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Are you wondering if you can be happily single? Are you having some issues with couplehood? Start by considering our conversation with Dr. Michael Broder, a psychologist and relationship guru in Philadelphia who has authored books and audio programs and has operated his own clinical practice.
From Broder's perspective, whether or not you can be happily single boils down in part to how you regard solitude. "People who are not happily single turn solitude into loneliness," Broder says. That and self-loathing are the main emotional issues in being single if you're the type who has a hard time living life without a mate. "For these folks, it's like the whole world is having a party and they aren't invited. Or, if they are invited, they feel like a fifth wheel." If you find yourself single and struggling with loneliness, Broder encourages you to learn to enjoy your solitude -- it is after all a precious thing -- and to reject the clichés about being on your own. The clichés simply aren't true.
One main thing that keeps women from hooking up -- or from being happy when they are in a relationship -- is what Broder dubs "soulmate syndrome." "This is the notion that there's the 'soulmate' out there," he says. The extent to which you believe there's one somebody who can be and do all for you, is the extent to which you're not being realistic about relationships. "In the 'soulmate syndrome,' there's an unspoken assumption that all the issues will be effortless -- there won't be a need to discuss things and work them through. He'll know just what kind of gift to get you, he'll know exactly what you need sexually, and on and on," Broder says. If you have no problem meeting someone suitable but cannot seem to get involved, or if you are usually well-adjusted in a relationship but you seem unable to find satisfaction, it's possible that something like soulmate syndrome is at work.
Broder says where suitability is concerned, there's a difference between good and good enough. "It's not a matter of settling," he says. "It's more a matter of understanding that instead of 100 percent, maybe it will be 70, 80, or 90. Anything above 70 is a passing score." Whether or not you accept a C for yourself or in a mate is another story. But there's a lot to be said for exploring your expectations and standards and determining if anyone can live up to them all or even part of the time. You have to distinguish between the myths the movies perpetuate and real life. "People get lastability [the ability of a relationship to endure over time] confused with initial passion. Those some-enchanted-evening moments are more about passion than anything lasting," Broder says. We all know initial passion is delicious, but after it dies away, it's all about staying power and what it takes to make things work. The trick is to choose well so you're putting energy into staying with a suitable situation.
At some point, Broder says, "meant to be single" is about expectations, specifications, and mathematics. "It's a truism that if your specs are too high, your emotional obstacle course too mined, your unwillingness to do what you have to do to meet lots of people too strong, you're leaving it to chance. The best relationships start when you meet as many people as possible and make your choices based on the pool of available people." If you're not painfully single and you're putting energy into other things and not worrying about meeting someone, there's no need to go on a campaign to increase your chances. It might just be that you're meant to be single. If later in life you end up meeting someone some enchanted evening or on a hike in the woods -- in spite of the odds, it's healthy to have had a lot of alone time in which you've developed some independence.