There may be multiple reasons why you haven’t started dating, or you have difficulty finding someone to date. It can be hard to figure out your unique combination of reasons why you’re still single.

To successfully meet and date a person, you need three main factors: desirability, availability and connections. This may seem obvious, but it’s pretty common for people to focus a lot on one of those factors and forget the others. So, this page provides a list to help you identify the reasons you aren’t dating, and some possible underlying issues. You can use this list to choose what areas you want to work on.  (This list is based on survey results described below, and other research, but is not the opinion of a mental-health professional.)

The good news is that there are ways to cope with and overcome these difficulties.  Most of these issues are changeable. You don’t need to stay lonely forever.

You can download this checklist to select and write your concerns.

It is difficult to accurately assess your own reasons for dating difficulties, especially if you are feeling negative, frustrated, anxious or depressed. It helps to get someone else to give you an external perspective.

You might have a friend who can be kind, honest and realistic about your situation. Or you might ask a counsellor to assess how you could be more confident, available and desirable for dating. Show them your list as a starting point for discussion.  If they don’t understand your challenges, ask them to help you find someone who will.

If you have been avoiding thinking about your dating difficulties, you may feel upset or overwhelmed while reading through this list.  If you’ve been single for a long time, contemplating change can be tough.  Take it slow, take care of yourself, and come back when you are ready.

Your desirability makes people more interested in connecting with you. Desirability has many components that make people want to be around you:

  • Social skills and behaviours
  • Intelligence and common interests
  • Confidence and mood
  • Experience and maturity
  • Social status and privilege
  • Physical appearance
  • Physical and mental health

If you are inexperienced or socially awkward, you may have some disadvantages in these areas, but you don’t need to be perfectly desirable to make connections. You may need to go outside the mainstream to find people who find your personality and body type attractive.

Other people might find you more desirable than you think you are. Getting an external perspective also helps if you don’t know what others look for in a partner.

Being available for dating includes:

  • Being ready and willing to date and start a relationship
  • Having enough time for dates and a relationship
  • Knowing your own gender, orientation and preferences
  • Knowing what kind of person and relationship you want
  • Living near enough people of appropriate age, gender, orientation and preferences
  • Being culturally compatible with the available people
  • Having broad criteria and realistic expectations
  • Letting friends know you are available
  • Being available to meet people at social activities
  • Having an active profile on a dating site/app/service

Availability issues seem practical, but they can cut close to the heart. Talk to someone about what kind of person you want to date, how you might fit a partner into your lifestyle, and whether you need to move to meet more compatible people.

Making a connection for dating includes asking someone directly for a date, and also exchanging smaller gestures such as smiling, flirting or friendly invitations.  Being able to initiate and receive connections is based on these factors:

  • Meeting people
  • Confidence
  • Ability to cope with rejection
  • Social skills

Let’s break this down into difficulties with initiating and receiving connections, and reasons for rejection.

Here are some common reasons why you might have difficulty initiating connections with someone you are interested in dating:

  • Low self-confidence
  • Fear of rejection
  • Anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions
  • Not knowing the social skills to make connection
  • Not sure if you are interested in the person
  • Protecting others (if you believe you could hurt someone by interacting with them)
  • Avoiding harassing others
  • Need to be friends before feeling attracted (demisexual)
  • Being a straight woman in a culture where men are expected to make the first move (where overly-forward women might be socially punished by “slut shaming”)

If you are not receiving many invitations or overtures for connection, there could be multiple reasons:

  • You are not meeting enough available people
  • You shy away from new people
  • People don’t think you are interested in dating, based on your conversation or body language
  • You are not very desirable to the people you are meeting (You may need to meet different people or change your desirability or both.)
  • People make subtle small overtures to connect to you, but you don’t notice them, or you turn down their little offers
  • You are a straight man in a culture where men are expected to make the first move, and you aren’t acting on the subtle signals that women can safely give you

If you are trying to connect with people but you’re getting rejected, again there could be many reasons:

  • You haven’t asked enough people
  • The people are not available for dating
  • The people are not attracted to you
  • You asked them in a socially awkward or inappropriate way
  • They sense that you aren’t really interested in them as an individual

The desirability, availability and connections lists above are just an outline of the surface reasons for people’s dating difficulties. To know why you are struggling to start dating, you will need to explore which of these reasons apply to you, with specifics. Then you will need to explore why.  To discover how to improve your confidence, social skills or availability, you could explore some more fundamental issues such as:

  • Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders
  • Other mental health conditions
  • Addiction or substance use
  • Autism and other communication disorders
  • Feeling unlovable or unwanted
  • Growing up without positive support and unconditional love
  • Effects of abuse, bullying and trauma (PTSD, C-PTSD)
  • Assault, abuse and other negative experiences in relationships and sex
  • Attachment styles and disorders
  • Rejection sensitivity
  • Body image issues and body dysmorphia
  • Concerns about sexuality
  • Questioning gender, orientation and preferences
  • Readiness for or reluctance to change
  • Discrimination or marginalization
  • Education, career, income and housing levels
  • Being in hospital, jail or another institution
  • Social isolation (withdrawing from social activities, having few or no friends)

Download the checklist

The lists above are available as a 5-page PDF for you to print. There are tickboxes and space to describe your concerns.

All of the above lists are based on results from our survey of inexperienced people and late bloomers.  (This was an independent survey, not by academic psychologists.)  The results report has quotes and details about what caused their dating difficulties.  These were their main reasons:

  • Self-confidence, sensitivity to rejection (79%)
  • Social skills, body language, non-verbal signals (66%)
  • Mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, addiction, etc.) (62%)
  • Physical appearance (47%)
  • Not enough friends & social support (45%)
  • Few suitable people available near me (39%)
  • Employment, education, housing or economic issues (28%)
  • Autism or Asperger’s traits (19%)
  • Questioning gender, sexuality or dating preferences (16%)
  • Discrimination (7%)
  • Physical disability or health condition (6%)
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