It’s hard to find or keep someone when you have reasons why you wouldn’t. Here are 5 attitudes that keep people single and relationships short.
I was out with a few different groups of mainly men and then mainly women over the last month or so. It’s always interesting to hear how the conversation shifts when the topic of relationships comes up when there’s no or few people of the opposite sex around.
Inevitably someone asks if anyone is going out with someone, or how a particular relationship is going. The other day one of the guys got asked if his relationship was still going. He said no and made some complaint about how women can be. A few of the other guys joined in in agreement and all had a little quip about it. I recall a similar conversation on how men can be with a group of women.
Social media once again seems to be the place this plays out most prevalently. There are several thousand pages where every post draws on some key relationship issue that results in thousands to millions of comments. The pages for 9Honey and QUT Love Letters are some of the ones I see get shared or interacted with a lot.
But the truth about finding love, as I cautioned this group of guys, is that you can’t keep certain attitudes if you want to love a woman. Or a man. There are certain realities that are inherent in relational dynamics that need to be accepted if you want to have any chance of successfully dating someone. And beyond that – to keep up the committed relationship for years to come.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are 5 attiudes that keep people single and keep relationships short. There are obviously the factors of a second person to consider and the other person will always have their decisions to make well beyond our control.
But I continue to see that these same attitudes getting repeated in relationship after shortlived/only ever potential relationship and are worth calling out.
You can either keep these, or keep a partner.
#1: I’m too busy
I’ve wrote about this one in quite a bit of detail before, but this is one I’ve seen crop up a lot again recently. This tends to be used a lot by women who are trying to build their career and thinking whether or not to date, or by men who have been in a relationship for some time and decide they’re going to focus their efforts elsewhere.
In fact multiple studies and business focused groups identify that men in particular throw themselves into their work at the expense of their relationships. Some American research notes a higher divorce rate than the average for those who consider themselves workaholics. I even just remember how many 90s/early 2000s movies are about career focused dads who neglect their wives and kids at the expense of both.
I think the main reason for men is that if they feel like they’re not doing well somewhere, they go to the place that they feel they are doing well to compensate.
For women, although these sort of attitudes can also exist in wives and/or working mums, it seems that it’s the idea of dating at all during certain time windows that is more likely to get dropped. A 2018 study had 44% of women saying living on their own was the number one priority of their whole 20s, with 20% saying getting married was.
I’ve got nothing against a woman in a strong career at all but it’s interesting to me that the choice is career or love, not career and love. I’ve met very few men personally who have this dilemma – it seems like finding love is always on a man’s radar and I can’t think of many men who have said they couldn’t go out with someone because they’re focussing on their career.
These are not new problems at all though, with even the late Tolkien using his whole narrative of The Hobbit in the 1930s to make the point that “If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place”. And I’m reminded of Maria’s dilemma in The Sound Of Music and understanding that loving a man didn’t mean loving her God or her service to the church any less.
Any person you could date or keep will need room in your calendar, room in your home, room in your energy, and room in your heart to be able to start the initial dating conversation, and even moreso to stay permanently. And you actually need that room ready otherwise if a great person comes along, they’ll have nowhere they can fit in your life.
Do you have enough room? Will you make enough room?
#2: All women are “blah”
Another of the attitudes that keep people single is the big sweeping statements that get made about how women are, without an actual effort towards understanding.
I think we’re all familiar with how sexist and ugly the chats in and around boys clubs can be and its contributions to rape culture and making women feel unvalued.
But even to a lesser extreme, these sort of sweeping matter-of-fact statements and attitudes on their own can be genuinely disruptive to men in their dating endeavours, and also even to women as they date.
“Women are too emotional“. “Women are too clingy”. “Women get upset too easy”. “Women always blow things out of proportion”. Have you heard any of these before? I have, usually followed by a guy saying “So I broke up with her”.
But it’s not good enough, gents, to keep these attitudes if you want to keep a woman. You may have frustrations with how women think and operate differently to men, but if you want to date, marry, and stay married (not to mention any daughters), you need to commit to learning how they work, and why.
Otherwise your life will be like the life of a Seinfeld episode – a new girlfriend every week, with you having the same reasons for breaking it off every time.
If you find any of these a problem that you’re not willing to learn about and appreciate, then you’re not ready to date or marry. I’ll tell you now before a woman tells you later. I’ve found one of the worst things a man can be is dismissive of a lady’s experiences.
Female brains are different. Female experiences have been different. The things they tend to emphasise and consider important may seem different. Female communication is different, usually preferring circles to straight lines. All the details matter, not just the bullet points we’re quick to jump to. These aren’t bad, these are differences that too many men are too quick to dismiss and get frustrated about.
And I also want to mention that many women carry these sort of attitudes towards themselves. Rather than seeking to understand why they act or think or react in certain ways, they feel trapped by sweeping statements without the understanding underneath. And it’s hard to relate healthily to others without an understanding of your own behaviour.
#3: All men are “blah”
In a similar fashion, attitudes that keep people single include how they see and handle men.
It seems the general consensus is that men are simple to understand and women are complicated. And yet it’s amazing to think how many men feel and are in practice misunderstood by the women who want to date them or stay with them.
“Men are just always horny”. “Men are too immature“. “Men can be super sensitive”. I’m gonna tell you these tend to be very true. Of all men. Most of the time.
But why? What’s the horniness about? Primal instincts, or the need to feel loved and celebrated? After all, men are only ever after one thing.
What’s the immaturity about? A Peter Pan syndrome that’s never been addressed, or a temporary escape or coping mechanism from a stressful life? One you certainly want to stay away from, the other you need to love and accept about the way he will handle the world.
Why is this grown man as sensitive as your young son? Because maybe there’s a part of a man’s heart that never changes even as the years drag on.
Understanding is the key. For a woman wanting to date a man – learning to understand him to the same degree every woman desires to be understood. And as a man – understanding why I’m this way beyond the blanket statements that we just say and accept without thought.
Bobbie Houston at a Sisterhood conference a number of years ago rightly highlighted that boys require appreciation and affection, and this never changes.
#4: I don’t have to change
This is an extension of the previous two, or perhaps it is the root issue behind both? The view that one doesn’t have to change for love.
But you do.
Your understanding needs to grow. Your ability to dream needs to be for two now. You have to want to do something someone else does. You have to be happy to forego some control for additional happines.
And you have to be able and willing to deal with continual change – of your partner, and even of yourself.
#5: I haven’t found someone
The fact that I list this very real dilemma for many as an attitude keeping people single and relationships short seems a bit strange, but hear me out.
I think it’s very important to find someone you want to be with. More than that, someone who will look after you, who has good accountability, who is actively moving forward with their lives, and a compatible dream. More on that in 10 Signs You’ve Found Marriage Material
But I must say, when the emphasis becomes completely on finding the right person alone, we miss the point.
One of my pastors growing up, Bruce Hills, always used to say that marriage wasn’t about finding the right person as much as it was about being the right person. I think the older I’ve gotten and the longer I’ve been married the more I realise how much this is true.
In the corporate world I’ve seen a continual push towards enabling organisations and teams to take responsibility and avoid getting caught in the blame game. This is a topic almost weekly written about on platforms such as LinkedIn such as Ron Prasad’s Empowering Responsibility vs. Toxic Blame. Psychologists also seem to have made a noted shift towards people taking into consideration what’s within their control vs. what’s out of their power to do anything about.
And yet in the world of love and relationships, we don’t have the same belief system for some reason. It’s always some external factor, or another person’s contribution or lack thereof.
As a result, we can very easily become people who are always looking for the right person and giving insufficient thought or effort into being the right one.
If I want someone rich – do I earn enough myself or have good financial strategies for my life? If I want someone who is emotionally capable and with great vision for their life – do I have strong supports and motivated forward motion towards who I want to be? If I want to be understood – do I continually grow in my understand of others? If I want a servant hearted spouse – how do I serve others?
And more than just having that in place long enough to get the girl or impress a guy – am I committed to keeping this up for life?
Relationship counsellor Esther Perel wrote in Mating in Captivity, “Love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning.“
In a similar vein, author Gary Thomas in A Lifelong Love writes, “A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make“.
By all means, try to find the right person. But we must never neglect in the process our priority to be and continue to be the right person. Our emphasis must be on this more than it is on what everyone else can do for us.
There are many attitudes that keep people single or keep relationships short. And the good news is that we don’t have to keep them with us.
Every person is a true gift. Even moreso having a life partner calibre individual enter your life. With the right level of value and measured consideration of what it takes to pursue and continue to look after someone like this, it’s very possible to live a happy and fulfilled love life.
Conversely, if we continue to carry limited mindsets, largely centred around our willingness to change and grow or not, we shortcircuit what could be great opportunities.
I get really sad when I see two great people miss each other because of things like these. Or relationships that have every bit of potential and alignment to truly go the distance, but then end far too soon.
May you find great success in your endeavours towards finding, building and sustaining a lifelong love in your own life.