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SINGLEHOOD - A TIME FOR SELF EXPLORATION

The choice is yours. It's Friday night, you've made it through another New York work week and are faced with the task of surviving yet another dateless weekend. You can corrale some friends, be sociable and head out to a local bar or resolve to settle in for a night of soul-searching over sushi and a good read.

I don't know about you, but dating was never what I thought it would be. As an undergrad at Hofstra University, finding a mate was not a priority. What's the rush, I figured. I'll meet plenty of men in the corporate world. Sure I wanted to have a boyfriend, but thinking back, there were so many "great" guys I didn't give a second glance.

"Great" is the operative word, because the only way to know if someone is great is to give them a chance. Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing. It's easy to now say that I should have been more open-minded, but I obviously wasn't ready to abandon the checklist in my mind.

Most single people have one, and I'm not talking about the weekly groceries. It's a laundry list of qualities that make up our ideal mate. There's nothing wrong with knowing what you want, but to find a lifetime partner requires flexibility and realism. Nobody is perfect, not even yourself. (But, somehow, we seek it out relentlessly.)

A while back I ran into Steve (fictitious name), an ex-boyfriend at the gym, and it reminded me of one of the reasons I chose my husband... optimism. Unlike Steve, my huband, Marc, sees the world as full of opportunity. He is upbeat, level-headed, and has a positive outlook on life. Steve and I used to joke about the symbolic state of a glass filled with water -- "half empty or full?" I'd ask. After a while, the answer became redundant, and I vowed not to spend my life with a negative person. This glass test may sound simplistic, but it told me a great deal not only about him, but about what I need in a relationship...and it's not just physical attraction.

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE
Only you know what you need to be happy, but before you can be happy with someone else, you need to be happy with yourself. Singlehood seems like an unalterable state - an eternal condition destined to bring unfulfillment. But, it doesn't have to be that way.

When else can you phone a friend and talk for hours, pile dishes in the sink until the food cakes on or order in a pizza and pick off all the pepperoni for yourself?

Singlehood is a time to grow, try new things and explore what life has to offer. Now's the perfect time to follow the Yellow Brick Road in pursuit of your dreams. It's a lot more gratifying than pounding the pavement incessantly in search of the perfect relationship.

According to NYC psychologist and family therapist Laurie Freeman, "Woman are given more of a mandate than men to be partners with someone. Being a good female in this society means you're connected -- be it with girlfriends, boyfriends, family, etc. Men are encouraged not to be dependent, and sometimes it isn't until a career is established that they become more aware of their need to be connected.

When I was single, I couldn't imagine when or how I would possibly meet someone. It took a singles trip to London and Paris to meet my husband, who as it turned out went to SUNY Binghamton with my sister. I probably could have met him ten years earlier had I gone to visit her, but since timing is a factor, it might not have worked between us back then. Who knows? When it's right, supposedly you "just know." In my case, our first meeting at the airport left me with a sense of feeling that somehow this person was different. While it wasn't romantic immediately, we spent time leisurely on the trip and dated back in New York before it led to the real thing one year later. (We're now married seven years.)

It's easy to view the search for a mate as having a second job, but you need to take a strategic approach and maintain a sense of humor about it. The New York job scene, itself, offers enough stress without turning your limited free time into a race to the finish line.

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