This isn’t Sleeping Beauty. There’s no prince coming to rescue you.
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that nearly every bookstore in the world has a self-help section? And that the majority of the books in the self-help section are about how to make relationships work?
There’s a book for every issue: fear of intimacy, poor communication, lack of sex drive, infidelity, finding the right match, and on and on and on.
Whenever I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I’ve had such disastrous romantic relationships, it’s helpful to remember just how many millions of these books exist. If everyone had it all together except for me, they wouldn’t keep getting published, right? People are buying these books in droves. And that’s because everyone struggles with relationships. Even that couple who seems so happy on Instagram – probably especially them.
Thinking that everyone else has it all figured out and I’m fundamentally flawed is just one self-defeating thought that isn’t helping me find love. Here are seven more…
1. You think you don’t deserve love
Deep down, you’re sure you’re a terrible person. You have disgusting personal habits, you’re selfish and petty and have mean thoughts, and if anyone knew the truth about you, they’d run screaming in the other direction. Congratulations – you’re human. The truth is, all of us are more or less horrible and unloveable. No one deserves to be loved. But we love each other anyway, because we’re wired for it. Life is better when we’re not alone. So we marry the wrong people, and we struggle to be faithful, and we fight with each other – and it’s worth it. If any of us deserve love, then so do you.
2. You think you’re terrible at relationships
If you’re reading this, then chances are, all your relationships have failed in one way or another. Maybe you’re single, or maybe you’re unhappily partnered – either way, you may have decided that the problem is you. That you don’t know how to have a healthy relationship. That you can’t lower your guard and be vulnerable enough to be loved. That you always choose the wrong person to fall in love with. But listen: in every relationship, you learn something that can make you better at the next one. They say the only way to fail is to stop trying. So keep on trying. Don’t stay stuck in a bad relationship, and don’t give up on looking for love. You’ve got this.
3. You think relationships should be easy
In spite of the thriving self-help industry dedicated to solving relationship issues, there are people out there (and maybe you’re one of them) who secretly believe that when the right person comes along, everything will be easy. You’ll agree on how fast or slow to take relationship milestones like moving in together, you’ll never argue, you’ll never accidentally say something that devastates your partner (and you certainly won’t say something terrible on purpose). If you’re holding out for that perfect, easy relationship, you’d better get used to being single. Because no matter how great a match you and your partner are, and how healthy your relationship, it’s still going to be hard sometimes.
4. You expect relationships to be hard
Okay, so relationships are hard. But if that’s what’s keeping you from jumping in with both feet, listen up: they’re hard, but they’re not hard forever. Couples therapists – and happily married couple – Linda and Charlie Bloom, authors of Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, write in Psychology Today that learning to be in a relationship is like any other skill: most of the hard work comes early on. “It takes a lot to hang in there and muddle through the demanding times,” they write. “The required effort is often great and the challenge can be daunting, leading many to conclude that it’s not worth it or that they don’t have the stamina and perseverance to work forever at this level.” Hang in there and get over that hump, and it’ll get easier. Promise.
5. You think you don’t have time for romance
You’ve got a busy life, with many different priorities to juggle. Between your demanding career, your aging parents, your needy siblings, your amazing friends, and all your secret ambitions, who has time to devote to a relationship? Do you really need one more time suck on your already-full life? Surprisingly, many people actually think this way. But the thing about a loving, healthy relationship is that it doesn’t take energy away from all those other parts of your life. It actually gives you more energy for them. Having a partner makes everything in your life better and easier. If it didn’t, why would any of us bother?
6. You don’t think there’s anyone out there for you
Look, online dating is enough to test anyone’s faith in humanity. It’s easy to give up and conclude that there isn’t anyone out there for you. Maybe what you want just doesn’t exist. But, as my father used to so charmingly put it, there really is a lid for every pot. There are millions of people out there in the world, and many of them could be right for you. You don’t need to settle for an unhappy relationship or resign yourself to being alone forever. Maybe take a time-out from dating for a while and spend some time thinking about what you really want from a relationship – but don’t throw in the towel.
7. You’re afraid to ask for what you want
How many of us are so afraid to ask for what we want, we won’t even admit what we want to ourselves? As one of my favorite self-help gurus, Rob Bell, says in my favorite episode of his podcast, “The problem isn’t your desires. The problem isn’t that you want too many things. The problem is that you don’t desire enough.” He urges us not only to ask for what we want, but to ask for more. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. So don’t hold back. The only thing standing between you and the relationship you want could very well be you.
Images via shutterstock, nbc, reddit, giphy, tumblr.
Comment: Do any of these beliefs resonate with you? What do you think is keeping you from having the relationship of your dreams?
Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.