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Love Is TOTALLY Meant for You.

Or: How You've Been Hoodwinked Into Believing That Finding Love Was Supposed to Be Effortless.


It hurts my heart (and head!) when I hear (and I hear it often!), “I just don’t think that love is meant for me anymore” from the people I work with, talk with, and serve in my Facebook groups.


It hurts because it isn’t true. Nobody “isn’t meant” for love. (What does being “meant” for love even mean, anyway? That God hand-picked somebody ELSE, pointed at THEM directly with His finger, and was like, “That one gets love? Screw everyone else?”)


But. Whether it’s logical or not. Most of us have felt this way at one point.


We feel exhausted from trying in our love lives, frustrated by repeatedly running on the dating-app hamster wheel, or hurt and used after a string of painful relationships.


AND IT JUST MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM.


Because — believe me when I tell you — that NOBODY NEEDS to feel as though love “isn’t meant” for them.


It’s a totally — completely — wildly — preventable feeling.


Love “not being meant for you” is not a thing. It doesn’t exist.


What IS a thing is that we’ve been hoodwinked into believing that love was SUPPOSED to be effortless.


Love was supposed to be something we ran into at the grocery store, while we shopped for carrots. Our soulmate was SUPPOSED to be shopping for celery, and bump into us as we were twisting the little green tie-thing around our carrot bunch, and ask us what we were doing for dinner that night.


Or — you know, we were supposed to be waiting at the bus stop on a rainy day, and our soulmate was supposed to walk by, and we would lock eyes, and they would stop in front of us, sweep our dripping wet hair out of our eyes, and offer us their umbrella . . .


That hasn’t happened.


And now we’re left wondering — why HASN’T love happened to us? What’s wrong with us? And why aren’t we running into handsome strangers at the grocery store over bunches of carrots? Everybody else is, right? Right . . . ?


They aren’t. And for most people, love DOESN’T “just happen.”


It's a myth that "Love will happen when we least expect it," or even that we should "Work on ourselves and the right one will appear."


It isn’t that love isn’t meant for you.


It isn’t that you can’t get what you want in a partner.


It isn’t that what you want doesn’t exist.

It isn’t that something is wrong with you. You are perfectly worthy and loveable.


There may be something wrong with how you’re currently approaching dating.


You are just as cute and loveable as this tiny, lonely teddy bear. Don't believe me? Keep reading, damn it.


1. THE SHAME GREMLINS


When we expect that love is supposed to “just happen” to us, we turn dating into a game that we just can’t win.


Why? Well, the belief that love is supposed to “just happen” assumes that love isn’t supposed to require effort.


The problem with believing that love isn’t supposed to require effort is that most of us who want to find love are putting in effort. So, naturally, we’re feeling confused: if love is supposed to “just happen” to us, then why hasn’t it happened already? WHERE IS LOVE, GODDAMN IT?


If we’re not supposed to be putting effort into love, and we’re putting in effort anyway, it follows that putting effort into our love lives must be an embarrassing thing to do. After all, most people are out finding their soulmates at bus stops, right? (No. But more on that later.)


But then, not only is it embarrassing that love isn’t supposed to require effort, and we’re putting in effort anyway, but it’s even more embarrassing that we’re putting in all of this effort and we’re STILL NOT SEEING RESULTS.


We feel like by creating our Hinge profiles and swiping around a bit, or by going on a few dates with promising strangers who turned out to be dramatically disappointing, we’ve already done more than our fair share of work, and we then sit back, confidently expecting to be rewarded for our hard work.


Because effort ITSELF feels embarrassing, and requires us to overcome our shame about putting in effort in the first place, each modicum of effort we’ve put in feels like we’ve lifted boulders, when in reality we’ve only swiped on a handful of matches and gone out on an even smaller handful of dates.


We therefore reason that, because our effort FEELS like we’re lifting boulders, we should therefore expect to be raking in the men and pulling mad chicks on the low. When we don’t, we then feel disappointed with dating, frustrated with ourselves, and cheated by the Universe out of our well-deserved results.


In general, if we’re putting effort into dating, and we believe that putting effort into dating is embarrassing, we’re going to tire out much more quickly and feel like we want to stop dating much sooner than if we believed that dating was SUPPOSED to involve effort.


But more than that — we start to wonder what’s wrong with us.


We then look at our friends from college, who all seemed to have found their soulmates and settled down right after graduation, and we think, “Hey, THEY made it into relationships! Why can’t I? What’s wrong with ME that I can’t make a relationship last longer than a 6-pack of Natty Lite in a frat boy’s fridge?”


And the whole thing just feels so exhausting that we decide to just give up and to avoid dating altogether.


When love doesn’t “just happen” to us (and it rarely does!) we tend to begin to worry that this means that something is wrong with us as daters — instead of (rightly) concluding that something may be wrong with our beliefs about dating. It’s then a hop, skip and a jump from “Love should just happen,” to our thinking, “I haven’t found love yet — but I feel like everybody else has” (where the hidden fear in our statement is, “Maybe there’s something wrong or bad or unloveable about me”) to our finally arriving at, “Maybe love isn’t meant for me.”

 

When love doesn’t “just happen” to us (and it rarely does!) we tend to begin to worry that this means that something is wrong with us as daters — instead of (rightly) concluding that something may be wrong with our beliefs about dating. It’s then a hop, skip and a jump from “Love should just happen,” to our thinking, “I haven’t found love yet — but I feel like everybody else has” (where the hidden fear in our statement is, “Maybe there’s something wrong or bad or unloveable about me”) to our finally arriving at, “Maybe love isn’t meant for me.”


 

When we believe that we “should” find our partner after a handful of dates and some swiping, we inadvertently paint ourselves into a dating corner.


This just isn’t how dating actually works. Most people don’t find love by running into the love of their lives at the grocery store, or by getting stopped while boarding a bus, or by aimlessly swiping a few times (or even a few hundred times!) on a dating app.


But when we think that we should be meeting the love of our lives that way, and then we don’t, we tend to blame ourselves.


This is when what shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown calls our “shame gremlins” kick in. Brown defines shame as “The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection,” and the “shame gremlins” as the little voices in the back in our heads that pipe up when we’re feeling shame, and lose no time in making their opinions known to us. (1)


Shame makes itself evident in our frustration and resentment at ourselves for not meeting our own expectations. When we expect that love should “just happen,” we set ourselves up for disappointment when it then doesn’t. Because love was “supposed” to come to us without any effort (and here we are putting in more than our fair share!), and because we go out into the world and see other people in relationships that we assume have come to them effortlessly (spoiler alert: they did not), we also begin to believe that the “real reason” that we aren’t finding love is that something must be wrong with us. We must be uniquely flawed, and unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.


What do our shame gremlins tell us about dating? They tell us that we’re “trying too hard,” and that if we’re trying this hard we’re definitely “forcing it,” and that anyway, we’re probably going to die alone in a pile of dirty laundry and dust bunnies. Naturally, this makes us think about all of the times our sage-smudging sister or our well-meaning aunt has told us to just “trust the Universe and surrender finding love to divine timing,” and that makes us think, “Oh god, I’m trying too hard, aren’t I? I must seem desperate. This is pathetic.” (“Desperate” and “pathetic” are sacred words amongst the dating tribe of the shame gremlins. “Desperate,” in particular, is a favourite shame-gremlin weapon to use against women. The male equivalent for “desperate,” incidentally, is “creepy.”)


Specifically, when the shame gremlins pipe up and start their chanting, they say:


Maybe something is just too wrong with you to find a partner. Dating is awful, and maybe you’re not cut out for it. Maybe your brain is broken. What if your brain is broken have you ever thought about that?? Dating feels impossible, which must mean that it is impossible. If you were “supposed” to have love already, you would have it already, right? Right??? Why are you even doing this in the first place? This is terrible, and it isn’t working. Maybe you should just give up.

But in believing that love should “just happen” to us without our participation, and in attending to the chants of the shame gremlins, we punish ourselves for not succeeding at a paradigm that we never could have won.


The assumption that love should “just happen” is more than just a belief — it’s also a sneaky expectation. The tricky thing about expectations is that they have a bad habit of making themselves known to us only after they've been dashed. Once they’ve been dashed, we can quickly move from feeling disappointed that we didn’t get what we wanted to actually feeling resentful that we didn’t receive what we believed to be our due.


As Brené Brown says: "We have a tendency to visualise an entire scenario or conversation or outcome, and when things don't go the way we'd imagined, disappointment can become resentment. This often happens when our expectations are based on outcomes we can't control [. . .].” (2)


The very definition of an “outcome we can’t control” is love happening when we “least expect it.”


When we expect love to “just happen” to us when we least expect it, and it then doesn’t — we then feel exhausted, frustrated, and resentful. But not, as we rightfully should, at our dating beliefs. Instead, we feel frustrated and resentful at ourselves.


We believe that we, and we alone, are not finding love out of the blue (that’s the thing about the shame gremlins — they always tell us that we’re the only ones) — and that it’s our fault.


And then we reason, Maybe love isn’t meant for us, after all.




2. SHAME & PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY


But here’s the thing: As painful as our inner tirade is, and as terrible as the shame-gremlins make us feel, we can actually derive a sneaky sense of COMFORT from believing that “love isn’t meant for us.”


Hear me out.


Why on earth would we want to believe that love isn’t meant for us? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we want to believe? We want RELATIONSHIPS, dammit!


Well. Yes. And . . . no.


In spite of all of the nutty things that humans have done over the centuries (i.e., wearing one of these on your head used to be totally normal) on some level, people are very logical. We don’t make choices because they make us feel bad. We make choices because they make us feel good, or they help us to avoid feeling bad. Because we tend to be motivated to choose stuff because they make us feel good (or at the very least, less bad), when we decide that “love must not be meant for us,” there’s something about that belief that’s helping us to avoid pain, or we wouldn’t be buying it.


To understand what this “something” is, we need to understand a little more about shame.


Part of shame is believing that we didn’t just DO something bad; when we feel shame, we believe that we ARE bad. Therefore, when we feel shame, we believe that not only are we bad, but we believe that our badness is inseparable from who we are — it’s an immutable part of us, like our hair colour or our irredeemable love for Nic Cage movies. Therefore, if it’s inseparable from who we are, then we can’t change it, even if we wanted to.


And here’s where things get interesting — if we really believe that we can’t change something about ourselves, then we also believe that we don’t have to take responsibility for that thing about ourselves.


If something is just a part of who we are, then, whether we like it or not, we must be stuck with it. If we're inherently bad, then it's not really our fault that we're bad — it's just part of who we are. No point in trying to change it. Might as well accept that we just generally kind of suck.


So, for this reason, when we buy into the shame-driven belief that love isn't "meant" for us, we also let ourselves off the hook from needing to put in the work that's necessary to create love in our lives.


The implication of the statement that love “isn’t meant” for us is that someone else — presumably God, or the Universe, or somebody much bigger and more powerful than us — has made a decision for us that we aren’t going to find love. Love is therefore out of our hands. It just isn’t in the cards for us, and why would we want to change that? Who are we to argue with God?


Equally, if the Universe itself is conspiring against our finding love, the connotation is that putting effort into our love lives not only is pointless, but it’s downright blasphemous. If we’re cursed, why would we risk the wrath of the Universe by tempting fate? Better to just go quietly. The shame gremlins were right after all.


The thing is, there’s a comforting sense of finality that comes with believing that “love isn’t meant for us.” When we believe that love isn’t “meant” for us, it lets us off the hook from being responsible for creating change in our love lives. If it’s been predetermined that love just “isn’t meant for us,” it exonerates us from needing to do the work that’s required to actively participate in dating.


If "love isn't meant for us," then we might as well sit back, pour ourselves a glass of champagne, and watch Gossip Girl reruns — because we don't need to do anything about our love lives any more. The fate of whether or not we find our soul mate has officially been taken out of our hands.


Believing that love isn’t “meant” for us allows our ego to claim its due.


It confirms our shame-driven fears that we just aren’t worthy of finding love, and that we’re going to die alone with nobody except for dust bunnies and cats. Believing that love isn’t “meant” for us allows us to look over our shoulder at our fears that we’re flawed, and triumphantly exclaim, “I knew it!”


Confirmation of what we’ve secretly believed all along feels good. When we’re tired of being “wrong” about dating, it’s at least one thing that we can finally be right about.


Being “right” also gives us a sense of closure. If we were “right” about being unworthy of love, at least we don’t need to wonder about our worthiness any more. Wondering is open-ended, and because of that, it feels vulnerable, it’s exhausting, and we want it to stop. We can bypass all of that by deciding that the shame gremlins were right — we really do suck!


All in all — when we’re exhausted from putting effort into dating, and we’re beaten down by the emotional abuse of the shame gremlins, a get out of jail free card to stop dating — especially one sanctioned by the Universe — is going to sound awfully appealing.


If love really isn’t “meant” for us, we never need to put effort into our dating lives again. Doesn’t that sound nice? We can heave a giant sigh of relief because we no longer carry the burden of doing any of this dating work any longer. We don’t need to listen to the shame gremlins with their incessant chanting, and we don’t need to look at our friends with their husbands and their families and their two perfect children and wonder why that can’t happen for us. We don’t need to wonder — because it’s already been decided. Love just isn’t meant for us. And that’s a relief. We can stop trying, and we can stop wondering, and we can stop our friends and families from asking us at holiday parties when we’re finally going to be coupled up (as if we don’t wonder the same thing!). We can just stop the whole thing.


Because — didn’t you hear? Love isn’t meant for us. So we don’t need to do any of this anymore.


For that reason, believing that love isn’t “meant” for us relieves our shame while simultaneously keeping it firmly in place. We begin believing that love wasn’t meant for us because of our shame in the first place, but believing that love isn’t meant for us also keeps us feeling shame. We’re then thrust into a shame-and-brimstone-fuelled feedback loop that we feel like we can’t escape from, but which also effectively convinces us that staying in the feedback loop is the best thing for us. The shame gremlins do this by keeping us just happy enough to stay exactly where we are while concurrently persuading us that we can’t do any better. Basically, the shame gremlins are emotionally abusive little fuckers.


The thing is: If we’re avoiding feeling shame, we’re also not dating. So we never give ourselves the opportunity to prove the shame gremlins, and ultimately ourselves, wrong.


The rueful thing about that is — proving ourselves wrong could possibly be the greatest gift we could give to ourselves and the best thing we could do for our love lives.




3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: YOUR WAY OUT


The way out of the Feedback Loop of Shame is accepting personal responsibility for the fate of our love lives.


The problem with believing that “love will just happen” to us is that it places the responsibility for our love lives on something outside of our control — happenstance — and not with us.


In this way, the belief that “love will just happen” engenders a disempowering narrative.


When we believe that “love will just happen,” we not only begin to believe that we aren’t worthy of love happening to, but we also believe that our unhappy results in love are somehow “fate,” and that the best that we can do is to accept and to mourn our pending lonely demise.


By contrast, we claim our agency in the dating arena when we recognise that if love were going to “just happen” to us — why, it would have happened already! And that’s a good thing!

We empower ourselves in love when we discern that we have the ability to control our results in dating by virtue of our own actions. We don’t have to sit around and wait for love to just “happen” to us. We can create the love we seek through intentional, deliberate, directional action.


In other words — the antidote to the belief that “love isn’t meant for us” isn’t blind faith or passive surrender to the powers that be. The antidote to the belief that “love isn’t meant for us” is personal responsibility.


In personal responsibility, then, lies our power to create the love lives we want — no surrender required.


In spite of what our friends and family (or Instagram!) may have told us, effort IS a necessary part of the dating process.

There is NO reason to feel embarrassed if we’ve been putting effort into dating. In fact, when we believe that dating shouldn’t be effortful, we set ourselves up to become prematurely exhausted by dating.


When we’re told that love should ‘just happen,’ we mentally write off the possibility that maybe genuine, well-aligned, long-lasting relationships are supposed to take time to build, and we assume that we are the reason that we haven’t found love yet.


We must be flawed, because WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY LOVE US YET?


But it isn’t us. It’s our mental model for how dating works.


We’re not unloveable. We aren’t broken. And we are absolutely worthy of love and a great relationship.


Our belief system is failing us.


We actually do need to put effort into dating.


With that in mind, here’s what I recommend doing instead of playing mental gymnastics trying not to expect love while simultaneously hoping that it jumps out at us during our morning commute.




4. CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT DATING.


Instead of seeing the process of finding love as something akin to watching the stars align, I like to think about dating the way I might think about tackling any challenging life goal — like deciding on a career path, or like applying to graduate school.


We may get discouraged when we apply to job after job and don't get an interview — but we usually don't stop applying, because we really need a job. We may not get accepted into our dream graduate programme the first time we apply — but we (usually) don't give up on graduate school entirely. If we want our education badly enough — we figure out a way to make it happen.


When we’re job-hunting, nobody expects the right work opportunity to materialise in front of us before we’ve put any legwork in. But somehow, when we’re dating, everyone is quick to tell us that being effortful and strategic about dating is wrong, embarrassing, and “desperate,” and that the appropriate thing for us to do is to wait for love to “happen when we least expect it."


The process of dating is very similar to applying for jobs and to graduate school. We get results the longer that we're consistent, the clearer we are on what we're looking for, and the better we get at recognising what we're not looking for.


When we apply to graduate school, we need to have an idea in mind of what kind of programs we’re looking for and why those programs are a strong choice for our careers in the long-term. We also need a plan: what materials do our top choice schools require with our applications? Are our grades high enough for us to get in? What letters of recommendation do we need, and which of our professors or employers would be best suited to write them? How long do we have to submit our application? What should we include in our application essay to show that we’re a good fit for our chosen program, and do we need help writing it?


Throughout the application process, we’re actively collecting materials, researching information about our chosen schools online, scouring the internet for advice on how to write a successful application, and sometimes hiring a career counsellor or admissions tutor to help us write our essays.


Likewise, when we’re dating, we should have an idea in mind of the kind of person we’re looking for, why that person is a good match for us, and why they would make a great long-term partner. We also should have a plan in place to guide our search: how do we plan to look for our partner? Do we plan to use dating apps, or to meet people in-person? Is the kind of person we’re looking for also looking for someone like us, or do we need to modify our expectations of who we’re a match for? Do our values align with the people we would like to date? What’s our timeline like? How soon can we realistically expect to find our partner, and do we need to plan any major life milestones into our timeline, like being at a certain place in our career or having children? If we’re using dating apps, what pictures should we include to show that we’re multifaceted and that our profile is worth a second look? What information should we include in our bio to make sure that what we’re writing is both authentic and clearly demonstrates why we would make a great partner? With all of this in mind, do we need help creating our profile?


Nobody expects us to get a job without applying. Why are we expected to find the love of our lives without dating?


In reality, finding love, like so many other things in life, requires effort.




5. CONSISTENCY & STRATEGY


Strong, healthy, aligned relationships are built gradually, from small, repeatable actions, taken consistently over a period of time.

 

Strong, healthy, aligned relationships are built gradually, from small, repeatable actions, taken consistently over a period of time.


 

Research shows that small amounts of effort, sustained and repeated over time, eventually yield far greater results than do large amounts of effort that are inconsistent or aren't carried through to completion. (3)


These are the reps in the gym that, repeated over the course of weeks, months, and years, lead to the dream physique. Or the walks that lead to the slow 5K, that then lead to our very first 10K and then eventually to a half marathon. Or the nights spent studying that lead to the master’s degree.


In order to take consistent, repeatable action in our love lives, we need a dating plan or strategy to lay out not only the actions that we plan to take consistently, but also how often we plan to execute these actions and what results we expect to achieve from them. As we execute our strategy, we can then evaluate our progress against our goals and adjust our action plan as appropriate.


A successful dating strategy consists of a systematic plan of action, built on a coherent set of principles that have been demonstrated to be capable of achieving the results we want in relationship to our chosen goal, and validated based on evidence and fact, rather than on whim.


A systematic plan of action is important because, in order to produce consistent results again and again, the dating strategy we design needs to be repeatable. If we choose a set of actions without first thinking about why we're choosing this set of actions over others, or about whether or not the actions we're choosing can be repeated, we'll find that, while we may hit the nail on the head once and manage to meet someone we really like, we won't be able to repeat our success again because won't know how or why our actions were successful in the first place.


Building our plan of action on a coherent set of principles is important because, in dating, most of us tend to act on our instincts and "go with our gut." This can be helpful if we're very in-tune with ourselves, our intuitions, and have taken the time to sort out (through therapy, coaching, or another form of self-work) what kinds of partners are really best for us. But if we haven't done this work, or we haven't done it long enough or thoroughly enough (honestly, this stuff can take years) our instincts about relationships are most likely all mixed up with leftover emotions, impulses, and trauma from our past relationships or experiences that happened to us in childhood and that re-organised how we think about dating about about love. This is why it's important for us to check in with our gut instincts and to set boundaries for them by educating ourselves on what solid relationship principles that have been proven to lead to happy, healthy relationships look like. When we base our relationship decision-making on principles, rather than on our first instincts, we allow ourselves to be led by our higher selves and our ability to choose rather than by our fears.


Basing our dating system on evidence is important because whatever plan of action we choose needs to be demonstratively proven to work in situations like ours. If we're choosing actions that have worked for other people, but their situations aren't in any way similar to our situation, we can't expect their action plans to work for us. Furthermore, if we're not making decisions based on facts, but rather from principles we believe to be true (but aren't), we can slow ourselves and our progress towards our goals down considerably. When we think X, but things really are Y, we set out to build a map of a terrain that isn't there. Then, when we follow that map, we get lost and discouraged because the map doesn't lead to where we want to go. This process is not only painful, but it slows us down considerably from achieving our goals. Of course, some mistakes when we date are inevitable, and can even be helpful when looked back at later as lessons. But it's still best to operate based on the clearest picture we can get of how reality really is from the outset, so that we can build our maps to get us to where we want to go efficiently.


Accurate "maps" in dating are those which are evidence-based. They can be built from information from science, from data, from well-grounded expert opinion, or from data derived from our own carefully-considered experiences with dating. What's important is that the evidence we choose on which to ground our "maps" comes from a source that can be fact-checked and tested for accuracy, that it has been derived in a methodical and thorough manner, and that our beliefs and feelings about the data don't interfere with the data itself.


Once we have a systematic dating plan that's grounded on principle and on fact, is methodical enough to be easily repeated, and is flexible enough to accommodate the many aspects needed to accomplish our goal, we have a replicable process we can rely on to create results in our love lives. Far from being a castle in the air, love becomes a graspable opportunity that we have the ability to choose or to reject.


We don’t need to passively rely on the right stranger to be at our bus stop during our morning commute, or to wait for Mercury to exit retrograde before we can find love; when we have a process, we can actively create love in our lives through harnessing the power of our ability to choose.


With a dating strategy grounded on solid principles and based on evidence, love becomes a function of design, rather than of fate. As long as we wake up every day and choose to abide by the behaviours, habits, and actions that, when repeated consistently over time, we know will put us into an optimal position to find love, we can rest in the assurance that we are creating love in our lives, even if we can’t see it yet.


Furthermore, when we have a dating strategy grounded on evidence, instead of expectation, the results of our dating efforts become de-coupled from our motivation to date or ability to muster up excitement about dating. We don’t need to despair if we’re feeling discouraged, or if we extra-especially don’t believe that love is meant for us today, or if we’re feeling fed up with Josh from Tinder this week and never want to date again — as long as we’re consistent with executing our strategy, our process will work for us.


We don’t need to be lucky for our strategy to work for us. We don’t need to feel motivated to date for our strategy to work for us. We don’t even need to feel like we believe in our strategy at any given moment for our strategy to work for us.


All we need is to be consistent with our actions, to pay attention to our outcomes, and to continue to place one foot in front of the other, executing our strategy one day at a time.




6. CONSISTENT AND STRATEGIC EFFORT PROVES THE SHAME GREMLINS WRONG.


In short – we aren’t failing to get the results we want in dating because we’re flawed, or because the shame gremlins were right about us all along and we actually do suck. We’re failing to get the results we want in dating because we aren’t dating in a way that allows our efforts to produce results.


Clear, consistent, and tangible results in dating come from intentional, consistent, and quantifiable actions taken towards specific and defined goals. If we aren’t dating consistently and effortfully, of course we aren’t going to get dating results that excite us! Not “because we suck,” but because we aren’t dating in the way that dating works — through pennies of effort, deposited in the penny bank consistently over time.


Furthermore, when we concede to the chants of the shame gremlins and we begin to believe that we suck, we run into a catch-22. If we believe that we suck, we stop dating and conclude that love must not be meant for us. But if we stop dating because we believe that we suck, we never get the opportunity to prove to ourselves that maybe we don’t suck, that there are people who totally want to date us, and that hey — maybe love is meant for us, after all!


There’s an old saying that, “When we’re carrying a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


Similarly, we could say that when we believe that we suck and that nobody wants to date us, we’re only going to notice the instances of people not wanting to date us — the failed Tinder trysts, that guy who ghosted us last Saturday, and our last two flings that gradually disintegrated into ghost viewers on our Instagram stories. We aren’t going to be paying as much attention to our inbox full of matches on Hinge, the great date we had on Thursday, or the lessons we’ve learned from our past ill-fated relationships (hey, now we definitely know to avoid girls with weird baby teeth collections in their basements — who knew, right?).


When we don’t date — or when we date looking for evidence to confirm our pre-existing belief that we suck — nothing happens. We stay stuck in the feedback loop created by the chanting shame gremlins and our own self-reinforcing beliefs, believing that we’re irredeemably flawed and that love must not be meant for us.


When we don’t date — we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to fail, but we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to succeed, either. And when we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to succeed — we never get to prove the shame gremlins wrong.


The shame gremlins are wrong — there’s no question about that. But we’ll continue to buy into their chanting until we’ve proven to ourselves that we can, in fact, meet people who think we’re great and who we think are great, too — and who want to see us again and again, and even date us!


In other words — continuing to date, in spite of believing that we suck, is the only way that we enable ourselves to interrupt the feedback loop chorus created by the chanting shame gremlins.


Love is totally meant for us. But we won't believe it until we show up for ourselves again and again, proving the chorus of shame gremlins wrong through tiny, measured steps, taken consistently, one at a time.

 

Love is totally meant for us. But we won’t believe it until we show up for ourselves again and again, proving the chorus of shame gremlins wrong through tiny, measured steps, taken consistently, one at a time.

 

So . . . if consistency is this all-important part of dating, how do we stay consistent? What do we have to do to nail down this consistency thing?


We stay consistent by developing shame resilience.


“Shame resilience,” in this context, is the art and the cultivated skill of tuning out what the shame gremlins, the concerned aunt, and the sage-smudging sister think about our efforts at securing love, and replacing their judgments with our own narratives about what it means to put effort into finding the man/woman/Chuck Bass of our dreams.


We need to develop and to master the art of not giving up. Of ignoring the kindly-meant advice from coupled-up friends and family who stumbled into love by chance, and of then keeping our heads down, our eyes ahead, and continuing to go when the going gets tough.


Shame resilience requires that we develop a strong sense of deserving and of resilience that reminds us, “I know what I want, and I’m confident that if I’m intentional, resilient, and strategic, I can get it.”


To do this, we must both normalise our experience of feeling frustrated by our search for love, and remind ourselves that the shame gremlins are wrong and that we are absolutely worthy of love, their chants notwithstanding.


Shame resilience also requires that we see appropriately directed effort as a necessary, rather than a shameful, part of the dating process. And that we accept that at times, dating is going to feel hard, and more often than not, we may not want to do it.


This will mean challenging our existing beliefs about dating and changing the way we think about effort and about dating.


It will mean developing an evidence-based plan of action around our love lives, and executing on it consistently. It will mean getting detailed, tactical, and specific around the logistics of what that plan looks like, and evaluating its effectiveness against our goals. It will mean taking a serious look at our expectations around dating. It will mean committing to consistency around executing our plan and developing our shame resilience. It will mean having the courage to keep dating, even when we don’t want to, are discouraged, or disappointed.


This is what it means to take ownership of our dating lives.


All of this is work, and, inevitably, it will at times be difficult work. But this work won’t — can't — be as difficult as believing that we suck and that we’re destined to let love pass us by.


This work will also be liberating. It will be liberating because it means that we are in control of our dating destiny. And it means that we can achieve our dream of a happy, fulfilling, enriching relationship, and that we are absolutely worthy of that kind of a relationship.


Once we become aware that we can take ownership of our dating lives, a door then opens for us to choose a new path. In the space between our recognition of what our choices have been and our dream of a more hopeful reality lives a decision. From this moment onward, we can be committed to creating a different dating future for ourselves.



 

When dating feels discouraging, the solution is adaptation: trying new things, learning new information, experimenting and trying to keep our egos as far away from our tenacity as possible.


 

When dating feels discouraging, the solution is adaptation: trying new things, learning new information, experimenting and trying to keep our egos as far away from our tenacity as possible.


But. Especially when we believe that love should just “happen,” we are going to want to give up, when what we need to do is learn how to practice resilience. We are going to look at all of the things that we’ve tried and convince ourselves that our having tried many things means that we’ve tried “everything”; and, if we aren’t well-practiced in the art of shame resilience (yet!), we may grab for the nearest explanation that satisfies our egos and the gremlins: that our inability to find love is a “sign” that it isn’t the “right time” for us to find love, or that “Love just must not be meant for us.”


This tantalising explanation, so tempting to our egos in its facility, can obscure the more honest fact that love is simply proving elusive.


Our pet explanation may keep us distracted from the simpler axiom that nevertheless requires more from us, which is: “I’m feeling exhausted, but I know that a solution has to exist because I see people in relationships all of the time. And it isn’t reasonably possible that love was meant for so many other people and not for me.”


When our shame gremlins are at their loudest, we also tend to blame externalities — “dating apps,” “men,” “women,” “culture,” and “the media” — instead of reckoning with the uncomfortable-but-useful truth that if we want something, the hard work of figuring out how to get it lies with us, even if (or, inevitably, when) that work feels difficult. And when “dating apps,” “men,” “women,” or “the media” do make dating more difficult (which at times they will!), we remind ourselves that “difficult” is not tantamount to “impossible.”


Moreover, if, when we’re out in the world, we see our friends, college roommates, and coworkers getting what it is that we want every day — dates, love, and healthy relationships — these realities must be possible for us! Like Thomas Edison, we may have found 10,000 ways not to invent a lightbulb. And yet — the lightbulb (and the relationship) wait expectant for the 10,001st attempt.


Believing that love isn’t possible for us lets us off the hook from putting in the effort that finding love inevitably requires from us. Sometimes it’s easier to throw up our hands in frustration, or to lament that “love isn’t meant for us” than to dust ourselves off and have a good cry before getting back on our feet and finding a solution to our setback.


But when all is said and done, the only resolution to our conundrum of finding love is consistency and strategy. It’s said that “practice makes perfect,” but I, for one, am more of the belief that “consistent, intentional practice makes successful.”


The way I see things is: dating is hard.


We aren’t alone if we feel discouraged by dating. Most people do.


And — we have a choice when it comes to dating.


We can give up on dating entirely and decide that we don't want to try.


Or: We can choose to commit to the (sometimes frustrating) process of modern dating, knowing that it can take a long time to find a well-aligned partner for us — and that we want a partner enough that we’re committed anyway.


At the end of the day — our results in dating are our responsibilities. If something doesn't work for us — it's our responsibility to figure out a way to make it work. This may take actual legwork, and requires more than just showing up.


If what we want are strong, healthy relationships — we will need to cultivate a love of the process of continuing to experiment and to learn, even when the going gets tough.


It’s only through falling in love with the process of continual experimentation and feedback that we master the resilience needed to achieve our desires, to refine our strategies and to stay consistent with our execution.


 

There ARE proven, research-backed paths to dating success. What you need is to learn about what works in dating, and then to weave what you’ve learned into a custom-blended dating strategy that’s individually tailored to YOU and optimised to secure your dream relationship.


If you need help with that — you’re in luck! It’s what I do best. To get my eyeballs on your dating life, you can:


  • Join one of my free Facebook groups (they’re open to men, women, and nonbinary people, and you get free access to advice from me, as well as bi-weekly ‘Ask the Men’s & Women’s Group’ Q&A’s and group calls)

  • Sign up for a dating strategy session with me (where I design your custom dating strategy for you, based on your individual dating dilemmas and what research says about the best ways to find love!), or . . .

  • Or apply to work with me privately in 2023.


Let’s connect!











Citations:


(1) Brown, Brene. 2021. Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience.


(2) Brown, Brene. 2017. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.


(2) Clear, James. 2018. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results : An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.