I’m 31 years old and I’ve never been in relationship, nor have I ever been in love. I look at couples — married, cohabiting, dating — and I’m so envious of their ability to open up and create something with another person. Sometimes I feel like I’m too broken to even be considered by the universe to find love. I’ve never suffered any emotional or mental trauma that would provoke these thoughts, but I wonder if it’s self-preservation. I feel as though I’ve put myself out there, but each time I’m unsuccessful. Any advice for someone feeling a little hopeless?The bad news: your attitude needs an adjustment. The good news: adjusting your attitude is free! Instead of telling yourself that you’re a failure, correct that narrative in your head and say that you just haven’t found the right person yet, which is totally okay and super normal.
You say that every time you put yourself out there you’ve been unsuccessful. How you’re looking at these interactions could be part of your problem. Put it this way, is it a failure if you ordered crappy nachos at a restaurant? Would you say that you “failed” as a customer? Or would you say, “Hey, at least I tried this restaurant’s nachos but man, they sucked” and go about your day? You learned that you don’t like salsa out of a jar and that you prefer fresh jalapenos to pickled ones. That’s what dating is: trying new things, seeing what you like.
One day you will order nachos and you will recognize why they’re incredible: the chips are crispy, the cheese is perfectly melted, the guacamole is tasty and the jalapenos are fresh as hell. And you will know how kick-ass these nachos are because you’ve had so many shitty orders of nachos. You’re now a nacho expert and you can say with certainly that those nachos currently in front of you rule the hardest.
Dating is the exact same way.
Each time I dated someone who wasn’t a good fit, I learned something about myself. I learned that I can’t be with someone who scolds me if I stuff my face with brownies when I’m PMSing. I can’t be with someone who makes me feel bad for loving Fall Out Boy. I can’t be with a smoker. And I can’t be with someone who refuses to watch movies with subtitles.
Are these relationships failures? Hell no! I now know myself better than ever because of these “failures.” That’s a gift.
Speaking of gifts, and I tell you this as someone who spent most of my 20s and early 30s single, this time you have alone is a gift. You have the time and energy to throw yourself in whatever projects you want. Travel to the places you want to go. Make you the best version of yourself that you can be.
Hold on to your laptop because I have a giant spoiler alert: relationships don’t magically make everything better. That feeling that you’re looking for, that all-encompassing love and acceptance, starts with you. Until you have it independently, you can’t have it instilled by someone else. That’s the huge secret of relationships. Once you realize that no singular relationship will complete you, you will truly be free.
Listen, I’ve been in your fuzzy pink slippers. It’s not easy to keep hope alive especially when it seems like a romantic relationship is less likely than “Homeland” being good again. If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t find myself in a committed relationship until I turned 35. It’s not our parents’ world where if you didn’t find a partner by 25, you’re branded a spinster. If anything, the sooner I realized that the longest relationship in my life was with myself, the happier I was.
And keep in mind that relationships—even the happy, healthy ones—take a lot of time and work. There’s no magical happily ever after. Committing to a life with someone takes a serious amount of negotiating, compromising, and communication skills. Those happy couples mooning over ricotta pancakes at brunch? I guarantee you that their relationship navigated some bumps too. It’s easy to forget that when you only see them at their best.
Anyways, you know what’s worse than being alone? Being with the wrong person. That’s a hell unto itself. That would be a true failure for you. So far you’ve avoided that, which is fantastic. Seriously. You haven’t settled just because you’re lonely. You’re pushing through the loneliness and I promise you that it will be worth it in the end. Just keep being the best friend and family member you can be. Because when you do meet the right person, you will need support from time to time. By having a web of positive people in your life, you will be happier and richer for it.
Your mission is to keep being open to new experiences and learn about yourself, so that you will be able to recognize when you’re with the right person. And that’s the true measure of success.