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It’s the question all singletons dread being asked: “But why are you still single?”
“Well I’m glad you asked, Brenda - it’s because I’m a horrible person and can’t be bothered to leave the house,” said no one ever.
Most single people don’t have an explanation for why they’re single - some of us aren’t in a relationship by choice, others suspect it might be down to underlying commitment issues, and then there’s the old adage that we just haven’t met the right person yet.
But according to a psychologist, there’s one reason so many of us are single: self-sabotage.
It’s something we often don’t realise we’re doing, but Melanie Schilling says that “most people play a significant role in keeping themselves single.”
She describes self-sabotage as: “actively undermining and blocking opportunities for social interaction or dating potential. Essentially telling the world you are not interested in a relationship - either consciously or unconsciously.”
So even if you don’t think you’re voluntarily without a partner, it might all be down to your actions.
“It’s common to blame external factors - for example, ‘it’s too cold, I’ll start dating after winter’ or ‘there’s a man drought’ - and at the core of most self-sabotage is fear,” Schilling told HuffPost Australia.
It’s understandable that many people hold themselves back to protect themselves from getting hurt - this mainly comes down to fear of rejection and a desire to avoid vulnerability.
“Often when people have been emotionally scarred in the past - and let’s face it, who hasn’t - it’s common to be self-protective. But there is a difference between being healthily sceptical and undermining your own happiness,” Schilling explained.
Many people who unknowingly sabotage their chances of finding love hold at least one of three types of negative dating beliefs: about yourself (eg. “I’m better off single”), about men and women (eg. “They’ll probably cheat on me”) and about relationships (eg. “I don’t have time for a relationship”).
According to Schilling, you’re not ready to date if you still hold some of these beliefs.
So what can you do?
It may be a cliché, but Schilling believes there’s a lot to be said for learning to love yourself before you can love anyone else.
“Self-compassion and self-awareness are the first steps in attracting and developing a positive relationship,” she says.