This is something I wrote in response to a piece I read on Refinery29 a few weeks ago. Maria Del Russo wrote something called “I May Never Find Love–& That Has To Be Okay” — normally, I wouldn’t click on a headline that’s so defeatist and depressing, but on that day, curiosity won out. Predictably, I had a very strong reaction to it.
So strong, actually, that I took out my phone on the bus and wrote this:
No, you don’t have to be okay with the idea of never being in love.
As I read your “I May Never Find Love–& That Has To Be Okay” post on my way to work the other day, I found myself tearing up. (Not a good look on the bus, BTW, but all the unexpected things that have made me emotional on the bus is a whole different topic.) It made me sad for you and me and all of the other single people out there, it made me feel discouraged, and, although it took me awhile to identify the emotion, it made me angry.
The anger piece is what inspired me to write this response. The word “angry” sounds a little intense in this context, but I can’t think of a better one for the emotion it inspired in me. The premise that you’ve reached a point where you have to accept the possibility of a loveless life is infuriating. Oh, and it’s not true. It goes against human nature, and I suspect it goes against your deepest desires.
Before I go any further, a few caveats. First, when I use the word ‘anger,’ of course I don’t mean I’m mad at you–you seem like a lovely person, you’re a great writer, and, from what I can see in your photos, you’re part beauty, part badass. Rather, I’m mad at your idea; and I’m mad at the universe for making you feel like it’s time to accept the fact that you may never find love (or like it’s ever time to give up on love). Second, everything I’m saying only applies if you actually WANT a life partner– if you are really, truly happy on your own, then disregard. But based on everything you said in your article (i.e. “I am not someone who will ever stop thinking about it”), and the fact that you’re a living, breathing human being, I don’t think you are.
At the risk of sounding cliche and oversimplifying the point: Love makes the world go round. Maybe you don’t want to hear that right now, but it’s true. Why else are we on this planet but to embrace each other in all of our beauty and complexity and messiness and hold on for dear life? Why does being in love feel so damn good if we were meant to give up on it after a few years of bad dates? For that matter, why is sex with someone we love so effing amazing if we weren’t meant to spend a whole lot of our energy seeking it out?
The premise you’ve built your point on is problematic. You say you have control over every aspect of your life–except love. But… why can’t you exert some personal power over searching for love and romance, who you kiss, who you spend time with, how you think about dating? Actually, bear with me while I use a little Sex and the City analogy here. Like Carrie, you wanted to be a writer, so you made yourself a writer. Like Samantha and Miranda, you work hard to afford a beautiful home of your own. Neither of those things are easy; both of them require effort, tenacity, courage, and self-awareness.
So why can’t you, like Charlotte, believe in love? Why isn’t it possible to believe in it so hard that you manifest it into being? To believe in it for so long and so well that even after dating for years and years, even after failed relationships–and failed marriages–you get up, dust yourself off, and try again?
I spent my twenties in love with one man. Part of the time, he was in love with me, too. When I was 28, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. When I was 29, he called off our wedding, leaving me reeling and grieving and alone. Now I’m 30 and single. If I believe in your premise–that because I’m alone right now, I have to accept the fact that I might live without love forever–I might as well crawl under the covers right now and stay there for the rest of my life.
I’ve survived the last year by relying on two emotions: resilience and hope. Resilience kept me from begging my ex for another chance, and it propelled me to a new city, a new job, new friends, new hobbies (I finally understand yoga!), and a lovely new therapist.
Hope, though, got me a new state of mind. Resilience may get me out of bed every day, but hope makes me feel like getting out of bed every day is worth it–and will eventually be MORE worth it. You say you have to be okay with the fact that you may never find love. Well, I have to be okay with the fact that finding real love again (or, more accurately, for the first time) is my priority. I have to be okay with saying the thing we’re not supposed to say: I would be happier in a relationship than alone. I want to be in love.
I get that there are more well-worn, obvious paths to things like jobs and apartments. For those parts of life, you don’t have to contend with these intangible other things. If you don’t like a job, you can probably explain why. But if you don’t like a guy, it very likely has to do with an nebulous, unexplainable feeling. If you want to change careers, you can look into how to get it, then go get it. But if you want a boyfriend, yes, you can look into all the options out there, but there’s no guarantee you can go get the one you want. And even if you do, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be satisfied once you do.
Still, though, hard doesn’t mean impossible. The hard things are the things that are worth it. People tell you that you’ll find love when you stop looking, and I agree, that sounds ridiculous. But what they mean–or at least what I mean when I say it–is that you’ll find love when you focus on being true to yourself and making yourself happy, when you’re empowered, self-aware, self-assured, confident. It sounds like that’s exactly what you are. As I was scrolling through Twitter today, I saw this: “We aren’t given desires or wants without the ingredients to fulfill them.” Use all those qualities to fulfill your romantic desires.
You say you had a six-month stretch during which you crossed boroughs at 11 p.m. to spend the night with a guy who probably wasn’t that into you. I say this with love, but maybe it’s not time to accept the fact that you may never find love–maybe, instead, it’s time to give up on dating the type of man who treats you like a booty call. What I did was much worse–for years, I stayed with a man who cared far more about himself than he did about me, planned a wedding to a person I suspected only wanted to marry me if he could have everything he wanted with zero compromise. But I pulled the wool over my own eyes because a) he was so, so fun, and b) I wanted to be married. I should have left him years ago and explored men who–radical concept–respected me. So this illustrates how you and I can exert control over our love lives. We can change who we seek out. We can change what we accept. We can change our perspectives.
I’m the opposite of a dating expert. I’ve been in one very serious relationship, and one kind of serious relationship. I’ve been on about two casual dates in my life. I have absolutely no dating advice, and that’s not what you’re asking for and not what you need. You’re clearly an attractive person who knows how to meet people, how to lure them in, and how to date. What I can tell you is this: Love is abundant and it exists for everyone.
Love isn’t a miracle. There isn’t one person out there for each of us, or two people, or five people, or five hundred people. It isn’t a crazy, written-in-the-stars coincidence that so many people meet their spouses in high school, college, or the workplace. They meet them there because that’s where they are. If they went to a different high school or college, or worked somewhere else, they’d meet someone there.
People are meant to be partnered with other people. Just like you want to find love, so do all (well, most of) the single men out there. That’s why people meet each other everywhere. That’s why people date, have sex, become exclusive, get married, spend their lives together, then have children who are going to repeat the whole thing. That’s why you, and basically everyone else in the world, wants to find love. That’s why, in your words, “the thought of being alone until I die is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.”
So no, you don’t have to be okay with the idea of never finding love. And, yes, you will find love. It might not be today, or tomorrow, or this year, or in the next five years, or in the next decade. I don’t know how old you are, and it doesn’t matter. Love doesn’t have an age.
I read some of the comments on your post, and some of them suggested it isn’t time to give up on love until you’re 40, or 50, or some arbitrary number. Um… what? There’s no age limit. In the words of Winston Churchill: Never, never, never give up. That especially goes for something that’s clearly so important to you. Also in the words of Winston Churchill: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
In the dating world, there’s this idea that people shouldn’t settle. Well, you shouldn’t settle for nobody, either. You may have to be okay with not being in love right now. But you don’t have to be okay with never finding love.
You said the prospect of a life without love is “Freddy Krueger scary.” That doesn’t sound like something you’re okay with. I’m not, either. So let’s not pretend to be. Now, excuse me while I go get ready for a Tinder date.