Around this time of year, the ticktock of that clock can be at its loudest if we're not where we thought we would be — and if our 2014 New Year resolutions to find "The One" haven't quite panned out as we had hoped.
Over time, I've noticed my clients come to a number of realizations which put things in perspective. I've summarized some of them below. So, before hitting the panic button, consider the following kernels of wisdom …
1. Remember it's always too soon to "settle."
In other words: it's never too late in life to find a relationship that is really right. You don't have to lower your expectations. You must know your desires and needs, and not align your wishes to what you think others expect.
Expectations may change, but that doesn't mean you've lowered them. If you allow yourself to be flexible, and really listen to yourself, you're more likely to find someone who you'll want to be with for the long haul.
2. Ask yourself, "What am I asking of my partner/future partner that I should be doing for myself?"
It's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one person out there who is perfect for you. Following from this is the related trap of thinking that if you find this ideal partner — "The One" — then you'll be complete.
But the real One is you. So stop looking for The One until you're deeply happy with yourself. Expecting your partner to complete you not only sets you up for disappointment, but also puts a massive strain on them and your relationship. A relationship which complements your life instead of defining it is one where you'll feel much happier and more secure.
3. Take responsibility for where you are.
Don't blame yourself for not having a relationship or for losing one. Above all, it's essential to recognize that you are the common denominator in all your relationships. Accepting responsibility for your attitudes and choices will give you a clearer, more authentic sense of where you are in the present and where you're going (including where you want to be going).
4. Think about the real reason you're in an unhappy relationship.
If you're in a relationship which is making you chronically unhappy (or simply "meh"), ask yourself a difficult pair of questions: what's keeping you in the relationship? And what are you getting out of it?
There are many possible reasons. Is it security? Fear of the unknown? Thinking it's too late to find anyone else?
If you don't ask these questions, you could have at least another 30 years in the relationship. How would you feel if nothing changes? Now is the time to decide whether it's time to break up, settle, or make your relationship better. None of these choices is wrong, as long as it's the right choice for you and you know what the consequences are.
5. Remember there's a difference between marriage and wedding fantasies.
Especially when in the throes of wedding season in our 30s, it's no wonder thoughts turn to fantasies of the beautiful white dress, a picturesque ceremony, the bouquet and the rest of wedding day glory.
Like the fantasy of "The One," the fixation on the perfect wedding gets our attention off what is much more important: a sustainable, healthy marriage. Remember: one perfect day does not equal a lifetime of happiness.
6. Stop obsessing over the past and the future. Look at what's in between!
Remember what you do have, rather than obsessing over what you don't have.
Of course, this rule applies whether you're in a relationship or not. I don't know how many hours, days, weeks and months I've spent going over my shortcomings in the past and fretting about the future, and my clients are same.
The past brings us to our present, and the present is the foundation to our future. The only thing you're ever actually experiencing is now, so grab that chance to start afresh and find that relationship you actually want.
7. Don't let the ticktock overwhelm you.
Time: this one's a biggie. Science is science and fact is fact — we have a limited amount of time in our lives to do the things we want to do. For many women, this involves physically having children.
There's no way to run away from these truths or control them. But you can control how you react. It can either rule your life, or you can ensure your life is a rich tapestry of many fulfilling things. Family, then, is a happy addition — rather than the be all and end all.
If you are someone who wants to have children, making sure it's with the right person and at the right time for you should take priority over all else. It takes work and a lot of self-awareness to get to this place, but it is possible.