If you find yourself wondering about why you can’t seem to find the right partner, or generally date, don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. In fact, according to non-partisan think tank Pew Research Center, nearly half of US adults — a majority of which are women — found it increasingly hard to date people within the last 10 years.
The survey noted three common explanations for these dating difficulties:
1. Trouble finding someone looking for the same type of relationship
2. Having difficulty approaching someone
3. Trouble finding a partner who meets all set expectations
If you find yourself agreeing to one or even all the points above, you might be surprised to learn that these reasons could stem from early-life experiences with your caregivers as well as unresolved behavioral patterns.
If you manage to find the root of what is causing your dating life to grow stagnant, you may then be able to make real changes in understanding yourself, break patterns, reframe your thinking and experience dating in a new way.
Today, we will discuss what these reasons are and how you might resolve them, as you navigate the dating world.
Impactful events in childhood
Experiencing trauma during childhood is more common than you think. This could take the form of Big T traumas, such as losing a loved one, suffering from physical violence, or surviving an accident; or Little T trauma, like witnessing fighting at home, moving cities or schools frequently, feeling neglected or experiencing bullying. In fact, the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative documented that more than two-thirds of children have reported at least one traumatic event by the age of 16.
Childhood trauma of any kind could be a key factor that impacts your ability to develop meaningful adult relationships, due to your learned attachment style. After all, when you’re neglected or frequently criticized as a child, it is easy to lose interest or trust in other people. You become closed off, guarded, and unresponsive — even when the other party initiates the contact — which could absolutely impact somebody’s relationship toward dating.
Therapy is a wonderful tool in unpacking and addressing the patterns that have formed as coping skills and how to work through them.
Breakups of any kind can have significant consequences both for current and later relationships. In fact, no matter the length of relationships, ending them can still be distressing and bring upon negative effects including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence, and even poor physical health.
These effects can be heightened if your previous relationships have been verbally, mentally or physically abusive. Examples of psychological and emotional abuse would be your partner trying to control your whereabouts, getting angry when you go against them, isolating you from your family and friends, attacking your looks, intelligence, and capabilities, intentionally breaking your boundaries, limiting your control over money and material possessions and gaslighting - making you question the validity of your issues and memories when you try to raise your concerns.
All these forms of manipulation and control easily have an impact on your dating life. Studies show if you have experienced any form of verbal, emotional or physical abuse in past relationships, you may have the tendency to be doubtful of your own feelings and the other person’s intentions. This lack of trust and self-security can hold people back from dating again. By becoming aware of the psychological impact this may have had on you, you can begin to move forward and regain the confidence to go out and meet new people.
Unregulated self-belief and emotions
This could look like consistent bouts with anger and aggression, anxiety, fear, feelings of isolation, poor self-esteem, and self-destructive behavior. Unregulated emotions can be caused by a variety of factors including childhood bullying, neglect, and loss of trust in one’s own judgment. In this case, even if you desire intimacy, your behavior might stop you from being vulnerable and dependent on others. Trust and communication problems can also impact our ability to understand and manage our own emotions, making it difficult to form connections with other people.
Joining social groups, inserting yourself into new communities through activities such as enrolling in creative classes (online or in person), and trying out new activities in your area are great ways to build healthy relationships and new connections.
What can be done about it?
Aside from the points we've listed above, there are ways you can move forward, break patterns and disrupt stagnant periods of dating, starting here:
Asking for help, and allowing yourself time for introspection with a licensed therapist or counselor can have innumerable benefits. Remember, this is a sign of strength, not weakness. There are even relationship therapists who work with your specific goals and issues. Look for a therapist that will empower and welcome you as an active collaborator, instead of simply telling you what you should do.
What counts as self-care is different for everyone, but as a general rule, try to find activities that cultivate joy. This could be anything from a good workout to finishing a thick novel. Even opting for a bath instead of a quick shower is a form of self-care, if that is something you think you would like. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people, as you nurture your self-esteem and confidence. You can also master a skill you have potential in to increase self-confidence.
Go easy on yourself
Finally, remember to take it easy on yourself. Trauma, grief, and anxiety are not issues you get over quickly. Give yourself time to heal. And remember, your past does not have to define your future.
About the Author: Jolene Blanc, a mother of two, has been a freelance mental health and motivational blogger for over a decade now. When she’s not working, she tends to her herb garden and watches documentaries on Netflix.
If you're looking to connect with a therapist of your own, Frame is here to help. Create your (free) Frame profile, answer 10 questions focused on your preferences and needs, and we will introduce you to a curated short-list of recommended therapists.