by Nancy Travers,LCSW
Q: Lately I have been feeling very lonely and my hopes of establishing a long-term relationship are beginning to dwindle. I seem to date a lot and have a lot of sex, but there’s really no one that I have ever been interested in settling down with. What do you think may be the cause of this? Am I too picky? Do I have commitment issues? Is it possible I would just be happier alone and therefore sabotage potential relationships?
Great questions! First let me start by saying that you are not alone. The most common issues I hear people talking about are relationships, dating and sex. In reading your questions there seems to be a common underlying issue at the heart of all of your questions. What do the tapes in your head say about yourself, dating and relationships? How do these messages affect how you live your life; i.e. work, hobbies, social groups and friends? How are you living your life, are you active or do you isolate yourself? How do these messages contribute to your feelings of loneliness? In today’s society where we are connected instantly by computers, cell phones, and faxes – immediate gratification! We are not taught to be patient and are unused to waiting. I believe this has affected our expectations of dating, sex and relationships; we want that same instant gratification. The pursuit of instant gratification can create or intensify feelings of loneliness.
Let’s look at your core beliefs, I would like to start with a couple of questions to ask yourself; what would I have to give up in order to be in a long-term relationship? The answer to this question is why you do not have a partner and the answer can be surprising. I have found everyone holds core beliefs about relationships and ourselves whether we are conscious of them or not. Common problematic core beliefs are, for example, “Nobody wants me”, “I am not good enough”, “I would have to give up total independence in a relationship”, etc. What are your core beliefs? Generally, there is a pattern to the type of people we pick to have relationships with and they usually reinforce our core beliefs. By picking people who reinforce your core beliefs you are increasing your chances of sabotage and loneliness. Your questions state “there’s no one that you have ever been interested in settling down with”, how is this connected to your core beliefs? How much time do you spend getting to know your dates? The answer to this question could be related to being “too picky”.
Next let’s look at the type of character traits you like and want to see in another person. I find most people are not clear and detailed about what they want and don’t want in a long-term relationship. Looking at character traits can tell you a lot about a person if you are paying attention. People usually tell us who they are and we chose not to see or hear them but instead paint our own picture. A good exercise to try is to describe your ideal partner with paper and pen, what do they look like, what kind of job do they have, how much money do they make, what specific qualities do they possess, what are their character strengths and weakness, what are their hobbies, and their likes and dislikes. Remember we all have flaws, some flaws you can live with and some you absolutely cannot.
So now let’s look at your dating habits. Most people spend more time interviewing for a job or a place to live than we do for a long-term partner. I view dating as an interview process. It is good to date many people to consider for the position. However, I have to say this up front, having sex is NOT part of the interview process. Sex is not an indicator of a person’s willingness to enter into a long-term relationship and once the pressure or expectation to have sex is off and you can look clearly at the other person. In addition, having a lot of sex can isolate you and intensify feelings of loneliness; this can also be an indicator of a bigger issue. I have discovered people will make one of two mistakes by the end of the very first date; you are either picking out china patterns by dessert or you’ve decided to toss that particular fish right back in the ocean. I recommend when you meet someone there should be 3-5 dates (interviews) before making a decision whether to proceed with more dates. Unless – the Exception rule – there are red flags. Red flags are things like your date gets drunk, does drugs or drools at the table in which case, run quickly in the other direction. Another issue I consider a red flag are those dates that bring their suitcase with them to dinner and insist on bringing out their laundry piece by piece, we’ve all had one of those dates. Dates should be set up so you can get to know one another, not activities like the movies where there is no talking or interaction. It is also important to examine your behavior on dates, are you committing red flags?
Finally, dating and relationships are not easy; finding the right person to have a long-term relationship with is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. There may be some left over issues you have regarding commitment that could be addressed with some short-term counseling. The key steps are to self examine (core beliefs), know what you want, develop good dating habits and go out there and get what you want. You deserve it!!
Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 orÂ contact us.
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As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.