Holidays and Loneliness
By Keith Ablow, MD
Q: Because I’m single, I always feel as if I’m “odd woman out” during the holidays. After evenings and outings with family and friends, I come home to my lonely apartment and wonder what it is I’m doing so wrong, to be here alone. After 35 years, I have a right to have someone by my side, don’t I?
– Connie P., Seattle, WA
A: After 35 years you certainly deserve to have someone by your side. The question is: Since you want a lasting and loving relationship, why has it eluded you?
While not everyone benefits from this approach, the one I favor is to wonder whether your filter for relationships is set too finely to let anyone into your life or skewed to let in only those who will, ultimately, disappoint you.
To look at what sort of filter you’ve been using, take a look at your parents’ relationship (for starters). If that relationship was imbalanced–perhaps with one of your parents being much too controlling–you may dismiss out of hand any man with even a bit of a controlling nature. What’s left may be men who are actually much too passive to engage you in passion and be full partners in your life. On the other hand, if you had hands-off parents who were distant from you emotionally, you may initially be attracted to men who show great concern for you early on, but become suffocating later on. So take a look at whether your family of origin made it tough for you to find the right guys, and be patient with those you initially think don’t fit the mold you want filled. The mold could be the problem.
Don’t stop at thinking about your parents. Any significant event in your life can set you up for trouble finding love. If you experienced a traumatic loss as a child or adolescent, do you screen men for whether they’re likely to stick by you, no matter what? Are you then shocked when they become overly dependent on you?
Without talking to you personally to know even more about you, here’s what I suggest:
1. Widen the search.
Tell friends you want a long-term relationship and would welcome introductions. Consider internet dating or matchmaking services, even if you once thought you never would.
2. Don’t follow your heart, exclusively.
It may be that your heart is directing you to the wrong men. Let yourself have a second or even third date with a man who initially seems all wrong. In other words, don’t trust your instincts; they may initially be off.
3. Consider counseling. Really.
Unraveling your own thoughts and feelings will make you more able to share them in a compelling way with the men you meet. Remember, self-disclosure is what ultimately holds the greatest hope for forging human connections, including romance.
Finally, know this: Many women who think they have found the love of their lives at 30 wake up at 37 to realizing that their partners aren’t keepers. You may feel like you’re behind the curve, but if you get this right, you’ve got a long, loving future to look forward to.
More Relationship Advice from SMW.com
Keith Ablow: “Carbon Copy Men”
Keith Ablow: Divorced—and Depressed About Dating
Keith Ablow: Those Three Little Words (“I Love You”)