How can I find love in 2016?

It's important to consider what you what, but also what you can offer a partner, says relationship counsellor Ammanda Major

It's a new year, so perhaps you’ll get that job, the credit card bill will shrink, and you’ll find a new partner who you can share your life with. 

Well, I can’t do anything about the job or the bill, but as a relationship counsellor I can help you take a closer look at what a new relationship might look like. 

What do you want - and what can you offer?

First off, let's consider where you are at now. Are you in a relationship that’s not working for you? Have you been on your own for a while and now feel it’s time to find someone?

And, just as importantly, what are you looking for? Is it rampant sex and that hypnotic rush - who cares if it all blows over? Or perhaps something that feels more like a cosy pair of slippers, that’s welcoming, comforting and you always know where to find? Maybe it’s a mixture of both. 

But before you spring into action, give a few thoughts as to why your previous relationships may not have worked out as you’d hoped. This is always a good place to start when thinking about looking for a prospective partner. It’s funny how we tend to think about what we most want to get from a relationship rather than considering what we might have to offer and what others might find tricky about us.   

If you’ve had lots of relationships, have you always been the one to end things? Do you find it difficult to be too close to someone else? Or perhaps you tend to find you run out of patience with their initially loveable little quirks and foibles, giving rise to a swift retreat.

Maybe you’re someone who has had few relationships, or nothing that you would class as one. If that’s the case, are you always waiting for the other person to make the first move? Are your "standards" of Olympian heights and impossible for anyone to meet? Let’s face it, having a few standards is always going to be a good idea but Relate counsellors all over the country see clients who long for someone special in their lives but repeatedly reject likely candidates because they never seem able to meet all their needs and desires. 

The link to childhood

Sometimes this can be explained by what we learn about relationships as children.

Being truly loved by a parent or care giver is not the same as having every last wish granted, and its surprising how often these two get confused and make it difficult for us to recognise that partners have needs too.

Likewise if we haven’t always felt loved and cared for as a child, trusting someone to undertake that role in adult life can feel a step too far, so it’s just easier to end a new relationship (or even one that’s been around for a while) because the worry about being rejected first can feel very scary indeed.

Being the one to always do the rejecting can feel like a powerful place to be in, but this often leads to a sense of loss that can be difficult to bear.

Boosting your confidence

If you are single, consider whether you are definitely ready for a new relationship. It’ll be easier to attract a happy, confident partner if you are happy and confident in yourself, so give your self-esteem a little attention if it’s on the low side. 

The Relate Guide to Finding Love is a book I’d recommend as contains a plan to help boost your self-esteem and attract the right partner. Coming to Relate for individual counselling may also be a good option, particularly for those struggling with self esteem and past relationships.

Looking elsewhere while in a relationship

If you’re currently with someone and not feeling hopeful about things, it may be an idea to explain exactly how you feel and what you think might need to change. It’s often the case that when we’re unhappy in a relationship it comes as quite a surprise to find that our partner is equally unhappy.

One of the most common issues in couple counselling is saying the say thing in the same way. This is inclined to make anyone stop listening. But often changing your approach; expressing how you feel in different ways and inviting a partner to do the same can work wonders in helping couples to find better means of resolving problems and general unhappiness. So, looking for someone new becomes a redundant issue.

But if you feel that the end is nigh, then being clear with a partner is usually a very good idea, unless of course you’re fearful of the consequences of taking that step in which case you should seek professional help to keep safe.

Missed opportunities 

Let’s imagine that you’ve moved on and feel ready to fall in love. First off, don’t ignore what’s staring you in the face. We often miss opportunities for love because the person in front of us has maybe always been "just a friend". 

Love isn’t always easy to spot. Taking a good look around and maybe then taking a chance on getting to know someone a bit better can reap handsome rewards. Of course internet dating offers mammoth opportunities and there are sites to cater for every taste.  

However, more traditional methods such as meeting people through friends or through a shared interest shouldn’t be forgotten. And don’t be in a rush. While it’s true that some people instantly "know" they’ve found "the one", there’s nothing wrong with taking time to see what develops.

Finally, trust your instincts.  If you think there’s something wrong, try and communicate this to give your partner a chance to understand what you’re worried about and explain their side of things. Communication is key, as well as being prepared to take a risk on something new: knowing that although it might not be exactly what you want, you’re both prepared to share enough with each other to see if things can get better.

So, throw caution to the wind – someone out there is waiting for you.

Ammanda Major is Senior Consultant on Sex Therapy at Relate.  Relate offers counselling for couples but also for individuals, including people who are looking to find love.