My advice to single people looking for a great partner is, and always has been, as follows:
Do the things you love to do (and, obviously, out in public and with – or at least around – other people some of the time, if you want to meet someone). This is a much better approach than doing things – especially things you don’t particularly like to do – with the sole purpose of trying to meet someone.
Think of it like this: if you do something you love, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time whether you end up meeting someone or not. And, if you do end up meeting someone, you are likely to already have at least one key interest in common. Whereas if you do something you don’t particularly like (or something you even hate) just in the hopes of meeting someone, and you don’t meet someone, then the whole experience is likely to be a bust. Even if you do meet someone in this context, that person may already love to do that very thing you have no interest in or even hate doing.
Here’s a diagram to illustrate (in my case, hiking is something I love, and going to bars something I hate – for you, the specifics might be different):
Of course, when it comes to relationships, there are no hard and fast rules…and certainly no guarantees. People can and do meet and successfully pair up in just about any and every imaginable way, including randomly. For some entertaining examples, just watch the segments of older couples telling the stories of how they met that are interspersed throughout the 1989 classic When Harry Met Sally… Though the movie uses actors for these scenes, the stories were taken from interviews that director Rob Reiner conducted with real-life couples prior to filming:
After many years and (trust me) many efforts, I ended up meeting the woman who would become my wife, Samantha, on a Sierra Club hike. This was a weekly hike I did regularly (or at least semi-regularly) for almost five years before we met. But every Friday night that I did this hike, regardless of whomever I did or did not meet in terms of appealing single women, I had a fantastic time. AND I made some great friends on the hike over the years. I still do the same hike to this day, in fact, because I love it (and I’ve known some of the other regulars for as many as the nearly 17 years I’ve been doing it).
So, my personal experience bears out my go-to advice to others.
Even if you meet someone online, what ultimately matters is your in-person rapport. And long-term rapport requires compatibility. And an important aspect of compatibility, in my opinion, is some degree (preferably a high one) of shared interests and values. And the more you behave in accordance with your true interests and values – such as by doing things you love – the more likely you are to meet people with similar ones. Hence, the above advice.
The Goal of Engagement
The above advice, though, presumes that you already know what you love and love to do. What if you don’t? Then your task is still the same: to find the love (or, perhaps, loves) of your life. If you are at a genuine loss for things you love and love to do, you need to go out and find some! Because life is – to make perhaps the biggest understatement I’ve ever put down in writing – interesting. Life offers an endless supply of opportunities, possibilities, situations, and activities through which you might experience growth, fascination, fun, joy, wonder, connection, even bliss – not to mention through which you might, at some point, meet the human love of your life.
The goal here is engagement. To find, and maintain, love in our lives, we need to be engaged in what we are doing as often as possible. We must discover things that light us up, and make a point of returning to those things frequently.
If you don’t have anything in your life right now that truly excites you, make it your imperative to find such a thing. It could be something you were once interested in but got sidetracked from, or it could be something entirely new. It might even be something you are not even yet aware you could be interested in, but which simply awaits the tipping point of your discovering it for all hell to break loose (in a good way!).
I have many times over had the experience of becoming captivated by something a younger version of myself would never have imagined or guessed would ever interest me. A few examples:
- Taking a class in biological anthropology my last semester of college (to fulfill my final general education requirement that I had delayed till the bitter end) and being absolutely enthralled twice a week for 75 minutes at a time (thanks in large part to my brilliant and dynamic professor, Jeffrey Kurland), sparking an interest I’ve had ever since.
- Discovering a love of Indian food despite never having tried it until…post-college? (I’d eventually have my wedding reception at Samantha’s and my favorite Indian restaurant that we discovered together when it first opened.)
- Discovering a love of camping and backpacking at age 27 when I had never previously spent a night in the great outdoors!
- Buying a mountain bike (after not having ridden a bike for many years) and rediscovering the joy of riding at age 30, which led to attempting my first triathlon, which led to running a marathon, which led to learning how to swim a whole lot better when I wanted to try another triathlon, which led to longer bike rides than I would have previously ever thought myself capable of or interested in, which led to longer-distance triathlons and eventually the completion of an Ironman (to which my younger – and not all that much younger – self would have said, “You’ve GOT to be kidding!”).
- Giving vegetarianism a try when I had been raised as a meat-eater.
By the way: I love when this happens! One of my favorite parts of being alive is discovering some new interest (or rediscovering an old one) and just diving into it. I am heartened by the fact that I can continue to have this experience in my mid-forties, and don’t see any reason why it should not be possible at any age. Last year, I (finally, after many years of wanting to and thinking about doing it, but never acting upon it) started taking classical piano lessons. I LOVE IT! I have also been binging on Beethoven’s piano sonatas (specifically, Daniel Barenboim’s recordings of all 32 of them, both audio and video) and Robert Greenberg’s utterly brilliant Great Courses on this specific subject as well as others. Beethoven’s, Barenboim’s, and Greenberg’s works all fall into the category of among the greatest things that have ever happened as far as I am concerned! 🙂
All of the above-mentioned loves of my life (and all of the others), by the way, were discovered by following and acting upon curiosities.
If you are lacking engagement in your life, wanting for things that give you a real charge, the answer to your dilemma is simple: TRY THINGS. Start with those that you are naturally curious about, even slightly. You just never know what might grow and blossom into a true love. Sometimes the thing that does may come as a genuine surprise to you, and defy your own predictions or expectations.
Some things you investigate will be dead-end paths. Maybe even a lot of them. That’s perfectly okay. It is par for the course of life, and very much part of the process (ditto when it comes to dating!). This is how you clarify what is and isn’t right for you. You learn from these experiences, and move on. And, incidentally, not all loves have to be lifelong.
KEEP TRYING THINGS. One discovery or path very often quite naturally leads to another. If you continue following your curiosities and acting upon them, you will eventually hit pay dirt (and perhaps even have a whole host of things you find engaging).
And engagement in some interest/activity/hobby/cause/passion/pursuit just might lead, directly or indirectly, to an engagement of another kind. It did for me.
But even if it doesn’t, it’s far better to live a life of engagement than not. (That’s essentially the message of every post on this entire blog! 🙂 )
The Role of Luck
There’s no denying the luck factor when it comes to so many things in life, romantic relationships very much included. The fact is that, death and taxes aside, there simply are no guarantees. Life does not promise any of us that we will get what we want, that our dreams will be realized, or that we will even live another day. And there is no guarantee – whatever we do or don’t do, or no matter how good or deserving a person we are – that we will find a loving and lasting life partnership. Not everyone does. There is a degree of luck involved.
Not only is there luck in finding a suitable and compatible partner when both of you are available, ready for, and interested in such a partnership, but no one person can sustain any kind of relationship, romantic or otherwise. It always takes two to participate, and to continue participating, and the simple fact is that we cannot control or direct the actions or hearts of others. Not to mention the fact that our significant other, no matter how committed to us, can be separated from us at any time through death. I say this not to be morbid or discouraging, but rather as a grounded reminder that life is not a Disney movie.
This is why it is important to not simply expend all of our energy in a search for love. Rather, we ought to do all that we can to create love or allow love into our lives. After all, love is not something that just happens to us or doesn’t. We play a part. We have to be a conduit for it.
How do we do that?
We create/allow love by saying YES to something. And then doing so over and over again.
We create/allow love by sharing ourselves – our knowledge/expertise, our wisdom, our creativity, our compassionate hearts, our enthusiasm for things, our kindness, our energy, our contacts, our resources – generously with others.
We create/allow love by accepting the generosity and goodwill of others.
We create/allow love by being curious, and acting upon our curiosities. And then, at some point, an interest overtakes us, and pursuing it feels effortless because we become so drawn to it.
We create/allow love by connecting with others, and learning to care for people and things outside of ourselves. By giving for its own sake, without an expectation for something in return, and receiving joy from the giving itself.
The Beatles famously sang: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I’m not sure about the math, but the sentiment sounds about right.
It is said that “luck” happens when preparation meets opportunity. Perhaps the same can be said for finding the love of your life. You prepare yourself for it by practicing love – by participating in its expression yourself, such as in the ways listed above. And when opportunity appears, you recognize it and are ready for it.
In the end, the “love of your life” could be found, in a very clinical sense, by examining what you’ve dedicated yourself to over the course of your lifetime: what you gave yourself fully to, what you really put your heart and energy into, what you were committed to. Simply put: whatever and whomever you’ve most cared about, as demonstrated concretely through your actions and behavior – this will have been, ultimately and unmistakably, the love of your life.