When I was in college, I would absolutely dread family gatherings because I knew at least one of my relatives would ask me, “Who are you dating now?” And I’d have to grit my teeth into a smile and tell them I was still single.

Then they’d ask a question that kept me up at night — why?

Why am I single? Well, gee, I guess attending college has made me a hideous undateable monster, thanks for asking, Aunt Connie!

In most ways, college was one of the best times of my life — I just didn’t happen to date very much during it. Maybe it was because I set my standards too high. Maybe it was because I didn’t join many clubs or go to many parties. Or maybe it was just something that happened.

Being single isn’t always something you have control over, but sometimes your actions and attitudes can lead to you staying single, even if you don’t even realize it. You have to examine yourself with an objective and critical eye to decide if you’re actually choosing to stay single for one reason or another. Here are some clues that your single status is more about your choices and less about external factors.

  1. You quit or never tried online dating

Online dating has quickly become one of the most popular ways for singles to meet one another. If you’re single and you’ve never tried online dating before, that’s on you. It’s well worth giving online dating a try before you throw in the towel and declare yourself forever single. You’re really not going to find a more accessible and date-friendly atmosphere anywhere else. And it works too. More than 34% of couples who got married between 2005 and 2012 met online.

I know it can be intimidating to choose a dating site without really knowing what you’re signing up for, but you can do some research to set yourself up for success. To start with, you should read reviews like these on DatingAdvice.com to find a dating site with a good reputation.

Maybe you have joined a dating site but things didn’t work out. Maybe you gave up when your inbox didn’t immediately fill up with matches and messages. If that’s the case, you may want to try joining a different dating site or upgrading your profile to get a better experience. You may also want to bone up on first-date hacks to help you make a great first impression on your online matches.

  1. You dislike going out & make excuses to stay in

This is so me. I’m so introverted that I’ll choose a 1,000-piece puzzle over a first date any day of the week. Enjoying some Me Time is your prerogative, and it’s important to remember to take care of yourself first. But sitting at home alone isn’t the best dating strategy. Even online daters, at some point, have to get out there and actually talk to people in real life to make a connection. Staying in your pajamas at home is basically choosing to be single — because your ideal match isn’t going to come knocking on your door!

  1. You’re married to your career & never seem to make time for dates

I know a lot of people in this category. These successful 20-somethings or 30-somethings spent their youth buried in books and filling their calendars with classes, internships, and part-time jobs. Now they’ve gotten their dream jobs, and they spend their Saturday nights catching up on work. These singles are often a great catch — financially stable, ambitious, and responsible — but they don’t make time to meet new people.

Single workaholics choose to prioritize their careers over their personal lives, and they pay a price for that. They pass up opportunities to go out to a bar because they have a deadline to meet. They avoid online dating because it takes too much effort. If your goal is to be married, and you’re ready to meet someone, you have to clear time in your schedule and make it happen with the same commitment you pursue your career. Check out these online dating guidelines if you want to get more efficient at making a match and finding date-worthy folks in your spare time.

  1. You have unrealistic or outright impossible expectations

Honestly, I didn’t really know why my love life stalled in my early 20s until years later. It took me a while to recognize that my single status was partly down to my own unrealistic expectations. Growing up, I’d never had to work to get a guy to fall for me, and so I was under the impression that I shouldn’t have to put any effort into a romance. Relationships were something that would just happen around me. It sounds awful, but that’s what I thought, and my stubborn inaction caused me to stay single longer than I would’ve liked.

Having unrealistic expectations or impossibly high standards can hold a lot of singles back from getting into a good relationship that may be a little flawed or may take a little effort. Don’t get me wrong, having standards is absolutely necessary in the dating scene — but looking at dating with an all-or-nothing attitude is a pretty good way to end up with nothing.

Did I choose to stay single? Of course not! But I did choose to make it harder for myself to get in a relationship. I did choose to value my independence above everything else. And, ultimately, that’s not something I regret. The only thing I regret is not taking ownership of my life when questioned by my family. If I could go back to that Thanksgiving table, I’d flat out tell my aunts and uncles, “I’m single because that’s the way I like it.”

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Posted by Amber Brooks