PLEASE CO-AUTHOR WITH Dr Bev McLagan
Do you inwardly groan when asked, "How's your personal life?" Do you want to hide until Valentine's Day is over? For whatever reason you have a crisis in closeness, there is a gap in your love life, or you are living without an intimate connection. Some of you haven't connected with the 'right' person; some thought they had but ended up seriously hurt and are fearful about entering another romance; some have been so busy with career or education that you haven't had the time or been in the place to meet someone; some have come out of long-term relationships and it has taken time to want to be in any relationship again. Perhaps you are one of the many Highly Sensitive People that find it hard to place themselves in social settings for the distinct reason of meeting possible matches.
If the need for closeness is making itself known in your life, be aware that burnout can also find a foothold. Yes, you can burn-out on the absence of the personal in your life. Burnout feeds on starvation, so any area of your life that is feeling deprived can be fertile ground for burnout.
If you find yourself tired of going home to what feels like nothing; tired of handling all the responsibility on your own; tired of trying to plan 'singles' vacations; tired of making meals for one, you may be experiencing 'Singleness Burnout'. You are tired of feeling lonely and fed-up with being alone. But aloneness and loneliness can signal two different things. Take a closer look at the void you are feeling, is it aloneness or loneliness that you are suffering?
Aloneness or loneliness panic. It is anxiety that hits on weekends when all you see are couples sharing time and tasks, or the anxiety that builds after a lovely evening with other couples but realise that you are going home alone. Aloneness or loneliness panic is real and painful. If you are consistently feeling this singleness anxiety then it is time to stop denying it and start looking at what you need.
When ready to take those first steps, you may find that you are somewhat ambivalent about the prospect of having a long-term relationship, or you may be scared stiff at the idea of the commitment required. You may have been out of the dating scene for some time and the idea of re-entering the arena is terrifying. Whatever emotion, you need to be honest with yourself. You will bring all of your life experience to the table (for two) and you need to be aware of what past experiences have left you wanting, avoiding, or recoiling from.
Ok, so you have taken that first step and, yes, you are absolutely sure you want to find an intimate connection. Go for it! Take your desire for love seriously and treat it like you would any other top project. Don't be ashamed, because now you are in a place in your life that you refuse to deny or ignore your wants and needs. That shows your true strength.
What you want from a relationship certainly changes over time, so you need to get clear about what you are, or are not, looking for: is it companionship, affection, meeting of the minds, or friends with benefits. You need to define what an intimate relationship looks like at this point in your life.
• It is never too late for love. Love is a universal emotion that we never stop exploring.
• Examine your expectations around a love relationship. If they still resemble those you had when you were 'Sweet 16' it might be time for a revision.
• Make a 'Wish List'. Compile a list of all the attributes you want to find in that other person from looks to life philosophy and everything in-between. (No, it is not shallow to answer your inner question!)
• Focus on your interests not on meeting someone, anyone. If you connect with others because of shared interests, the probability of meeting someone like you goes up.
• Be bold and let others know you are looking and welcome introductions.
There are other forms of relationship burnout, from date burnout, burnout that emerges from shared struggles, to the burnout couples experience after decades of being together. Given the angst that Valentine's Day can create, we thought Singleness Burnout was worthy of some respect.