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Stop obsessing about finding love

By Wendy Atterberry
  • The idea that time is running out is potentially damaging, author says
  • Love is wonderful, she says, but it doesn't even guarantee happiness
  • Author found her husband after deciding not to obsess
  • Dating
  • Relationships

A lot of the letters I get asking for advice are from people who worry they'll never find love. "I'm 27 and still single!" they wail, or "I'm almost 30 and all my friends are married!" And while it's certainly natural to desire love and companionship and to get a little antsy about finding it, the idea that time is running out or that one should be married or at least in a long-term committed relationship by a certain age is not only wrong, it's potentially damaging.

Yes, love is pretty wonderful. Yes, being with a committed partner can feel fantastic and safe and all those things in great movies and books. But it's definitely not the only thing in life worth living for -- hell, it doesn't even guarantee happiness, so why not focus on things one can control and enjoy being single until Cupid points his little arrow your way?

I didn't meet my now-husband until I was almost 30, which, according to a lot of people, is OLD to still be single, and we didn't get married until I was almost 33 -- downright ancient in some people's minds.

In my mind, though, I was ready to find love and maybe even get married, not because I felt old -- I didn't! -- or that all my friends were married -- they weren't! -- or that society was pressuring me to settle down -- it wasn't! I was ready because I knew what I wanted from my future and from a partner, had a pretty full and rich life that I was ready to share with someone special, and I felt prepared to make the kinds of sacrifices and compromises doing so might entail.

I did things to make finding the right person easier: I made room for him in my life; I tried to be the kind of person who would attract the kind of man I was looking for; and I let my social circle know I was ready and willing to be set up. The one thing I didn't do -- or, I should say I stopped doing -- was obsess about when and whether I'd ever meet Mr. Right.

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It wasn't an accident that I didn't obsess over finding love -- it was a deliberate, conscious decision I'd made months before meeting my now-husband on a blind date (giving my social circle the go-ahead to set me up worked wonders!).

My 30th birthday was creeping up and I was sick of feeling like I hadn't reached enough milestones to really celebrate it. I was tired of thinking that I -- and the life I was creating for myself -- wasn't enough, and that I lacked the one, big important thing that would somehow validate everything else.

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And that's when I realized it. I looked around at all my friends, most of whom were several years older and still single, and I realized I didn't need a relationship to be happy. In fact, it was my single friends that seemed the happiest... and I was right there with them.

I thought about all the fun we had together and realized that being single was pretty great. I still hoped to find love eventually. I still wanted a relationship, but I decided until it happened (because by then it was a matter of when, not if), I was going to enjoy the hell out of my single life and take advantage of all my free time to nurture the friendships I'd grown to value so much.

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I don't think it's a coincidence that when I re-directed my focus from finding love to living my life fully, it wasn't long before love found me. And when it did, I have to be honest, I'd become so comfortable in my single life, I suddenly wasn't even sure I really was ready for the kinds of sacrifices and compromises I'd have to make for it.

I was tested, you see -- my love was halfway across the country. And the thing I learned, the thing that bears reminding for those of you still pining for someone special, is that when love comes, it doesn't suddenly make life easier and tie everything up in a nice, pretty bow. In fact, sometimes love -- even at its very best (and when it's good, it's wonderful) -- can tear through your world like a hurricane, shifting and reorganizing things you long-thought were settled in place.

So until it happens for you (because it really is a matter of when, not if), go enjoy things exactly where you like them. You'll be doing storm clean-up before you know it.

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