After quite a few years of working as a psychotherapist and specializing in couples therapy and marriage counseling, intimacy and relationships, I came to notice a peculiar thing. I developed an intuitive gut reaction that would usually inform me of the reason the person in front of me is not in a happy loving relationship. Even more peculiar finding was that these causes of extended singlehood are usually the same. We could compile a rather short list of reasons why people who would (hypothetically) like to be in a relationship are not. Here we will talk about one of these challenges on the path toward the happily ever after. Allow me to start with an example.
Richard, a doctoral student in one of my graduate school courses, stood 6’2 tall, strikingly handsome, and popular with all of us, his fellow classmates. His brilliant grades and muscular lean physique pointed to his equal dedication to both, his intellectual endeavors, and his fitness. Despite numerous admirers, invitations to parties, and dates, Richard remained single throughout the whole 3 years of our graduate training. Long before I had my Beverly Hills and Valencia clinics, specializing in couples counseling, I was deeply interested in love and relationships. Richard was a bit of an enigma. Good looking, successful, and fun to be around, he seemed to be out of luck in love.
We had many conversations, mostly about things we both had in common – school, and fitness. Once in a while Richard would bring up his love life. I recall him say once: “I don’t know, Harel. It is just so hard to find the right person. And besides, between my work and school, there is not much time left.” What Richard did not mention is his rigorous training regimen. He would wake up in 4:30 am, run 5 miles, after which he would be at the gym at 6:00 am for his weight training. After work he was back in the gym. Quite frankly, I was surprised he had energy for anything else, such as work and school. Once I pointed out to him how tight and full his schedule is, and how little wiggle room he allows for other things to interfere with his routine. He nodded: “Yes, you are right.”
Richard is not the only one for whom inflexible life routine was in the way of developing a love connection. As a psychotherapist I noticed that inflexible life routine is one of the common culprits preventing romance and intimacy in ones life. We all have some sort of a routine, a strategy of getting through the day and accomplishing our tasks. Many of us have busy and full schedules that require creativity to manage all of our commitments. It is not just having a routine, and not even having a busy routine that undermines the creating of romance and relationships. So if it is not just a routine, and not even a busy routine, what is it?
The cause for extended and unwelcome singlehood is a rigid, inflexible life routine. Deliberate lack of flexibility means: “This is how I do things, and this is the only way I am willing to have things done.” From my observations it seems like a rigid routine is a good predictor of one’s single status. For couples I see in couples therapy and marriage counseling a rigid routine often means diminished intimacy and boredom. For singles, however, it usually means continued singlehood. Lack of flexibility in ones life leaves little to no space for another to join in and bring something of their own into the newly formed union.
Once two people join each others lives and become a couple, things can never stay the same. Schedules, leisure activities, personal choices of furniture, and even restaurants one dines in might require adjustment to consider the preferences of the other half of the couple. Entering a relationship means inviting change into one’s life. Relationship and togetherness are impossible without change. Deciding to rigidly commit to ones life routine many times also means giving up on the possibility of creating a significant loving relationship in one’s life.
From time to time I have clients come in to either Valencia or Beverly Hills clinic, asking for help in creating a loving intimate relationship, since they feel no longer satisfied with being single. Sometimes I also see couples in couples counseling who complain of falling into rut. In these cases it is obviously a problem because clients identified it as such. However, it is important for me to clarify that these are not right or wrong choices to make. For some of us, take Richard for example, a rigorous fitness routine could be more satisfying than dating and relationships. These are valid personal choices. On the other hand, it is important to realize that something as simple as a creative readjustment of ones routine could be a first step toward the loving relationships some of us want. How empowering it is to know we are creating our own love opportunities and there are steps we can take to open our lives for the relationship we have been longing for!