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The question

I'm a successful woman in my early 30s, with a great career, close family and friends. After two very serious long-term relationships, I've been single for the last 2 years. After a few dates with any new prospect, I inevitably find flaws and call it quits. Is it okay to be picky? How can I accept being single? Do you have tips for embracing singledom?

The answer

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Successful, single, in your 30s and female: you are part of an ever-growing demographic of society!

First and foremost: being selective about the people you choose to spend your time with is never a bad thing. But it sounds like there is some reason you are perhaps overly focused on flaws - and that this is not helping you meet your relationship needs.

It can be helpful to spend some time articulating what type of relationship you want, as this may help you determine how "picky" you may or may not want to be. Ask yourself "what is it that I want from a relationship, right now?". Are you looking for male companionship/friendship? A casual fling? A committed/monogamous yet casual relationship? Or a longer-term, life partnership that may include marriage or children down the road?

The answer to this question can help you decide what qualities you currently need in a partner, as arguably the qualities you may look for in a potential lifetime mate (e.g., "great parenting potential") may be irrelevant if right now you are just looking for a casual relationship.

Make a list of the types of flaws you have found in your recent dates. Are your expectations unrealistic (e.g., "someone who is always happy")?

Are you unfairly ruling dates because of qualities that you accept in yourself or your close friends? You may want to run the "flaw list" by a close friend of family member who you trust to give you an honest answer as to whether you are being too critical or judgmental.

The second part of your question - about accepting single life - is a bit more complex. Certainly being in your 30s and single can be challenging, particularly if your friends are settling down or starting families.

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Often this can trigger a range of emotions if marriage or children is something that you picture in your life, as the reality is age poses a bigger challenge for women than men.

It can also feel difficult if your interests and activities differ from those that you are close to. Actively work on building a network of other single friends, as this is one of the best ways to not feel so alone in your single status. Many cities now have singles' social groups/activities, where the focus is on meeting other successful, single professionals for friendship. If you really are wanting a relationship right now, make sure that you are putting yourself out there (this can involve taking some risks).

Sitting at home on a Friday night or only socializing with coupled-up friends won't necessarily expose you to optimal situations to meet other singles. Finally, put energy into learning new activities or building new experiences that bring you happiness and fulfillment (e.g., travel, sports, learning a new language) as this can contribute to having an overall balanced, fulfilling life until you meet that special someone.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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