“You’ll find love when you stop looking for it” is probably one of the most overused pieces of advice ever given to people who are struggling to find a partner.
Whilst it’s always meant in the sincerest of ways, I’m not sure it’s the best thing you could tell somebody.
Of course, looking for a relationship shouldn’t be a priority, but if you don’t apply any sort of effort to finding somebody, you’re not all that likely to find anyone.
Sometimes it’s up to you to make the first move, so sitting back and just waiting for your Mr Perfect to come along and sweep you off your feet is not going to make somebody magically appear.
In a relationship it takes two people, making equal efforts, and if you’re nonchalant about the union then eventually they’ll decide you aren’t worth it.
So the basis of a relationship is two people being together, who have a romantic attachment to one another. As something that we all lust after in our lives, it’s easy to become disheartened when hardships keep you from meeting people. It’s understandable now that most of us have fairly busy lives, what with having to work, manage hobbies and social lives, and that makes it hard to meet new people.
If you’re anything like me, you probably sit at home with a book, engulfed in the literary artwork sculpting your imagination, thinking in between chapters about how much you’d love to be snuggled up to someone special. I know that reading isn’t necessarily the best way to meet people, but speaking to the introverts: It’s easier and more enjoyable than having to put yourself into a strenuous social situation and make conversation with groups of people.
After a day at work, the last thing I want to do is go out partying and wear myself out, and I’m not the only one. I find making conversation with people really, really, difficult so when I’m tired it’s even harder to engage with people. It’s easy enough to put no effort in whatsoever, but that definitely isn’t going to help you find a partner.
So let’s say you’ve been single for a few years now and you’re starting to feel a bit lonely. Your friend gives you the age-old piece of advice that you should stop looking and somebody will find you. As a result of that, you drop all the clubs you were going to and focus entirely on your work and yourself. Going out in the evenings was one of your main methods for meeting new people, so you stop doing that too. All you do in your life is work and sleep. This is a really extreme example and as far as I know nobody has actually done this in an attempt to have a relationship with someone, but it gets the point across.
To be in a relationship with someone, you need to actually meet them. The last place you’re going to meet someone is in your own bed every night (unless you haven’t stopped going out drinking, of course, in which case you may be lucky enough to wake up in the morning next to your next partner), so if you never do anything, how do you expect you’ll ever meet somebody?
I agree, don’t spend your whole life searching and concentrating on dating but you need to make some sort of an effort to meet people or else you probably never will. If you don’t try you’re not going to meet anybody.
If you spend every moment of your life pursuing a love interest, every second you’re by yourself makes you feel that little bit more lonely because time starts moving at a crawl. I’ve also noticed that people who can’t think about anything else come across as being a bit desperate.
It’s a good thing to want and need somebody as it makes them feel important (if there is someone specific already in your life) but being independent and confident by yourself is more attractive than collapsing into a teary heap after two months of being single.
Again, this is a serious exaggeration of reality but do you honestly find desperation an attractive trait? I can’t say that I do. I like people who miss me when I’m gone, but can handle being on their own because they know I can’t be there all the time.
Desperate usually says clingy and clingy is really annoying. Making love too much of a priority is, in some ways, just as bad as not trying at all, because if you don’t look like you’re interested in finding a partner, people aren’t going to ask. If you look like you’re trying too hard, you run the risk of turning people off because you come across as being too much.
Having established that, whilst the idea of not looking is not the best piece of advice, it actually does have some sort of positive message.
The sort of person you’re likely to say that to is someone who’s lonely and just wants somebody to cuddle them and say it’s alright, that they aren’t on their own anymore.
For a person struggling, I can see why it’d be comforting to hear that they shouldn’t be looking at all. Although I don’t think the literal meaning of that phrase is particularly useful, there is some truth in there as well.
It’s true when people say that you’ll find somebody when you least expect it. For me, personally, that was exactly what happened. I broke up with my ex last year and for a good few months I pursued a boy who I’d had English lessons with.
He led me on a lot, but every time I started to lose hope I’d get a message from him and I’d be right back where I started, chasing after him all over again.
I let that go on for a while before I decided that he wasn’t worth my time of day. Then I met somebody else when I went out of the city. He seemed nice to begin with but that didn’t last long; He wasn’t romantically interested in me, if you know what I mean.
I was messed about an awful lot and after that I was all a bit jaded and didn’t see the point in trying so hard as I had been.
I resigned myself to being single and accepting that aspect of my life and carried on. I wasn’t at school, so I joined clubs. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone any time soon, but since I didn’t have many friends at the time, I was just looking for people to talk to so I wasn’t always by myself. Anybody who’s read my earlier pieces might remember that I was a member of Enable Youth throughout this year and I worked to help organise the Rock On The Rec music festival in Harborough.
I didn’t make many friends whilst I was there, but it was where I met my boyfriend. I hadn’t even considered that as an option when I first joined – it was just a way of getting back into the world after leaving school with nowhere really to go. We started talking as friends, became close because we learned that we had a lot of similarities and that blossomed.
As it turned out, this is the longest relationship he’s ever had (which is something I’m quite proud of, to be completely honest). Neither of us was looking to meet anyone at the time but just when nobody was expecting it, things happened.
The moral of the story (apologies for the cliché) is that you don’t have to be consciously looking and expecting to meet somebody, but you do have to put yourself out there.
Perhaps the best thing to do, rather than lazing around and waiting for someone to come to you, is talk to everybody. Literally everybody. Go to clubs and classes related to the things you love, to meet like-minded people, and talk to those people. You aren’t going to date everyone you talk to, obviously (well, some people might, but that isn’t the sort of relationship I want to promote) but you might talk to someone that you just click with. You may not even like everybody you talk to, but if that turns out to be the case, then there’s no obligation to stay in contact.
Either way, you’ve tried and you may not find a partner right away, but you will come out of it with a good group of friends that you really get on with.
If nothing had come of mine and Martyn’s conversations at Enable Youth we would still have been great friends, but I’m glad it’s more than that. I wasn’t desperate and I’m quite happy by myself, but I’m even better now.
I’ve already said that sometimes, making conversation is almost a painful experience. If you’re not social enough to chat to everyone you meet, I can empathise with that because I still struggle to talk to people but that isn’t the only way to meet people.
Whilst I’m not sure on whether I have a distinctly positive or negative opinion of online dating, there’s no hiding the fact that it has worked for some people.
It’s a brilliant way of meeting people quickly, if that’s your thing, and it puts you in contact with people you might not have met otherwise. I think that’s brilliant. I don’t believe in love at first sight and my thoughts on whether or not soul mates exist are mixed, but I do think that the people near to you may not be the best matches.
Obviously, there is a pretty important con to online dating that you need to be aware of: Not getting any replies back is soul-crushing. I haven’t tried it myself, as most websites have a minimum age of 18, and my 18th birthday was two months ago, at which time I didn’t need to be using online dating.
That doesn’t mean I can’t imagine how horrible that must feel. Imagine if you set up a profile online and for months nobody responded to it with any sort of interest. That could break somebody’s self-esteem. Online dating also goes against what I’ve already said about not consciously looking for a partner, as well, but I make an exception because it doesn’t require you to be thinking 24/7 about whether or not you have any replies to set up a profile online.
Not everybody is going to just meet people as I have done - especially not people who are anxious about sharing their feelings - and sometimes it’s nice to have a little nudge towards somebody else to start things off. For those people, I recommend trying online dating.
At this point I’d like to bring up something that I’ve never quite been able to get my head around: First dates. I’ve never been on one. I don’t see the point in going out with somebody you don’t know very well. When somebody hands you their number or asks you out, isn’t that a bit weird?
You’ve never met this person before, you know nothing about them, and based entirely on your manner and appearance they’ve decided they want to go out with you. For all either of you knows, you could be the most mismatched couple in the world.
One of you might be similar to (although hopefully not exactly alike) Sheldon Cooper, whilst the other is more like Penny (Big Bang Theory, for those of you who don’t know). That sort of couple is not going to work. I’m not sure any couple that includes somebody like Sheldon is going to be the most successful, but Penny is the least likely match for a physicist and if that turned out to be the case between you and this stranger you’re having dinner with, chances are it isn’t going to work.
It’s so awkward meeting up with somebody who you don’t know, to spend time with them and only them. It’d get even more awkward if it turned out you were completely incompatible. Is it really that difficult to talk to somebody first? Maybe add them on Facebook and chat to them there first, or text and meet up in town after learning a little bit about them. Become friends first and then just go with whatever happens next. I’ve tried to no avail to understand why people date based on looks rather than personality.
I always find that people are more physically attractive when you fall in love with their personality. Really, a partner is your best friend, as well as your lover, so doesn’t it make sense to see how you get on as friends first?
I just can’t comprehend going on a date with someone you don’t know; It isn’t something I would ever do (although my idea of a good date is going go-karting or paintballing for an afternoon and then watching a movie with a tub of Ben&Jerry’s, so what do I know).
This article feels a little bit like a self-help kind of piece to me at the moment. It really wasn’t supposed to. I just wanted to take a look into a couple of the ways people seem to start relationships and what I think about those things.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend time focusing on finding a partner, but in my opinion you’re better off just to let things happen and see where it all goes.
Spontaneity is the most fun way of living life. Make plans, have a routine that suits you, but really, just live every day the way you feel like living at the time.
That definitely applies to love lives as far as I’m concerned. It’s so much more enjoyable to have no idea what you’re doing and continuing to do it anyway, whatever that might be. Maybe I’ve read a little too much into that piece of advice - I don’t know - but really if you want to support someone, I’d suggest, as a friend, taking them out for a movie and something to eat, and helping them feel comfortable being single (and maybe, if you feel up to it, slip the cute waiter their number).
Relationships are complex because you can never read somebody else’s mind to know what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling, but that’s what makes them fun. Unless you’re trying too hard - that makes it more like work, and it should never be hard work.
Column by Ruby Hryniszak
Follow Ruby on Twitter, @13eaytifulLife.