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Everything I’m about to write must be prefaced by one caveat: falling in love is out of your control. That includes when it will happen, where it will happen and who it will happen with. Although some relationship experts or self-help books would like you to believe otherwise, that’s the honest truth. You cannot control love. I’ll give you a few minutes — or a few decades– to let that sink in. When I was single that was the hardest part for me to accept. I’m a do-er. So not being able to do anything about this life event that felt very important made me feel utterly useless. Which in turn, made me feel depressed.
To put the whole “falling in love” thing in perspective, I think it only happens truly, madly, deeply once or twice in a lifetime if you’re lucky. Some people are of the belief that there is not a lid for every pot. I’m more of the belief that some of us choose to be alone. And there’s not a thing wrong with that either. So, what do you have control over in all of this? You. I’ll repeat it, there is nothing you can do to make love happen. But there are certain ways of being that are more conducive to falling in love, if that’s what you choose. Here are a few easier-said-than-done things you can do to prepare for the romance you hope to have someday:
1. Lose the fear and anxiety.
Being ruled by fear and anxiety about your love life is like wearing a foul-smelling perfume. People smell it. If you’re so caught up in when you’ll find the relationship you’re looking for, get married, have babies and live happily ever after, people will catch a whiff of you miles away and run. Decide to let the whole “What will become of me!?” freak out go and enjoy your life. This is easier said than done because not knowing what your future holds is scary. But even if you are on the path to happily ever after, you still don’t know what your future holds. Life is unexpected and the best laid plans go belly-up all the time. It’s easier to accept that than to fight it. It’s hard process to get there, often supported by a therapist and accompanied by many sleepless nights, but it’s incredibly liberating.
2. Make peace.
We all have things from our past that leave us feeling unsettled. Whether it’s a career failure, a difficult relationship with a family member or an ex that fucked us up in the head, we have to make peace. People all have different ways of doing this. It can take years. I can’t tell you how to do it. But I know that being angry/hurt/confused about the past will keep you stuck in the past. I once heard someone say that anger is like walking around with a rock in your shoe. You have to take the rock out so you can walk comfortably. It’s a lot easier to feel love feelings when you have comfortable shoes on.
3. Invest in your life.
Your life isn’t something that will happen someday. Your life is happening RIGHT NOW. Fix up your bachelorette pad. Get the nice comforter or dish set you’ve been waiting to get once you have a house. You may never have a house. So, do up that apartment! Go on that dream vacation to Peru and hike Macchu Picchu. Eat Guinea pig and visit the Mayan temples. Invest in your family and friendships. Plan parties or get-togethers. You don’t need a boyfriend to go skydiving or take piano lessons or learn to bake pies. Do all the things you want to do RIGHT NOW. Take your life to the bank and cash it.
4. Focus on what you need.
Sometimes we get so fixed on an idea of what we want that we become blind to what is actually good for us. The artist Jenny Holzer, who projects pieces of wisdom in public places, has a piece that says “Protect Me From What I Want.” This is such a great reminder that what we need is often a mystery to us. This is an especially important concept in the context of our romantic lives. We have to open our minds to the idea that we may have to forego what we want in order to get what we need, if we can focus inward and figure out what that is. Sometimes what we need is to be alone. Or break off a relationship that’s good, but not great. Or heal from the past. Or date someone who may be different from what we thought we wanted.
5. Have no expectations.
A lot of times, the things that make dating and relationships so complicated are all the expectations we place on them. The only way to deal with going on dates is to think of them as a chance to have coffee or a beer with a stranger. That’s it. No expectation of a future together. No expectation of even liking them. It’s like when you go to a wedding and get seated at a table with all strangers and you’re like, “So how do you know the groom?” You don’t give a rats ass if you ever see the man who sells real estate in Texas and his girlfriend who went to day camp with the groom ever again. You just have to make the best of your time with them while you eat your beef tenderloin. Relationships have to be approached in the exact same way; one beef tenderloin at a time. Otherwise, you’ll end up driving yourself insane.
6. Believe that you deserve to be happy.
This is probably the hardest thing to do because it comes from a place of deep self love. And let’s face it, that is tough. We have to get to a place where we believe in our own happiness — at least on our good days.. For many of us — definitely for me! — this is the work of a lifetime. It has required hours on the therapy couch, pages and pages of angry journal entries and buckets of sweat on the yoga mat. And still, it continues.