We all have problems, some small and some large. And often it’s hard to talk about them. Every month we’ll be featuring an Agony Aunt column with me, Sarah Kane, a qualified psychotherapist and counsellor.
Our first Limpsfield Agony Aunt column deals with a much anticipated, but, for some, a much dreaded and lonely time of year – Valentine’s Day.
Dear Agony Aunty Sarah
About this time of year I start to freak out at the looming date of Valentine’s Day and I am not sure why. I have been single for ages, which is ok, but when it’s Valentine’s, I see everyone else coupled up and in love, Valentine’s cards start to appear everywhere and all my friends are in relationships and really happy. I feel like everyone is doing something romantic and I start to feel really lonely and the odd one out. This doesn’t bother me at any other time of year, I am busy most of the time, I have a good single life, and have lots of friends although they are now all married to great guys. I’ve had dates in the past few years but they have never gone on anywhere after the first date as the guys are never quite right or really what I am looking for. Really it’s just this stupid time that bothers me, when Valentine’s looms it just seems to make me feel very sad and alone.
What can I do to avoid it and or feel better about it until it’s all over?
Lonely from Limpsfield
Dear Lonely from Limpsfield
Well done for writing in, this is not an easy thing to admit, I feel. I want to say to you, somewhat ironically, that in feeling this way you are actually not alone. Many people feel dread at this date looming – and not all of them are single either. So look, I could tell you that nothing is as wonderful as it seems. You are none the wiser if people perusing over cards with red hearts on are in happy relationships or not. But, actually that’s not the point…The point is it’s not Valentine’s that is making you unhappy, but not being in a relationship. Valentine’s is representing something you want too. That’s a good thing to realise and own; only then will you start to try to do something about it. Because the other thing that is going on, is your denial at wanting one, which I feel you have got good at covering up, even to yourself.
I hear you say it doesn’t bother you the rest of the year, but I’d like to challenge that. Clearly you have a busy life, which probably helps you to not think about being in a relationship; then bang, slap, wallop, suddenly another Valentine’s appears and it’s another reminder that another year has gone and you are still single. So you then hit a sudden peak of lonely feelings and are confused as to why. But, they are actually there all year.
So then, why aren’t you doing something about it? I can hear the soundtrack of Bonnie Tyler singing “where have all the good men gone?” as you protest “I have been on dates!”, but dates that lasted one night only, that’s not enough to discover a person.
The thing about relationships is that they come they go, they last, they don’t last and even when they do last and last well for a very long time they are growing and changing all the time. They take effort and nurturing and so does finding one in the first place.
Some people believe that finding a partner is a numbers game and you have to kiss many frogs before you find your prince. That’s a kind of practical and romantic way of thinking rolled into one. There may be something in that. But what I truly believe is that YOU need to give people and yourself a chance. Why aren’t you giving any of them a second chance? How can any of us expect to find the great loves of our life (for some there is more than one), in a first meeting that lasts an hour or two? Relationship – relating to another – takes time. Getting to know someone is part of the fun and feeling the connection grow. This can’t be done in 2 hours. You can’t get the full sense of someone in this short time. So pack away your judgement and the “but he isn’t what I am looking for…” and go on second dates. How will you ever have a relationship if you don’t?
I wonder whether you have problems with intimate relationships. To claim that all your friends are in happy loving relationships is the stuff of teenage dreams. Do you talk to your friends about their relationships or are you just assuming they are happy? They may well be, but also there are times when relationships are hard, a struggle and people have to work through some difficult stages in sharing their life with another – like stress, tiredness, boredom, lack of desire etc. To imagine everyone else is in some endlessly happy relationship bliss is not realistic! It also will inhibit you when you date people, if you are looking for what you think everyone else is feeling or has, some ideal teenage dream, you are setting yourself up to fail. I am sure they’re husbands are great and I am sure sometime they are not. That’s the reality of relationship accepting the whole person.
I suspect you are not relating in an open way on dates, not sharing of yourself. You are too distracted judging the person in front of you and worrying that you don’t feel a rush of happy romantic bliss that “everyone else” has. If you are looking for Mr Perfect, you need to know only Miss Perfect can find him. See the person sat in front of you, be in the moment with them, if you want a bit of mindfulness dating advice.
I’m curious also that you chose to write to me, do you share your feelings on this with friends? There is no shame in being single, but perhaps you feel there is and that there is something wrong with you, isolating yourself further. Only when we share ourselves do we give others the opportunities to support us, normalise how we feel and set us up with Jim from the design department. There is no reason for you to be single if you don’t want to be. There is nothing wrong with you. You just need to let people in, that’s the thing you need to change. And have a more realistic view on what relationships really are. Talk to your friends.
So here is your homework. Go out and buy a Valentine’s Card and write it to yourself and write in it all the wonderful things you love about yourself. Turn that awe and admiration of everyone else and their relationships on to you and who you are. Write it and mean it. And then post it to yourself. Crazy? Who cares…who knows…and that’s the point; you could be stood next to six other people in the shop choosing cards for themselves as well.
When it arrives, open it, read it and believe it. Focus on the bigger picture of finding what your heart desires – which is connection. Believe you have amazing qualities to share with someone, and they do too with you. And let them in, warts and all.
Sarah will tackle a problem a month. To send in your problems for Aunty Sarah, go to the Contact Us form and pop “Agony Aunt” in the Subject. You don’t need to leave your name or contact. Everything is anonymous if you wish.
ABOUT SARAH KANE
Sarah Kane is a registered therapist with UKCP. She is a recommended counsellor with BUPA and Aviva health insurance companies and can offer Skype therapy sessions if required. For counselling and therapy.
Sarah offers affordable therapy and counselling in London, Surrey and Sussex to individuals and couples. Having grown up in Oxted, she practises in the area and has practice rooms in East Grinstead and London. However, she lives far enough away that you are unlikely to bump into her in Morrisons or Waitrose on a Saturday morning!
To contact Sarah Click Here.