By Barton Goldsmith McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
You've been divorced, maybe more than once, and you've been viewed by more than ten thousand people on Match.com but haven't connected.
Your last date was a great person, but you just can't seem to open your heart. The truth is that you may be emotionally unavailable.
When you've had a string of bad choices in partnering up with someone, it can be difficult to open up and trust again.
Your best course of action may be to figure out how to do life on your own. Perhaps your heart has been broken so many times that you can't help but trip over the pieces. Making a good choice may not be possible with your self-protection mechanism in full force.
Friends may tell you that new love is just around the corner, because they think you need relief from the reality that you're facing, and being alone can be painful for some people, but you may be in a different place. Just knowing that you are keeping your heart safe can feel good.
The idea of spending your life alone can be depressing, but not if you compare it to being in a bad relationship. When someone has been treating you badly or abusively, you are far better off being on your own.
Having kids can take the edge off of flying solo.
Many people also cope with being on their own by bonding with friends, finding roommates, and rescuing more pets.
There are many ways to make life nice, even though you always thought you'd do it as part of a couple. You still have an emotional support structure, and if you don't, you need to get started building one.
Maybe it's time to bury the hatchet with that family member or friend to whom you haven't spoken in years.
If you've wanted to start a hobby or go traveling, this could be the perfect opportunity.
I've seen ads for "women only" travel tours, and there are plenty of things for guys to do out there, too.
The point is that you are not destined to a life in front of the TV, just because you are unable to feel safe in an intimate relationship. It's okay to be alone, and you don't have to be lonely in the process.
If you don't want to put yourself out there again, don't think that this makes you a loser.
If you've made a conscious choice to stay away from dating and mating, then so be it.
If your friends try to fix you up, say "no thanks." Stay off dating web sites, and do things for yourself that you might not be able to do in a relationship. Pamper yourself. Go on an adventure. Buy a new pair of cool sunglasses. Give to yourself the way you would give to someone you care for. You'll be surprised at how full your life can be. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." )