resist the urge and call someone else, like your mom. Over time, you’ll stop thinking about your ex so much, leaving you more open to meeting your next one-and-only.
Silent saboteur #5: Your attitude leaves a bad taste in the hearts and minds of others. When you’re out on a date, do you find the conversation generally veering toward your dimwit boss, dysfunctional relatives, dating horror stories, or some other “poor me” tale? You may think these stories are funny (and they very well may be), but after a while, anyone listening is going to wonder: “Why would I want to join this pity party?” and steer clear.
Solution: Get an attitude adjustment. Hey, we’ve all got problems. And while the blues are fine in stereo, very few people want a personal serenade. Putting your best foot forward all wrapped up in positive packaging makes you a much more attractive companion. Just because someone’s agreed to spend time with you doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to spend it as your therapist, so accept the dating process for what it is: A chance to get to know someone better, not vent. Stick to more positive stories and see if you don’t find yourself in a more positive place, dating-wise.
Jerusha Stewart, a.k.a. The Last Single Girl in the World, reveals how to be singularly sensational in her book The Single Girl’s Manifesta.