Being single doesn’t have to mean unhappiness, just like long-term relationships and marriage are not the only paths to happiness. In fact, they’re not the paths to happiness at all.
Psychologist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., who specializes in being single, frequently reminds her clients, listeners, and readers of a hard truth: if you are unhappy before being in a relationship, your relationship won’t magically fix your unhappiness. Similarly, if you have low self-esteem or any kind of mental/emotional health issue, a relationship won’t magically fix that either. Somewhere in our brains, most of us know this, but television, books, and movies so frequently tell us the opposite that we seem to nevertheless believe it somewhere deep down inside.
Some people quite enjoy the single life and have a great time basking in the independence it provides. Others aren’t built for that. But even if you fall into the second category, it can sometimes be wise to be single for a period of time, if not forever. There are many potential signs that singleness might be best for you at least for a little while. No one can tell you if this is the case or how long it should last except for you, but asking yourself these questions is a good way to check in with what might be best for you at this time.
1. Is anything still unresolved with your ex, even if it’s only unresolved for you?
In other words, do you engage in behavior like still talking to your ex frequently? Checking up on your ex on social media when you’re bored or sad? Spending time in your day thinking about how much you hate and resent them? This whole spectrum of behavior can be a big red flag that you are not over your past relationship yet, and that even if you don’t go through each day crying about your breakup, you might carry unwelcome baggage from it. Remaining single while digesting your feelings about your breakup and relationship will help keep you from carrying into your next relationship.
2. Do you have unresolved mental health issues for which you’re getting no help?
Don’t get me wrong – almost everyone has some unresolved mental health issues. But if you have mental health issues that impact your day-to-day life and you’re currently receiving no help for them in any way, then this is probably not the best time to start a relationship. They won’t go away in a relationship and might cause a strain in the relationship, even if you’re with a really good person who just wants to help you. Stay single and work on yourself.
3. How does being single affect your self-esteem?
Lots of people who have low self-esteem believe that it’s because no one loves them romantically, and if only someone did love them the issues would vanish. Let me be loud and clear about this, though: no one can make you feel worthy of love until you yourself believe that you are. Until you internalize that belief within yourself, you’re setting yourself up for huge disappointment in future relationships.
4. Would you describe yourself as afraid of being alone / single?
We all know people like this if we haven’t been there ourselves – people who can hardly wait to start a new relationship the moment after a previous one ends because they just can’t handle being alone. There are a lot of problems with this tendency, not the least of which is that it lowers your standards. When you’re afraid of being alone you start rationalizing away potential partners’ flaws or incompatibilities just so that you can be with someone. Such self-deception is never the start of a healthy relationship.
5. Are you in the middle of a crazy busy time in life?
Of all the questions in this list, this one might be the one with the most wiggle room: personalities vary so drastically that some wizards of time management might actually be able to juggle a jam-packed schedule and a new relationship and maintain their sanity. But for others (probably most people), crazy busy times in life are not ideal for trying to get to know someone and establishing a connection with them. So if you’re two months away from getting your Master’s degree while working full-time and looking after your sister’s children on the weekends, for instance, you might want to just put all romantic possibilities on hold, if only for a brief time.
6. Have you experienced a series of bad relationships?
If so, then you’d probably be better off taking some time to really evaluate what’s going on before you jump into another relationship. Is there something that you could change about how you relate to a significant other? Is there a certain type of person you’re drawn to that isn’t good for you? It’s hard to be honest with yourself about things like this, so really taking the time to try to do so is essential. Talking to a therapist can be a particularly helpful step if you’ve reached this point.
Maybe you feel uncertain about what the best step for your overall health would be in your romantic life. If so, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult.