“You just need to stop looking and the right person will come along.”
I curled up inside and felt crushed every time I heard that phrase.
(I heard it way too many times on my quest for love.)
When those words landed on me, it implied that I was presenting an attitude of that terrible “D” word—desperation. It felt like the person was really saying,
“You are investing too much of yourself and your life to this pursuit and you’re pushing it away.”
Yet, that was almost never the reality of my life.
It felt as if they were saying love was never something to be sought but something to be bestowed upon. It came across as if one was still seeking true love and not finding it, it must be that one is seeking too much, too hard, too intensely.
I would smile and say my own pat phrase back like,
“I know, Mr. Right is probably right around the corner, I just need to be happy with my own life right now.”
(As if I wasn’t.)
I pretended like if I was desiring love and doing absolutely anything to find it, then I must not have been happy with the life I was living.
And it wasn’t my truth.
It’s hard to know what to say to someone pursuing a challenging goal who keeps falling down and standing up, whether it’s love, fertility, a job hunt—any heavy hitting pursuits that not everyone succeeds at easily and some fail repeatedly.
No matter what, that “just need to” line is one that we all just need to stop saying. It’s rude, it hurts and no one acknowledges that.
It’s time to tell the truth about it.
I was divorced for 20 years before I found my next true love. That’s two full decades!
I sought, stopped seeking, took long intentional breaks in celibacy, read every book I could find on relationships that made sense to me, went to therapy, asked friends if they had any single friends, popped in and out of online dating, pursued more hobbies and interests than most any person in my social circle has ever considered, joined social groups, traveled solo, hung out in home improvement stores, dined alone sitting at the bar, on and on.
There was nothing I wanted to do that I didn’t. Mysteriously though, I found myself unpartnered year after year.
Most people would have described me as having a great life and I did. I loved my life. But I still wanted to find true love. There was an unavoidable hole in my life. It was my biggest learning curve.
It’s a tricky venture—being happy with your life while still hoping for more.
It’s a fine tightrope to walk and I fell off and got back on countless times.
As I’d mostly seen myself as a cool, popular attractive person, it was a frustrating, exasperating conundrum that I lived smack dab in the middle of.
Still, one common refrain people felt comfortable saying to me about this longing was,
“You just need to stop trying.”
I could be in a celibate dry spell for two years, diving deep in to myself, then emerge and decide to dip my toe in the dating pool and I guarantee that admonishment would find its way to me—almost immediately, like a warning.
I smiled and almost never advocated for myself. Well meaning friends trying to protect me, served to inadvertently pour salt in my wounds just as I’d pulled off the bandaid before those delicate bits had a chance to find oxygen.
It was like a knee jerk reaction all around me and each time I felt insulted.
I now believe love could have found me during a time of retreat or a time of risk because something was always alive in my heart about this quest.
I had given up and stepped back in countless times over the 20 years I crossed those arduous waters to land in the arms of someone who was also rowing. We had both taken a break but we still had, obviously, at least one eye on the prize and took many risks to land on the same shore.
We were letting go and dipping out our toes simultaneously, and those toes managed to find each other.
That’s all I know.
We had to let go and still extend ourselves into the world. There was no “just had to” about it.
These are some lines that could be much more supportive to someone you care about who is endeavoring to open their heart in to the delicate world of love again:
“I think it’s great that you have the open heart you do. Someone else will see it too.”
“I admire your risk taking. I know it’s not easy but I’m rooting for you.”
“You are so amazing and inspire me with your brave heart.”
“I know this is an important goal in your life and I applaud you for following your dream.”
“I’m here for you when things work out and when they don’t, I’m just here.”
“Hey, let’s go out where you think single men/women might hang out and see what we find. We’ll have a great time either way.”
Love-seekers often beat themselves up for not finding love so they typically don’t need help pointing out what they’re doing wrong or be handed some futile recipe. I know that was the case for me.
I am sure that there are no formulas that work for every person.
The risks involved (especially in later years like our 30s, 40s and 50s), are not for the faint of heart. Yet, I know love is such a powerful driving force that it will steer your ship even when you think you are walking away from it all.
I believe any phrase that contains “you just need to” could be eliminated and those longing for love would feel more supported.
Sometimes, we actually do need to open our eyes and look around.
I’d like to suggest a simple and empowering response to those single lovers out there who still seek and bump into this irritating phrase. How about a slow smiled, leaning in whisper,
“I’m releasing all judgment on myself about this and going for it.”
And then do that.
There my friends, is your letting go.
Author: Kathy Monkman
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran