Looking for love

Q: What are some strategies for coping with frustrating dating challenges in the quest for finding a good partner?

I could write a book answering this question, but I’ll be succinct. One answer lies in whether you engage in the process with a heavy heart or approach it light heartedly.

No doubt the dating game also takes strength of heart to accept the inherent risks involved. The risk of being exposed. The risk of wasting your time. The risk of tolerating the unknowns. The risk of rejection. Even the risk of getting what you thought you wanted.

These existential issues can reside below the surface as you interface with dating in the digital age. This can include getting lost in details such as ‘what did that text really mean?’ or ‘how many times will I have to email back and forth before meeting?’ and wondering whether the fact that he’s wearing a hat in his picture means he’s bald.

It’s important to give the time and attention to the process that it deserves up front. The law of attraction reminds us that we get what we give. The key here is developing clarity within yourself regarding what you want (someone educated … someone loyal …), how you want to feel (respected … adored …) and believing you deserve it, even if they haven’t appeared in your life … yet.

With this clarity in place, you’ll be better able to weed out people who aren’t aligned with your goals for a relationship. Perhaps you want to settle down and get serious while for them dating is a cat-and-mouse game and they just want to have fun. Or perhaps you find the other person IS just as intent on commitment as you, but that’s the only thing you actually have in common. In the interest of time, find this out sooner rather than later by keeping the dates short and simple (meet at a cafe). Have an escape route (‘I only have 30 minutes’). Spend the first several dates in interview mode. That way you can get to know Dr. Jekyl as well as Mr. Hyde before jumping in and fooling yourself that he’s “the one.”

If loneliness pervades you throughout an unsuccessful dating process, consider the multiple sources of love in your life. Being single allows you that extra energy to focus on other non-romantic relationships. This includes having more time for your single friends. In the merry-go-round of relationships, even if you don’t have any friends who are currently single, give it time. We’re all in this together at one point or another. The shared experience with others who are single can provide camaraderie and laughter as you swap stories. Remember that awkwardNESS does not have to equal humorLESS. You can choose to see those embarrassing situations as comical (‘my life is straight out of a sitcom!’) or a teachable moment (‘apparently diverse political views can’t be overlooked’).

Sometimes you need to give the dating process space. Pursue other hobbies so dating isn’t your primary focus. And you may groan for hearing me say this but one idea is to take time to date yourself. Stay committed to the activities you want to explore rather than letting life pass you by as you wait for someone else to accompany you.

The bottom line is there may always be risk or frustration in the quest for a relationship. Even if you try to avoid the discomfort by staying home with your cat, some chocolate and a Netflix, you can run a new set of risks if this becomes routine. You will likely find it doesn’t keep you emotionally safe after all, just more disconnected from your heart’s longing. I advise a combination of courage, humility, humor and patience. This will set you on the path to finding Mr. Right. Or at least on the path to finding a warm body to serve as Mr. Right Now.

Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to [email protected].