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Are you the last single one?

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So you’ve noticed that you’re the only one in your circle of friends who isn’t attached, engaged or married, huh? And you’re starting to feel seriously anxious...You’ve entered the Panic Years - that precarious time in your single life when you realise it’s time to stop dating for a fling and start dating for a ring.

Doree Lewak, author of The Panic Years: A Survival Guide to Getting Through Them and Getting on Your Married Way says the Panic Years gives a label to the feelings that millions of single women experience every day around the world. Below, find Doree’s suggestions on how to survive and thrive in these times and end up with your very own happily ever after.

Q: How can a woman know if she’s in the Panic Years?

A: If you consider choosing ‘engaged’ under ‘relationship status’ when setting up your Facebook profile, you’re in the Panic Years. Or if it’s down to you and that determined little five-year-old flower girl for the bouquet toss at weddings… welcome to the Panic Years!

Q: Why do so many women experience this type of panic?

A: Being single in this society is still the greatest of social stigmas— despite the number of zeroes in your salary or initials after our name. Society still perceives singleness as a personal failure and sends us this classic mixed message that while we should flourish in our careers and embrace our independence, we’re still a failure if we’re single. And as our expectations rise in all other areas of life, they too are heightened when it comes to our “personal success” with marriage. So essentially, the Panic Years are both self-imposed and culturally-imposed.

    Q: To get through the Panic Years, you recommend that women use “creative tactics” to find potential fiancés (PFs). What are some of these tactics?

    A: Instead of retracing stale dating routes that aren’t getting you anywhere, look for opportunities in places you might have missed. When life hands you an emergency-room visit for that next mishap, make nice with the cute, single resident on call! Look at every event in life as an opportunity— and not just one that passes you by, but one you must seize! Who said you can’t find a cute, straight guy at jury duty? Instead of idling away at the inscrutable Latin carved on the walls, a woman I know made small talk with juror #5, her current boyfriend of more than a year.

    Q: How can single women project confidence when inside, they’re panicking?

    A: What a woman in the throes of the Panic Years most likely needs is a mental makeover, not necessarily a physical one. Learn to mask your inner neediness— let the guys think they need you, not the other way around. Project a radiantly positive persona, date with dignity, and transform any desperation sensations into high desirability— that’s how to rein in the Panic.

    Q: How can women deal with what you call “Panic by Proxy,” the pressure from pushy parents and friends?

    A: What those people putting pressure on you don’t know won’t hurt them. Exercise your right to keep the play-by-play of your relationship as private as possible. And don’t be afraid to confront these people once and for all. Confront the offenders head-on and explain that their projected pressure onto you is self-defeating. Let them know that it is crushing your self-esteem and putting an undue strain on your relationship with them.

    Q: What kind of dating expectations do you recommend single women experiencing the Panic Years set if they want to get married?

    A: If you’re already planning your wedding to the guy you’re sitting across from on date number one, you’re in trouble. Not necessarily because he won’t be The One, but because you’re not even letting yourself be in the moment. Permit yourself to get lost in the date, get lost in your conversation, get lost in him. But whatever you do, don’t let yourself get lost in the single-mindedness of walking down the aisle by tomorrow. You will not only sabotage this relationship, but any future relationship with those kinds of expectations.

    At the same time, letting a “comfortable relationship” languish for years without any shift in momentum doesn’t bode well for your marital future, either. Don’t think about clinching the deal at every phase of your relationship, but do be aware of your needs and share that with your partner, who, if he’s the right one, will unquestionably respect that. But if he’s still sneaking you in through the service entrance of his building after months of dating, he’s pretty much telegraphing his true intentions for you.

    Q: So what kind of guy should a woman in this life stage date?

    A: Ultimately, if you want a ring, focus on finding a guy who respects you and the institution of marriage and let your relationship take its natural course— hopefully one that will lead the two of you to the altar.

    Article by Chelsea Kaplan