Dr. LeslieBeth Wish

The holiday season is tough for many people. Family events and holiday parties with other couples remind us of our unhappiness in love-and often with our families. You can’t change your past, but you can certainly learn from it and use your discomfort with this time of year to motivate you to examine yourself, set new goals and strategies, and develop new ways of dealing with your family.

It’s okay to be anxious about making changes or facing your family’s questions or disapproval. Anxiety accompanies all important changes in life-and usually visits home! Time is ticking. Just what do you want on your tombstone: Here lies a woman who died lonely because she was too scared to get out there, get over past hurts and family reactions, and risk love?

Begin with small, concrete steps. Here’s a quick list of the most common issues of single women who want to find a partner.

Issue # 1: “There’s something wrong me because I’m single. I don’t have anyone to bring-or whom I want to bring-to family and friend gatherings. And I don’t enjoy being with my family on the holidays anyway.”

Do List your positive qualities and review them.

Turn your visits with your family into your personal research project about you and your family. Step back emotionally and observe what they taught you about love, trust, the world and men and women. Ask yourself: What does my family want from me? What do I want from them? Do I have to believe in their view of the world, love, and men and women?

Don’t measure your whole self by a few things such as being single.

Don’t get defensive, critical or argumentative; sulky and pouty or withdrawn and negative about yourself when you are with your family. SURPRISE THEM! Don’t do what you usually do. By acting differently, you change how they eventually must act and think about you. It’s normal for them to resist the new you at first. But stick with it. Let them see a new you, but do it without getting nasty. Remember, the person who loses her cool, loses the advantage.

Also, as a starting exercise in dealing with your family’s reactions, regard everything they do or say to you or about you as statements about themselves. Put yourself in observer mode so you minimize your reactivity. Instead, think whether you repeat the same patterns and beliefs of your parents-or you with your parents–in some way in your relationships.

Issue#2: “It’s too late for me to change–and I don’t know how.”

Do Review your past to learn about your dating patterns, fears and phase of life or life events that contributed to your falling in love when you did and why you picked a certain kind of man. Date lots of different kinds of men. And give most of them at least a second chance. Don’t rule out so quickly someone because he “isn’t your type.” After all, dating your type hasn’t worked.

Be brave, go forward and face your fears. Learn your unique stress triggers. For example, did you fall in love and find the next Mr. Too Wrong while you were experiencing a great deal of stress?

Don’t ignore, rationalize or minimize your past behavior. Time is short. Why make excuses when you know, really know in your heart that you are unhappy. But don’t give up or beat yourself up emotionally. Don’t be afraid of emotional pain or anxiety. Don’t do nothing and hope for the best. Don’t more of the same failed efforts. If your attempts to make changes don’t work, get professional help.

Issue #3: “I don’t have the time so I’ll just get depressed now and worry about feeling or looking better later. Besides, I’ve been hurt, I’m not ready and it’s too hard to date anyway. And if love is in the cards, then it will just happen. They say it comes into your life when you’re not looking.”

Do Get specific about what you want to change. If you want to lose weight, for example, join a gym, get a trainer, go with friends to the gym, and control your portions. And don’t fall for your BS excuse: “I’m not ready.” What are you waiting for-a horrible report from your doctor? Or for Mr. Right-Enough to just waltz into your life? Good things rarely drop out of the sky. Opportunities come to the prepared mind and proactive behavior.

Volunteer–it’s the best depression-buster. If your depression won’t lift, go see your doctor.

Forgive yourself. The only thing you gain by beating yourself up is that you stay the same. But being in the same-old/same-old situation is what’s making you so unhappy. Withstand the emotional discomfort and make a commitment to changing what’s bothering you the most. Measure your progress in no less than two week intervals. Allow for “forgiveness wiggle room.”

Seek different types of men and learn what you like and don’t like about them–and what you need and don’t need for yourself. Make your goal to read men and trust your judgment of them–instead of making your goal to find The One.

Don’t plod along, do nothing and hope for the best. Don’t isolate yourself and hide out-or hope that men will somehow just find you.

Don’t punish yourself with too much food, drink or drugs.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish is both a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker. You can read her weekly column, “Relationship Realities,” by going to www.qualityhealth.com (a Top Ten Health Site) and signing up for the Relationships and Sexual Health Newsletter. She is doing research for her book on the love issues of today’s successful women. Join the research and help other women by going to www.lovevictory.com , clicking in the Research box and taking the online survey. It takes about 17 minutes to take it, you leave all your contact information at the end and write the word WE, she will contact you with FREE feedback & suggestions.