I know, the guys are all womanizers.
They all say the same thing about not wanting a commitment right now. The women? Well, they’re all crazy or they have too much baggage or they’re too clingy. Dating sucks.
Single people often feel that dating is futile and they’ll never find “The One.”
When I was actively dating, I desperately wanted to find love and it seemed like everywhere I looked, all I found was rejection, pain and loneliness. Depressed, I thought I must be unlovable and I couldn’t understand why a cute, smart, funny girl with some serious kitchen skills couldn’t get a man. Each time I would lament my situation, someone would give me the same trite, worn out, old advice and every time I heard it, I’d want to stick a three-pronged BBQ fork in my eye (or theirs).
We’ve all heard it. “You have to love yourself first.” “Get yourself out there!” “You need to take some classes!” “Love comes when you least expect it.”
I really hated that last one, which resulted in me going around constantly trying desperately to “least expect it” and always feeling like I wasn’t quite “least expecting it” enough.
Yes, we must all love ourselves, but not specifically so that someone else will love us back, because that’s not really loving yourself. As for getting “out there”? I have no idea what that even means, but everyone said it to me constantly and since I wasn’t a a total shut-in, I was pretty sure I was “out there.”
Back in the 70s there must have been a very successful self-help/dating book of some sort that advised singles to “take classes” because I swear, everyone told me to “take classes” to meet someone. I actually did this. I took Spanish classes, pottery classes and even sailing classes and I regret to say that I did not meet my soul mate in any of them. I did, however, disfrutar y aprender a contar en espagnol, make a lopsided mug and steer a 26 foot sailboat through a little, but still thrilling, thunderstorm, so I will count these classes as very positive experiences.
After a few years of fruitlessly frustrating dating, I kind of just gave up.
That is when the magic really started to happen.
I realized that I was achingly desperate for romantic love, not because I wanted to love someone, but because I wanted someone to love me.
I needed a relationship purely for validation, to prove to the world and especially to myself that I was lovable, because look! Someone chose me! I pined for romantic love like I saw in the movies because I wanted attention and praise. I wanted to feel special and beautiful. I thought I could only fill up the holes in my spirit, those awful caverns of feeling dumb, ugly and unworthy, with a romantic relationship.
How sad is that?
Because I no longer wanted to be that empty, needy person I stopped dating and when I stopped dating and stopped looking for someone to love me, suddenly, magnificently, a new world opened up to me and I found real love, lots of love, everywhere.
My life filled with love.
No, my dream lover didn’t materialize in front of me right then and there as if the Universe was looking down on me saying “Oh, there! Look! She’s least expecting it enough! Send in the soul mate!”
It’s not that you find love when you’re least expecting to. Instead, you find the love you’re least expecting.
You do have to look for it, though.
Like so many lonely folk, I suffered from the misconception that only a romantic lover could fix me and so, I believed with every ounce of my being that that was what I longed for.
Suffering from such a narrow-minded focus, I unknowingly blocked out all the other possibilities for love in my life. I wanted to find a man so badly that I forgot to love and I forgot all the things and people I already loved and who loved me.
Freed from the expectation that I had to find a man to be happy or to complete my life, I began to travel. Then I went to school and followed my real dream. In school, I met my one true love—writing. We’ve been together ever since. In school, I found the praise and validation I’d been missing. Surprisingly, it didn’t come from having a guy tell me I was beautiful. It came from my hard work and passion, which then resulted in good grades, commendation and tangible rewards.
I adopted a kitten and if you ever need something to love, get a sweet, baby kitty (just not, like, 25 of them because you really don’t want to be that person). Thirteen years later, the cat and I are still going strong. I often say she’s been my longest, stable relationship.
I found music I loved, poetry, books and art that I loved. I saw films that I loved and did things that I loved every single day. Without the pressure of needing to date, I cultivated deeper relationships with the friends I already had and made new friends. I wasn’t lonely at all! My life was filled with nothing but my passions.
I channeled my energy into bonding more with family members, some of them distant and some of them close-by. I healed old rifts and sought meaningful friendships with relatives.
True love is available to us all, right now, right this second, though it may not come in the package we first imagined. In fact, we may never find that fairy-tale romance and we have to be okay with that.
Giving up the search for your soul mate and instead opening your heart to all the other kinds of love out there, both the love you can give and the love you can receive, will heal you and fulfill you in ways that you can never imagine.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman