Why greater investment in finding a romantic match often leads to lesser returns; some thoughts

The world of sex and romance can get really noisy sometimes with all the drama, intended or not, that it often brings. Yes – even with low-drama people. At such times, it can become hard to think.

People who know me know that I can be quite the romance junkie. But I bet those of you who read this blog from time to time could totally tell, right? I mean, look at how I’m always writing about something deep, or about sex, or intimacy, etc.

So I’ve taken some time off from that mode of being. And it’s so much quieter inside my head … now that I’m not devoting so much time and energy to how I feel about her, how she feels about me, what do we want out of this, how much time do/should we devote to developing our connection, where is this going, what needs aren’t getting addressed, how compatible are we, etc….

I’ve gotten a chance to just be with myself. Evaluate my own thoughts about me and what I want – independently of any other being. Without any repercussions of guilt, either from myself or other people. Nothing to make me feel weird for focusing on just myself instead of them – or “us” :-)

I’ve learned a lot, found a lot of energy for moving forward in my life that I didn’t realize I was spending on this very heavy kind of interaction. I also did not see completely how much focusing on these heavy kinds of interaction was taking away from the other things in my life that are also important.

I try to remind myself that as long as I’m alive, the possibility of “connecting with” somebody in romantically intimate ways will always exist in general. I also noticed that, for myself, as well as many of my friends, the more time we seem to put into finding a romantic match, the lower the return appears to be on our investment. For me, things were great when I was just starting out after divorce; everything was wide open, and anything was possible. Then, slowly, over time, the allure of “possibilities,” though always there for me, began to seem less and less intertwined with romance. Finally, I realized that I did not want to focus on romance so much any more.

Now that I’ve been out of the dating and relationships loop for a while, I’m looking around me and noticing a few of my friends’ romance quests: I want a steady boyfriend/girlfriend that I’m physically attracted to, who likes what I like, who is going somewhere in life, who likes to read with their significant other, who appreciates art, who loves dogs, who is physically active, who is not polyamorous, who wants children, who’s looking for commitment and wants to start a family, etc.

…and I think to myself … my gosh … that’s a titanic wall of expectations! No wonder a lot of these people I know seem to get more and more disappointed the more time and effort they put into their “search.” It can become awful easy to weed someone out based on this list of things. Demoralizing indeed.

NOW – if you are one of those folks that is looking very definitely for a specific kind of committed partner, you should not give up hope; I’m only saying that these kind of things tend to happen in a more random fashion than most of the other things we engage out time and effort in, so our approach must change. The “more effort = better results” equation does not apply here.

If you want to go get some food, you can very much increase the probability that you will buy food by going to places where food exists. The more you want food, the more you can go to places that have food. It’s a simple correlation. Many things in life work like this; if you want something, go where you can find it, and hunt it down, and you stand an overwhelmingly better chance of getting it.

With regard to romance, things aren’t so simple (as we all know in some way or another). If your desires start getting complicated and you find yourself defining everything from what kind of romantic relationship to have, to how long you want the relationship to last, to what would be a deal breaker in such a longer-term relationship, to what you want the person to be interested in, to how you are planning your future, the find-what-I want-and-nail-it-down-to-the-floor approach really turns the odds against you. Of course, if what you truly want is something simple, like a conversation buddy over coffee, an activity partner for bikeriding or watching old French films, someone to cuddle with, or even maybe a sexual fling, sure, there are ways of finding folks who want these very easy-to-define things and increasing your chances of getting them. But so often, even when we claim we just want these things, we’re looking for something more.

Romance and relationships are not a house; they do not sit in one place, immovable, always the same and unchanged. Stuff happens, preferences shift, and people grow out of old things and into new things. It is my observation that this is the case, also, with our romantic desires: Ever notice how many of those things that used to be so important to you have changed? Or how things you never used to think much about have become important? Not only are your dating and relationship possibilities constantly in flux; so are you and your needs.

If you take this into account, it becomes even harder to “nail down the right relationship.” How can you predict what you will want years from now if even you are subject to change over the course of a few months or weeks? This is why, I have found, that once the return on your investment in dating and romance has reached its peak, you have to back off. Take a step back from being an active dater or romantic partner. Take stock in all the other things in your life. Let your self breathe.

I’ve also noticed that, generally speaking, I seem to be more attracted to people who are not putting in overtime in the dating game – and I’ve noticed the same with regard to myself: I am more attractive to others when a higher percentage of my time is devoted to the activities that make me me, as opposed to the activities that increase my chances of “making a romantic connection.” Doing too much romantic / date-related activity ceases to be a deep, intimate thing after a while; it becomes more like an ongoing game of chance and possibility – which is fine if you are not yearning for a solid, intimate relationship. But those of us that are putting time and thought and often money into finding a good partner can often get into an overactivity rut, especially if we’re kind of desperate for something specific.

There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself out there – in normal, unaccelerated ways. Make a dating profile. Tell your friends about your yearnings. Go to places where you might meet someone. Just don’t push too hard. Don’t spend 5 hours each day on your dating profile. Don’t ask your friends to hook you up with someone. Don’t spend all your free time outside home lingering in all the most desperately single places, like bars, for instance. Your chances of finding somebody for you do not increase the more you stuff yourself into such situations – they decrease.

Let go.

We all know that some of the most interesting and often successful love stories begin in the most improbable of ways. People say things like “neither of us could have known what was to come” or “it wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a friendship / good work relationship / sexual thing / passing moment” and so on. It’s not a coincidence that the things we most appreciate happen when our expectations are at their lowest. Remember this precept, and remind yourself of it whenever your don’t feel like your hard work is paying off. And then, let go for a moment of all those specific things you must have and relate to what’s out there.

Sometimes, for example, the person who likes something you hate may be a good match for you, and it may not be that other person whose opinion will eventually change! This may not happen to you – but it could! And besides, if you want to maximize your return on investment into such things, it’s a lot better to use your time and energy to get yourself open and fluid enough to welcome such unexpected possibilities if they come, rather than continuing to hammer away at the already-bent nail of desperate overactivity and only bend it further.

So … that’s what I’ve learned and that’s what I’ve got to say for now. What do you say?

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This entry was posted in Healing, Love and compassion, Making connection, Personal reflections, Sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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