Single For Years? It’s Not Necessarily You…

Two weeks ago in the New York Times, Sara Eckel described how difficult it was to explain to her dates that she hadn’t had a serious boyfriend in eight years. EIGHT YEARS.

One of her dates actually asked her: “What’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” she answered.

Eckel worked hard to fill her life with activities to avoid the pain of being single. She writes “I went on Internet dates, speed dates and blind dates. I had great hair and a confident smile. But I was still alone. And in the dark of Saturday night, I still asked myself, ‘What’s wrong with me?'”

After dating her future husband for a month, she revealed her eight-year relationship drought. “Lucky for me,” he said, “all those other guys were idiots.”

To him, she was not a problem to solve, or a puzzle that needed working out. She was the girl he was in love with.

This article has been a very popular one – one of the most emailed New York Times pieces this week – because it pretty much says that you will fall in love and that nothing has to change. Who wouldn’t like that message?

And while I’m pretty sure I’m not “The Man” she refers to in the article, the tips she mentions to finding love aren’t necessarily bad ones. Furthermore, there is no love without opportunity, and though the author seems to think that it just happened when she met the right guy, it REALLY happened because she went through that process of learning and dating and soul searching. Ms. Eckel didn’t just sit on her ass, complain that men suck, and give up on dating. Even if she didn’t have to fundamentally change who she was, she had to have enough experience to appreciate the good man who finally appreciated her and wanted to lock her in – instead of bailing on him because he was “too nice” or “safe” or “boring”. This, by the way, is essentially half of my message – appreciate the man who appreciates you (the other half being “be the best partner you can be”).

So, do you feel like Sara Eckel? Do you think that it’s silly to try to do something different to achieve a different result? Do you think that the best way to fall in love is just be yourself and hope?

I don’t believe this at all – Ms. Eckel did indeed get lucky – but I can acknowledge why women have been passing this article around like a joint. The best kind of change is the one that you never have to make.

Read the piece here and share your feelings in the comments below.


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  1. 31

    I’ve been single for 7 years after breaking my neck and getting divorced because of it.  Let’s be honest.  Not everyone finds the “love of their life.”  Not everyone gets to live “happily ever after.”  We all yearn for our version of this in our hearts, but it’s just not realistic to believe that it’s going to happen for everyone.  I remember as a kid looking around the neighborhood, and there were only a few old timers who were still married and happy.  Everyone else had been touched by the cruel hand of fate.  So you have to be okay with yourself and be okay with never finding love.  It doesn’t happen for everyone, and being single doesn’t always mean that you have issues.  Sometimes you just didn’t meet someone who wanted to be your partner and return your love.  And that’s not your fault.

    1. 31.1

      “and being single doesn’t always mean that you have issues.”

      Then the wider culture to stop behaving as though it does. Especially since one gender — and it’s not women, since EMK and experts like him have thriving coaching practices and those are their clients — is not working on *their* issues.

      That sentiment is much more frequently flung at single women, with that same culture looking the other way past single men who need to work on *their* issues … even while women are making the effort.

      Until that disparity is called out and actively addressed, the culture needs to stop blaming women for choosing to be single, or not being able to find a partner, when the alternative is being treated badly by men who refuse to deal with their “stuff”, and who are actively supported by the culture in that refusal.

  2. 32
    can't force yourself to feel that way

    “appreciate the man who appreciates you”? are you kidding me? i tried liking people who liked me just because they liked me. i found myself attracted to guys who weren’t into me so i tried making myself like the ones who did. but it doesn’t work. i lose interest quickly because i am not being honest with myself. no, i do not like that guy, so my interest fades fast. yes, it was a waste of time. no i cannot make myself feel the way i do not feel. 

  3. 33

    @Nathan # 26

    CK said:
    “I have a fair amount of guy friends, and none of them do ‘soul searching, etc etc’ to prepare themselves for their future mates. If women are the only ones searching their souls, then where does that leave us at times? Isn’t that a bit lopsided?”

    Nathan said:
    “The guys reading this need to understand that the question CK poses is important – don’t blow it off as a complaint. If we want women with their baggage dealt with, we have to deal with our own. End of story.”

    No nathan, that’s exactly what CK’s statement is – a complaint, on a blog *for women*.

    And you jumping on the bandwagon to lambast “the guys reading this” is misguided at best, and downright insulting at worst. Most of the men on this blog are of the soul-searching type who spend no small amount of time and energy contributing good information and insights (yes, occasionally we have a tool).

    I’m empathetic to CK’s plight, but it’s naive to expect men as a group to start more soul-searching. That’s not how most men are. They tend to keep their own council, and also tend to trust their own feelings without second-guessing them, or where they come from. Guys generally don’t feel the need to examine their existence in great detail (yes, some of us do more than others, but we’re in the minority). Heck, even as introspective as I am, I got nothing on the *average* woman (just look at how many women comment here vs men).

    Please don’t insult those of us who are doing our best to contribute positively to this conversation.

    1. 33.1

      ” They tend to keep their own council, and also tend to trust their own feelings without second-guessing them, or where they come from. ”

      And that’s your mistake.

      Because maybe – just maybe – you don’t know everything.

      JoeK, did you know that the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that controls communication between the left and right hemispheres, is actually 20% larger and more active in women than in men?

      How that plays out in real life, if you haven’t already deduced it, is that you may be doing destructive things you don’t even know you’re doing, because the structure of your own brain doesn’t support self-awareness.

      In which case any “rational and logical” man with the slightest jot of common sense might want to get, at the very least, a second opinion.

      You didn’t stop developing at two, or five, or ten, or fifteen years old because “That’s just how I do things”, did you?

      Okay, then.

      (And if you *did* do that — well, at that point all we can do is leave you to it, I guess …)

    2. 33.2

      “They tend to keep their own council”

      P.S. The usage you’re actually looking for here is “counsel”. “Keep their own council” is a colloquial misuse. Frequent, but still incorrect.

  4. 34

    its a joke- you can be amazing great beautiful nice kind and still single- men these days are narcissistic crazy warped, sick in the heads…its NOT the women who are good decent looking for love– its the crazy people out there. me and another female in our 30’s both were talking about how we’re single, in our 30’s, cant meet anyone. both great women and I know many more. me..i used to model, very beautiful kind- men just shut me down right away, I get abused mistreated not much else. if you’re single It means you are a DECENT person with love kindness and the narcissistic psychos of today see you as a target not much else…

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