Towards a Happy Personal Life: A Step-by-Step Guide Out of Loneliness

I believe that in order to repair one’s personal life, it is first necessary to find out where the problem lies. Some people are lonely because they never meet anybody they like. Others meet plenty of people who interest them but their feelings are always unrequited. There are those who don’t have these issues but can never get past the second date, those who get abandoned right after they first have sex with a new partner, those who have many short-term relationships but can never translate them into long-term ones, those who keep getting cheated on, those who keep cheating, and so on. All of these folks have completely different issues and should look for completely different solutions. Lumping them all together under the umbrella label of “lonely” is not productive.

So here is the algorithm of how to define where your specific problem lies:

1. Do you meet people who attract you on a regular basis? If yes, move on to question 2. If no, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it possible you are depressed? Do you have serious health issues? Is your sexual drive OK? Are you taking any medication that depresses sex drive? Have you experienced some serious trauma (physical or psychological) recently? Are you a victim of sexual violence? Was there any form of sexual abuse in your childhood? 

These are all very serious issues that need to be addressed, confronted and resolved before you can expect to proceed any further.

2. Do the people you find attractive normally find you attractive, too? If yes, move on to question 3 (that will appear in the next post in the series). If no, consider the following:

A tendency towards unrequited feelings means you have a severe reluctance or fear of being in a relationship. Only you know where that comes from. I had this issue for a while and, in my case, it was a terror that any form of a mutual interest would lead me into a very serious long-term relationship I wasn’t ready for. This is why I kept choosing “impossible men.” They posed no danger for me. If your situation is at all similar to mine, giving yourself a permission to have many short-term flings in rapid succession really helps.

Just remember: this isn’t bad luck or coincidence. This also doesn’t mean that you are unattractive and nobody ever wants you. All that this string of unrequited episodes means is that you are choosing people who will not want you on purpose. There are tons of folks who are attracted to you right now but you are not seeing them. You are fulfilling your need for rejection. And only you can know why you have this need. The moment you figure out why you do this, you will immediately discover all of those people who do find you very attractive.

And we all still remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be single, right? These posts are aimed only at those who don’t want to be single and are interested in exploring how they could improve their dating lives.

I will continue the algorithm in the following posts in the series.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Learning to Be Happy on Your Own

Let’s now continue the fascinating discussion started by blogger Miriam:

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place?

As we discussed in the previous post in this series, wanting “a serious partner” is in itself deeply problematic. Wanting to have a serious partnership with your boyfriend James or your girlfriend Lisa is, I believe, the only healthy approach. Nobody can be expected to be “a” partner for you. A desire for a partnership or a relationship should not come before a desire for an actual human being. If it does, you are not ready for a relationship. At least, not for a healthy one. You can, of course, find another seeker of “a serious partner” and get involved with them. I can guarantee, though, that within a very short time you will drive each other nuts with endless demands, nagging, sulks, fights, etc.

Now, let’s address the issue of whether you should learn to be happy on your own before becoming ready to date. In my opinion, yes, absolutely. Looking for a person to solve your psychological issues and fill a vacuum in your life is wrong. If you do that, it means you are planning to use a person before you’ve even met them. Another person can never solve your issues and fill your vacuum. No matter how much they give you, it will never be enough.

Recently, I quoted a post by a young woman who met a man of her dreams. They were very obviously made for each other. However, she had severe emotional issues she tried to resolve through him. As we can all guess, they are not together any more. Using one’s partner as an emotional crutch, a psychotherapist, a parental figure, or a wet-nurse is never a good idea.

I maintain that the best-case scenario is one where you are having a great time being single, then fall in love with a person, and have an even better time being partnered with them. A moment comes in one’s life when you say to yourself, “I have so much, why not share it with someone?” And from there a healthy relationship will grow. If, however, you say, “My existence is so incomplete. Let me get what’s missing out of another person (whom I’ve never even met but whose role in my life is already defined by my unfulfilled needs)”, I can’t see happiness ensuing as a result.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Is It Unhealthy to Want Someone?

I have received many grateful messages for my series of posts on dating. This makes me think I should continue discussing issues people may confront as they attempt to build their personal lives. Today, I am inaugurating a new series called “Towards a Happy Personal Life.”

Blogger Miriam makes the following observations on her blog*:

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place? Why is it considered unhealthy to really, really want someone to share your life with?

I believe that addressing these concerns is crucial for anybody who is currently on a journey towards personal, romantic and sexual happiness.

Let me start with the last of the questions Miriam poses:

Why is it considered unhealthy to really, really want someone to share your life with?

I am one of those people who considers this unhealthy and who always fled at a fast pace from folks “wanting someone to share their lives”. It is wrong to want “someone” because nobody wants to play the role of “someone” in your life. People normally hope to be wanted not in the capacity of just someone but, rather, individually. Wanting a specific, concrete John, Anna, Daniel, or Pepita is healthy. Imagining a relationship and then trying to massage live human beings you meet into this vision of what you want your personal life to look like scares people away.

In the course of my long and eventful dating life, I met quite a few folks who were looking for someone, for a relationship, for marriage, for commitment. Every single time, these people turned out to be completely toxic as romantic partners. They were incapable of caring about me, a specific, concrete human being with a multitude of issues, problems, distinctive features, etc. They needed a “someone”, an actor to play the part of a romantic interest in the scenario they had created for themselves. This made them completely incapable of loving another person. They loved the idea of having a partner. The actual partner, however, was a lot less exciting to them.

So here is my advice: stop wanting “someone”, stop creating scenarios of relationships in your head. Look around yourself, identify a specific Jill or Jack you like and concentrate on wanting them. If there isn’t anybody like that and hasn’t been for a while, this means you have a serious problem that you need to address.

* None of this is supposed to be a personal criticism of Miriam who is a blogger I highly respect.

(To be continued. . .)

Dating Advice, Part III

My third piece of advice is to stop counting. Applying arithmetic to your romantic life might make you feel in control but that’s a very unhealthy illusion. The greatest challenge of our romantic lives is that we do not control them. The sooner you accept the idea that you can do everything right many times in a row and still not end up in a blissful relationship as a result, the better. And do I need to tell you how crucial relinquishing control is for achieving sexual fulfillment? All of those anorgasmic people of both genders are the ones who are terrified of relinquishing control.

So forget all the silly advice about counting the number of days you need to wait before calling up a person for a second date or counting the number of dates before you allow yourself to have sex. If you need to call the person, just do it. If you are afraid of looking needy by calling too soon, consider the following: shouldn’t you aim for a partner whose neediness matches yours? Why would you want to start a relationship with someone who has a much weaker need for company than you do? Besides, nobody can transform themselves completely for each new date without suffering a nervous breakdown. Trying to anticipate the needs of a complete stranger to the detriment of your own is not a road to happiness.

The same goes for sex. The only good time to have sex is when you feel like doing it. What’s the point of getting involved with someone whose sexual temperament or sexual morality are completely different from yours? If you don’t feel like having sex for the first six months of the relationship, just be open and unapologetic about that. If you feel like having sex six hours after the first date, I suggest you do the same. Of course, I’m talking about cases when people are in tune with their sexuality and can distinguish genuine sexual desire or lack thereof from the need to manipulate a partner.

Dating Advice, Part II

I don’t like repeating the tired old platitudes that so often get dispensed as dating advice. This is why I’m trying to offer a somewhat novel approach to dating in this series of posts. How often have you heard the boring exhortation not to talk about politics and religion on the first date?

Well, in my opinion, this is crappy advice. If you are serious about wanting your dating to culminate in a success, one of the most important things you can do is avoid wasting time. A beginning dater often takes way too long to discover that a new acquaintance is an unsuitable prospect. Seasoned daters, however, perfect their technique of weeding out candidates who don’t suit them within just one or two meetings.

The greatest mistake newbie daters make is concentrating too much on making a good impression on their dates instead of using the first two or three crucial meetings to determine if the person they are trying so hard to impress is somebody they actually need in their lives.

I believe that it’s a good idea to make a list of deal-breakers that will make you lose all interest instantly in a person and discuss them as soon as possible. For example, I obviously could only be interested in a feminist. This is why I always brought up feminism on the very first date. An alternative would be to keep silent about my feminism for fear of scaring the date away only to discover much later that their dislike of feminist ideals make them completely unsuitable for me.

Trying to make a good impression is counter-productive for yet another reason. Believe me, the best way to make a horrible impression on people is to try hard to make a good impression. It makes you come off as fake, pathetic, and as somebody who tries too hard. These are not attractive qualities. If you are passionate about politics or religion, why not mention this as soon as possible in order to avoid possible disappointments after you get emotionally involved with the person?

Dating Advice, Part I

People are clamoring for more posts containing dating advice, so I’m happy to oblige. I hope it will be enough to say once at the beginning of this series that I believe that there is nothing whatsoever wrong about being single and people who are single by choice don’t need a relationship to make them happy and complete. This series is not aimed at convincing anybody to date. Its only goal is to share some insights into dating with those who already want (of their own free will and with no prodding on my part) to find a partner. I sincerely hope that this disclaimer will be sufficient.

There are lucky people who manage to find a suitable partner at the very beginning of their dating process. For many of us, though, it takes much longer. Often, people spend years on the dating market, actively searching for a partner but not managing to find one. As a friend of mine used to say whenever she would come back from yet another unsuccessful first date, “And here goes my 125,999 failed attempt at dating.”

Nobody likes to feel like a failure, especially not on a regular basis. After a certain number of unsuccessful dates, people become emotionally and psychologically drained and feel like giving up altogether. I felt the desire to abandon the search many times. Why go out on what will probably turn out to be yet another huge waste of time when I can just stay at home happily with my books and my computer?

If it seems like the dating period is likely to be protracted, we need a mechanism that will compensate for feelings of failure, disappointment and boredom that it’s likely to generate. So this is tip number one: develop a secondary goal that your dating will help you reach. Here are a few examples:

1. If you are a blogger, you can use each new date as material for new posts. So what if you haven’t been able to find a suitable partner this time, and the last time, and the time before that? You now have material for a kick-ass series of new posts about your dating experiences.

2. If you are trying to improve your health or lose weight, why not walk to and from each new date? A fresh dating failure will feel less disappointing when you consider that you are doing something good for your health in the meanwhile.

3. If you are a foodie or a coffee fanatic, you can use the dates to explore every single restaurant and coffee-shop in the area. A date might now end in a desire to set up a second meeting with the same person but it can generate a really great review of a new place you visited.

4. If you don’t have great social skills, dating can offer a great free training in improving them. I know somebody who used dating to prepare for job interviews. Dating a lot allowed him to get used to the intrusive questioning, the high-stress environment, the need to talk to complete strangers on a regular basis, etc. Dating also provides a wealth of funny stories that the socially awkward folks can share at parties and social events instead of standing silently in the corner, grasping for topics of conversation.

5. Another acquaintance, an aspiring stand-up comedian, used dates to perfect his comedy routines by trying them out on new people.

Transforming dating into an activity that is not solely about finding a partner helps relieve the stress and get rid of feelings of disappointment and frustration, at least to a degree.