A Psychologist Explains The Biggest Inner Block Stopping People From Finding A Relationship
"Why am I still single?"
Many clients often ask me variations of this question. Usually it's paired with comments about how long they've spent trying to find a loving partner, perhaps worries about their age if they feel they're "too old" to be single, and often comments about loneliness and shame.
"I don't know what I'm doing wrong," one person recently wrote to me. "My friends tell me that I'm attractive, kind, and that I seem to have it all, and they can't figure out what's wrong. I wish I knew so I can fix it! I feel despair and shame."
The last sentence is the clue regarding what's wrong: I feel despair and shame.
Self-rejection is the underlying problem.
I know this woman thinks she feels despair and shame because she isn't in a relationship, but the truth is that these feelings come from self-rejection, and that same self-rejection is a major reason many people struggle to find lasting relationships.
Self-rejection—or what might more accurately be called self-abandonment—takes many forms. We abandon ourselves by judging ourselves, turning to addictions to avoid our feelings, staying focused in our mind to avoid feeling our feelings (rather than in our body where our feelings are), and making others responsible for our feelings of happiness, safety, and sense of self-worth. When we abandon ourselves in any of these ways, we are actually rejecting ourselves, which causes us to feel despair and shame.
The energy of despair and shame pushes people away. There is a sense of desperation in the energy of a person who is abandoning themselves that says to the other person, "You need to make me happy. You need to make me feel safe, secure, and whole. My well-being is your responsibility."
We attract at our common level of self-abandonment or self-love: When you are abandoning yourself, you will attract people who are also abandoning themselves, and you will likely not be attracted to each other. You might be attracted to people who are loving themselves and creating their own happiness and well-being, but they won't be attracted to you because they don't want to have responsibility for your happiness and well-being.
It's not about fixing yourself. It's about loving yourself.
Your true self—your soul essence—is perfect and doesn't need fixing at all. This part of you often communicates through feelings, so when you are abandoning and rejecting yourself, you are rejecting this beautiful, feeling part of you and avoiding responsibility for your feelings. This is what leads to despair and shame.
While you might believe you're despondent and ashamed because of your lack of a partner, the truth is that those feelings are resulting from the way you're treating yourself. And to free yourself of those feelings of despair and shame, a partner is not what you need. You do need love—but it's love from yourself that will heal you.
If you imagine the feeling part of you as an inner child, healing means deciding to take responsibility for loving your inner child—your feeling self. This means getting to know and accept who you are in your essence rather than continuing to judge yourself. It means that you learn to stay focused in your body so you can be present with your feelings, just like if you wanted to be a loving parent with a baby, you would have a baby monitor on. Loving yourself means you have your inner baby monitor on so you can attend to your feelings whenever you feel anything less than peace, noticing what you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself that is causing anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, despair, anger, aloneness, or emptiness. It means attending to your feelings rather than numbing with addictions, and it means not handing responsibility for your feelings to anyone else.
As you learn to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself, you will find yourself meeting available partners. I've seen this happen over and over again with my clients who finally do the inner work they need to do to learn to see, value, and love themselves.