It can be easy to feel as if there’s something wrong with being single. So much of what we see on a daily basis – adverts, movies, tv shows, books, music, social media - seems to suggest that life is all about being in a happy relationship with a loving partner.
But you can’t always guarantee being in a relationship. Sometimes, circumstance dictates you’ll be single – be this because our previous relationship has ended, work commitments are making things difficult, you've been bereaved or you just want some time on our own.
If you’re not able to cope with these periods of being alone, being single can sometimes be a lonely, difficult ordeal. You may feel like you’re missing out on life or ‘doing things wrong’ – and could end up making rash decisions when it comes to finding a new partner and getting into a relationship that is not right.
If the ending of a recent relationship has been particularly difficult or painful, or the relationship itself was in any way controlling or abusive, being on your own may feel, strangely, both a relief but also overwhelming. You may be left with a lot of ‘unfinished business’ or emotions that need to be processed and this takes time, and sometimes it may be helpful to find some professional support.
There are lots of reasons why some people develop a problematic attitude towards being single. Sometimes, it’s just down to personality type. Some people crave companionship more than others, preferring to have lots of company rather than spend time alone. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this – as long as it doesn’t mean you start to come undone when this company isn’t around.
It can also be influenced by what counsellors call your ‘family script’. This is where things you’ve observed growing up can influence your ideas as you get older. For instance, if you’re from a big, stable family, you may find it strange to be on your own as you’re less familiar with how it works. Likewise, if you’re more familiar with the effects of separation and how to deal with them from observing your parents or relatives as a child, you might be better prepared to face this sort of thing as an adult.
If you feel like your attitude towards attachment is creating problems, try not to worry. You aren’t stuck with it. Most people are capable of learning to adapt their behaviour and develop strategies for change. There are a few things you might like to consider.
Breaking it down
Sometimes, it’s about facing your fears. Ask yourself: what scares you about not being in a relationship? Breaking things down to specific issues can help you begin to understand what’s holding you back.
For instance, you may worry that others judge you when you’re single. From there you could think about trying to focus less on other people’s opinions. Or you may feel like you’re missing out when you’re not with someone – which might help you recognise that there’s only so much you can accomplish at any one time.
You might like also like to think about past experiences. Was there anything in your upbringing or in previous relationships that could be affecting how you think? This could be learned behaviours from when you were younger, as described above, or specific issues related to trauma or upset.
What do I want?
It can also be useful getting to know yourself a bit more. Having a better understanding of who you are and what you want can help you to feel more independent – and less like you need someone else to ‘complete’ you.
Think: what are your unique qualities, values, interests and ideas? If you’re finding this difficult, you might like to think about what your friends, work colleagues or family members might say.
Then think about the things that you like to do – the activities that make you feel good. Do you have hobbies, interests and passions that mark you out as a person? If not, you might like to think about some of the things you’d like to do – or even give them a try.
How we can help
If you’re looking for support with your relationships, we can help. We offer a range of ways to speak with a trained relationship expert including ongoing counselling, 30 minute web and phone chats, and one session therapy.
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