It can be frustrating and worrying being unable to make new relationships stick. You might find that you keep starting something, only to find that it falters after a few weeks or months. Or you may have trouble meeting anyone at all.
The first thing to say is perhaps there isn’t a problem at all. It can take time to meet someone who is right for you. And a little trial and error is always going to be part of the process. If this isn’t something that’s been going on for a really long time it could just be a case of being patient and carrying on.
However, if you’re worried that there’s something about the way you’re approaching relationships that’s causing an issue, you might like to think about some of the following.
Your expectations in a new relationship: It can be easy to go into dating with really high expectations. After all, finding a partner is a big deal: if things go well, this could be the person you spend the rest of your life with. Why wouldn’t you choose carefully?
Problems can come though when you’re being so discerning about potential partners that you don’t give any new relationship a chance to develop. We can fall into the trap of being so worried that someone is going to disappoint us that we end up waiting for them to do so – and picking up on any small thing as evidence that they have.
The truth is it’s unlikely anyone out there is totally perfect for you. Bluntly put: there’s no such thing ‘as the one’. But there could be lots of people who would make you happy – as long as you were both willing to give the relationship a chance. Sometimes it’s a case of trying for a little longer, even if this just means going on four or five dates before making a decision, instead one or two.
What are you looking for from a relationship?: Ideally, a new relationship should be something that will improve your life, but won’t be the thing on which your future happiness hinges. Some people find themselves looking for a new partner in the hope that this person will ‘complete’ or ‘fix’ them, but going about things in this way can put way too much pressure on both things. It can also mean entering into a new relationship too quickly, or making hasty decisions when it comes to choosing a partner.
If you’re searching for a relationship because you’re hoping it’ll be a substitute for happiness in other areas of your life, you may need to take a step back and think about whether there are others things you could be focusing on too, such as work, friends, hobbies or interests.
Low self-esteem is often part of this pattern of behaviour. If you think this might be the case with you, you might like to come in for an individual counselling session. Your counsellor will help you explore the potential causes and work with you to think about ways to address it.
Commitment issues: This phrase is used a lot and can mean a range of different things, but in general it describes feeling really anxious about being in a long term relationship. Commitment issues can be caused by all sorts of things. Perhaps you were hurt in a previous relationship and are worried it’s going to happen again. Maybe your parents had a troubled marriage and you’re scared things will be the same for you.
One thing about entering into a relationship is that it does entail some degree of risk. There’s no guarantee that things will go well, or you won’t be hurt, or you won’t find it difficult to adjust to sharing your time with someone else. But the benefits of making this change can be just as large as the challenges. Understanding and accepting that compromise is always a part of the process can make this transition easier.
Of course, the flip side of this might be that you don’t actually want to be in a relationship. Sometimes it can feel like becoming part of a couple is the ultimate goal in life, particularly if you’re getting a bit older or your friends are settling down. But there’s no obligation to be in one. Your priorities or lifestyle may mean that you’d be happier being single.
Again, individual counselling can be a good way of getting to the bottom of what may or may not be commitment issues, and can help you go forward with more confidence if you’re currently feeling confused.
Not wanting to date someone who isn’t your type: A lot of people have a fairly specific idea of the ‘type’ of person they like. They might feel they’re into sporty, energetic people, or shy, bookish people or outspoken, confident people. And while it’s definitely a good idea to have some idea of the kind of person you’re interested in, having too specific an idea can mean ruling out potential partners unnecessarily.
The truth is we often base our ‘type’ around fairly specific, often arbitrary characteristics. They’re built up from the kind of partner we’ve imagined for ourselves – the one we feel could be just around the corner if we keep waiting. Or our type can come from subconscious ideas: going for someone because they feel ‘familiar’, for example, which can often be something as attributable to ideas left in our subconscious by upbringing or past experiences as anything else.
Without completely compromising on the type of person we like spending time with or even fancy, it can be a good idea to be willing to date slightly outside of your ‘type’. You may find that you’re pleasantly surprised by how much you like someone you would have never gone for otherwise.
How you’re meeting people: On a more practical level, having trouble forming relationships can have a lot to do with where you’re looking. You might feel like you never have the opportunity to meet anyone outside of your social circle or work. But internet dating has revolutionised the number of opportunities to meet people. And if you’re already dating online, there are lots of different sites catering to specific interests, or ones that match people in different ways.
Are you too scattergun?: The other side of internet dating, of course, is that there can be too much choice. Dating apps can mean it can feel like there’s a whole world of potential partners out there at the swipe of a thumb – so how can you possibly choose between them? But you’re unlikely to be able to figure out if you could have a future with someone if you’re always thinking about all the people you’re not dating by being with them. Try giving someone your full attention – at least until you’ve got to know them better.
How we can help?
Relationship cousnelling is for single people too! Come in for an individual session and your counsellor can help you figure out why you might be having trouble forming relationships, and think about ways to address this.
Counselling can help:
Reassure you about where you are doing the right thing;
Review past relationships, their legacy and what you have learnt from them;
Look at any conscious and unconscious processes in your choice of partners and your ideas about relationships;
Support you in new relationships and any anxieties or questions they raise.
If you’d like to try out counselling, or find out more about it, call our friendly appointments team on 01234 356350 email us.