Every few weeks I get a text from a friend of mine.
“I need your advice.”
Every time that little blue bubble pops up, I know exactly what’s coming next… “What should I do about this guy?”
It’s rarely the same guy, but it’s always the same story.
Here’s the situation… Here’s my dilemma…. He smells like feet… What should I do?
My friend is good people. She’s pretty, smart, and has very strong opinions about her favorite NFL team. She’s a catch. Yet she rotates through a unique brand of scrub over and over. She wants nothing more than to be in a relationship, but just can’t seem to find someone.
Her situation is not unique. It’s not unique to women. It’s not unique to straight people. And it can be stressful and debilitating.
For four years after my first real relationship, I was single and craved having that connection with somebody again. I spent years pouring over books and advice. Some good, some bad. Some helpful, some destructive. I learned a lot.
If you’re looking to find love, but can’t seem to find it or keep it, I’ll share two reasons why you’re struggling…..
1. You Want Nothing More Than To Be in a Relationship
Relationships start in the strangest of ways. Typically in ways you’d least expect.
Maybe it’s a current friend you’ve never seen in “that way” before. Maybe it’s a friend of the guy or girl you’re into right now.
Maybe you’re into one girl, but you find a prize in your Lucky Charms cereal box and end up winning a vacation to Indonesia where you fall for the chick at the local coffee shop and forget all about Cindy in Florida.
But with constant check-ins of whether or not this one is the one. You never allow life to develop. You’re overanalyzing the potential of your current squeeze before you even know whether you like each other.
Viktor Fankl once wrote,
“Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you’re going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see in the long-run – the long-run I say! – success will follow you precisely because your had forgotten to think about it.”
Relationships work in the same way. Replace the word happiness/success with dating/love.
The moment you forget about having a relationship is the moment you find yourself dating the same person for 6 months, and you really like him, and he doesn’t have chlamydia or a video game addiction. Not bad.
The best dating advice there is is self-development. Rather than incessantly focusing on finding somebody to be with, focus on becoming somebody people want to be with.
Get in the gym. Stop pounding IPAs. Read a book. Collect experiences. Collect stories. Collect failures. Floss your teeth. Never eat anything that is posted on The Thrillist IG page (no matter how amazing it looks). Focus on making moves at work. Develop skills in connection & influence. Read DannyColeman.net. Pick up a hobby… or two. Volunteer. Stop searching for prizes in your Lucky Charms, or for that matter, stop eating Lucky Charms.
All of a sudden, the very thing you wanted all along appears the moment you stop thinking about it.
The problem is that it’s hard. It takes time. It takes thousands of mini-reps of refocusing your attention from love to dumbbells. It takes patience. It takes mindfulness to catch yourself obsessing of relationships again. So I’ll tell you what I told my friend:
- Get on an exercise program, and stick with it for the next 3-months
- Pick 3 things you want to improve on at work, and focus on those for the next 3-months
- Stop going to bars and clubs and start going to meet-ups or community events for the next 3-months
- Stop texting me for guy advice. Stop talking about guys all together. If you want to text me, text me to let me vent about how my fantasy football team is burning to the ground.
And then wait 3-months… You’ll be surprised what happens.
Or as Jim Rohn says,
“If you want to have more, you have to become more. Success is not something your pursue. What you pursue will elude you; it will elude you; it can be like trying to chase butterflies. Success is something you attract by the person you become. For things to improve, you have to improve. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to change, you have to change. When you change, everything changes for you.” – Jim Rohn
2. You Want the Perfect Relationships
There’s this dude, let’s call him Barry. We’ll call him that because that’s his real name. Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology, and he’s kind of a big deal. He’s published some incredible work in the field of choices. Yes, choices. How we make choices. Why we make choices. Why we make the wrong choices. Why you continue to eat Lucky Charms. You get the idea.
He says that so many young people make bad relationship choices because our expectations are so high. He says,
“They want somebody who’s really attractive and smart and kind and empathetic and thoughtful and funny. Try telling a twenty-one-year-old that you can’t find a person who is absolutely the best in every way. They don’t listen. They’re holding out for perfection.”
There are subtleties and nuances in relationships that can’t be realized until you really get to know someone. After knowing somebody for two months, we find out something weird about them like they order pepperoni pizza only to remove all the pep’s before eating them.
So then we go and tell our friends how weird that it, (Seriously, who does that?) and we nix them as a potential partner. Meanwhile, if you weren’t so serious about soul mates you’d find out at the six-month mark that their little idiosyncrasy is sort of charming. Plus, now you get extra pepperonis on your pie. It’s the best of all worlds.
Expectations can screw us in a multitude of ways. The first is the expectation above. You want good looks, intelligence, humor, style, career, social skills, six-packs, and would you just leave the fucking pepperoni’s on your pizza, please?!
The other way expectations nail us is when we think of relationships as job interviews.
“Look, I am in shape, good-looking, have a good job, a 401k, and I paint portraits of historical figures while listening to Beethoven every Saturday. Oh, and I can make these cute little hors d’oeuvres. Can’t you see the value I’d add to your compan… uh, I mean, life?”
We take the advice of Jim Rohn & Frankl above and put it into action, and present ourselves as a catch, and then wonder while nobody is feelin’ us. These are gucci, bro.
Our expectation is that we checked all the boxes, now we get all the love, sex, and attention we want.
The problem is that attraction requires a certain amount of authenticity & uncertainty. The little imperfections and idiosyncrasies are what enable us to tease, flirt, and laugh. When we present ourselves as perfection, that’s not attractive. It lacks elements of truth needed to build trust.
This leaves us friend-zoned, ghosted on, and with a collection of wasted time, money, & energy.
So you can see how these expectations can get us in too different ways: 1) We expect others to LOVE us, and 2) We expect to LOVE others. Relationships simply do not function this way.
So the best advice then, as you can see, is squats and ignorance.
No but seriously, the best advice is to stop worrying about being single and detach from outcomes. It’s to practice living and sharing your authentic self. It’s about operating as a better person in the world. It’s about accepting others, pepperoni habits and all. It’s about not caring that your single, but actually embracing how much time you have to work on yourself and do whatever you want.
Do that, and I promise you will live to see in the long-run – the long-run I say! – love will follow you precisely because your had forgotten to think about it.