How to Be Single and Happy
Do you believe being single is a bad thing? Or a problem that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible?
I hope your reflexive answer to these questions is “absolutely not!” But, even if you’re not aware of it, you may have echoes of these cultural attitudes boomeranging around your brain, and they can make it hard for you to feel fulfilled and happy with life as a single person.
Now, don’t get me wrong — I think loving relationships are absolutely fabulous. In fact, I’ve devoted my life to helping people create and maintain healthy relationships through services like counseling, dating coaching, and more.
But I also know that there are many people who are searching for a partner while living with a deep anxiety about their status as a single person. Many single people tell me they’re kept up at night by worries about the possibility of never finding love. Ironically, this kind of desperation can undermine your chances of building the kind of life that would make you authentically happy — and that would invite healthy love into your life in a sustainable way.
If you are single and worried about never finding a partner, I hope this episode of the podcast helps you find greater meaning and happiness. My guest is John Kim, a marriage and family therapist and the author of “Single on Purpose: Redefine Everything, Find Yourself First.” He’s sharing tips on enjoying your time as a single person, while also making room for real love in your life. You won’t want to miss this conversation!
I hope you’ll join us. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Our authentic relationship experts know how to help you learn, grow, and move forward into a bright new chapter.
How to Be Single and Happy: Episode Highlights
If you are feeling a lot of angst about being single, as so many dating coaching and therapy clients do, that’s understandable. Love is a wonderful, live-affirming thing — it is worthy of all the hype, and searching for true love is a noble quest.
And yet, most of us have absorbed cultural messages about love and relationships that set us up for disappointment. These messages tell us that being in a loving, partnered relationship is the right way to live, and anything short of that is some kind of personal failing. They say that love will make you happy or solve your problems. If you’re single, these messages imply that you are waiting until you finally find love, and then your life can really begin.
If you’re struggling to feel happy outside of a relationship, that can be a sign that you’ve absorbed some of these messages, even if your conscious mind rejects them. This episode of the podcast is all about how you can shift your perspective and build a meaningful, fulfilling, happy life, regardless of your relationship status.
Facing the Fear of Being Alone
One of the biggest obstacles to being single and happy is the fear of being alone. This fear is about more than the name suggests — very few of us are scared of literally being alone, like you would be if you spent an afternoon reading on the sofa.
The fear of being alone is not about periods of “aloneness.” It’s the fear of never having a meaningful, loving connection again. It’s a feeling of hopelessness about love, and how terrible we imagine our life might be if we never find it. This fear can create a great deal of sadness about being single — but you don’t have to feel this way.
The way to deal with the fear of being alone is to face it head on. What would happen if you spent the rest of your life single? Would you die? Would your life have less value or meaning? Would it be impossible for you to be happy? Would you have no love in your life if you didn’t find a partner?
If you can face your fear of being alone, it loses some of its power. Is it technically possible that you could be single forever? Sure. While that isn’t your preferred life path, it won’t be what determines how happy you are, or whether you find ways to give and receive love, or whether you live a life full of meaning and purpose.
You can do all of these things regardless of your relationship status, and you should. Because even if you fall in love and create a beautiful shared life with a partner, your story will not end there. Your relationship will change and it may even end. Maybe another love story will begin, or maybe it won’t. Will you have purpose, meaning, and happiness, throughout all of life’s seasons? I hope so.
You can be in touch with your desire for a relationship, and your fear of not finding one, while also empowering yourself to lead a happy life no matter what.
The Fear of Time Running Out
Another fear that makes it difficult to be happy and single is the fear of running out of time. This fear is especially powerful for women who want families, because there is a real limit to how old they can be if they want to have their own biological children.
If you’re afraid that you could miss the boat on becoming a parent, you may feel a bit desperate to find a partner and get started. It can be hard to “be happy being single” when you feel the clock running out and you still haven’t found “the one” yet — you’re working on a very real deadline! This pressure also makes it difficult to let relationships unfold in a gradual, natural way, to take time to heal between relationships, or to walk away from relationships that you know aren’t quite right for you.
Of course, you don’t want your fear of running out of time to lead you to starting a family with the wrong person. You want to take your time and choose a good life partner who you can be happy with. You also don’t want to ignore your fear entirely — it’s giving you good information about what’s important to you and what actions you need to take. Instead of letting fear take you over, let it guide you to approach your dating life with a certain level of seriousness.
That means looking out for red flags, as well as signs of a healthy relationship. It means getting very clear about what the right person for you would be like, what you want and need in a relationship, and being direct about it with potential partners (and willing to walk away from partners who aren’t on the same page or who can’t meet your needs). It also means giving yourself the space to heal after a breakup, because that’s how you become emotionally available enough to form a new, healthy connection.
If you do all of this, it does not guarantee that you will find the right partner in time to conceive your own biological children without any help from science. But it does give you the best opportunity to make that dream a reality.
The Key to Being Single and Happy: Working on Yourself
Having the right mindset is the key to happiness in every area of life, and there is no mindset you could cultivate that is more positive and empowering than a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you believe on a deep level that you have the power to create the outcomes that you want in life through your own efforts. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which says that the things you succeed at (or don’t succeed at) are the result of some inherent quality within you.
What does all of this have to do with being single? Well, I’ll tell you. When you are not in a relationship, that’s a fantastic opportunity to focus on your own personal growth. Not because you need to grow or change in order to be in a relationship, but because your life is a bit of a blank canvas when you’re single, with a lot of room for experimentation.
Periods of singleness are a great time to explore your interests and do the things you like to do. Find hobbies that enrich your life, and build new connections with people who may become dear friends someday. Focus on your career and on creating the professional life you want. People can dump you and break your heart, but no one can ever take away the work you put into developing yourself.
And when you do find a partner, it will be easier for you to love them without losing yourself in that relationship. When you embrace personal growth as a single person, it becomes easier to maintain your identity and keep growing when you’re in a committed relationship.
Building a Positive Relationship with You
When you’re single, it’s also a great time to focus on your relationship with yourself. You can do this by exploring your inner world, including the thoughts and feelings that drive you, and the self-limiting beliefs that may be holding you back.
You can focus on cultivating greater contentment in your daily life, rather than waiting for a relationship (or anything else) to come along and “make you happy.” A personal growth-focused therapist could help you on this journey, or you can do much of the work yourself through journaling and other introspective exercises, like practicing mindfulness and meditation.
One of the most important things you can focus on in your relationship with yourself is your inner narrative. Is it helpful and loving? Or critical, unsupportive, and disempowering? When you don’t have a kind inner voice, you can rely too heavily on external validation as a source of self-esteem. This can keep you stuck in toxic relationships, or make it difficult to endure periods of singless.
When you have a stronger relationship with yourself, you’re in a better position to build a healthy relationship with someone else. You’ll carry yourself with greater confidence (and nothing is sexier than confidence in dating), and you’ll be less likely to accept poor treatment from others.
Feeling Judged for Being Single
Unfortunately, negative messages about being single don’t just come from inside of you. You may also be receiving negative messages from the people in your life, including from people who love you dearly and only want the best for you.
Friends and family may ask you why you’re still single, or they may offer to set you up with someone, as if not being partnered is a problem that you must be desperate to solve. You might feel judged, criticized, or like your way of life is not good enough. This can feel incredibly hurtful, especially if you internalize these messages and begin to believe that being single reflects on you poorly somehow.
Here’s how to deal with feeling judged: Realize that attitudes like these have everything to do with the person who’s making the judgments, and nothing to do with you. These messages are about the other person’s values, assumptions, and insecurities, and they’re simply projecting them on to you, almost certainly without even realizing it.
And why do they do this? Probably because of negative messages that they’ve received that have complicated their own relationships with being single. Some people struggle to feel happy when they’re not in a relationship, so they assume you must feel unhappy as well. Some people are afraid of being single because they equate it with being defective, so they project that fear on to you (have some sympathy for these folks — what terrible pressure they must be living under!). Others feel challenged when they’re around people who are single and happy, in a way that raises uncomfortable questions about their own relationship choices.
None of this is about you, and when you recognize that, it becomes easier to not take these negative messages personally, or to let them affect how you feel about yourself.
Building a Happy, Single Life
A growing number of people come to dating coaching not only because they want to find a healthy relationship, but because they want to build a life that is rich, fulfilling, and happy, regardless of their relationship status.
Single life and an uncertain future do not have to be scary things. They can be sources of possibility and excitement, if you have the right mindset. If you’d like some help cultivating greater happiness as a single person, and finding joy along the journey to a healthy relationship, we invite you to schedule a free consultation.
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How to Be Single and Happy
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Music in this episode is by The Dollyrots with their song “Dancing with Myself.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://thedollyrots.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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