It’s Valentines Day again and many singles are feeling the pinch of loneliness and wondering: How did I get here? As a single 40 year old woman, I can tell you exactly how I got here and why I’m content to stay single for the foreseeable future. But if you are looking for a partner, hold on to your hat because we’ve got one ‘big light-bulb moment on relationships’ that you haven’t seen on Oprah.
These days work is a priority and I’ll be the first to admit there is no room in my life for a partner. But back when I was actively looking for love, what use to annoy me most about the singles scene was the number of men I would meet who were single but not available. What I didn’t know at the time was that I too was giving off the ‘I’m single but not available’ vibe to potential partners. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now how it was a good thing I never found what I was looking for all those years ago. But what if you’re not happily single and your heart aches for someone special?
Psychologist and author of the new book, Accidentally Single, John Aiken, told Australian Women Online, “There are a lot of people out there who are actually content not having a relationship and when they get to that point, there’s not the pressure that they may otherwise find themselves under.”
“But if you’re sitting there frustrated thinking I’m accidentally single and I don’t know how I got here, what I’m saying is there’s a number of key mistakes you’ll likely be making unknowingly that have actually caused this. The first step is taking that on and then the next step is saying okay, I’m going to take some action now and change that.”
Most dating guides tell us that by following a few simple rules, we can reach relationship nirvana: don’t call too soon; play it cool; be confident but not overly confident; learn how to flirt; make him chase you…blah, blah, blah. But as those who’ve been single or divorced for a while will tell you, finding the right partner can’t be reduced to a simple checklist for a Saturday night – dating has become much more complex than that.
If you really want to find a partner, you may have to change the way you live your life as a single person. In short, you have to make yourself available for love.
Most of us don’t make time in our busy lives for romance. We work long hours and spend all our free time at the gym, networking with colleagues, or socialising with friends, leaving no room in our lives for someone special. When you live a busy life what you’re really saying to a potential partner is ‘I’m single, but not available’.
“I’ve spoken to so many singles who have said they can’t find a partner and then in the same breath, they will say they’re working a hundred hours a week, or I’ve got this ex that I have sex with and spend time with on occasion, or they’ve got over-involved parents – and so what they do is outline these obstacles that are in fact shooting themselves in the foot,” said John Aiken.
“The classic example is the person who will put work before romance. They will complain that there’s no-one around that’s available, but they’re working all the time, they stand people up, they have to reschedule, they take their mobile phone and their laptop wherever they go. They’re single but not available and by this I mean, they are sabotaging their chances of finding a partner without even knowing it.”
After years of listening to his clients talk about the difficulties of finding a partner, John Aiken has come to the conclusion that many of our most common dating mistakes are ones we don’t even know we are making.
In his book, Accidentally Single, John Aiken identifies these 15 key mistakes that are holding singles back:
- You’re Only Attracted to Unavailable Types
- You’re Too Clingy
- You Let Drama Rule Your Life
- You’re Hung Up on Past Relationships
- You Have a Negative Attitude
- You’re Too Bossy and Picky
- You Have Friendships That Hold You Back
- You’re Only Into Casual Sex
- You Put Exercise Before Romance
- You Can’t Sort Your Life Out
- You Put Work Before Love
- You’re Too Nice and Can’t Say ‘No’
- You Have a Problem Ex
- You Have Over-involved Parents
- You Neglect Your Appearance and Health
John says he was inspired to write the book by a friend of his who was a single father and was finding it really difficult to find a partner.
Like many people looking for a partner, he was drinking in bars and clubs, trying to get phone numbers from members of the opposite sex. [But] when he had follow-up dates with them, they didn’t seem to be as available for a relationship as he’d first thought.
Then it hit me. I jumped in and said that these women seemed to be ‘single but unavailable.’ He laughed, and agreed that while they said they wanted a long-term relationship, they put up a lot of obstacles that made it impossible for anyone to get close. From this day on, I was always on the lookout for single but unavailable people: individuals who thought they were ‘accidentally single’, but in fact had created their situation without knowing it.
John Aiken also writes candidly about his own dating experiences in the book.
“Up until I met my wife, I was dating by trial and error,” he said. “I’ve put my own horror dating stories in the book because I wanted people to be able to relate to it. The fact is it doesn’t matter whether you’re a psychologist or a florist, you can make these mistakes without knowing it.”
“Single people have been repeating these mistakes for a long time and if you really want to find someone special, you’ve just got to stop doing them.”
John Aiken told me he hopes the book will be a wake up call for singles. “The book will work for both people who are looking for a partner and for those who are content to remain single, because it not only gets you to check in with your own behaviour, it also upskills you about what other people bring to the table so you can be aware of what you’re getting into.”
‘Accidentally Single: the 15 mistakes that ruin romance and how to avoid them‘ by John Aiken, is published by Penguin Australia and is available now at book retailers (RRP $26.95).
John Aiken has been a psychologist for 15 years specialising in relationship advice for singles and couples. During this time, John has also made many appearances on radio and TV. John Aiken also runs a private practice in Sydney, Australia. For more information visit John’s website www.johnaiken.com.au