Single? Maybe you're to blame

BELIEVING: Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Mluz.
BELIEVING: Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Mluz.

So you're single. Whose fault is that really?

A very dear person in my life suffers the numbing pain of depression. Now, not everyone who feels depressed has depression, and this is an important distinction to make. Depression deserves recognition as a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Of course, there's nothing lovely about feeling low.

"I'm not good enough/worth anything/loved by anybody".

People with depression can't avoid such downward thinking. The inner-monologues of depressed people roll along in a similar fashion.

But here's the thing. People who aren't suffering from depression, and aren't fighting against malfunctioning neurotransmitters, can stop the mind slide. They can feel better by thinking better.

They can change their life for the better by changing the way they think.

This applies, very definitely, to people who are depressed about the state of their love life. People who think themselves down, hold themselves back, and can't seem to figure out why it's just not working out.

"I'm single because all the men in this city are losers," is one blame-refrain I've heard before.

"I'm single because only certain people like the way I look," is another.

"I'm single because no-one wants to date a single dad."

 "...because you can't trust divorcees."

"...because online dating is a rort."

"True love isn't real."

And so on.

Besides the fact that for every supposed certainty, proof exists to the contrary, simply thinking about these outcomes invokes the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. Viewing all the men in the city as losers, for example, kind of limits your options to well, no-one. Pity the poor bloke who strikes up a conversation with a lady looking at life this way. Chances are he won't be given a chance.

Though, frankly, he's probably better off without her. If she insists on thinking badly of each and every boy, she's probably not going to be a lot of fun. It would be much better for him to meet someone who greets the world and people in it with a sense of optimism, romance and humour.  

Yet there will be those who read this and think, quite seriously, "but really, all the men I meet are losers!" And, to be fair, they may have a point. They may have met a few bad eggs in their time, and they may have had a rotten relationship before. But that's not to say every male human is off.

Same goes for people who think they are unattractive. Looking somehow different to the various accepted beauty ideals is a difficult reality to accept. I won't pretend otherwise. But I've met sexy people who are seriously disfigured.

I once interviewed a punk-rock drummer cum circus performer who was hitched to a blonde-bombshell burlesque dancer in a perfect sounding union save for the fact he was also thalidomide baby with flippers for arms who experienced life as a self-described "freak". His name is Mat Fraser, he was one of the most inspirational people I ever met, and his secret was faith in himself and others.

Point being that thinking down will leave you down and out. It's tough, but it's true. If you're single, and you don't want to be, it's time to step-up to the plate and change.

But how?

This is where we can all learn a thing or five from those people who have battled big-time depression. Beyond the chemical component of their treatment plans, there are tips for improving one's psychological functioning that can improve anyone's life. Here are a few:

Be mindful of how you feel, and why you feel that way. Next time you find yourself thinking about the fact that you'll never find love, because love doesn't exist, take a moment to identify what led your head to that conclusion. Is there something you can do to change the trajectory? Find yourself a role-model loving-couple to reignite your hope perhaps?

Accept that change happens, and that's OK. People who experience divorce, for example, can sometimes find it hard to accept the shift back into the single sphere. It's scary. It's different to last time. They have kids now for crying out loud - what chance could they possibly have of finding someone who'd want to be with them? Well, virtually nil if they don't believe the change they've experienced has benefits too, which people will find attractive. There is a big upside to change, as well as a down - learn to let go, and enjoy.

Come to terms with the relieving impossibility of perfection. We may desperately want things to be just right. We may think other people have it all figured out. But life is wonderfully flawed, and no-one is ideal. Holding yourself to an unreal standard will only lead to disappointment. Far better to be kind to yourself and accept that there will be ups and downs and that's just life.

Are you single? Is your friend single? Your mother or your father? What's being done about it? And whose fault is it really?

Sydney Morning Herald