Being single is many things to many people. For some, being single is hard, for others, it’s liberating. Some are single by choice, others would love to be in a wonderful relationship that lasts a lifetime.
So what can you do differently to change your own circumstances if you’re not happy being single (even if you are telling yourself and others that you are)?
First, let’s look at some significant changes in the romantic partnering landscape.
How The Romantic Partnership Landscape Changed
How we find romantic partners now is drastically different to how we formed these unions for most of human existence.
As noted by researchers  citing a book by Coontz, 2006, up until just a few generations ago, marriages were arranged in most Western societies.
Then, about 10 years ago, using online dating was still quite the taboo topic.
Fast forward to today and many people are either scarred by their past or afraid of the state of dating today.
No doubt a lot of the mess we’re in today is because of the ability to see alternatives, and ‘make friends’ with, and flirt ‘oh so innocently’ (no such thing) with people other than one’s spouse or partner.
And The Singles Said…
Looking to shed a light on why people are single, Apostolou et al. (2020)  asked 648 American singles (341 men, 307 women) to rate 92 possible reasons for singlehood. The mean ages were 37.2 years for the men and 42.2 years for the women. These participants referred to themselves as either single or divorced.
The researchers found the most prevalent reasons for being single were:
- poor flirting skills,
- willingness to be free,
- fear of getting hurt,
- having different priorities,
- and being too picky.
So let’s dissect these 5 reasons for being single and I’ll provide you with some insights to help you start overcoming these barriers if they are, in fact, barriers for you. Plus, maybe by reading on you’ll recognise that you do actually want a relationship and that you can have one regardless of any fears that have been holding you back.
Reason #1 For Being Single: Poor Flirting Skills
When arranged marriages were the common western way for marital unions to be created, flirting wasn’t necessary because a match was made by parents and other elders, based on suitability. Now you’re making your own match, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still looking for your mutual suitability. You still are. And researchers have found that being a ‘good fit’ is key to couples that last .
So if you’re looking for a good fit, do you need to flirt? If there’s chemistry between you, mental and/or physical, you will flirt automatically. It’s involuntary body language that will spill out from within, naturally.
Maybe you’ve watched people flirt overtly and thought, ‘I don’t do that’ or ‘I don’t know how to be like that’. Then be like you. Be yourself. Find out if you’re a good fit based on values, interests, dreams, goals, attitudes, and so on. If you are, and if you are attracted to them, mentally and physically, as time goes by, as you get to know them, you’ll end up flirting with them in your own natural way.
Sure there are people who end up in relationships quickly and easily because they are good at flirting, but that’s also a way to end up in a relationship that isn’t a good fit, that more likely won’t last because it’s based on one factor fitting instead of the whole picture fitting, and consequently might actually be painful in the end and yet easily avoided with a little thought at the beginning.
Reason #2 For Being Single: Willingness To Be Free
Freedom in this study meant being free to flirt around and advance one’s career, and spend one’s free time as desired, for example, socialising with friends more.
Freedom in this sense is great, and maybe this is the perfect situation for you right now, maybe for a myriad of reasons. You know yourself best. Plus you may be enjoying single life right now with the intention of getting into a relationship at a later date. I want you to be happy and healthy, so if this is right for you right now, enjoy it with all your heart.
But just in case there is more to this than meets the eye, let’s run through a quick check together.
Firstly, as much as you love the freedom, are there things that you’re missing out on that you do actually want even more than being this free. Or are there things that you’ve forgotten that you like or love about being coupled up? Like someone to go on adventures with or someone to talk into the night with or someone to…
Are you pretending to yourself that you want freedom but are really scared of things that may not be, issues you’ve imagined based, perhaps based on your past experiences?
Everyone deserves a clean slate, including you. A new relationship is a new chance for bringing your best self, finding someone who deserves you and living out the type of life you’ve always wanted to share with someone. That is, if you do want to share your life with someone.
Secondly, are you single because you’ve been hurt and you’re pretending to yourself that you don’t want to be in a relationship again, even though you do, you just don’t want to be hurt again?
If so there are two things you need to do to overcome this barrier.
One, heal yourself to the point where you feel safe enough letting someone in, all the while knowing that there are no guarantees the relationship will last a lifetime but that you can do your best to ensure they are a good fit before you do give them access to your heart and life. If you need help with the healing, get it. That help can come in many forms from friends to coaches, to self-care and self-help books and articles, to travel and adventure and more.
Two, realise that the only way to trust someone is to give them a chance. Trust until they give you a reason not to. Then deal with that as it arises. You can still exit. And if someone’s broken your trust before, you’ll likely have a lower threshold for bulls**t so that’s on your side – you’ll protect your heart and life sooner. But if they turn out to be trustworthy and loving and all round wonderful…you’ll have let that into your life. And what a wonderful life that would be.
Reason #3 For Being Single: Fear Of Getting Hurt
Past relationships can be traumatic. This is why you should enter relationships thoughtfully, as discussed under ‘Reason #1…Poor Flirting Skills’. It’s also why you should heal and learn to give love another go, as discussed in the second half of ‘Reason #2…Willingness To Be Free’.
But also, rather than fearing the future, remember that every past relationship has taught you what you expect of a happy, healthy relationship, and what you are willing to accept going forward. Rather than let the past cast a shadow of fear, let it cast a light for clarity.
Whatever you focus your mind on, you will consciously and subconsciously work towards. Focus on what you do want.
Remember that the fear of future hurt is your imagination sabotaging you. Instead of fearing the unknown, learn to be intrigued by it instead. The only way you find healthy, lasting love is by venturing into that unknown.
So when you set off on that journey, just be present and thoughtful as you make acquaintance with potential suitors, don’t jump all in prematurely, and safeguard your mind, body and time.
Reason #4 For Being Single: Having Different Priorities
It may well make sense for you to want to focus on your career right now, or on becoming financially stable, or on taking care of your children, or something else. If you feel these areas of your life would be negatively impacted enough where being single feels like a worthy trade, fair enough. Trust your gut.
Just don’t be one of those people who is hiding from themselves by hiding behind excuses rather than reality. For example, if you’re using your children as an excuse but really you’re overweight and lacking confidence, then lose weight for the sake of your health and confidence, and then see if you still don’t want to find someone to share life with.
A good question to ask yourself to help you unravel the truth behind your ‘I have different priorities right now’ mindset is, ‘If my career/finances/children/[insert other priority] was/were not a concern right now, are there any other reasons why I wouldn’t want to find a spouse/parter right now?
Be honest with yourself, and if there are any reasons your mind throws up, ask yourself, ‘What simple steps can I start taking to resolve that barrier once and for all, so that I can share my life with someone special?’
Reason #5 For Being Single: Being Too Picky
I’ve yet to have a client who came for dating coaching who told me that they are too picky or that their friends say they’re too picky, who was actually too picky. Your choice of partner will affect your life. You should be picky.
So if you are actually being too picky it’s because you either have a fear you’re running away from or you have another reason you don’t want to be in a relationship (see previous sections), and you’re using being picky as a facade so you don’t have to face the reality.
To check, ask yourself, ‘What am I running away from that I’m keeping potential suitors at arms length?’ If the answer is, ‘Nothing’, then you’re not actually being too picky, you’re just being self-aware and you haven’t found the right person yet for some other reason. So ask yourself, ‘What can I do (differently) to find the type of spouse/parter I’m looking for?’ And start making those changes as soon as possible.
So Which Is It For You?
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your life choices; it matters that you make the right choices for you, and you do that by letting self-honesty guide you.
So what do you want to be? Do you want to be single or do you want to (be ready to) mingle?
1. Apostolou, M., O, J., & Esposito, G. (2020). Singles’ Reasons for Being Single: Empirical Evidence From an Evolutionary Perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 746. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00746
2. Barlow, A., Ewing, J., Janssens, A., & Blake, S. (2018). The Shackleton Relationships Project-Report and Key Findings. Exeter: University of Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10871/33708/Shackleton_Report__Final%20website%2026-07-18_.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y