1. Every rejection isn’t a life-altering setback. If you didn’t get crushed every once in awhile, it wouldn’t mean as much as when it does work out. You need to take the bad with the good, so you can learn from it and be a little wiser next time.
2. People have other priorities that aren’t you. Sometimes when he says he can’t to hang out this week, it doesn’t mean that he’s too busy for you or has forgotten you. It’s that he values other things in his life as much as he values you — like his friends and his family. Personally I like dating someone who has other things going on, but it’s hard sometimes not to take that personally when we live in fear that he’s not into us. Be patient. If he’s into you, he’ll call you after he hangs up with his mom. If he isn’t, fuck him.
3. It’s not compromise if you’re the only one compromising. That’s what we call “continually giving into someone’s demands via relationship speak.” Or manipulation for short.
4. Dumping the bastard doesn’t solve everything. We often treat dating like shopping. If we don’t immediately like something, we try on something else. But why not see the potential in something that could be beautiful? If it doesn’t fit right away, have it taken in. Compromise. We can throw out every single item that isn’t good for us or we can fight to work it out. A great guy is like a great pair of jeans. When you get one that fits you just right, there’s nothing better in the world.
5. You might not have the love life you want, and that’s okay. Have you heard that saying that all people have the love life they choose? That person is an asshole. Our love lives are aspirational; they give us something to work toward, so we might have the lo. You might be getting it wrong now, but you get a little smarter with every bad date. The bad ones simply lead to better ones.
6. Your mother really just wants you to be happy. Sure, she always bugs you about settling down and getting married, but it’s not about that. She just wants you to have a home and a family and have the thing she wanted to give you. Listen for what she means and not what she says. This advice is also true of just about every relationship I’ve been in. Subtext is key.
7. You aren’t the cause of all of your problems. Sometimes bad shit happens to good people, even when you’re doing everything right. Things are allowed not to work out sometimes for mundane reasons like timing, chemistry or the dreaded distance. You’re allowed to drift apart and become different people. Not everything has a grand meaning or purpose, and it’s not a reflection on you.
8. You’re doing better than you think. When we look at other peoples’ dating lives, it’s easy to believe they have it all figured out and you are some nasty troll that lives under a bridge with Gary Busey. But comparing yourself to other people is toxic. What good has ever come from sitting on Facebook and making yourself feel like shit? Don’t wallow in misery porn. Get real porn. It’s much hotter.
9. Gaining five pounds isn’t the end of the world. A couple weeks ago, I hit a rut where I a) didn’t feel like going to the gym, at all and b) used my Illinois LINK Card to fill my belly full of socialism and potato chips. (If I could marry carbs, my dating life would be solved.) You’d think the obesity epidemic had come to my house, and I refused to take off my shirt. With other people I affirm all shapes and body sizes, but I realized I wasn’t extending the same courtesy to myself. I got some shit to work on. I lost the pounds; it’s the body shame that’s harder to sweat out.
10. Also, no one cares if you skip that salad. Get that Wendy’s Double Cheeseburger if you want. No one’s judging you and if they are, they don’t deserve Wendy anyway.
11. Types are for bores. Fat, skinny, tall or short, you need to try on everything to find what you like. Getting to meet and spend time with varying types of people is one of the great things about dating, the act of being open to new experiences. Don’t box yourself in.
12. Your date isn’t a life or death situation. When I’m getting ready for a first date, it can be a little like Annette Bening in American Beauty. I start out by chanting, “I will sell this house today” and wind up slapping myself in a mirror. But you don’t have to sell the house. Sometimes you can just let someone look — or let them in for the night. Shop your options. Don’t settle on something just because you think nothing else is out there. Look at Miami or Las Vegas. A steal is just waiting for you to come and snatch it up. Thanks, recession!
13. You need to spend time apart, or you will get sick of each other. You aren’t Siamese Twins. Look how it worked out for CatDog. Do you really want to poop out of your partner’s mouth? Separate. Your breath will thank you.
14. It’s hard to put yourself out there if you sit at home all the time. I love being a big ol’ agoraphobe, but after a week of hanging out with a bag of Kruncher’s Hawaiian Chips and reruns of Happy Endings, I wonder why I don’t meet more men. Staying home and nesting is a perfectly valid choice, but it’s one you need to take ownership of. Otherwise there’s always Grindr. Go gently into that good night.
15. OkCupid is just like the rest of the dating world. It’s full of creeps and surprisingly bigoted. (Yes, your “no Asians” rule expresses a preference — for racism. Your penis is a white supremacist.) After awhile, you just end up cycling back through the same old roster. “Is this all there is?” you find yourself thinking. But the great thing is that you can always take a break and come back, finding yourself and your dating pool refreshed. He likes Clueless and Wong Kar-Wai films? Give me seven of that, OKCupid gods.
16. You don’t have to try so hard. When you’re a chronic overachiever, you want to apply those laws to everything and be the overachiever of dating. But dating doesn’t run like work and school does. You might do all the homework and still fail the test. You can study as hard as you want, but the best way to prepare for your dating life is to stop obsessing and just enjoy it. Your dating life should entail some work (to be a better listener and communicator, etc.) but don’t forget to allow yourself room for play.
17. You can work on yourself and date at the same time. Whenever we experience the slightest setback, people often retreat into their dating caves. I’m the queen of dating time off from dating, but what does routinely hiding solve? Focusing on yourself can be helpful, especially for those of us who date serially, but life is also about finding the balance between ourselves and others. You shouldn’t make romantic fulfillment your number one priority, but there’s nothing wrong with making it a priority.
18. Go with your gut. You can overanalyze all you want, but your instincts are often a better judge than your neuroses. Unless your instincts tell you to date Scott Peterson. Then you and your instincts need to break up.
19. You aren’t a wretch or a turncoat for wanting to be in a relationship. In our Age of Empowerment, we often affirm our ability to be single and independent at the expense of folks who do find love and commitment. We look at married folks as the enemy, those who settled for a life of co-dependence and heteronormativity. But we all should have the ability to choose the relationship that’s right for us, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting you want something, even if its the thing society tells you that you need. Knowing how that burger was made doesn’t stop you from wanting it.
20. Your best friends are usually right about him. There’s a reason they are your best friends. They know you better than you do. Listen.
21. The love of your life might not be romantic. We often look at romance narrowly as the person we are obligated by verbal contract to fuck twice a week (or much more, if you are Sting). But let’s also give respect to the lesser-advertised loves — our love of friends, family, food, pictures of corgis online, mindless personality quizzes that tell us nothing about ourselves even if we FEEL like they do (xNFJ, 4w3 at your service), biking, Green Machine Naked Juices and Indian food. Our love is best shared with humanity.
So, fall in love a million times every day, with people, inanimate objects and ideas. If you need to fall in love today, pick up the new David Sedaris. It’s swoon-worthy.