Put down the self-help books, singletons looking for love. Unsubscribe to Dear Abby. Tell Steve Harvey to slow his roll. I have all the relationship advice you’ll ever need. Go get a pen, and write this down: quit trying.
I don’t mean quit dating, or quit looking for people to spend your life with. I mean that once you bang someone or date them and it feels weird, or they do something that kind of irks you or they’re not treating you how you want to be treated, stop dating that person. If you think communicating with them is more awkward or intimidating than you’d like it to be, or they won’t give you what you reasonably like in bed, or if they make you think you need to look, act or dress differently, stop dating that person.
Stop dating that person immediately and move on to the next person.
Because here is the secret to becoming a married person: you meet a person who you want to marry and who wants to marry you, and the timing works out well. If what you want is a long-term, committed relationship, the longer you spend dicking around with a person who is “almost” or who is “great except,” the longer you will spend wondering what is wrong with you and ignoring the truth, which is that relationships are a crap shoot.
There is nothing you can do except get pretty damned lucky.
This thing people do, where they try to squeeze round relationship pegs into square holes because If only this one thing would work! or It’s not that (s)he doesn’t love me (s)he just has trouble saying it! or They’re so great in so many ways, I am sure I will feel a spark for them at some point!, trying to push and cram and pound things into shape, it is not going to work, y’all.
As an almost-married lady with a host of bad, bizarre (and, to be fair, a few good and satisfying) relationships behind her, allow me to get my smug on for a second. Not smug in the “I’m so great and superior, look at my relationship” kind of way, but smug in the, “No seriously, I think I have something figured out” kind of way.
I wish someone had told me, when was younger, to quit fucking around with game-playing, text message analysis, excuse-making, personality modification, behavior changing, all of that shit that how-to books basically say is the only way to get the relationship you want: change who you are and what you’re doing and BAM! Instant long-term relationship. Often, the solution for women is: quit having sex with dudes and dressing like a slut, and all will be well. I don’t know what the solution for men is because I’ve never seen a long-term relationship how-to book aimed at them, because ladies are the worst, right dudes?
When I met Patrick, I knew one thing: I wanted to have all the sex with him. And I did. On the first date! Just like slutty spinsters who never get married do! After we had all the sex, I realized I wanted to have all the relationship. And so we did that, because he also wanted to do that. And we got along really well, and we didn’t have big fights or issues or—I have seen it happen, people—have to go to a relationship counselor six months in.
Things that might have annoyed me in other people (Patrick owns wrap-around sunglasses, I am not even kidding you) were endearing in him. We just fit together. And then when he said he wanted to get married to me, I was like, “Dude, I also want to get married to you!” And now we are doing that.
What I didn’t do: straighten my hair, lose weight, play down my education, make a “wish notebook” or learn to cook or any of the many and varied things women are told to do so they can snag a man and thereby validate their piteous existences.
What I did do: randomly meet Patrick at a party and, later, hook up and date him when we both happened to be looking for the same thing at the same time. All of a sudden, I was in a relationship that wasn’t hard. I don’t mean to say our relationship doesn’t take work, but it’s not hard.
Certainly people choose singledom—more and more, in fact, in addition to other non-traditional family structures, hooray! But I’m frustrated by a self-help advice culture that makes successful partnering seem like a choice that smart or good people make rather than blind-ass chance. Because seriously, that is all it is. Total chance.
As someone who spent a long time wrapped up in whittling, squeezing, peg-pounding relationships, I really believe that when you find something that works, you will know, and you will not believe you spent all that time trying to make yourself or someone else into a person you wanted to be or be with. (I mean, like, do make an effort to brush your teeth and not murder kittens, but that’s about it.)
I didn’t do anything magical to make my relationship happen except meet Patrick. That’s literally all I did. I met a man who fits me. The key to finding a good long-term relationship is the universe aligning to put you in contact with your person. It’s not about changing your behavior, lying about your sex partners or getting Botox. It’s about random, blind-ass chance.
Certainly there are privilege points that make this more likely to happen for some folks–conventionally attractive, heterosexual young people in the U.S. probably have better odds. Sure. But even conventionally attractive, heterosexual young people can do it all right and end up single.
Worst case scenario, and also a very likely one: the universe decides you don’t find a forever partner. You date around. You focus on your career. You have a child on your own. You adopt one. You do shit you want to do, for yourself, and you don’t spend time forcing things, forcing people, forcing issues. Maybe for some people having a bad or mediocre relationship is more important than being alone. And that’s fine. But if that’s not your first priority, I think quitting dicking around with bullshit sounds like the best option.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at @AndreaGrimes.