Am I Always Going To Be Single?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I cried in church today during the baptism of a baby. It’s like all of the loneliness and insecurities inside of me came to the surface when I saw the happy parents and their adorable child in this joyous moment. Because I am so afraid I am never going to have the opportunity to experience this. That I will not find someone to spend the rest of my life with – and in enough time to have a child.

You see, my clock is ticking. I am 38 years old and I don’t have a boyfriend. And I have never even had a real long-term relationship. So, I feel like there is something really wrong with me. All my friends are married and I feel so left out and alone when we get together as a group. Especially since one of them just found out that she is pregnant. Even though I love children and am really happy for her, I know my feelings are going to be bittersweet when her baby comes.

The older I get, the weirder I feel about not having ever been in a LTR. And it doesn’t help that some guys that I have dated have actually said that they think it’s really strange that I haven’t been in one. So, it makes me not want to talk about it, even though my friends say it’s nothing to be ashamed of – that it’s better to have not been in a relationship than to have been in a bad one (like a lot of them have).

I don’t even know why I haven’t been in anything long-lasting. It might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in a really dysfunctional household (with emotional and physical abuse). So, I moved out when I was 18 years old and started working right away as a matter of necessity. I never went to college so I didn’t have that opportunity for dating exposure.

Also, when I was growing up, the way that I handled my lack of control in my house is with my food. So, I ended up becoming bulimic and depressed. When I moved out of that toxic situation my emotional state improved and I wasn’t depressed any more. But I still didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. Since I associated being thin with being unhappy (like I was during my teenage years), I turned to food for comfort and ended up gaining a huge amount of weight. So, I am sure that didn’t help with my dating prospects either.

But, a couple of years ago, I decided (mainly for health reasons) to shed the weight. And I lost 70 pounds (which I am very proud of). But yet I still haven’t found that special someone, even though I thought that the weight was what was holding me back. And it’s not for lack of trying. I have done the whole on-line dating thing. Plus, I am very active with church and other social activities – I am always out and about doing things that I enjoy. I have always figured that meeting the right person would just happen during the natural course of life. But, this hasn’t happened and I am starting to get scared that I will never find anyone – and that I will always be alone.

Plus, as I get older I feel less desirable. I have stretch marks from all of the weight that I lost and my breasts are sagging as a result – not to mention my gray hair. Also, I had surgery this past year to remove some endometriosis and an ovarian cyst. And my doctor said that I might not be able to have children without assistance (such as IVF) since one of my fallopian tubes is twisted/clogged up. So, on top of everything else, a guy might not be able to even have a kid with me since I could possibly be barren.

I definitely have some self-image problems, but I am trying to work on those. It’s hard, though, because I grew up with a mom who made me feel like I wasn’t attractive – she never complimented my physical appearance, but yet would rant and rave about how beautiful other people were. And she told me that “people like us” had to work on being better in other areas, since we couldn’t rely on our looks.

One thing I am confident about, though, is my personality. I have a good sense of humor and am a loyal and caring friend. So, I know that I would bring a lot to a relationship with the right man. And I would expect the same qualities from him in return. I just haven’t met the person who I have this balance with yet.

I can’t talk to my friends about my fears because when I have in the past, they have discounted them. They think I am the lucky one being single since I don’t have to deal with a demanding husband, difficult in-laws, etc. They say that I should just enjoy my single life while I can and that I am over-thinking the situation – that when I least expect it the right guy will come along.

But, what if he doesn’t? I am starting to lose faith that this will happen and feel like I have no control over it. No matter how I try to live my life and be happy, this fear is lurking in the back of my mind.

So, please help me figure out how to tackle this sense of hopelessness when it comes to finding a long-term partner. Because I don’t want to keep having these huge waves of sadness whenever the thought pops up of possibly being alone forever…

A. First of all it is not only normal but healthy to have the desires that you have. You learn relationship skills or the lack there of from your parents as you grow up. Are you lacking in your relationship skills? Probably. Do you have a self image problem? Probably. Do you control your physical appearance as a reaction to your psychological state? Probably.

Here is my recommendation to you. Continue to seek out a relationship. Utilize all of the online dating services available to you. Begin counseling. Should a relationship begin with someone make sure that you are discussing this relationship and critiquing your behavior in that relationship as a central point in your therapy. Physical attraction is a part of most relationships, in fact the vast majority.

Who knows why or how we are attracted to another person but still we are. It is important in the initial attraction phase and is also important throughout the duration of the relationship. I have spent many hours listening to clients complain about how their partner has “let themselves go.” It is the changeable things that they complain about, not those that come from accident or the aging process. People can’t understand why their partner would choose to look less good than they could. I have rarely heard someone complain about their significant other’s wrinkles or missing toes or facial scar. I have instead heard them complain about gray hair that could be colored or weight that could be lost or clothes that could be more fashionable, etc.

I tell you this to let you know how people think. When you are looking for someone to date, realize how people think. I think they will see you much more positively if they think that you are the kind of person who tries to look their best. The opposite would be for them to think that you are the kind of person who really doesn’t care how they look or dress. It isn’t so much how you look but more so whether or not you care to present your best appearance. That is what seems to matter to them. So, with that in mind, do your best to present a good appearance. Aren’t we all being judged by others as we walk down the hallway of any mall?

You will be similarly judged by those who are attracted enough to you, to ask you for a date. What I am saying applies equally to men and women. Be well groomed. Present a good appearance. The fact that you care will have a positive impact on how others perceive you psychologically. People do care about what is inside you but sometimes their impression of the inside comes from their observations of the outside. No one can truly see inside you, so they do their best to guess from the clues that they can perceive. Let’s work on finding that relationship. It’s right for most people and it’s right for you. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Am I Always Going To Be Single?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/13/am-i-always-going-to-be-single/