I’m writing this in a restaurant, and two people sat down in a reserved table. They were asked to move, but one of them got upset. They always sit at that table on this holiday weekend. “It’s our tradition!” The server offered them a different table, but they decided to leave in a huff. I guess they will form a new tradition of going to some other restaurant.
Change is hard. When you are accustomed to living life in a particular way, the least little change can make you feel upset or even unsafe. We have “comfort zones”, places of emotional safety where we hide from whatever disturbed or traumatized us, long ago or last week.
If you have been single for a long time, and you want to start dating, something needs to change. You don’t have to change everything about yourself or become perfect in some way. But you do need to be available and desirable to some compatible people, and have the confidence to talk to them. (See our list of factors in dating success for reasons why you might have dating difficulties.)
According to our survey, late bloomers have made many different life changes before they started dating, including socializing more, developing friendships, seeking support, mental health treatment, improving their physical health and appearance, working on their education or career, focusing on self-awareness, and building their self-worth. Some needed to solve big problems like leaving an abusive situation or getting addiction treatment. Others were opening their minds by reading more, learning new skills, and trying new hobbies.
Not all of these changes will apply to you. Even if you need to make some big shifts, don’t try to change everything at once. You might get overwhelmed and retreat to your comfort zone.
Some changes work directly to make you more available or desirable. Other life changes work indirectly, often to increase your confidence or improve your social life. The road to a happy relationship is usually not a straight highway, more of a winding mountain road where you get lost. While going forward without a GPS or a map, you might stumble upon a beautiful vista you weren’t expecting. A lot of people find a dating partner when they aren’t looking for one, because they are feeling good about themselves and meeting many people who appreciate that.
Start small, with one or two changes, and make them easy for yourself. Remember that if you haven’t been doing something that others find easy, there is probably a reason why. For example, some introverted and autistic people are very uncomfortable in loud environments, so it might be important to find quieter social activities to join.
Build toward the bigger changes in ways you feel comfortable doing. If you are planning a change, set a goal that you are in control of reaching. For example, you can go to more social events and start talking to more people, but you can’t control how they will respond to you. Some things you try will not work out, and you will need to pick yourself up and try again – or try something different next time.
You can start with life changes that are low-cost and low-risk. If you believe that you need to do something risky or expensive, talk it over with someone first. You might not need to move to find love. Therapy is cheaper than plastic surgery.
The good news is that self-improvement is a win-win, even if you don’t find a date. If you are getting healthier and having more fun, then you have become a happier single person!