an involuntarily single man looking for love at the pub

University Of Nicosia Professor Explains The Most Common Reasons Behind Involuntary Singlehood

Researcher Menelaos Apostolou explains why people face difficulties in finding partners and how to navigate them.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | February 08, 2024

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences has identified several probable factors that predict involuntary singlehood among men and women. The findings suggest that poor flirting abilities are standard in both genders.

I recently spoke with the lead author of the paper, Menelaos Apostolou of the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Nicosia. The study suggests a number of factors in which men and women face difficulties with involuntary singlehood and offers tips to overcome them. Here is a summary of our conversation.

What are the major external and internal factors associated with involuntary singlehood for both men and women?

The current study examined the effects of 17 factors that may predict singlehood. Focusing on involuntary singlehood (i.e., wanting to be in a relationship but not being successful), the most prominent factor for both men and women was flirting capacity.

Participants who indicated that they had difficulty flirting—for example, did not know how to initiate flirting or said the wrong things—had a much higher probability of being involuntarily single than being in an intimate relationship.

This suggests that factors that predict flirting capacity also predict singlehood. We identified two such factors: self-esteem and the ability to perceive cues of romantic interest (i.e., being able to tell who is interested in you romantically and who is not).

In particular, participants who indicated lower self-esteem and a lower ability to perceive signals of interest were more likely to have poor flirting capacity and more likely to be involuntarily single.

What environmental factors contribute to involuntary singlehood in people? If they cannot change their environment, what solution would you suggest to enhance their chances of being in a relationship?

This current research focused primarily on individual traits rather than environmental factors. However, it is essential to recognize that singlehood is a multifaceted phenomenon with various contributing factors. Consequently, individuals seeking a partner should identify the reasons hindering their progress and then actively address these issues.

Our research suggests that one common hindrance to finding a partner is a need for effective flirting skills. Therefore, developing and honing one's flirting abilities may be a viable path toward overcoming singlehood.

How can one improve their flirting skills?

We actively investigate this subject to determine the characteristics of effective and ineffective flirting techniques. Individuals can consult my previous study to improve their flirting skills, delve into books on the topic, attend seminars, seek guidance from experienced individuals, and actively explore flirting behaviors.

As with many skills, flirting proficiency improves with practice. Hence, the more one flirts, the better they can become at it. Therefore, it is crucial to persevere and learn from mistakes to enhance one's flirting abilities. Additionally, observing individuals who do well in flirting can provide valuable insights.

You mentioned introverts have a higher likelihood of remaining single. How can they improve their chances without changing their personality?

Our study revealed that extroverted individuals exhibited stronger flirting skills and a lower likelihood of being single. However, this pattern was observed only among men in our sample.

In contrast, other studies have indicated a consistent link between higher extraversion and a reduced probability of singlehood, applicable to both men and women.

While individuals cannot alter their inherent personality traits, they can effectively navigate and overcome these tendencies. For instance, extroverts' increased engagement in social activities and encounters with new people significantly enhance their chances of finding compatible partners.

Despite their inclination to withdraw, introverts can consciously challenge their comfort zones and actively seek social interactions, thereby expanding their potential pool of potential partners.

What practical advice would you give to help people overcome involuntary singlehood and improve their overall relationship prospects?

Singlehood is a complex phenomenon with multiple contributing factors, making it crucial for individuals to identify the specific challenges hindering their romantic pursuits. While I previously discussed the importance of effective flirting skills, other factors have been identified in our research and other studies. These factors include:

  • Sexual difficulties
  • Psychological issues
  • Insufficient effort
  • Low self-esteem
  • Limited availability of potential partners
  • Fear of emotional vulnerability

Single individuals may face a combination of these challenges. Several of these difficulties can be addressed with relatively straightforward solutions. For instance, sexual challenges in men can be effectively managed with medications such as Viagra, which are readily available and relatively inexpensive.

This approach is also applicable to several common psychological disorders, including depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy can be an invaluable tool for enhancing self-esteem and overcoming fear of emotional hurt. Utilizing dating applications can expand the pool of potential partners.

The key message is that, in most cases, there are viable solutions to the obstacles that prevent individuals from finding an intimate partner. However, these solutions often require making the necessary effort. For example, it may involve acknowledging and addressing underlying psychological issues, which can be a challenging process that demands time, courage, and self-reflection.

Additionally, pursuing therapy or seeking professional guidance can be financially costly and time-consuming. Nevertheless, the potential benefits of overcoming these challenges extend far beyond romantic relationships.

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