How to remain open to love despite multiple heartbreaks


Dr Karin Anderson Abrell

Multiple heartbreaks take their toll and it’s easy to lose hope that you’ll ever find love. But it is possible to change your mindset. Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell explains all

Another break-up. Another broken heart. Another ‘I thought this might be it’, but sadly, it wasn’t. It takes a lot of guts to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back out there. It can be especially hard when you’ve been in the dating game for longer than you’d care to admit, and you feel (and rightly so) that you’ve endured more than your fair share of heartache.

It’s easy to lose hope.

For some of us, the journey to love ends up more a marathon than a sprint. How do we stay in the race without becoming so emotionally fatigued we give up entirely? Read on to learn effective perspective shifts, which can help us remain positive and open to love.

1. Getting bitter won’t make it better

This truism not only applies to matters of the heart but to virtually every domain of life. A quick glance back at past situations reminds us that bitterness has, in fact, never once helped us attain anything we’ve wanted – ever!

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When we got passed up for promotion at work, did our indignation make our boss reconsider? No, it didn’t. Or when our Grandmother left the lion’s share of her inheritance to our cousin, did our outrage miraculously alter the terms of Granny’s will? No, again.

Getting bitter doesn’t change the circumstance – it only changes you! So, if you happen to be unlucky in love (so far) getting bitter won’t help you find someone special. In fact, it will help you lose someone special – your former happy, hopeful self!

2. Confirmation bias

Research in social psychology demonstrates that mindset affects perception in myriad ways. This holds true for our dating mindset as well! Confirmation bias (Wason, 1960) asserts that we notice, pay attention to, and remember information that is consistent with our beliefs and attitudes. Conversely, we dismiss – and even ignore – information that fails to supports our beliefs.

Now, let’s apply this to dating. If we believe all the good ones are taken, then that’s exactly what we’ll experience. As we go about our day we’ll notice all the attractive but married people we encounter because this confirms our belief that all the good ones are taken. We’ll fail to notice the attractive single individuals as they don’t support our belief.

So clearly, there’s power in maintaining a positive outlook on dating because, according to the confirmation bias, if I believe there are appealing prospects out there, I’ll see them. But if I don’t, I won’t!

3. Every first date could be your last first date

A few years ago, I was 40 years old and still single. I’d been dating for over half my life and my lengthy tenure on the singles’ scene had afforded me pretty much every variation of heartache possible – including breaking off an engagement, two months before the wedding. My enthusiasm and hope continued to wane with every disappointment. Trying to pump myself up for yet another first date was becoming increasingly difficult. Then someone told me, ‘Remember, every first date could be your last first date. It only takes one to be ‘the one.’’

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This simple shift in perspective made all the difference! I started telling myself that even the bad first dates worked in my favour because I was one first date closer to meeting ‘the one.’ And as it turned out, in August in my 40th year, I went on my last first date – finally!

Enduring multiple heartaches takes its toll. But, as noted above, research and experience demonstrate that small shifts in perspective not only boost our emotional state, but also change what we notice. It can give even the most jaded and cynical of us legitimate (research-based) reasons to stay hopeful and positive!

Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell is a psychologist and author of the book Single is the New Black: Don’t Wear White ‘Til It’s Right. She spent 27 years on the dating scene before marrying ‘the One’ at 42.

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