Alisa Goodwin Snell spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist before becoming a dating and relationship coach. She’s written several books for singles, been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide, and is a sought out public speaker.
Many singles can feel stuck, powerless, angry, or even resentful about their single status. Some may struggle to do what it takes to get out there and date. Some may resist the pressure to commit fully to their relationships. Or they may be doing everything they can, but their dating partners aren’t matching their efforts. Whatever the reason for your dating and relationship dissatisfaction, there are probably four underlying beliefs that are driving your emotions, behaviors, and disconnections.
Do you relate to any of these statements?
1. I often feel rejected, misunderstood, undervalued, or dismissed.
2. No matter how hard I try, nothing seems to change.
3. I know I should _________ (examples: lose weight, go to more social events, show more interest in others or my partner, encourage dates, call my girl/boyfriend, express my feelings, advance the relationship, etc.). But I just don’t feel any motivation. I often dread or resent the pressure to do these things.
4. Dating and relationships shouldn’t be this way. They should be natural, organic, easy, and comfortable. If they require work or seem difficult something must be wrong.
5. I shouldn’t have to change to be lovable, to date, or to get commitment.
6. If I struggle with attraction, chemistry, a person’s problems, or their emotional and physical flaws, I should just get out. These things don’t change. Someone else will be a better fit.
Minimization and All-or-Nothing Thinking
If you answered yes to statements 1, 2, and 6, you may be struggling with minimization and all-or-nothing thinking. Often, singles focus on what’s going wrong in their lives, relationships, and the world. Although this is natural, it is actually a choice. Believing is seeing. The more we focus on what is going wrong, the more convinced we become that what we see is real, thus dismissing evidence to the contrary. The truth is others do notice, invest, and value you, what you’re doing does make a difference, and issues with attraction, chemistry, or flaws are inherent to all relationships.
“Should-ing” and Passivity
If you answered yes to 3, 4, and 5 then your lack of motivation, connection, and excitement about dating and relationships is probably driven by your unfortunate use of the word “should.” When singles attempt to “should” themselves to lose weight, be social, commit, or engage fully in their relationships, they often feel an immediate disinterest in doing these things. Not only do “should” statements create feelings of shame and inadequacy, but they also decrease personal responsibility and connection. The more passive and disengaged singles are in dating and relationships, the less passion they feel (adding significantly to the problem). Additionally, the belief that relationships should be easy and natural sets an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation (another hazard of the “should” word). The best way to avoid these stumbling blocks is to eliminate the should word whenever you or others use it. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I want in dating and relationships? What do I value about my partner and our relationship? What qualities are important to me in a relationship and how can I help foster them?” Then invest fully; not because you should, but because you’ve committed to what you want and value.
Waiting to feel something before you act means your life will be as unpredictable as your emotions. Instead, choose what you value, act consistent with this, look for what is going right, have reasonable expectations, and you will find that your emotions and relationships will progress and deepen significantly.