Last week I was chatting online with a friend who had recently ended a relationship. For the past several months she had been grappling with whether or not to keep dating a man who was very emotionally available and loving, but who didn’t challenge her intellectually. Her mind won out over her heart, and she was single once again.
I mentioned that my boyfriend and I had in mind three different guys to set up with another mutual friend who had recently separated from her husband. My friend asked me if I had anyone to set her up with. I always keep a running tally in my head of all my single friends, male and female, and introduce them when I feel like there might be potential for love. I cast about in my head for someone who might be suitable; this particular friend had been looking for “her guy” for quite a while, and has met most of my single male friends over the years. I suggested a man I knew who she had never met, who seemed to fit her criteria. Intelligent? Check. Emotionally available? Check. On a spiritual path? Check. He had dated another woman whose opinion I respected a while back, and she had given him the thumbs up, both in and out of bed.
After I described him, she rejected him. “Too old, probably,” was her excuse. Would they have made a good match? I certainly don’t know. But to reject someone outright without even meeting him doesn’t seem like an invitation for love to come and find you.
Almost every person I know who is single, regardless of age or gender, is struggling with trying to find a partner. Sorting through the sheer number of possibilities, and trying to filter for those who may be compatible, is an exhausting process. A radically different strategy is needed to find love in this day and age. Here are a few things that have worked for me, and others, who have found the holy grail of love.
Be free: Do you want to be in a relationship more than anything else in the world? Is this the only item on your letter to Santa? If so, the best thing you can do is make peace with your singlehood. Truly accept that you might spend your entire life alone without a man to love you. I believe that fear of being alone is the greatest barrier to love. While I think everyone deserves love, no one is entitled to it. And focusing on some imaginary thing in the future that may or may not happen keeps you from experiencing the love that makes up the fabric of time and space, the love that’s in front of you all the time, the love that is much greater than anything one person can give you. “I love my life, but…” doesn’t cut it. Let it go. Really let it go. Don’t just say it, feel it in your heart and mean it. I’ve seen this strategy work countless times. One friend met her husband on New Year’s Eve literally five minutes after she declared that she was done with trying to find men.
Be open-hearted: Now that you’ve banished the fear of being alone, and are able to be present right where you are, let yourself feel all the love that surrounds us. Women often say, “when I meet the right person, I’ll open my heart and fall in love.” That’s backwards. You have to open your heart before you can meet the right person. Look at two people. One is walking around with an empty cup and saying, “please, I’m so thirsty – will you fill my cup?” The other one has a cup that is overflowing and saying, “I have so much to drink, I want to share it with everybody! Here, try some!” Which person are you more likely to be attracted to? Like attracts like. Be the lover you want.
Be open-minded: What constitutes the “right person”? Usually what women have on their list is the superficial shit. A list like this only limits you; what looks good might not feel good; what you want very likely is not what you need. Things like consistency, loyalty, kindness and empathy can’t be discovered on a first date…or a second. Get rid of your expectations of what the perfect person looks like. Change your daily routines. Date guys who are totally not your type. If you go on a date and your response is, “well, I wasn’t crazy about him but I didn’t hate him,” go out with him again. Let the universe surprise you, and love will likely show up packaged in a way you never expected.
Be engaged: erotic energy runs through every level of creation. Playing with this current will make your life more enjoyable on a moment-to-moment basis. Interact and engage with the world. Wear clothes that scream your presence and invite curiosity, connection and conversation from those whose paths you cross. Smile and look people in the eye. Offer compliments; make people feel good about themselves. Flirt with plants, the wind, that cute eggplant at the grocery store, little kids, old men (they will love you for it). The world – your world – will be a more vivid and happy place because of it…and you might find yourself engaging with someone who is a potential romantic interest.
Be available: Every day I run across women who say they want to be in a relationship, but their behavior says anything but. It’s kind of like being a cab driver who is looking for fares but doesn’t have their “available” light on, and they wonder why no one flags them down. You can’t send mixed signals out to the universe about your availability. Either you want love, or you don’t. Saying “yes, but” is shorthand for “I’m not open to it.” And so, you keep driving in circles while other cabbies make their money.
Be a hot mess: I am. You are. We all are. Don’t hide it from potential partners. It’s part of being human. If you accept yourself as flawed, you’re more likely to accept another’s flaws. And then you can each love these tender, wounded little kids you’re carrying around inside of you (you know, the ones mommy and daddy didn’t love right when said kids were little) and heal some of that huge rift between men and women. That’s the good shit, right there.
Be realistic: Refusing to settle” is often code for “I want an absolutely gorgeous man with a killer stock portfolio and a loving heart.” Do such creatures exist? Yep, I’ve met a couple of ‘em, but they are few and far between. And pretty much every single woman between the ages of 18 and 65 is looking for that guy. Even if this stereotypical fantasy doesn’t match your own about who Mr. Right is, there is definitely a dearth of strong, solid men with open hearts. If you look for the guys who know they want a more modern model of relationship, as opposed to the guys who are already there, you open up so many possibilities. The sweet, loving man I love today is unrecognizable from the shut-down, frightened man I met almost three years ago. He was lurking in there somewhere, but had closed himself off so much that he needed someone else to show him that it was okay to live and love. Caterpillars do turn into butterflies.
Be willing to gamble: You cannot have great love without great risk. Going into a potential relationship holding back and trying to play it safe will only connect you to others who do the same. Vulnerability has been a hot word the past couple years, but its literal meaning is capable of being wounded or hurt. If you aren’t willing to allow for the possibility that your heart could be broken into a million pieces, it’s unlikely that you will find a person who wants to cherish your heart. And finding true love DOES inevitably include utter heartbreak: what if your partner dies before you, is in a freak car accident or gets cancer? I have a close friend who met a man much younger than her. Despite the fact that she knew it wasn’t going to work out (he wanted children, and she had just finished raising her son), she fearlessly kept dating him and didn’t play it safe. I attended their wedding last month.
Be ready to work: In the fairy tales, as soon as your eyes lock with your soulmate’s, all your problems are solved. You never need to do another therapy session because your true love will accept you just the way you are. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the hard work is just beginning. You will be learning different things with a partner than you do alone, but the evolution, growth and change do not stop. Once the honeymoon is over, your partner will push your buttons so well that you will think your parents gave him a detailed instruction manual on how to best get on your nerves. A relationship will put you on the fast track to work on your shit. It requires enormous courage, awareness, tenderness, patience and forgiveness. It is a fucking part-time job, and it is not for pussies. The good news? There are huge opportunities for becoming a better, more compassionate, more self-aware human being than you ever thought possible.
Be prepared to surrender: People are busy as shit these days. Finding someone who will “fit in” to your Google calendar is probably not in the cards. If you aren’t willing to skip a yoga class or two, eat something that’s not on your stringent diet or travel to a different part of town to meet a potential partner, it’s unlikely you will be willing to let love alter the fantasy future you have envisioned for yourself. Falling in love will re-arrange your life molecularly, from the bottom to the top, in big ways and small. For the past 50 years, women have been learning to take care of themselves and not to depend on men for security. Economic freedom has allowed us to be in control of our lives and our destinies. Love asks us to say yes to interdependence, to create partnerships and to allow others to care for us. Being open to love means willingly giving up our control, and getting something much greater in return. Stop struggling to cling to the banks as the current tugs you; let the raging water carry you to the place of calm.