You’ve loved. You’ve lost.
You have no desire to go through it again.
You are ready to go on permanent guy-atus.
Then you read this letter by Emily Bracken posted on Medium and reposted on HuffPo. It’s astonishingly self-aware, and is the kind of letter I wish I received more, instead of the one blaming men for all the ills of the world.
Dear Future Love of My Life:
I know. I should have written before. Forgive me. But I got the feeling that you were beginning to think I didn’t exist. But I do. And I wanted to let you know that while I might be as elusive as a unicorn grazing in a field of four-leaf clovers, I’m close. I’m around the corner, down the street, on Facebook, in your office, at our local coffee shop, a complete stranger. I made eyes at you once on the subway. I saw you across the room at a party. I swiped you right on Tinder. But it’s not our time yet. And I know you’re wondering why.
It’s really not fair that you’ve had to wait this long, or go on blind dates, endure bad sex, settle for ‘meh’ relationships, feel misunderstood, cry from loneliness, wrap your arms around a pillow as you fall asleep at night. I’m so sorry, my love. You deserve an explanation. So, here it goes. It’s taken me a long time to even admit this to myself, much less to you, so please know that everything I’ve written here is true.
The reasons we haven’t met yet, in no particular order:
1. I haven’t thrown out the list of things I think you should be.
2. I’m with the wrong person right now.
3. I’m not ready to be loved unconditionally.
4. Since my life isn’t together, I think you’ll reject me.
5. I still believe that drama is a show of love.
6. I’ve been intentionally keeping my head too busy to think with my heart.
7. I need to date more to understand what I do and don’t like.
8. I won’t be able to appreciate you until life has kicked my ass.
9. I’m too focused on my own needs.
10. I don’t know how to create the feeling of home that lives in my heart.
Clearly, I’m not my best self yet. Or even myself — I’m still figuring out who that is. I’m pretty sure even if we did meet, you wouldn’t like me all that much right now. It’s entirely possible that we did hit it off once, and I left without getting your information; or maybe I did get your number and never called because of any one of the above reasons.
This is a call for humility — stop blaming the opposite sex for the downfall of your relationships and take responsibility for the things you can control.
Be patient with me, darling heart. Know that I’m working my way toward you. So don’t spend any more time thinking about where I am or am not. Just keep making your life exciting and full, so when we do finally come together, we can bring each other joy, because we are already happy.
I know it’s taking longer than you’d like. It’s a hell of a lot slower than I could have ever imagined. But I’m here. This is me talking to you. And I’m not going anywhere.
Don’t give up on me.
Yours, in perpetuity,
The Love You Haven’t Met Yet
Flip the genders and it’s just as potent. I could have written the same thing ten years ago, if only I were more self-aware. When I was 31, I hadn’t thrown out the list, my life wasn’t together, I was dating the wrong people, I needed to date more to understand what I like, I wasn’t able to appreciate the right woman until life kicked my ass, and I was too focused on what I was getting instead of what I was giving.
This letter is a call for humility — to stop blaming the opposite sex for the downfall of your relationships and to take responsibility for the things you can control.
My program, Believe in Love, builds on this concept and gives you a step-by-step blueprint to flipping the script from negative to positive, and turning the glass from half-empty to half-full.
But the fact is, finding love can be exhausting. Giving up on dating can be tempting, especially if all your recent attempts to meet someone special ended up in failure.
If you’re thinking of going on “guyatus”, here are nine signs that you may want to take a breather from the dating scene – or at least shift your mindset so dating doesn’t cause so much pain.
1. You’re experiencing what feels like “dating fatigue.”
If you’re a voracious online dater, you may find yourself meeting 1-2 people per week.
Statistically speaking, you’re not going to like 50% of them and 50% of them aren’t going to like you.
Which means that you have about a 25% chance of having a good first date that leads to a second date.
Which means that the majority of dates you go on are going to underwhelm or disappoint.
The answer isn’t to quit dating.
The answer is to learn to screen men better so dating doesn’t feel so soul-sucking.
In Week 7 of Love U, I mention the 2/2/2 rule, which is a way of screening guys for quality instead of swiping for quantity. Like an HR department that doesn’t allow every person with a resume to meet the CEO, having a mechanism to screen men for effort and intelligence will not only save you from dating fatigue, but it will minimize the number of bad dates you have by meeting total strangers.
2. You keep dating the wrong people.
Whether you try to meet someone in real life or an app or dating site, your tendency might be to have a type.
Chances are: your type is the male version of you.
If you’re a skier, you want a skier. If you’re a Christian, you want a Christian. If you like salsa dancing, you want a guy who likes salsa dancing. If you’re college educated, you want a man who’s college educated.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being attracted to people who share things in common.
But if you’ve spent a lifetime choosing men who are a lot like you…only to discover that it’s never led to a healthy, long-term relationship, perhaps there’s an opportunity for growth.
You may want to re-evaluate your choices. Are you choosing men for height, looks, money, education, or a witty profile? That’s normal. But just because a guy is tall, hot, rich, educated or funny doesn’t mean he’s compatible nor does it mean he wants to commit to you.
Judging men not just on their profiles but on how they follow up and treat you is a much more effective way of attracting “better” men that I teach in the Dating module in Month 3 of Love U.
3. You’re dating desperately.
Nobody wants to be alone. Nobody wants to hear her biological clock ticking. Nobody wants to operate from a place of fear, scarcity and desperation. Yet, it’s all too common.
When you’re feeling sad, lonely, needy or unloveable, it’s easy to look for love from a place of sheer panic. Instead of integrating dating into your life in an organic way – maybe a half-hour of online dating per day – you start to relentlessly pursue a husband. It makes sense in theory to take your love life seriously, but it rarely produces the kind of result that makes you happy.
Confident, secure men will pull away from your urgency and fear. And who signs up to date the needy woman? Men who are fine with insecure partners. They know that a single woman with few boundaries will put up with anything just to avoid being alone.
So if you’re feeling really sad, lonely, and desperate right now, take a deep breath.
Putting yourself out there in the right way and being selective in your search for a loving partner is the key to your success – not dating as many men as possible to find a husband as quickly as possible.
4. You drop everything when you meet a guy you like.
Do you give up on your plans whenever a cute guy calls you to meet up? Do you ever ditch your best friends just because someone you had a crush on circled back looking to hook up?
While dating with frequency is important, finding a guy should not override everything else.
If you prioritize men over everything, it’s time to take a step back and quit dating momentarily.
Maybe take a break to consider why cute guys have such a hold on you.
Maybe consider budgeting time for dating – without going over budget. Giving a half-hour a day to online flirting and one or two nights a week to talking and meeting is all the time you need.
Any worthwhile man who asks you out and discovers you’re busy will still be interested if you tell him you don’t have time until next Thursday.
5. Your self-esteem is suffering.
Going out with various guys on dating apps can be fun at first, but it eventually takes a toll on your self-esteem.
You gradually start questioning yourself, “Is there something wrong with me?”
You may be attractive, educated, and hold a good job, but being a catch is not enough to sustain a relationship with an unwilling man.
Because everybody has so many options, it’s hard to focus on one person. Especially if your primary way of meeting and communicating is swiping and texting.
Instead of taking things personally when you know that every decent guy has matched with 50 other women as well, the best thing you can do is detach yourself from the outcome.
Expect that most men will flake. Expect that most men aren’t serious. Expect that most men don’t have the desire or follow through to earn the right to meet you for drinks, much less be your boyfriend.
Once you understand that most men are NOT your husband, you can hopefully relax and have fun.
If you take every flaky inconsistent guy personally, it’ll make you feel sad and insecure – two traits that are counterproductive to attracting a happy, confident man.
You are a catch. But that doesn’t mean that all men want to catch you, y’know?
6. You have trust issues.
If you have a history of being dumped, it’s hard not to expect that to happen every time you meet someone new.
The natural reaction to a fear of abandonment is to not let anyone else in. Flirt mindlessly online. Sleep around. Fall for long-distance guys who never see you. Choose men who don’t know what they’re looking for. Low-risk. Low reward. By never getting truly intimate with someone, you avoid the pain of heartbreak, but you also avoid the possibility of finding your special person.
It’s human to want to avoid pain.
But if pain avoidance becomes your M.O. in dating – treating every man warily because you have a history of choosing charismatic cheaters – you’re never going to get happy.
The solution isn’t to quit dating, nor to treat all men as high-risk criminals worthy of an interrogation.
It’s to stop choosing charismatic cheaters who aren’t looking for anything serious.
It’s actually not that hard.
If you’re with a guy and you think you need to check out the text messages on the phone, the problem isn’t him. The problem is that you’ve CHOSEN a man you can’t trust. And if you are dating a man you can’t trust, you shouldn’t be dating him at all.
Men are innocent until proven guilty and if your trust issues make you treat a good man as if he has to prove his innocence, those good men are not going to stick around for long.
7. You’re in deep pain.
You may be hurting from a recent breakup. You may know that dating is the only way to get the love you deserve. But you also have to know that dating is not a panacea to make your life complete.
Sometimes, you need a few months to heal.
Sometimes, you need therapy.
Sometimes, you’re still hurting but you need to get back out there again.
Don’t beat yourself up. SOMEONE has to be the first person you meet after your breakup – and while odds are, that person isn’t going to be your soulmate, that’s okay. Remember, you’re not husband-hunting; you’re trying on different pairs of shoes to see if one should happen to fit.
Time heals all and when you’re closer to healed, you’re more likely to attract and choose a great man.
8. You don’t want to settle down.
Dating around can be fun.
You flirt. You banter. You get some free dinner. You get some action. You get an ego boost.
But sometimes you’re just doing it to keep busy because being home alone is the worst thing of all.
As long as you’re self-aware and know your motivations, it’s okay.
It’s okay to take a long break.
It’s okay to date for fun.
It’s okay to not know what you’re looking for in romantic relationships.
What’s not okay is dating someone who develops feelings for you while you’re just using him to keep busy. The Golden Rule says to do unto others, so if you wouldn’t want a guy to date you casually when you develop feelings for him, it seems only fair that you should restrict yourself to “just for fun” guys until you figure out what you really want.
9. You’re content being single.
The single life is not always that bad.
While you may not have a loving partner to come home to, you have more than just freedom –you have eliminated the biggest source of your misery – the wrong person who doesn’t fully love and appreciate you.
And if you feel good about being alone, then that’s the right answer for you.
It takes strength and courage to say that you feel complete even without a man beside you.
Focus on your work. Your body. Your mental health. Your self-esteem. Your friendships. Your home.
And keep in mind that, at a certain point, you’re probably going to want to meet someone special and invite him to share in the amazing life you’ve created for yourself.
Taking a break from dating can be a great idea, but try not to lose sight of the fact that just about everybody wants to be loved unconditionally by a romantic partner – and that the only way to make that happen is to start dating once again.