Flirtation in Focus

From teasing and winking to coquettish smiles and sexy banter, flirting may seem like all fun and games. But there are reasons why we do it, how we do it, and who we do it with.

Why Am I Still Single? A Quiz

How honest have you been with yourself about this sensitive question?
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.
This post is a response to 7 Reasons Most People Are Afraid of Love by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Why am I still single?
(c) EdwBart www.fotosearch.com Stock Photography
Why are you still single?  For sure, being single when you want to find a life partner can feel profoundly frustrating. Maybe you've been dating or even living with someone and couples counseling could help you make the leap to marriage. If you haven't yet found someone whom you want to love forever though, fortunately, there may be factors that you can address that could help you in your partner search.  

The key factor in picking a spouse is matching.  I recall once hearing an actor describe tryouts for a play.  "It's not about how attractive you are or how good an actor you are.  The person who gets the role is the one who is best matched for it."  The same goes for finding a marriage match.  Subconsciously all of us are looking for someone who feels like the pepper to our salt shaker.  The more that two people look and feel like a matched pair, be it in appearance, cultural background, economic expectations, psychological wounds and strengths, speech patterns, interests and more, the more likely they will say, "Yes!  That's the one for me!"

While having not yet found your match says NOTHING about how good a person you are, taking a fresh look at what's working and what's not may help to speed up your progress toward your goal.  That's the point of this quiz.  Some singles, though by no means all, have communication habits and/or skill-deficits that have been off-putting to potential partners.  Others have deeper fears that hold them back.  Still others need to rethink their courting strategy to come up with a plan of action that will put them in contact with more of their kind of folks.

The following quiz lists the twenty factors affecting spouse-finding that I have noted most frequently in my clinical practice. 

yes answer to any questions on the following quiz could merit taking a further look at this dimension and rectifying what you see.

___1. Voice: Is my voice is louder (or softer) than other people’s? Do I speak more rapidly, or slowly with pauses between words?  

Matching of vocal patterns plays a vital and yet often subconscious role in mate selection.  Look for someone whose voice and speaking style matches yours; alternatively, think about adapting your style to the style of potential partners who in other dimensions look like possible matches.

___2. Dialogue asymmetry: In a conversation do I use more air-time than others?  

Matching again is key.  Talkers are attracted to talkers, quiet folks to quiet folks.

___3. Monologues: When I talk, do I often give lengthy explanations or monologues?

While matching plays a key role, certain styles can be a turn-off to just about anyone .  Long monologues tend to drain energy from a conversation.  

Talking together is usually most fun when each of you alternate speaking in short segments, each adding just a few sentences that make one point per talk-time.  

___4. Excessive self-focus: Am I more interested in talking about myself and my views than in asking others about their thoughts and experiences?

Narcissism is a stance of 'all about me.' If you are very interested in what you yourself have to say, and then turn the subject back to yourself when your partner is talking, better take a second look at what you are doing.

At the same time, if you are all about the other person with virtually no talking about yourself, you are likely to be at risk for attracting a narcissistic other.  Beware!

___5. Intrusive/controlling:  Do I often tell others what they should do, or guess what they are thinking and feeling? Do I assume that I can know what they should do or what they think and feel instead of asking them?

Asking beats assuming.  "What do you want to do?",“What’s your thoughts on that?” or “How do you feel about that?” lead to information gathering.  Just be sure that you put your preferences on the table as well.  A strong relationshp generally has co-pilots.

___6. Mistaken listening habits:  When others are talking do I think about what I want to say next rather than actively absorbing what they tell me?

Just as baseball requires skills at both throwing and catching, partnering requires skills at both talking and listening.

___7. Oppositional habits: When I listen, do I often react by disagreeing with what the other person said and then tell them what’s wrong with it?  Do my responses often begin with the word “But….” ?

If so, consider learning skills for keeping dialogue cooperative.

___8. Black and white thinking: When there is a disagreement, do I tend to feel certain that I’m right? Maybe I need to think about and comment on what’s right in their viewpoint as well.  Note that the link above goes to a skill set that will help with overcoming an "I'm right; you're wrong" habit. 

___9. My way or the highway: When we have to make a decision together, do I tend to convey that it's my way or the highway? 

If so, better check out how to do the win-win waltz.  While you are at it, get savvy about gender differences in decision-making.

___10. Quick to anger: Do I get irritated often?  Am I likely to tell the person I’m with what they’ve done wrong ? When I do get mad, do I sometimes get very mad? 

Learning how to express feelings can help. Also, learning to exit instead of arguing is vital. Irritability can be a huge turn-off to potential partners. 

___11. Do I hyperfocus on changing the other person?

Thinking back, do I give criticism, complaints and/or blame?

Learning skills for using I-messages instead of you-messages and the other basics of talking collaboratively could make a big difference.

___12. Did my parents enjoy a positive relationship?

Some people have a deep-down fear of marriage.  Often that fear is built on having watched their parents suffer from inabililty to create a positive alliance or sustain a tone of goodwill.

Bone up on how to emanate positivity.  Learn also how to take situations of conflict and turn them into shared-problem-solving.

___13. If my parents divorced, do I feel unclear about why they split up?

If so, a conversation with your mother and another with your father to ask for their understandings of mistakes each of them made that undermined their ability to enjoy a lifelong partnership. 

This understanding is important in order to free you up from marriage-wariness. If you have not learned from history you may be understandably cautious about repeating it. You may feel in relationships that you are always waiting for the other shoe to fall and then suddenly, poof, the relationship will be over.  Information is power. 

___14. Were one or both of my parents unhappy in their marriage?

If your parents looked unhappy or fought a lot, odds are that marriage looks unappealing to you.  

In this case, taking a how-to course on marriage can remove the mysteriousness of how to sustain long-lasting love. Also, a course can reassure you that even though your parents were not able to demonstrate collaborative communicating for you, you have learned the skills for marriage success.

___15. Is it possible that I don't like myself?  

If you have a negative relationship with yourself, if you do not accept and like yourself, or if you often say negative words to yourself like "That was stupid!", odds are that you are giving "Reject me" vibes to others.  

If you have a hunch that this pattern might be so, transitioning from self-dislike to self-acceptance is an issue that may be important to work on.  Train yourself to say to yourself, "I'm fine."  with the help of a therapist.  

___16. Am I waiting instead of taking action?  

Have you been relatively passive about the process of finding a match, waiting for The Right One to arrive in your world?

If you needed a new sofa, you would not wait patiently for one to arrive.  You would go shopping. Same with job-searching.  Same with spouse-searching.

The more active you are about going out and looking for a suitable life partner, the more likely you are to find one. Do the math. The more new people you encounter per week, the higher the odds that one of them will be right for you. 

Where can you find people?  Go to events and places that your kind of match might go to as well. Or go out of your house to anywhere.  Even a walk in the park gives you higher odds of bumping into an interesting new someone than staying home. 

One young man told me he had decided he was ready to marry.  He told me his plan: he would start going to religious services.  The next week when we talked again he reported that he had met a lovely young woman.  Within weeks they were engaged.

Here's a vital tip though:  When you are out and about, think of yourself as the shopper, not the shoppee. Look around to identify potentially interesting folks and take action to get to know them.  

A second tip: Ask friends to think about anyone they know who could be a good match. Most matches are made by being “fixed up,” the same as most jobs are found by referral by a friend. 

Third tip for an active approach to mate-finding: Use online dating sites. Many people are hesitant to use the sites.  At the same time, the sites often do yield results. I've been impressed with how many individuals in my clinical practice have found their life partner online.

Fourth tip: a word of warning on increasing the activity-level of your mate search.  At the same time as you make the hunt for a life partner a top priority, do keep living your life. Constant shopping and hunting can get demoralizing.  Feeling that your own life is gratifying and worthwhile is important for your own satisfaction, and also makes you more attractive as a potential partner for someone else. Do what you love and someone out there is likely to love what you do.

Fifth tip: You may be holding back from active partner searching because a subconscious part of you is afraid of loving.  Another PT blogger has written on this topic.  Click here.

___17. Am I unclear about the kind of partner I am looking for?

Close your eyes, and allow images and words to come up of what you like best about yourself. Think also about three aspects of who you are that you would like your partner to share.  

Use this data base as a starting point for picking who you would like to partner with.  As psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his classic book The Art of Loving, the best partners to choose are 'like what you like best about yourself.'

Remember, think salt and pepper shakers.

___18. How attentive have I been to how I look? 

In the hunt for a marriage partner, appearances matter.  Love starts with looking. Think peacocks. Even birds know to display their best feathers when it's mating time. 

Looks alone won't get you a wedding ring, but to score eventually you have to first attract some initial candidates.

So men, are your pants long and sloppy?  How long has it been since you've picked up a new shirt?  Could your hair use a trim?  T-shirts are okay when they are fresh, maybe.  At the same time, if you want to look like an eligible-to-support a woman kind of guy, better not to dress like a high school kid.

Gals, how about re-thinking your hair?  How long since you've taken a fresh look at what you could do with your eyebrows or made sure that you have enough eye makeup to give your eyes some "pop" without so much that you look overdone?  Take a quick moment too before you leave the house to add a dab of lipstick. 

Hit the weight loss programs, guys and gals, if extra poundage is hiding your natural body shape. 

And gals, like the guys, check out your clothes.  Are you dressing like a grownup who is strutting her stuff, or like a high school kid who is hanging out with whomever? 

For a new look, pick a store whose clothes you really like and have the salespeople pick out some new outfits.  Have a friend who dresses with style come look over your current wardrobe with you to sort out what to keep and what to give to Goodwill.  Most importantly, make sure that every day you add attractive jewelry.  Dangling earrings, bracelets and necklaces catch a guy's eye.

Remember that you can stumble upon a good match anywhere--on the bus, taking a walk, at work as much as at a social event.  Take a double look at that mirror every time you are about to step out of your front door, not just before a party.

Even birds and mammals look as spiffy as possible, showing their feathers, when it comes time to mate.

___19.  Have I been living with someone and just don't know how to move on to the next step, to take the leap from co-habitation to marriage? 

Talk together about what each of you are waiting for to be able to decide whether you will marry or not.  If there are some serious concerns, face them head on, discuss them, and either find a solution or decide to separate.

If the basic match is good, odds are you will know that very soon after meeting each other.  Later you will always discover subsequent areas of difference.  Facing your differences is the second stage of falling in love and needn't be finished before you decide to marry.  Just make sure the two of you both learn skills for talking over tough issues together so that you will succeed in finding our-way solutions to your his-way, her-way conflicts. 

Meanwhile, research on successful marriages indicates that you can be ready to seal the deal without a lengthy period of knowing each other or living together if a) you are 23 or older, b) you have a lot in common c) you feel attracted emotionally and sexually to each other, d) you feel good about how this person would be as a parent and as a financial partner and e) you have clarified that there are no major character/behavioral flaws such as addictions, excessive anger or dishonesty.

So if you have been together for some time, be sure that you have skills for initiating a next-step conversation in a positive, collaborative way, and then go for it.  Continuing to "wait and see" has huge opportuity costs.

___20. What is my subconscious time-line for marriage?

If you believe that people shouldn't marry until their thirties, odds are you will not find your match until at least that age.  By contrast, if you believe that mid-twenties is a fine time, that's when you will open yourself to the universe for finding that special someone. 

To calculate a time that's right for you rather than simply going along with conventional wisdom, check out this article and also this one.

In sum, the reality is that there's a reason why traditional societies have expected parents to find a marriage partner for each of their children. Finding an appropriate partner can be very challenging.  With arranged marriages, provided they involved consent of the betrotheds, someone else did the hunting and scouting for you. 

At the same time, finding your own meant-to-be can be an exciting adventure.  Remember too that all you need is just one right person.  One chance encounter when you are in the right time, place and frame of mind can change everything. 

Meanwhile, going through the 20-point checklist on this quiz hopefully will give you some ideas of how to move forward with increasingly high odds of success and self-confidence.  

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Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teach the communication skills that sustain positive relationships.  

Click here for a free Power of Two relationship test. 

Click the Power of Two logo to learn the skills for a strong, emotionally healthy and loving marriage.

Flirtation in Focus