If there is one area of life where many of us don’t feel resilient it’s dating and relationships. There are few people walking this earth who haven’t got a memory of a painful breakup. Or rejection, unrequited love or being treated badly by someone that you once loved and trusted. A lot of the advice on dating and relationships is pretty shoddy. Because it teaches us to focus on trying to be what someone else wants us to be so that we don’t get rejected. Because we all have to be in a relationship to be happy, right?

Single isn’t sad and lonely these days

I’m just going to put this out there for context – no, you don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy. In fact, I think if many of us were honest with ourselves we’d admit we’ve sometimes actually been at our happiest when not in a relationship. The social conditioning around being single – this idea that it’s sad, lonely, that there’s something wrong with you etc – is so damaging. And especially so for women.

Dating and relationships don’t work if we don’t actually want to be in them..

If you look at the statistics, several surveys and research studies have now established that the happiest people are single, child free women. These studies also identify that in general men are happier when marred, less likely to have depression or commit suicide. But women are less happy when married. And actually more likely to have mental health issues and commit suicide than when single.

So, the point of all that is to say that the drive you have to create a relationship is something you need to examine. Because if its not actually coming from you – but from what you think you’re supposed to do – it’s never going to make you happy. Are you doing it because you actually want to be with that person? Or because you don’t want to be alone and die single with cats?

What do YOU actually want?

And this is the big adjustment when it comes to making dating and relationships easier. Stop focusing on other people and start focusing on you. So many of us are going through life driven by what we think we ‘should’ do. And until you get rid of that you’re always going to make the wrong decisions.

No more should

In resilience coaching, tackling the ‘shoulds’ is one of the first steps. This is a word that indicates your inner critic is active. It points you in the direction of social conditioning. Or things you’re saying or doing because you feel like it’s expected of you. Or what your parents or other people want from you. It’s a fast track to ending up in a relationship – even with a family – that maybe you didn’t really want and which makes it hard for you to be yourself and live a satisfying life. And that isn’t helpful for you or for wider society because unhappy people spread unhappiness.

Dating and relationships in 2024

So, the one thing you need to do is start focusing on you. And that’s the same whether you are just starting to have relationships for the first time, you’re celebrating a wedding anniversary, breaking up or you’re considering starting a family. This is what it looks like in practice:

What issues are YOU bringing to the table?

This isn’t about correcting your faults so that you can stop being rejected. It’s about correcting thinking and behaviour that is making it hard to see clearly what you want and who is right for you. The big things to focus on here are:

  • attachment style (the way that you show up in relationships)
  • people pleasing (which means you’re not actually being yourself in relationships) and
  • your conflict style (can you argue constructively or do you either destroy everyone in the room or simply stay silent?)

Most of these are things we have learned in childhood and are things we can unlearn as adults. Resilience coaching is a great way to do this.

What do you actually want?

A lot of the drive to create relationships and families is often described as ‘biological.’ But most of it is social conditioning i.e. the way we are taught things ‘should’ be by society. That’s why the majority of people get married around the same age, start a family around the same age etc. Social conditioning is powerful and insidious. It’s designed to keep us in line. And it suggests that anyone who steps out of line – who is different to the ‘norm’ – is going to be unhappy, lonely and rejected by everyone.

In real life this simply isn’t true. But this conditioning runs deep and you may not even be aware that you have it. It’s essential that we separate our true desires and wants from the fearful narratives of social conditioning. That way true happiness and ease with the right partner (or several partners or no partner) lies. I’ve worked with hundreds of people to unpick social conditioning so that they can experience the freedom of clearly seeing their own needs and wants. THAT is the road to true happiness and being a healthy, functioning member of society.

Where are you not taking responsibility?

This is something I personally had to learn the hard way. The thing about taking responsibility is that it might seem like it’s going to feel hard and painful – but it’s also incredibly liberating. If you’re responsible for your current dating or relationship situation (which most of us are in some way) then you also have the power to change it.

For example, do you approach dating apps with the view that “all men/women are [cheaters/liars/disrespectful] etc” and then feel quietly satisfied when you end up with someone who fulfills those criteria perfectly. Do you put zero effort into early conversations and then complain that nothing ever goes anywhere? Are you choosing people who actually tell you they don’t want commitment and thinking you can change their minds? Are you picking someone based on job, height, bicep size, hair colour and ignoring what kind of person they are just so you can have the right looking relationship?

This list can be endless. But I guarantee that any repeating situations you experience in dating and relationships are at least partially influenced by you and your mindset. And that means by addressing some patterns of thought and behaviour you can start getting different outcomes.

When it comes to dating and relationships it’s much more about you than anything else. And that’s why, if you find dating and relationships hard, starting by focusing on you – your mindset, your habits, understanding the impact of the past, changing how you handle your emotions and knowing yourself better – really will change everything.

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