Carolyn Hax: Another case of Dating Hamster Wheel of Despair

Columnist April 5, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m 33; I’m smart, funny, reasonably attractive, and I have my life together. I love my job, volunteer, exercise, have great friends and have enjoyable hobbies.

But my dating life sucks. I don’t meet people in real life, despite all my best efforts (see above). And in the past three years, I’ve been out with close to a hundred online dates, none of whom I’ve really clicked with. It seems like I must be doing something wrong, or else I’m seriously deluded about how awesome I am. How do I keep my hopes up and keep trying?

Dating Woes

Stop wearing your “Who farted?” T-shirt.

You have a wonderful life, by your own account. Please get off the Dating Hamster Wheel of Despair (DHWD)* and free yourself to enjoy that wonderful life without the man-man-mandate.

If at some point, you find yourself wanting to go on a date with someone, then go — because then you’ll want the date for its own sake vs. wanting it as a means to an end. You’ve worked so hard at this (a hundred guys?!) that you’ve apparently lost perspective. Dating three guys a month seems panicky. Panic clouds judgment and scares dates.

*Courtesy of a reader, 2007.

Carolyn:

While I agree that maybe I’ve gone overboard online dating, I don’t know how to reconcile wanting a relationship with not taking active steps to pursue one. Whenever I’ve taken time to regain perspective, what I inevitably learn is that while my life is pretty great, I can’t deny that I do want a relationship, too.

Dating Woes again

Clearly. But your experience proves that dating at your pace doesn’t produce a relationship. That’s the best reason I can imagine for not doing it any more. And you don’t feel good about it — two good reasons.

This is the greatest challenge we all face, reconciling ourselves to the absences or disappointments that aren’t entirely in our control. And I think it might help you with “not taking active steps” if you accept that a relationship (among many other things) isn’t entirely yours to bring about. Tend to your relationship with yourself, since that’s all anyone is guaranteed, and go out of your way to create new opportunities occasionally, when it sounds like a fun thing to do.

Re: DHWD:

Make sure you leave yourself open to the possibility that someone will work out. I was in your shoes — and because none of my dates worked out, I almost closed off the possibility that one of them would. I had to start thinking of each person I met as a whole new coin flip — not part of a series.

Anonymous

One more:

Re: DHWD:

This was me to a T a few years ago. I finally saw a therapist. I figured that if I was doing something wrong, I’d find out what. If it wasn’t anything I was doing, then at least I’d know I’d done everything I could.

Turns out I was putting up certain barriers. Barriers lowered. Met a nice guy. Now very happily married.

Anonymous 2

Again — there’s no magic cause-and-effect, there’s only doing what you can, accepting what you can’t and rejecting urgency whenever the heart is involved.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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