In my work with thousands of clients over the years, there is one question that comes up all of the time when people are struggling with their relationships, dating, and heartbreak. The question is this:
Is there something wrong with me that is keeping me single?
Is this the question that plagues you every time a relationship ends, or when you struggle to get a relationship to start? Trust me, it is a universal human question. So, what’s the answer? Well… I’m going to be as blunt as possible here.
(But I promise...you're not broken. Your brain is just sabotaging your efforts for a relationship.)
First and foremost, this is not a finger pointing moment of self-blame and shame. Let’s wrap this moment in some self-compassion, remembering that you are human. Let’s talk about what might be at play here, that makes you the common denominator in your single or unhappy relationship status.
Your mind likes to trick you into believing that you are the victim of your relationships. If you are mad at me for writing this and calling you out on your pattern, or you find yourself wanting to convince me that you’ve been a victim to someone who hurt you, left you, betrayed you…etc, etc, etc in your past, keep reading. That’s called the voice of sabotage and it is keeping you stuck. And single. And to combat the voice of sabotage, you must first gain awareness that this voice is present, and then commit to taking responsibility for changing it.
This is the thing… when you take responsibility for where you are in life and love, and all of the choices that you’ve made up until this very moment, you get to be in charge. It means that no one else has the power to define you, or your current relationship status. It also means that you no longer get to be the victim of crappy ex-boyfriends, bitchy ex-wives, or any other person who’s been invited into your heart over the years. Nope…The truth is, you are solely responsible for where you are at this very moment. Awareness and responsibility are the keys to help stop the sabotaging power of your mind.
Sabotage has two purposes. To keep you safe, and to keep you small.
What does sabotage mean? It means that you have an unconscious pattern or process that is working against your highest good. (Remember that part about needing awareness?) When something is unconscious, or subconscious, it means that we lack awareness of it. This is how sabotage takes hold. It remains hidden, but it has great power. Sabotage prevents us from achieving something that would make us happy. It keeps us small, and stuck in repetitive patterns. Sabotage limits our potential for greatness, especially when it comes to something vulnerable, like relationships.
So how do you know if you might be sabotaging your chances for love? To begin with, let’s remember that you’re human, and relationships take work. The key here is to develop an ability to see the proverbial “forest through the trees” when it comes to your history with love. There are actually several ways that we can sabotage our chances for love, but I’m going to highlight three of the most common patterns that keep your relationship status stuck on “single”.
1) You get too anxious in relationships.
Do you become preoccupied with worry and anxious thoughts after a date or in the beginning of a relationship? Your mind may race with thoughts like this:
-Is he going to text me? (And you can’t keep your eyes off your phone, in anxious anticipation).
-It’s been 12 hours and I still haven’t heard from her! Should I text again?
-Did I say the wrong thing? I shouldn’t have told that story about me as a kid. It was TMI, as in too much information!
-You may even pretend to act disinterested or play “hard to get” with a date or partner when they’ve taken too long to connect with you, even though you really want more connection.
This is likely part of what I call an “anxious attachment” system. Your brain may be wired to rely heavily on connection and reassurance in relationships, and when you sense a distance between you and someone you like, it triggers a tremendous amount of anxiety. If you find a partner who can’t tolerate this, you will end up pushing people away. The good news is, there are ways to understand how this works in your brain and find partners who will embrace this part of you.
2) You’re uncomfortable with commitment.
-Is your pattern to sabotage a relationship right at the moment it starts to inch toward a commitment?
-Do you panic when someone you’re dating wants to talk about their feelings for you?
-Do you get hung up on “nitpicky”, superficial qualities (like they are too tall, not educated enough, or have brown hair instead of blond) in dates that prevent you from moving forward with a relationship?
-You may have a tendency to feel really uncomfortable with intimacy and value your independence.
This is a possible sign of an avoidant attachment system that can block your efforts at close relationships. It means that your brain is wired to avoid intimacy, even if you have an idea that you want commitment. It can be challenging, but can be remedied, if you’re committed to gaining awareness and working through its limitations. If you’re interested in learning more about your attachment style, click below for my free Dating Attachment Style Quiz.
3)You’re not being authentic.
You may have some underlying beliefs that you’re not good enough, not lovable, not attractive, or other limiting ideas of yourself. These beliefs will sabotage you every time, because if you don’t feel good about who you are, you will hide your true self in relationships. When you’re hiding your true self, how can someone fall in love with the “real” you? Pretending to be someone you’re not might work to ignite a connection in a new relationship, but eventually, you may discover that the two of you are a mismatch for each other. It takes courage to be authentic on a date when you’re seeking the approval of a stranger. Building your self-esteem and confidence is vital if you want to thrive in the dating world and find a relationship that lasts.
If you see any of these patterns at work in your relationships, I can help. I am a therapist and relationship coach with over 20 years of experience helping people find love in their lives. I can help you identify your sabotaging patterns that keep you single, and help you find a way to love yourself in the process.