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Q I am a single woman in my mid-thirties. I want to be in a long-term relationship, but I find it very difficult to date. I don’t really enjoy the process of meeting new men, going for coffee or a meal, conversing to see if we are interested in each other, and figuring out if there is any attraction. It is a lot of work. Usually it doesn’t lead to a relationship. It’s disappointing, and I find I am happier staying home and reading a book.
A I hear your dilemma—wanting a relationship but finding the process of meeting and dating unsatisfying and challenging. It sounds like you are an introvert. Meeting people, socializing, and small talk don’t come naturally to you and don’t interest you much. Although there are many single people, finding the right partner and creating and maintaining a long-term relationship takes work.

Traditionally, people haven’t had much choice in lifestyle, dating, and choosing partners. There was no dating, especially in family-centered and collectivistic cultures such as that in India.

Elders picked mates based in part on familial compatibility, not just the individuals. In today’s modern world, there is more freedom and choice in partners and lifestyle, but there seems to be a lack of stability and depth; people are estranged from each other. Communities in which people get to know each other over time have dwindled, leaving the internet as a primary means of meeting prospective partners. Emailing a profile and having lunch with a stranger isn’t very appealing. Yet, for some people it does work.

First, ask yourself if you really do want a serious relationship or are you happier alone. There truly are some people who like spending time alone and don’t want to give up their time and space. Explore what’s really going on for you here. If you do want to be partnered, it will take a fair amount of work to find the right person, and especially to develop a deep relationship.

Intimate partnerships bring up our deeper issues more fully than any other connection. These include: fear of being left or controlled; losing our individuality, freedom and lifestyle; having to be responsible for another person or have another depend on us; trust and betrayal.

Unconsciously these fears or concerns may keep individuals from entering into intimate partnerships or committing to someone he or she likes. By exploring these dynamics, you will have a better understanding of any internal blocks that you are experiencing.

People often meet prospective partners by belonging to a group or organization that is interesting and meaningful. Here you may encounter like-minded people, and, over time, get to know each other. If you meet someone you like, you can observe him/her interact with others in various situations. Even if there isn’t attraction at the beginning, it has a chance to develop.

There are also organizations for singles where they have numerous activities and many members involved in planning.

If you are interested in working through the internet or other dating services, you need to stay on them for a while. You need a chance to meet enough people. Through emailing and talking on the phone, you can get skilled at screening and meet only those individuals who seem most compatible.

Letting your friends, family, and co-workers know that you are interested in meeting a partner will help the networking begin. This will also give you an opportunity to be clear about what kind of person, qualities, and relationship you desires. Set your sights on what you want and be open to surprise!

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393.

Alzak Amlani is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. (650) 325-8393.