Each week in February, your Work/Life team has invited therapists and dating professionals in the community to respond to questions about relationships. For this final blog in the series, we asked our experts…
How do you thrive as a single person?
Kate Freiman-Fox, Ph.D.
Matchmaking, Date and Relationship Coaching
Don’t assume being single is a handicap. Many singles are walking around like their singledom is a badge of shame. There are actually many freedoms you enjoy because you are single. Be open to friendships with married people as well as other singles. People are a lot lonelier when stuck in a bad relationship, so enjoy the possibility of finding a great new romance. Thriving as a human means being able to love and to work and being passionate about both. That passion is inside you and ready to be sparked at any moment.
It is true that people thrive in the context of community. Go out and find communities to be a part of. Join a bowling league. Join multiple Meet-Up groups that care about the things you care about. Keep in touch with the people you meet there. Make new friends. Do something good for your community while still taking excellent care of yourself. Reach out to people at work, at church and in your neighborhood. You never know where your next best friend is going to come from.
In developing your community of friends, make sure that you get out of the virtual realm and are spending time with real flesh and blood, face-to-face, huggable humans. While there, give and ask for hugs. They are easy to give and get and you are unlikely to be exposed to germs!!
Keep reaching out. There are a myriad of people waiting to reach back for you!
Kate Double, MSW, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Although humans are programmed to have a primary attachment person, not all adults are able to find (or interested in finding!) a romantic partner to fill that space. Cultivating ways to be happy with any relationship status can be critical to health and wellbeing. A positive step is to create a balance between all areas of life, and protecting enough space for work, friendship, family, hobbies, spirituality, and healthy habits. For many, dating is a part of the equation. Although some people meet organically, much of modern dating happens online. There is no shortage of stories about disastrous dates, but there are a lot of couples that meet online and find long-term happiness together. Staying active in hobbies can also be a part of the process of meeting others. If you have a lot of hobbies listed in online profiles that are rarely pursued in real life, it makes sense to increase your participation in those activities, or to cultivate new interests, which will often have the effect of increasing the chances that you will meet someone with similar interests. Staying socially connected to others is important regardless of dating status. As I always tell patients, there are a lot of ways to not be lonely. With an active social life, a career to foster, potential relationships to explore, and interests to develop, all single adults can grow and thrive in the absence of romantic attachments.
If you have a strong sense of self, your own friendships and connections to things that are meaningful for you, if life overall is really great - awesome. If you are in that camp and have been trying to find a love interest with no success, then I am really sorry that at this point you and your future partner’s paths haven’t crossed. Because sometimes meeting that person really is the last thing that needs to happen.
Someone can have all of the social/emotional tools necessary to be in a healthy relationship. Their online dating profile could be a case study in exactly what to do. They participate in activities, finding plenty of opportunities to meet new people. And yet still they just haven’t found that right person. And that is hard in our culture that bombards us with messages about self-improvement. They might think there is something more that can be done when sometimes it comes down to just being in the right place at the right time. And I don’t have a great answer for that situation only to say there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to be changed or fixed.
You can feel really solid in your sense of self and be happy with your life but also still want a partner. It’s ok to feel lonely from time to time - and - it’s ok to not want to feel that way. This doesn’t mean you are not happy with your current life. You can thrive and also want to find a mate.
If this is the case I encourage you not to minimize any of your needs that aren’t currently being met through a romantic relationship. I don’t want to just tell someone who is single to work harder at loving themselves, because you can have a great deal of self-love and still want another person to share love with in a romantic, intimate, or sexual way. It’s ok to want that for yourself. It’s important to allow yourself to feel any loneliness, grief, or longing that may come up. In fact, I think allowing yourself to feel and honor those thoughts and emotions is going to be your key to continued thriving.