“Am I destined to be single and alone for the rest of my life?”
This is a question I have been asked, several times, during the past twelve months. And, though it has to be said that the most common reason that anyone anywhere in the world uses an intuitive service is to ask about romantic love (or lack of), I have noticed a sharp increase in the level of frustration and sadness that often accompanies the heartfelt requests for insight and guidance. The world of dating appears to be becoming more and more of a minefield than ever before… but why should that be? Especially given that so many people are looking for not just a relationship, but actual commitment? Sadly, it seems that commitment is the new big C – representing something that is clearly challenging and frightening to a lot of singles – but especially to men… and not just to men of a specific age group.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I am not a man-basher. If you’ve read any of my old blog posts you will know that this is true. And, in fact, I have, at times, been scathing about the way in which some women – quite unreasonably, in my opinion – approach dating. However, there is no getting away from the fact that it appears to be becoming more and more difficult to simply meet a love interest and develop an ongoing relationship with them – one, hopefully, that has long-term potential. Believe me, I have wracked my brain on this subject until my head rattles – but I cannot come up with a simple, straightforward solution. Obviously, some people are finding love – so all hope is not lost. But many more, if my inbox is to be believed, are genuinely struggling.
One of the most common scenarios is this: a woman and a man connect, start to communicate via technology or even physically meet up, and everything is going great. Or so it seems. There is an obvious attraction, lots of encouraging conversation – and then the man suddenly loses interest or even ‘ghosts’ the woman. Obviously, I am talking about heterosexual relationships here – I don’t know whether or not same-sex seekers of love are facing similar problems and to the same degree – but they might well be. As the vast majority of my customers are female, I may be presenting a biased viewpoint… but, I don’t believe that I am (having spoken to a few guys about it all, too).
Age-wise, the women in question generally vary from early twenties to late thirties; having said that, I’ve been seeing a steep increase in the late twenties to mid thirties group, this year. However, where men themselves are concerned, they can be of any age – and still pulling the same stunt. Sometimes a love interest is younger in years, sometimes older. Men in their forties are as likely to play the cruel game of now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t as men in their early twenties. Which tells us one thing: they need to grow the hell up. Recently, a guy who has, according to him, been desperate to find a committed relationship, sheepishly admitted to me that he has been guilty of losing interest, wondering if something better might come along. What if it did, and he was stuck in a relationship that no longer seemed so wonderful? So, on one hand, really keen to find commitment – on the other hand, terrified of it. How on earth does anyone go forward with that?
I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t just one, solvable problem here; it is a problem with many facets. I am sixty-five and life is incredibly different than it was thirty/forty years ago. The way we live, the way in which we communicate, our expectations – they’ve all changed, and in some ways for the good… but there are many changes that have created major problems for the younger generations. Of course, they don’t know that because this is ‘normal’ life to them; they don’t have anything against which to compare their present reality.
The world is our oyster, now… or so we’re told. We have access to billions of other human beings in all corners of the world. We know what everyone else is thinking (because everyone is ‘entitled’ to air their views and opinions), and we have come to expect – nay, demand – immediate results. We don’t have time anymore to invest in anything (for example, YouTube is awash with get-rich-quick videos, presented by fast-talking teens and twenty-somethings who are pretending to be living the perfect lives – created with little or no effort). One of the cries I often hear from my customers is “I’m not wasting my time with this person if it isn’t going to lead to commitment!” We don’t appear to understand how to plant a seed, nurture it, and then see how it grows. If it isn’t going to develop at the speed of Jack’s beanstalk, we ain’t interested.
Now, this attitude affects both men and women. But they have different issues, too. Too many single men are looking for the perfect woman, no matter what they might tell you. And who the hell knows what that looks like? Even they themselves don’t, because they are caught up in the loop of searching-but-never-quite-finding. They know what they see on the internet and television. Beautiful specimens of womanhood – and they want one of those for themselves. However, even though they say that they admire independent-minded women, do they, really? If so, how come they drop the baton and run away so readily, when they start to encounter different aspects of a woman’s personality? There is no curiosity, no compromise, and no staying power. We are developing into a society that only wants to eat the icing from the top of the cake, without tasting the cake itself. It would be easy to believe that some of us see ourselves as the most deserving creature to ever grace the planet, and are therefore entitled to the best of everything and as quickly as possible. But that’s only how it appears, and maybe it isn’t really true; maybe what is actually lurking behind this attitude is a fear of not being good enough. A fear of showing up and running the risk of disappointment and failure. Therefore, if we don’t commit to the process, we can’t fail. And also, if we show up and commit to the process, we risk exposing the reality of ourselves. We’d have to be willing to be vulnerable – which is a problem because the modern generation doesn’t appear to ‘do’ vulnerability and failure – they’re dirty words of weakness, and they lead to depression. Having said that, women are probably more willing to risk being vulnerable if they believe that there is potential – whilst men have a big problem with it; conversely, a lot of younger women don’t appear to admire vulnerability in a man, seeing it as weakness. In men’s defence, women have massively changed the ground rules over the past ten years in particular, and have been pretty vocal about their demands and expectations (whilst still expecting the male-female dynamic to remain the same). Can we have our cake and eat it? Probably not.
So, let’s have a quick reassess, up to this point. It appears that a lot of single men are seeking the mythical, perfect woman who doesn’t end up challenging them too much. She can be intelligent and independent-minded but not stronger or more successful than him. She needs to be suitably hard to get, rather than falling at his feet, and she can play along with the chat and the flirting, and the sharing of deepest emotional secrets. However, if she suddenly starts to show signs of hoping that the process will advance to the next level, he’s suddenly less enthusiastic (which is probably a repeated experience behind women stating that they are no longer willing to waste time with a man who is unlikely to be open to commitment). Let’s agree that some men are going to be genuinely guilty of all of the above. Because they are shallow idiots. But, is it possible that what is often at play is an unconscious fear of not actually being up to the job of being a grown-up partner, facing a potential lifetime of development, sharing, growing, and compromise – in other words, personal responsibility? This is something that might only come into focus when a love interest shows up in their life, making it clear that that is exactly what they’re hoping for. The man inwardly panics, preferring instead to continue to procrastinate and play, dropping the love interest like a hot brick and going in search of the next honeypot.
Look, I’m not suggesting that merely because two people have an initial attraction that they are duty-bound to get married and set up home. Neither am I suggesting that a man can’t change his mind; he might really like a woman at first but then realise that he isn’t as attracted to her after all. And because men often prefer to avoid conflict they might not handle the situation honestly or maturely. Nevertheless, quite a number of the women who have explained their stories to me have been attractive, intelligent, reasonable, non-desperate souls who have genuinely believed that there was something promising between them and the men who left them feeling painfully rejected, struggling to understand what suddenly changed. They take it personally – because it feels incredibly personal. And if they find themselves experiencing this situation more than once, they’re going to adopt one (or both) of two mindsets: 1) all men are lying users and none of them can be trusted, 2) I’m completely unattractive, not as good as other women, and no one will ever truly love me.
I wonder if the men who treat women in this way really understand the damage that they are doing to another human being? To be honest, I don’t believe that they do. I don’t think that they get it. Again, I’m not man-bashing, but men can be pretty thick when it comes to emotional analysis and reasoning. Also, they won’t really want to face up to the fact that their behaviour has been questionable; no one likes to admit that they could have been a better human being.
So, what advice can I offer? Well, I have to start by saying that, unfortunately, this is the way that things are now in the modern world. We’ve set it up this way. Years ago, we had to take what we could get! Our pool of possible suitors was extremely limited, not having access to the internet or social media or a million online dating apps. Imagine that! Our expectations were probably a lot lower, and women weren’t as openly ‘liberated’. We were independent and worked hard – but there were none of these ‘strong women’ memes that are so popular now. I admit to finding some of the ‘sisterhood’ drama quite irritating, with the need for continuous announcements about women’s wisdom and sacrifice and self-sufficiency (whilst still making finding a man a top priority). Sometimes women need to take a bit of responsibility for the message and the contradictions they have been ramming home over the past few years, leading to men becoming wary and confused. Let’s face it, a lot of young women love to promote themselves online in very sexual ways, using a lot of make-up and filters, in order to gain attention – whilst not wanting to be seen as sexual objects who aren’t looking for anything serious, love-wise. And, before anyone howls at me, I’m not suggesting that women should dress in twinset and pearls and use nothing more than a touch of tinted moisturiser – I’m simply explaining that this is the culture now, and men, who tend not to be able to read between the lines, and who also tend to take things literally, have become unconsciously programmed. Which isn’t doing them any good, either, in the world of dating. There are as many men who would love to find ‘the one’ as there are women. It’s just that they really don’t understand each other even more than men and women didn’t use to understand each other – even in this time of excessive information and education. The world of dating has become more of a power play and a competition, and there is distrust on both sides. So, in terms of advice, not very helpful or hopeful, I admit. However, I have more to say.
People are going to continue to get together and produce other human beings. Romantic love will still morph into something more solid and lasting – it just might take longer than it used to. Which isn’t a surprise, given that a high percentage of women haven’t really been looking to settle down until in their late twenties and thirties. It has to be accepted that some people will find the process of meeting a compatible partner easier than others, and that life is, for many of us, a numbers game. The more frogs we kiss the greater the chance of discovering that one of them is actually a prince in disguise (or, just a very decent, lovable frog). But we can help ourselves to make the experience a much more productive one by not giving in to frustration and blame, and by approaching it smartly. We can’t guarantee that, even with the best effort, we still won’t come up against a serial player – but we can at least learn to spot the signs more quickly and efficiently. I know, I know – we shouldn’t have to adopt this kind of approach – where’s the romance in that? The truth is, we can be as idealistic as we want, but if it isn’t paying off then what’s the point? Just because something should be this or that way doesn’t mean that it will be.
So, a few things to reflect upon:
Does he seem almost perfect? Has the ‘connection’ between the two of you taken your breath away? Does he appear to understand you in a way that others don’t? Is he attentive, and lavish with compliments? Does he appear to be thinking about you, regularly texting and remembering to say goodnight and good morning? And has all of this inexplicably happened overnight – suddenly sweeping into your life and consuming your every waking moment? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, my advice would be to hold your horses and keep your feet firmly on the ground. The trail is littered with the smashed self-worth and broken hearts of those who forgot to do so. If this thing is genuine then there is no need to throw yourself in head first, blinded by the drama of it all. Don’t take it too seriously; treat it lightly and respond calmly. You won’t need to be defensive or self-protective, because this will cause you to come across as someone who sees herself as vulnerable and therefore on the back foot. Retain your sense of humour and give him the opportunity to start showing his true colours – because, eventually, that’s exactly what he will do. You might like those colours – or you might realise that all that glitters is not gold.
Some questions worth asking yourself:
What is the nature and quality of your conversation?
Is it interesting and informative, and does it include both of you – or does he tend to talk mostly about himself? Or, does he side-step your questions about him?
Is it mostly small talk?
Is it suggestive – or even openly sexual?
Does he consistently refer to an ex or exes in either a complimentary or a critical way?
How does he speak about his family?
Does he boast about his accomplishments?
Is he generally negative or cynical?
Issues to be aware of, often connected with online dating:
Nothing moving beyond the texting stage
Lots of texts initially, but then becoming fewer and fewer
Excessive compliments, coming thick and fast
Promising too much too soon
The declaring of love within a very short space of time
Talking about the future without even having met
Looking too far ahead too soon
Only having access to limited aspects of a person’s personality
Being drawn in by a potential love interest who has low self-worth and lack of genuine self-confidence, and is projecting the persona of the person they’d ideally like to be, rather than who they are
Being drawn in by a sweet-talker who is only ‘window-shopping’
Okay, so what if you’ve been in contact for a reasonable length of time? It is still important to be realistic, double-checking your answers to the following questions:
Is geographical distance likely to be a genuine problem?
What do you really know about this person, such as what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, what aims and goals they have, and what they’re hoping to achieve in the future?
What do they know – and remember – about you?
Are they or you over-sharing, given the length of time you have been in contact?
Are you mutually sharing all of your problems, bonding over a sense of victimhood?
Are you able and willing to recognise things that could be potential red flags, or suggest that you probably aren’t compatible?
Do you recognise that talking online/via text and phone calls doesn’t always translate in real life?
And, if you’ve dated, have there been long gaps between dates?
Obviously, we can’t completely understand another purely through conversation, and we can’t possibly know all that there is to know about them without having spent quality, consistent time with them in normal, everyday life. Even established couples will continue to discover or recognise new things about each other, with the passing of time. But we’re talking about the modern-world difficulties associated with the finding of the kind of love that can blossom and grow, hopefully into a mature, mutually supportive relationship with long-term potential. It IS possible because people are still falling in love and creating a life together, even in these confusing times. It just isn’t as simple as it used to be, it is much more complex now. However, we can’t, and we won’t, give up on love. But we need to take good care of ourselves and of our personal future, by adopting a smart, considered, informed approach, right now. We can save ourselves a huge amount of mental and emotional energy, not to mention time, by not being in a hurry, regardless of our age. And also by not being overly demanding or entitled but smart. By being unwilling to settle for something that isn’t going to work for us in the bigger picture. So, remember: if a love interest causes you to feel insecure, sad, or rejected, no matter how ‘meaningful’ the whole thing might have seemed at first, cry your tears, put your big girl pants on, and shout “good riddance to rotten rubbish!” And swiftly move on… because there are more frogs out there than you can possibly count – and one of them is dreaming about you, right now.