Love is great, isn’t it? Except when, er, it’s not. Despite TV (hello, Bachelor/Bachelorette) telling us that we need to be in a couple to be anything in the world, sometimes we simply need to be single.
With 50.2% of Americans 16 years and older single, compared with 37.4% in 1976 according to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, living life alone is definitely on the up and up.
A study of more than 9,000 adults in Germany on the link between being in a relationship and self-esteem found that (shocker!) you can be just as happy as a singleton as one half of a smug couple.
Of course, any happily single person will eagerly tell you that (hello all-you-can-drink brunches, nights out that you don’t have to ask permission for, and leisurely Sundays that include absolutely no Fantasy football).
You’re on Tinder, but only swiping because, let’s be honest, you want to have sex. But the unconscious part of your brain is more complicated and different to decode.
But whether you’re fresh out of a relationship or have been single and loving it for a number of years, there are no hard and fast rules about when you’re ready for your next bout of coupledom. These things take time.
And sometimes it’s harder to know whether you’re relationship-ready than you’d think. So do you know if you’re not?
Psychologist Emma Kenny reveals that there are two different parts of your brain deciding whether you should be looking for a partner or not.
“There’s the conscious and the unconscious parts of your brain. The conscious part is more obvious – you’re on Tinder, but only swiping because, let’s be honest, you want to have sex. But the unconscious part of your brain in more complicated and different to decode.”
Let’s take a look at those more complicated parts of your brain to work out exactly if you’re relationship ready right now – or not. It’s not always as simple as it might seem…
You Can’t Commit
This is a conscious feeling that you can’t ignore. Emma says: “If you feel like you don’t want to change your lifestyle for someone, that’s a real tell-tale sign that you’re not ready.
“They could be the right person for you – but just not now as you don’t have the emotional capacity to invest in someone. In that case, it’s better to cut your losses before you hurt them.”
It may be that you’re having a great time as a single guy or gal, or perhaps you just can’t imagine thinking about someone else right now.
And on the serious side of things, if your other half is asking you to move in together or get engaged and it turns your stomach, you owe it to them to be honest.
You Just Don’t Want To
It might sound obvious, but if that’s true, then listen to yourself.
It’s much healthier to stay single if that’s what you feel you need to be
Behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings says: “People sometimes force themselves into relationships. They will have people asking why they’re single and why aren’t they with someone? This can lead to people settling for someone they’re not that into.
“But it’s much healthier to stay single if that’s what you feel you need to be. Don’t just follow the crowd.”
Yes, your friends might all be coupled up and staying in on a Saturday night with their others halves. But that doesn’t mean you need to get into a relationship you’re not ready for just to keep up.
Stay single, work on yourself, and when you’re ready, the right thing will happen.
You Pick The Wrong People
This is something that people do unconsciously – they sabotage potential relationships by choosing the wrong people because they’re simply not ready.
If you’re looking for a pretty blonde, 5’11”, in a good career, earning over $50,000 a year, loves football and has pug dogs, well, you’re unlikely to find that
Emma says: “People may date people that aren’t right for them. Maybe you’re dating someone who smokes, which you hate. This creates a fracture in a potential relationship which means you can’t commit to it in the long term.”
You might also look for perfection in another partner – which nobody can possibly live up to.
“If you’re looking for a pretty blonde, 5’11”, in a good career, earning over $50,000 a year, loves football and has pug dogs, well, you’re unlikely to find that,” Emma says. “These parameters are unrealistic and this is a signal that you’re not ready to commit.”
You Don’t Want To Sacrifice
If giving up, or at least limiting, crazy nights out with your friends feels like way too much to think about then you’re definitely not ready for a relationship.
Jo says, “If you were ready to be with someone then staying in on the sofa with take-out and a partner wouldn’t feel like a sacrifice. It would be the most natural thing in the world.
“It also works that way if you’re with someone. If you have the urge to be out all the time with the boys, it might be that you’re not ready for something serious with the person you’ve just started dating. Listen to yourself and what you really want and need.”
You’re On THOSE Kinds Of Apps
You know what kind of apps we’re referring to. If all you’re after is sex, then that’s fine. But do the people you’re dating a favor.
If you’re not looking for a relationship then it’s best to make that clear from the start. Because guess what? A lot of people on dating apps are, and it’s not fair to string others along.
So keep on logging into Tinder or other hook-up apps – but be aware that others have feelings too.
You Want Multiple Partners
We’re not talking about threesomes – although if that’s what floats your boat, cool. If you feel like you have the urge to play the field, it’s a very big sign that you’re not relationship ready.
There’s that feeling that there’s always someone better around the corner.
However Emma warns that dating apps could be propelling the “swipe right generation” to find it harder to settle down in future.
“Dating apps allow us to keep on swiping and swiping. There’s that feeling that there’s always someone better around the corner.”
You might know you’re not relationship ready – but if you want to settle down one day in future, maybe give Tinder a break for a bit. Your brain might thank you for it when you are ready to find that someone special – even if that’s months away.
You’re Not Happy
You need to be secure in yourself before you can bring anything positive to a relationship. If you’re dating, but not feeling good about yourself, then it might be worth considering if your relationship is making you feel worse.
Whatever it is that will make you feel good inside, now’s the time.
If you’re single, then now is the time to make yourself happy again through things other than dating.
Jo says: “You might not know it at the time, but being single is actually a bit of a luxury. You have the freedom to do what you want.”
That means you can get into climbing, save up to go traveling on your own, become a connoisseur of craft beer, or get that kitten you’ve always wanted – whatever it is that will make you feel good inside, now’s the time.
Your future self will thank you for it.
You’re Not Over Him/Her
Of course, this is subjective. You might have been single for a month or three years, but if your ex still has a hold over you then you may be better off staying single until you feel free of them.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dating to try and pull yourself out of it – but you’re definitely not ready for anything serious.
Emma says: “If you feel you need to fix and heal then you need to do that before you try and enter into a new relationship.”
Bottom line: if you’re crying into your pillow every night over your ex while the girl or guy from Tinder is asleep next to you, it’s very telling about your mental state.