“Why are you still single?”
For many single women, this is a question that implies not only that they should they be coupled up, but that if they are not, there is something wrong with them.
In overanalyzing their past relationships, many women experience feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion as to how to go about finding their soul mate, while still coping with being single.
In her new book, How To Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate, Jennifer L. Taitz, a clinical psychologist who specializes in dialectical behavioral therapy, offers women a way out of shame and toward their life partner, while also challenging many of the most common myths about dating.
For many women, the prospect of aloneness, in itself, incites a cycle of emotional reasoning that goes something like this:
I’ve been alone forever, and now, no one will ever want to be with me.
The process of dating – in which rejection is inherent – then taxes women further.
“Meeting someone promising who then disappears without apparent cause or explanation is the epitome of invalidation,” writes Taitz.
Taitz cites the work of Baumeister and many others who show that feelings of rejection and invalidation come with emotional, social, and cognitive consequences, often compromising our ability think clearly, and manage our emotions.
Yet the advice women are often given – to think like a lady and act like a man, wear compromising clothing, or even move to another state – only invalidates them further and doesn’t really help.
“To sidestep hopelessness, we all need wisdom,” writes Taitz.
The first step, she says, is to identify unhealthy psychological habits that obfuscate fulfillment.
“The belief that your happiness hinges on an external circumstance that you can’t control (i.e. meeting a romantic partner) not only makes it harder to find love, but also sets you up for unhappiness,” writes Taitz.
Happiness comes from letting go of the idea that you are not complete until you meet the right person.
Not only is it possible to be happy right now, but it also is the best way to actually increase your chances of finding love. Pointing to the work of Sonya Lyubomirsky, one of the foremost researchers on happiness, Taitz tells us that happiness is comprised of three factors: our genetics (what is referred to as our “happiness setpoint”), our circumstances, and our activities. What is most promising about this, however, is that circumstances – like relationship status – only account for a small part of our happiness.
What matters more in the happiness equation is our activities. For this reason, Taitz often prescribes activities to her patients, like Rachel, who after going to a concert, stated, “music is amazing.”
Interestingly, this was not only the first positive emotion Rachel had experienced, but the first one not connected to her relationship status.
“David Johnson, at the Pennsylvania State University, suggests that people who marry and stay married tend to report feeling above average life satisfaction before they wed, which again supports the idea that marriage arises from happiness, not the other way around,” writes Taitz.
However, many things can interfere with happiness. Social networking, comparing our lives to others online portrayals of happiness, obsessing over our situation, regretting our decisions, and even anticipating regret can all keep us stuck in a cycle of paralysis where happiness evades us. Here Taitz offers powerful advice:
“If your concerns are based on your values and inner wisdom, allow fear of regret to be there and act courageously anyway,” she writes.
Pursuing our values, Taitz tells us, also keeps us focused on the process of our lives, as opposed to the outcome.
“Values aren’t measured by what we get but what we give,” she writes.
Knowing what we want and crafting a plan to create it can give us a feeling of control over our lives, releasing us from feeling as though our happiness is based on external circumstances that we can’t control.
Through practicing acceptance, Taitz says we can learn to see painful experiences as natural and normal parts of life, and not things that lead to irreversible suffering.
Developing a sense of compassion for ourselves will also improve our self-acceptance, mindfulness, and positive emotions – all things that, according to the work of Barbara Frederickson, help us expand our thinking, connect with others, and avoid getting stuck in our heads – especially about relationships.
Drawing on fascinating and relevant research about human relationships and happiness, and numerous relatable examples from her years of clinical practice, Taitz turns the tables on the relationship-happiness equation.
A relationship is not a recipe for happiness, rather, it is often the outcome of a happy, fulfilled life. How To Be Single and Happy shows women just how to create this life – empowering them along the way.
How To Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate
Jennifer L. Taitz
Softcover, 217 Pages