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    Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW

Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW's Bio

Cantarella specializes in helping singles over 40 navigate the modern dating world.

Feeling Like The Last Single Girl On The Block?


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“How can someone like you still be single?” How many of you have heard that question at family gatherings, a party with friends, or during a work event leaving you with that feeling of being, “the last single girl on the block.” This question may lead you to ask other questions that become an internal dialogue, “If I am so wonderful, how come I’m still single?” or, “Why does my singleness matter to so many people?” Through working with my clients, I have found that the extent, to which you allow the “last girl” label to define you, can affect your ability to move forward and find love.

What’s behind your feelings?
In today’s world 1 out of 4 adult women have never been married, and that statistic is on the rise. Consequently, the desire to meet and get married is still a priority for most single women today. You may have heard or read claims that unmarried women have been so busy managing their careers they somehow didn’t have time to look up and notice the flotilla of single, marriageminded men floating right by them.

There are many opinions about how still single women are, “too selective, or promiscuous, or self-involved, or inflexible” to seek out and recognize a marriage minded guy. For some this might be very accurate. However, there are those who have tried and found themselves still single even after searching for so long. Faced with the fact that roughly 50% of adults are married; you may believe that by a certain age, you should be paired off.

The media can add to this expectation by “selling” us the couple concept. It would be difficult to avoid all those smiling happy couples coming at you from the TV, movies, magazine, and advertisements – even if you wanted to.

Friends and family
The pressure to get married is often compounded by family and friends, which begs the question, why does your “singleness” matter to so many people? These people love you and want you to be happy and fulfilled. They have found their happiness by being in a relationship, so they believe the same will be true for you. Parents, friends and well-meaning relatives may ask you about that “terrific guy” you dated a zillion years ago; or the one who “got away”.

They may talk about siblings who have children or their friends with grandchildren to let you know they are more than ready to place their order. These conversations can leave you feeling that no matter what else you have achieved in other areas of your life, if you are still single, the slate is wiped clean of those accomplishments.

How this pressure turns inward
Amongst all the external pressure is the internal realization that you are still on your quest to find love. Many, if not all of your single friends are moving on, finding love and getting married. If you have been the last single girl at more than one wedding; it can begin to affect your self-confidence, no matter how much of it you started with. The circumstance of watching yet another one of your friends become happily married while still desiring to meet your ideal mate can feel isolating at times. When this happens, it can be helpful to acknowledge these feelings as understandable. You can also let your friends know how these situations may be affecting you. Enlist the aide of friends who used to be in a similar position, so they can offer encouragement.

For some, the “Why am I not married” question can eventually morph into the, “What’s wrong with me?” question. You may ask yourself: “Is there something about me that is either: wrong; different; or inadequate, that keeps me from finding a marriage partner?”

While finding a partner seems like an external search, it has more to do with knowing who you are and what you want internally. Yes - it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude toward dating and relationships while balancing your concerns about not settling or losing sight of your ideal match. This can be especially challenging during your late thirties and early forties when about half your friends are experiencing marital difficulty and divorce.

Stir up all those ingredients: the questioning of self, opinions of others, your biological clock ticking louder than ever; gently fold in the idea of dating without marrying for half your life; and sprinkle in the fact you want to grow older and better with a loving partne and…well, it’s understandable if this recipe leaves you feeling at worst, panicked and at best exhausted.

Turning things around
When coaching clients, I assist them in identifying areas they struggle with, internally and externally, and we develop a customized plan for positive change in those areas. Furthermore, we identify patterns that emerge that may be preventing them from achieving their goal of marriage. I assist them in re-framing their view of themselves, so their search for love becomes more aligned with who they really are, making it more attainable.

I have found with certain clients the qualities and characteristics they have honed over the years to become their best selves were hard won and obtained with courage. Finally, we discuss the findings that most men are not intimidated by the combination of assertiveness, success, and self-awareness many of my clients possess; especially if those qualities are combined with a desire to be part of a genuinely loving and compassionate union.

As you’re on your journey, here are a few tips for dealing with dating fatigue, diminishing returns, or yet another wedding to attend:

1. Try not to compare yourself to others: People get married for a variety of reasons, and you’ll have your own. If you have waited this long to get married, chances are you are looking for a true partner and true love. You are not marrying because of a need for security or status; you have earned those on your own. Do not compare yourself to your friends or colleagues; be mindful that comparing can only set the stage for more disappointment.

2. Continue to do what you enjoy: It is easy to lose site of what you enjoy when you feel overwhelmed or disappointed. Remain focused on you and your desires. Do what you enjoy and you will find others who are like-minded which can lead to promising introductions.

3. Communicate with friends and family: It’s good to be open and honest; setting limits is always a great way to go as well. If you are feeling badly about your current single status only to have it pointed out by friends and family, be honest and let them know. It does not have to become a point of focus, but setting limits about this topic can alleviate some undo stress. People are not mind readers, I suggest you let them know how you are feeling about the subject. You might be pleasantly surprised by the understanding and support you receive.

4. Take a time out: Don’t be afraid to take a dating sabbatical. When dating starts to feel like a job, or you have been on so many first dates that you are bored with your own story don’t be afraid to take some time out. You won’t be putting your best dating foot forward if you are in this space. Take some timeout and pamper yourself and recharge.  

Always remember that you’re engaged in the marathon called “life”. There are no shortcuts or fast tracks to happiness; it’s a one-day-at-a-time journey. If you’re finding yourself stuck in negative thinking about finding love, the only trick to know is that gaining some perspective can set you back on course. Talk to people you trust, reach out for help and breathe! Love may be much closer than you think.

Originally published on YourTango.