I used to think I could "hack" love. I wanted love so badly that I would go out with the conscious desire to search for it. Every person I saw would provoke rumination: is she the one? I would ask. Did I just miss an opportunity to meet the person for me?
And if I found myself suffering from shyness, having chosen not to approach the person I was interested in, I'd punish myself with a combination of guilt and procrastination: Damn! She's leaving. I missed my chance. Oh well, next time, next time. Then of course, I'd always beat myself up about it further afterward: I should have talked to her! I blew it.
Every time I would describe my frustration to a friend, they would comfort me by saying it "just wasn't meant to be." And sure, there is some truth to that, especially if you're someone who feels a powerful connection to the idea of reading signs from the universe. But it's also true that the situation wasn't "meant to be" because I didn't take the steps needed to test the waters.
Let's examine some common responses we've all heard and look at why they might be harming our search for love, rather than helping US ...
1. There is only one soul-mate out there for you.
My wife and I were talking about this the other day. We love each other and plan to be married forever. As we discussed the idea that everyone can have more than one "true love," my wife jokingly crossed her arms over her chest "angrily" and asked, "Wait, so you mean, I'm not the one for you!?"
Now, of course this is not a conversation that was somehow incorporated into our wedding vows. But, the reality is this: there are 7 billion people on this planet. If there was some predetermined person who is the "one" for me, I highly doubt that my wife is that one. The odds are against us.
There are many people out there with whom you will be compatible with, and all in different ways. This doesn't mean my wife isn't the right person for me. We've grown a lot together, laughed a lot, improved our relationship, and married each other because we felt, and still do feel, right for each other.
But when you stop believing this myth of "THE ONE," the world of dating will feel far more grounded in reality, balanced, and well, much more fun.
2. Love will find you when you least expect it.
As someone who was very determined to find love, I simply didn't want the process of navigating my love life to be up to fate. When I believed, or even considered, the possibility that fate controlled my love life, I felt paralyzed by anxiety that I would have to wait a lifetime to find true love.
That said, straining to find love — as if it were an active search — also doesn't work. You can't force a feeling, especially not one like love.
And love also doesn't find you. People often give you this advice because they don't know how to find love. So, they tell you what sounds good and what they think you want to hear. This reassuring piece of "advice" you may have heard is obviously born out of good intentions, but it won't help you practically on your journey to find companionship.
There are, however, aspects of love there are serendipitous and you need to be aware of those moments of connection when they happen.
But ultimately, love takes work. It takes action. It takes effort to find a relationship, work on a relationship, and maintain a relationship.
Stop believing the myth that love is going to sweep you off your feet and magically take you to some mythical place called Love Land. Believe in yourself, and your power to attract others and connect with others who are attractive to you.
3. You need to set very high expectations to find a true love that's good enough.
Of course, I'm also not telling you to be a doormat and to fall in love with the next guy or gal who comes along (and especially not those who treat you like crap!). This is not what I mean by setting "very high expectations." I don't believe dating someone who treats you with dignity, respect, and love is having high expectations. This is a baseline expectation.
High expectations are those expectations that are often so specific and unrealistic that nobody is ever going to fit into them. You know those people for often have their "non-negotiables," saying things like "My ideal partner must have this kind of job ... be this tall ... drive this kind of car ... run X many days per week."
These are unrealistic expectations -- "very high expectations" -- and these limit our ability to be open to the great people who may drift into our lives. When we lower our expectations, even slightly, it's much easier to have an open heart and mind without compromising our needs and desires. For example, rather than having a strict expectation for someone to run X times per week, we can say "I'd like to meet someone who puts fitness and their health a priority." That's realistic.
That can also mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so be aware and understanding of that. And you may discover something new about someone who may not have previously fit into your high expectations.
So, both the idea of finding love and the idea that love will find you can be states of denial. Love between two people isn't something that can be categorized as such. The truth is, you can take action to find love and be open to love's inherit serendipity. You can plan to find love when you show people you are open to love finding you.