Make It Stop: “How Do I Find Someone To Date In Real Life, Not Online?”

I’m discouraged about dating right now. I ended a five-year relationship when I moved to a new city four months ago. I now live close to my brother and I’m enjoying hanging out with him and his friends, but I’m struggling to find someone suitable to date. In the past couple of days, two guys I adore said they are attracted to me but can’t date me. Both I met through work. One guy doesn’t want to date for that reason (he’s a supervisor, so, yeah, props to him for being decent). The other is in the early stages of dating someone else and doesn’t want to pursue more than one person at once. It’s frustrating! Ideally, I’d like to find men like them who I *can* date. But guys I meet through online dating sites, though available, are just not as attractive to me when we meet. There’s just so much you infer and observe by knowing someone in person that doesn’t come across in a profile. How can I find more people —in real life — to date who are available and appropriate?

I understand your frustrations. Obviously it sends a confusing message to single guys when you’re out with your brother. Dudes are going to assume you’re a couple until you explicitly say otherwise which is, well, weird and forward. And online dating is a fiery hell hole that involves email messages filled with horrible grammar and blurry profile pictures taken from terrible angles.

But, from where I sit, something doesn’t quite add up. Between the two guys at work pulling you aside for illicit conversations, trying to wade through the muck of online dating, and being disillusioned enough with the process to even write me for advice, it seems like you’re investing a lot of time and energy into nailing your “America’s Next Boyfriend” project.

Let’s slow this down.

Be honest; are you truly in a place to commit to anyone right now? Are you fully healed from your last relationship? Like, if you received a text message from your ex would your body have an involuntary negative physical reaction? Because if it would, then girl, you aren’t over your breakup yet.

You’re clearly a magnetic person, but I sense an eagerness to fill a void with a new romantic prospect. I don’t know how you’re vetting these online dates. Are you being discerning with these men you meet? Is your profile tailored to attract the kind of man your looking for? Or are you just spinning around in the snow until a snowflake—any snowflake—falls on your tongue?

My best advice: retire your profiles and try dating yourself for the next year. All those things you’d expect a boyfriend to give you—nice meals, compliments, companionship—give it to yourself freely.

I know this is going to sound a little Oprah-y, but if you’re having a tough time dating, maybe the Universe is saying you should take a break from the dating scene. Let’s take a look at your life in your sparkling new city. You’ve got a cool job, a nice family, a new home. Maybe what’s missing from this picture isn’t a new boyfriend, but a new best friend. Reach out to other single women you meet. Be a support system for each other. Drink half-priced margaritas at happy hour and vent about your day. Call her up to go to a farmers’ market then go watch “The Martian” in IMAX 3D. She’ll be way more fun to hang out with than some random dude you met on OKCupid.

This is the benefit of building a strong support network apart from your brother and his friends. Since you just got out of a longterm relationship, you need to rebuild your identity and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. I’m not saying your brother’s friends aren’t good people, but you want the confidence that comes with people who seek you out for your intelligence and humor, not because you share DNA with their buddy.

Besides the happiness that comes with genuine friendship, you should find more girlfriends because when you do find yourself in another romantic relationship down the road, you will need outside support from time to time. You can’t just sit around and stare into your boyfriend’s eyes all day. You will need to have outside interests and friendships that comprise the tapestry of your life.

So take your dating profiles off line. Disengage from the hustle and prioritize seeking out new friends. After all, the more seeds you sow, the more lush your garden in your new city will be.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.