Signs Your Romantic Cynicism Is Showing & How You Can Regain Some Optimism

If you view all areas of love and relationships as a one-way street to heartbreak, you may be contending with romantic cynicism. For you, there are no happily ever afters. You don't believe in butterflies or love at first sight, and you think dating is a waste of time because it only ends in hurt feelings.


Being a romantic cynic may feel like a protective boon, but it does come with a cost. The rampant pessimism associated with cynical perspectives of any nature can impact not only the quality of your interpersonal relationships but also has been linked to certain health conditions, like heart disease, according to a study by BMC Public Health.

That critical inner voice you have about potential romantic partners can also prevent you from opening yourself up to the experience of love. If you worry that your romantic cynicism has taken over your life, there are a number of signs. There are also plenty of solutions to help you combat this cynical way of thinking and regain some optimism.

You don't believe in happy endings

Nothing elicits more groans and eye rolls from a love cynic than the concept of happily ever after. Whether in real life or novels, romantic cynics find happy endings to be cheesy and unrealistic. From their perspective, entering into a relationship and expecting a romance novel kind of love only leads to disillusionment and angst.


There isn't any doubt that marriage and commitment are difficult, even for the happiest of couples. Humans are imperfect beings, not two-dimensional princes or singing woodland creatures. But, truthfully, a successful, happy relationship can look a hundred different ways, both to the people in the relationship and those outside of it.

When it comes to love, two people choosing to be together on purpose can create a happy ending perfectly suitable for them. Perfect storybook endings may not be real, but that doesn't mean happy endings don't exist at all.

The idea of soulmates makes you rage

Ask a love cynic about their belief in soulmates and prepare for a hearty, lengthy bout of laughter. They do not subscribe to the "soulmate myth" or believe that destiny has any part to play in their relationships. 


"The soulmate myth promises fulfillment," associate professor of religion Bradley Onishi tells BBC. "It says that the isolation and loneliness that are so often part of the human experience are only temporary — that someday there will be a happily ever after in which we are united with The One who understands us at every level ..."

But you, a cynic with your feet planted firmly in reality, find this entire concept ridiculous. You roll your eyes when people mention "fate" or comment that their partner is their heart's one true love. You understand that the emotions surrounding a "soulmate match" are fleeting and likely to change over time into something far more dull. 

You hate weddings

Although romantic cynics have a stronger hatred than others, it isn't uncommon for people to strongly dislike weddings. While the premise of such ceremonies is meant to be a beautiful celebration of love, weddings are often stressful occasions that cause tension, frustration, and disappointment amongst their participants and attendees.


Single people don't always appreciate the success of other people's love stories being rubbed in their faces, while people in happy relationships may resent another couple for beating them to an important milestone.

"A lot of it has to do with what's known psychologically as social comparison," behavior scientist Dr. Mariana Bockarova tells Refinery29. "You're just looking at a really happy moment in [a couple's] lives, so if you compare that to what you know of your own relationship which is the not-so-nice parts like fighting and bickering, it might make you reevaluate whether you can find greater happiness elsewhere."

You think all marriages will end in divorce

The inevitable conclusion for romantic cynics is that such societal rituals as weddings are pointless and expensive from foolish start to bitter finish. Statistically speaking, this perspective has some merit considering 50% of first-time married couples will likely be divorced within the first decade (per Forbes).


Although that makes it appear that cynics have a point, love cynics everywhere are wise to consider an alternative perspective. If two people are committed to their relationship and willing to work things out, divorce doesn't have to be the only option.

"We find there's a reduced chance of divorce when both spouses come to understand it's okay to be mad or sad, as long as they can also work toward apologizing and reconnecting," family law attorney Carolyn Grimes tells Woman's Day. "Both spouses need to be persistent about making the marriage succeed, but they also should understand it takes time, determination, and hard work."

You think people date for all the wrong reasons

Money, a fear of being alone, a desire to prove others wrong, vanity, selfishness — to a romantic cynic, these are far more likely to be reasons people are attracted to one another or spend time together. They don't believe anyone could choose to be together for love, companionship, or out of genuine happiness.


Julie Spira, an online dating expert, tells Elite Daily, "A lot of people go from relationship to relationship without skipping a beat ... The fear of being single is often greater than the reality of being in a bad relationship or one where it's just not a fit."

As a cynic, it can be hard to understand some people use dating to figure out who they want to spend their lives with. It can also be difficult to see that sometimes people really do just fall for one another against all odds. 

You set unrealistic expectations for your partner

Maybe years of truly awful dates have made you a love cynic. Or, maybe you're being too picky when dating and setting unrealistic expectations for your partners that cause feelings of resentment and disappointment.


But setting unrealistic expectations can be just as damaging to a relationship as setting low expectations. Expecting perfection from your partner, demanding zero conflict or arguments, or expecting them to always be available limit their freedom and put stress on the relationship.

"When your partner doesn't measure up to something they didn't even sign up for, there is a tendency to try to change them, with no understanding that your own behavior plays a huge role," relationship coach Lesli Doares tells Best Life. "By focusing on your partner, it allows for justification as to why they are the problem." Setting unrealistic expectations for someone else sets them up for failure, no matter how good or loving they might be. 


You dread going on dates

Going on dates to find a potential partner is almost a requirement these days — and much of modern dating life requires the use of dating apps, something many users find frustrating and exhausting. "Dating apps changed the digital dating landscape due to the collection of convenient features they brought to the table ..." Dr. Rachel Katz, a digital media sociologist, tells Vice. "People like the convenience these features enable. But at the same time, this convenience can also bring negative experiences ..."


Many find the entire concept of dating to be a dreadful experience worth avoiding, with or without the help of Bumble or Tinder. They hate the pressure of looking attractive just to be objectified, making small talk with a stranger, and managing their expectations alongside their lived dating experience. They also don't love the cheesy and sometimes downright gross pickup lines filling their inboxes.

You've given up on dating entirely

Maybe you're a cynic because you're not ready to settle down. Perhaps trust issues have led you to avoid feeling pain at all costs to the point that you turn down dates. You may be tired of going on endless bad first dates, accidentally picking the wrong people, or finding the cycle of attraction, judgment, and ghosting is causing your self-esteem to take a nosedive. Who could blame you for wanting a break?


There is nothing wrong with being in your "single girl era." Being single comes with a host of perks and freedoms that being in a relationship does not. Taking a break from dating to focus on improving yourself is healthy and normal, but there may come a time when you don't want to be single anymore. Even though dating is hard, it's usually the only way to find a lifelong romantic partner.

You expect relationships to fail

You may be a romantic cynic if you believe all relationships will fail, whether your relationship has lasted for two weeks or 10 years. Even if you have a history of unsuccessful relationships, it may be worth reflecting on what caused them to fail.


Was it that your partners were abusive or uncommunicative? Or do you tend to push people away due to your past experiences with romantic partners? If the latter is true, more often than not, you may be self-sabotaging your relationships.

In any of its forms, the cycle of self-sabotage prevents the needed connection for a healthy relationship to grow and introduces problems that may cause it to fail. "Self-sabotage can come from past experiences that cause a person to be mistrustful of others," licensed mental health counselor Bisma Anwar tells Talkspace. "With it comes a fear of getting hurt, which might happen if someone stays in a relationship." 

Commitment makes you cringe

Love cynics often claim that romantic commitment is a major drag to their social lives and the antithesis of their independent personalities. They love doing what they want and not being accountable for anyone else's feelings or needs. Many also find the perks of single life to be more fun.


"Some people prefer the freedom of one night stands and playing the field," relationship expert April Masini tells Insider. "They revel in not having to be there for someone when that someone needs them. Commitment means the end of that lifestyle, so they shy away from commitment."

On the flip side of loving single life is a genuine fear of commitment and marriage, a condition called gamophobia. People with this fear are so afraid of feeling vulnerable or being rejected by a person they love that they cannot form a long-term relationship even if they really want to.

You always suspect your partner is cheating

Do you constantly worry that your partner is cheating on you without evidence to support your anxiety? These fears aren't uncommon, although a love cynic assumes that infidelity from a romantic partner is a forgone conclusion rather than an occasional suspicion.


They are mistrustful of the idea that another person can remain faithful and may resort to snooping through their belongings for "proof," amplify their partner's flaws, project their insecurities, or maintain emotional distance to remain detached from someone they don't believe will stick around. 

"For some, they might have experienced infidelity in their home with their parents or close relatives," licensed mental health counselor Dr. Vanessa Milagros tells Bustle. "For others, they have experienced the pain of being cheated on first hand at a younger age, and that experience had a deep and profound impact on the way they viewed relationships moving forward."

You are suspicious of your friends' significant others

If you have a cynical view of love, you are likely suspicious of your friends' partners as well as your own. After all, you paint romantic love as a doomed enterprise riddled with manipulation and poor intentions. Therefore, how could it be possible that your friends' partners won't break their hearts?


"Our brains look for information that supports our thoughts and beliefs," master of social work and therapist Eileen Purdy tells Bustle. "When you don't like someone or something your brain is then 'programmed' to find examples to support this. And it will do that by leaps and bounds! Recognize this bias exists in everyone and challenge yourself to see the person in different ways."

Working to see the positive attributes in people can help you become more aware of their whole personality and potentially lessen your suspicions. It can also help you to see what your friend sees in them.

Compliments never seem genuine to you

The majority of people in romantic relationships like and appreciate receiving compliments. A romantic cynic, on the other hand, would rather eat aquarium rocks than accept a compliment simply because they don't believe they are genuine. To romantic cynics, all compliments fall under the category of false flattery. There is no conceivable reality where a compliment from a potential significant other isn't a lie or manipulation of some sort.


There is some biological explanation for the inability to accept a compliment, according to New York-based social worker Lisa Schuman. "Our bodies and brains look for what's negative in our environment in order to protect ourselves like our early ancestors keeping an eye out for saber-tooth tigers that might leap out at any moment to eat us," she tells Reader's Digest. "We're poised to identify and deflect the negative so that we can survive."

You think true love is an illusion

Is true love real, or is it simply a biological soup of hormones and chemicals encouraging us to reproduce and belong? There is no doubt that love can be very fulfilling in a healthy relationship.

But if you are someone who has been betrayed by love, you are far more likely to side with the psychological research that suggests our brains in love function similarly to individuals with drug addictions. Romantic love has also been proven to alter our perceptions about ourselves and our partners in ways that aren't necessarily accurate — something a romantic cynic often has first-hand experience with. 


However, this firm stance on true love being a lie can introduce a variety of unsettling emotions, from shame and anxiety to self-doubt. Having a closed mindset about love can also reinforce your ideas and prevent you from opening your heart to the genuine emotions and support being in love can provide. 

You believe other people will take advantage of you

Being taken for granted by people who are supposed to love and respect you doesn't feel good. It twists the natural impulse you may have to be kind or generous and turns it into an obligation or expectation out of line with what you want to do.


"The taker is primarily concerned about their interests over your well-being," author Helene Lerner tells Reader's Digest. "They come first — you are secondary ... they may give half-hearted attempts at making an effort, but they rely on the giver to do most of the work in the relationship."

If you are a romantic cynic, you may feel that you are consistently pigeonholed into the position of the giver. And you hate it. You dream of an equal partnership where your needs and wants are as important as your partners, and you'd rather not be in a relationship than risk being put into that position ever again. Rather than risk it, you just don't.

You close yourself off to new experiences

Cynical people are more likely to close themselves off to new experiences, saying "no" more than "yes." You don't go out with your friends or attend their parties, telling yourself it's all a waste of time and money because no one will talk to you anyway. You turn down invitations to events you're interested in, avoid talking to people in public places, and adopt the view that if someone really wanted your attention, they'd figure out a way to capture it without your help.


There's nothing wrong with saying no if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed. However, this mentality all of the time can make your world very small. If you're waiting for the perfect person to show up at your door with a bouquet of flowers, you may be waiting a long time. After all, if you don't accept that invitation for a casual coffee date, how is the perfect person supposed to meet you?

You're afraid of losing love

The fear of losing someone you love is powerful. Feeling afraid that your partner may die can produce crippling anxiety a romantic cynic has no desire to feel. New relationships, in particular, are more susceptible to these doubts and fears of loss, something a romantic cynic may latch onto before their relationship has the chance to flourish. 


This fear of losing someone can also take the form of being broken up with or abandoned. "You overcome this fear by remembering your inherent self-worth," clinical social worker and relationship coach Jason Polk tells PsychCentral. "For example, say to yourself, 'I have self-worth, my partner does not possess it ... I can go after my wants and needs in this relationship regardless of what happens."

Focusing on your own well-being can help bolster you emotionally and foster a stronger relationship with yourself and your partner, potentially easing some of that fear. 

You always end the relationship first

If you're going to end up heartbroken regardless, might as well beat your significant other to it, right? Most cynics would agree that ending the relationship first before anything can go wrong is the best way to keep yourself protected from pain.


Of course, if you feel unsafe, you have needs that aren't being met, or you feel the trust in your relationship has been irreparably damaged, breaking up is usually the right choice. But if you are ending happy, healthy relationships simply out of the fear it might end someday, fear, not logic, is probably in the driver's seat.

"If you have been conflict-avoidant and haven't tried to address what it is that is bothering you, you haven't asked for what you need or given the person a chance to hear you," couples therapist Tracy K. Ross tells Insider. "You are drawing conclusions from limited experience and may be giving up too soon."

Be honest with yourself about your romantic cynicism

If your romantic cynicism is getting in the way of your happiness, it may be time to have an honest conversation with yourself about it. What is it about love that frightens you? Do you make choices about dating and romance to avoid feeling vulnerable? Have you been hurt in the past by previous partners, and trying to love again feels too scary? 


"We tend to believe that the more we care, the more we can get hurt," clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone tells Brides. "The ways we were hurt in previous relationships, starting from childhood, have a strong influence on how we perceive the people we get close to, as well as how we act in our romantic relationships."

Pushing everyone away and viewing every celebration of love as a negative thing may protect you from a broken heart, but it probably won't be fulfilling long term.

Consider going to therapy

If your cynicism negatively impacts your current relationship, consider going to therapy — alone or with your partner. A therapist that fits your needs can help identify areas of conflict within your relationship, such as a fear of intimacy or infidelity. Working with a therapist can also help you learn to communicate your concerns and past hurts with your partner.


"Telling your partner about the work you need to do for yourself will let them know this is a past wound that you want to heal to have a better relationship," certified relationship coach Susan Golicic tells Bustle. "It also helps to be vulnerable and share any insecurities you have in a relationship. Your partner may be able to help you work on that and feel more secure."

The information you learn in therapy can help shift your perspectives on love. It also increases communication, intimacy, and respect with your partner, leading to an overall healthier relationship.

Practice and prioritize positivity

While you can't force yourself to believe in love or control your partner's behaviors, you can gradually refocus your priorities. Start by focusing your attention on hobbies you love or spending time with the people you care about. New activities will feel better and instigate better connections than stewing all day long in cynicism and fear.


It may take time to feel a shift in your mindset, but this is normal. "No matter what type of relationship you are talking about, it takes effort," positive psychology expert Suzann Pileggi Pawelski tells Wondrium Daily. "Just like any skill or talent in life, you have to work for it to be a success ... No one expects to wake up tomorrow and run a marathon, and relationships are the same way."

It's okay to believe that good things will happen and hope that the right person for you is out there somewhere. There are no guarantees in life or love, but practicing mindfulness and prioritizing a positive mindset can help.

Appreciate your romantic life as it stands

The average romantic cynic wants to be in a loving, lasting relationship but also doesn't believe such a thing exists. Many don't love singledom but loathe the idea of experiencing another crappy relationship. Learning to appreciate your romantic life exactly how it is a good place to start readjusting your mindset.


Making self-care and self-love a priority can help you be more comfortable with being single as well. "If we don't love ourselves, how can we receive love from others?" mental health counselor Anne Posey tells Cleveland Clinic. "Developing a stronger self-esteem can help us be ready for a relationship or be more content with being single." 

Self-reflection is also key. Reflecting on your expectations and goals, as well as your dating history, can help illuminate what you want and don't want. From there, you can have a clearer idea of what is causing the pessimism and work from there.

Don't be afraid to take a chance on someone else

Most cynics aren't born; they're made. Before you hated weddings and generalized potential partners for their perceived flaws, you were likely much more open and willing to take a chance on love. But if years of bad dates and even worse relationships left you scarred, taking a chance on someone else can feel like an impossible risk.


"Turn the page, move on to the next chapter," relationship expert Tammy Shaklee recommends to Well + Good. "There is more to the story: Your long life is a series of chapters, with some more joyful than others and some more tragic. But keep turning the page and grow based on what you have experienced and learned."

Moving on and looking forward is a complex and vulnerable choice. It requires that hope, bravery, and strength will win out over your fear. But what beautiful pages in your life's story are waiting to be written? If you don't try, you'll never know.