Finding love isn't the grand purpose of your life. But it is pretty great, especially when it hits out of nowhere and knocks you off of your feet. If you're looking without luck, you're probably guilty of some things we all do that can make us less likely to find love. Maybe you do them on purpose because you're still healing from some past heartbreaks or trauma. And maybe you have no idea that you're throwing off huge "don't even think about it" vibes.
When I talked with people who had traumatic breakups or difficulty finding love during my years as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I found it to be incredibly true that the best love comes when you're busy falling in love with yourself and doing what it takes to be the best version of yourself. But it's also true that sometimes love comes when you're bold enough to invite it in.
So if you're guilty of any of these habits that sabotage your search for love, make a mental note to change up your game plan. As long as you're open, and you keep doing you, love will come. Let self-love be as important a goal as finding romantic love.
1. Hanging On To An Impossible Crush
Maybe you're in love with your best friend who is married and not at all interested in you, yet you keep that torch burning. Or maybe it's your boss, or your roommate. You spend all the time you can with them. You think about them constantly. It's been that way for years. You know there's no way you can be together, but alas, the heart wants what the heart wants. These impossible relationships hold you back from finding someone who is actually available and interested in loving you. The only options are to profess your love and see how it goes, or to cut the cord of attachment and move on.
2. Waiting For Your Soulmate
The soulmate narrative is ridiculous. I'm sorry if that offends you. But this idea that there's one absolutely perfect person out there who has been waiting all eternity to find their missing piece (which is you) keeps you from all the other pieces that could fit pretty well and are available right now. There are hundreds, even thousands of people in this world that you could love and make a great life with. Holding out for that one cosmic soul mate experience shut you off to a world of possibility. And I'm not talking about settling for someone. I'm talking about being open to the idea that a person can become a sort of "soul mate" over time, if you let them. And that love can be beautiful and intense. Very few relationships are perfect from the start.
3. Filling Out A Monster Checklist
You know that scene in Practical Magic where Sandra Bullock's character makes an impossible list of qualities her perfect man must possess so that she'll never fall in love? Don't be that character. You may think you want a smart, sharply dressed banker with a pug, a nice apartment, and a perfect beer recipe, but find that you're head-over-heels for the scruffy bike messenger who lives with four other guys above a pizza shop and has an impressive collection of cut-off shorts. Or vice versa. It's OK to have standards, but it's important to also be open to what life has in store for you. If that bike messenger or banker or whoever makes you happy, then screw your checklist. For real.
4. Having A Fake Partner
I had an emotional girlfriend once. We were inseparable best friends and we even did things like snuggle sessions and hand holding and forehead kisses. But we were just friends. And I wasn't looking for love because most of my needs were being met by my fake partner. It's awesome to have besties you're super close with, and who help meet your emotional needs, but you might find you're missing out on opportunities to meet someone you can be in a relationship with because you're too busy spooning your squad.
5. Giving In To Low Self-Esteem
I wonder how many times I missed an opportunity to meet someone who could make me really happy because I wasn't brave enough to start a conversation, swipe right, or ask someone out. Getting shot down is humiliating, but it's also not that bad. Once it happens to you, you'll see that you survived it and it was no big deal. Then you can move on to the next one. Everyone gets shot down, even the best of the best. So do your best to try to give in to low self-esteem less and to be brave more. Nothing risked, nothing gained, am I right?
6. Keeping Those F*ckboys Around
The weekend rolls around. You're itching for some sexy time. It's so easy to call up a hookup who means nothing to you, roll around with them all weekend, then go home. It's a nice setup if you're into that sort of thing. But if you're on the hunt for something more meaningful and you're not finding it, this could be a big contributor. I mean, how are you going to meet someone to love if you're spending all your free time under someone you just like? Sure, it's possible that your next big relationship could be with the person who delivers the take-out to you an your sex friend, but it's unlikely. Don't use hookups as a crutch.
7. Not Communicating What You Want
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with having that impossible list of expectations, but it's a little more specific. Say you meet someone and go out on a date. You're hoping for some grand, romantic gesture, and what you get is a nervous person just trying to play it cool long enough to get through the night. Well, guess what? People aren't mind readers. If you're looking for something specific, you need to ask for it. You need to be upfront. You can't hope for something and then bolt when you don't get it because you could be turning away people who would be happy to give it to you if they only knew that's what you wanted. Be clear. Be direct. Don't expect miracles.
8. Selling Yourself Short
Do you describe yourself as damaged goods? Or do you put out the vibe that no one wants to date someone with a kid, or a crappy job, or who lives at home with their parents? I mean, it's important to be truthful about your situation, but those aren't the characteristics that define your personality. How about emphasizing all the things you think are wonderful about you? Plus, you might find it better to give people the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming they're all jerks with a huge list of deal breakers. Maybe they love kids or think living at home is a great way to save money. Don't dwell on what you think is bad about your situation.
9. Being A Hot Mess
Hot messes tend to attract hot messes. Not always, but in my experience, it seems to be true pretty often. If you're a hot mess, whatever that means to you, then you need to start taking steps to clean up and cool off that mess. If your finances are in shambles, make a plan, even if it means paying off debts ten bucks at a time. If you're depressed, recovering from trauma, or just can't seem to get it together, take the plunge and get into therapy, even if it's that free community counseling center downtown. Just start doing the work of being who you want to be. You gotta be in love with yourself first, as cliche as that may sound.
10. Waiting For Who Your Parents Want You To Marry
I don't mean to disrespect anyone's cultural heritage or family traditions, but you are the one who has to live with and love this person for however long they're in your life. It's nice to have parents who want to set you up with nice people, or cultures that dictate the kind of person you should marry — and if you believe strongly in those values, by all means, do you, but if it's not that important to you, then you need to stop holding out for the parental-pleaser and start looking for the you-pleaser. Your parents aren't going to be there day-in and day-out, watching this person floss and seeing them naked.
11. Being In A Relationship With Your Phone
There's a person in the office who has been making eyes at you for months, but you haven't noticed because you're locked into your computer. You missed the person on the subway who flirted with you because you were retinas-deep in your phone. And the charming, romantic person with the cute dog who gave you a shy look on the street and said "hey" went unnoticed because you had your headphones on full-volume. I'm not saying to sit in public without a phone to look at *shudder* but I am saying to maybe be more aware of what's around you.
Sure, it's true that love comes when you're not looking for it, but you know what? Sometimes it comes because you hunted it down. It's OK to want what you want, and then go after it like it's your job.
Images: Pexels (12); Isla Murray/Bustle
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