One of the most common questions that I get from people sounds something like…
“I’ve been single for so long even though I deeply want a relationship. What gives?”
Over the last 15+ years of working with thousands of clients, I’ve noticed some patterns.
Here are five reasons that people stay single longer than they want to (and what to do about each one).
1. They still have someone they’re in a semi-relationship with
One of the most common reasons people stay single is because they haven’t completely given up a previous relationship they’re in.
This could look like a friends-with-benefits situation… an ex-spouse you’re still overly close to… or your on-again-off-again person you keep going back to whenever you’re both single.
In other words, if you’re getting enough of your relationship needs met (emotional intimacy, warmth, sexual connection, etc.) via your partial relationship, then it makes sense that you wouldn’t feel as compelled to venture out into the world of dating to find someone you feel truly aligned with on every level.
What to do about it: acknowledge what’s happening and audit if this is what you truly want. If it isn’t, then it’s time to end or renegotiate the relationship.
2. They don’t cut their losses soon enough
Another reason that someone can’t find their forever person is because they waste far too much time in relationships with minimal potential.
If this type of person dates potential partners for months or even years beyond their expiry date, then they get the secondary payoff of never actually being available for a bigger, more heart-aligned relationship.
One of the sneakiest ways that the ego keeps someone away from a true, honest relationship, is keeping them stuck in misaligned connections well beyond the justified period of ‘We’re just seeing where it goes.’
What to do about it: cut your losses. If you’re in touch with yourself and you have a healthy amount of discernment, you’ll likely know within a few dates (or possibly a few weeks) whether or not this connection has any real potential. Once you know it isn’t what you’re looking for, it’s time to move on so that you can create the space for a healthier, more aligned relationship that can go all the way.
3. The benefits they get from being single outweigh the assumed benefits of being in a relationship
Whenever I ask someone who has been single for longer than they’d prefer, ‘What do you most enjoy about being single?’, their face lights up like a Christmas tree.
They’ll say things like, ‘I honestly just love having so much alone time’, or, ‘I love not having to consider anyone else in the decisions that I make.’
Ultimately, every decision we make comes down to the behavioural leverage points of pain and pleasure. And if we primarily associate relationships with pain and primarily associate being single with pleasure, then yes, it absolutely stands to reason that people who feel that way will continue to opt for being single.
What to do about it: reality test your assumptions that you can’t have the best parts of being single while in a relationship. Question if the positive parts of being single are all they’re cracked up to be, or if you could continue to experience those things while being in a relationship. And then also reality test your assumptions about what you can or cannot have while being in a relationship.
4. They’re afraid of relationships due to past experiences
Some people subconsciously remain single because they had one (or several) negative relationship experiences in the past, and they’re afraid that they will continue the same pattern with all future partners.
While this resistance is understandable, it would only make sense if the person in question is a static entity that hasn’t grown at all since they first experienced that pattern to begin with.
What to do about it: Feel into whether or not you have grown as a person since you first called in the negative relationship experience. If the answer is no, then some coaching or therapy work might be beneficial. If the answer is yes, then congratulations! You have changed, and so there is a very high probability that the type of partner you will call in will also change. To be certain, simply go slow and use your discernment when meeting new potential partners.
5. They have a story that some part of them is flawed, bad, or unlovable
One of the most common reasons that people stay single for longer than they’d like is that they are secretly at war with some part of themselves.
And it usually isn’t a tiny, insignificant part of themselves. More often than not, it’s one of their most significant traits.
Why is this the case?
Because the most significant things about us tend to attract the most wounding when we receive negative feedback about them in our earliest years.
The person with the big, loving, sensitive heart? They think their big heart is a curse, instead of a blessing.
The person who is direct, assertive, and clear on what they want? They get told they’re bossy, intense, and too much… and they shrink away from life as a result.
The person who is creative, open, and in awe of their world? They receive the feedback that they’re unrealistic, a dreamer, always lost in the clouds… and so they cut off their gifts and get a more reasonable, grounded job.
It makes sense that if we see one of the most beautiful, lovable, unique things about us as a negative trait… a curse… a burden… that there would be negative consequences to that faulty self-perception.
And if we carry a story around that some part of us is unlovable, then we tend to call in potential partners who agree with that story, and also dislike that aspect of us.
What to do about it: audit the things about yourself that you are secretly (or not so secretly) at war with, and begin to shift your relationship with those aspects for the better. As you begin to love those things that you previously deemed as faulty or wrong about, don’t be surprised when you start to call in new potential partners who find those very things to be your most charming, lovable characteristics.
It All Starts With You
The common through line in what keeps someone single longer than they’d like to be is simply being in full relationship with reality.
Audit the places that your existing/past relationships are standing in the way of what you’re calling in, and do the work of clearing them out. Then, ensure your expectations of relationships are true and fully aligned, and that your relationship to yourself is a healthy one.
Do all of that with an honest effort, and watch as the type of potential partners you call in radically transforms faster than you ever thought possible.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also benefit from the following:
– Join The Circle, my online community group where I offer weekly coaching calls.