Partnering up is a matter of dumb luck. Sooner or later, your luck will turn.
I’ve been hearing from a lot of listeners of the podcast lately who are wondering why they’re still single—what they’re “doing wrong.” It’s a scary place to be, wanting partnership but not wanting to settle. Walking the seemingly endless balance beam of dating can cause us to undermine ourselves with looping thoughts about our personal value versus our apparently unrealistic desires.
I’m sorry if you’re feeling that way, and I’m sorry if you’re single and you don’t want to be. But know this: Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with you. Nothing. You’re just single. And it’s not because of anything you’re doing or not doing.
Sure, there are minor adjustments you can make to your behavior in the margins that might help you meet a few more people. And possibly there’s something you’re unaware of that is putting off potential mates (believe it or not, personal hygiene is the most common culprit here, if relationship expert Erwan Davon is right). But you can get those minor issues corrected quickly with a little honest feedback from friends, and if you’re at the point where you’re reading this story, you’ve probably already handled it.
The truth is, you meet someone or you don’t. And if you do, they’re a good match or they’re not. Period. It doesn’t “mean” anything about you unless you say so.
Your friends want to help you feel better by giving you advice about how to meet someone. It’s a lovely sentiment, but it’s probably not helping. Listen politely if you like, but don’t let it worry you. You don’t need to change yourself (in fact, please don’t) to find a partner. You are fine as you are.
The truth is that someday you will find a partner. Statistically, it’s pretty much inevitable: According to the American Psychological Association, 90 percent of people living in Western cultures will have married at least once by age 50. Your partner will provide affection, companionship, emotional succor, and help with rent. They will also provoke your deepest fears of abandonment (or suffocation), disappoint you daily regardless of how much you love them, and eventually wake you up to your own illusions about love. And then you will realize it was all just dumb luck.
You can’t control luck. All you can do is manage your state of mind today. Managing your state of mind won’t help you find a mate but it will help you feel less miserable in the meantime.
Feel a little better about being single? Great. If that’s all you wanted from reading this, I suggest you stop here. Seriously. Click off the page and go watch some cute animal videos.
Read on only if you’re interested in going down an existential rabbit hole that’s possibly just a lot of baloney and might make you feel worse. Ready? Okay.
Whether you find a partner or not, that person will never fill in a certain level of emptiness that you probably experience inside. Yes a partner can bring affection and companionship, which often feels like an end to loneliness. But let’s look a little closer.
You know what I’m about to say: On some level, we are all alone. That cannot and will not change. Sex, marriage, and having kids can lessen that feeling at first, but in the long run they often make the feeling worse. We are alone with our experience, but that fact does not have to be painful.
This fact of our existential aloneness is the clue that delivers true peace. This emptiness (which, when flipped, is also oneness) is in fact the simplest of truths, the most fundamental aspect of existence. There is no meaning here, only a fact. Is it sad that there is an emptiness? Or is it freeing? Notice your own interpretation and how it makes you feel. Notice that it is an interpretation.
You assign the meaning.
There is nothing wrong with you unless you say so. You are whole and complete and utterly perfect. The pain you are experiencing is your interpretation of the gap between what is and what you think should be so. That’s okay, but don’t confuse it with the idea that there’s something wrong with you. You are fine, but you are alone. Your married friends are fine too, and they are also alone.
The peace that comes from this awareness leads us to a place from which life sorts itself out naturally.
Hope that wasn’t too deep of a rabbit hole.
Erik Newton is the founder of Together.