Dear Sara: I loved the letter that you posted from the young lady who was struggling with dating at first. She eventually realized that she enjoyed being single and meeting all types of people and loving them. Are some people just undateable (excuse my made-up word)? I am beginning to think I have been single so long that I no longer am appealing to men, and men aren’t appealing to me. Sigh. When I look at my ‘matches,’ I just … no enthusiasm, no zest for checking profiles, etc. — T
Dear T: When I coach women about being single, many times I’ll have a conversation that starts something like this:
“So I’ve been seeing this guy …” Long pause, sad sigh. “He’s really, really nice.”
They do fun things together—movies, museums. And it’s so nice to have someone to take to weddings and family events—their parents approve!
The longer these women talk, the sadder they sound.
They’re just not into their men. And for that, they feel profoundly guilty. They have had it pounded in their heads that basic decency is all they should ask for in a partner—that passion, connection, and great conversation are luxuries women their age can’t afford.
Here’s where I think this conversation gets confusing. There was a time when this was probably true. Before women were able to earn a decent living on their own, they had lower standards for their spouses. Does he have a job? Is he a nice guy? Does he have decent anger-management skills? Will he stick around after the kids are born? For most of human history, these were the primary standards a woman used to make her choice—if she had a choice.
Women have higher standards now, and that’s great. But it’s not always easy. Once you add the requirements of passionate love and connection, you soon realize that you don’t always meet that person by 23—or even by 33 or 43 necessarily.
So you do your best. You go online, try to meet people at parties, etc. If you feel “meh” a lot, that’s probably because most of the people you meet probably aren’t a great match for you. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it’s hard to find a great match.
Here’s the key question: Do you feel unenthusiastic about everything in your life, or just the online profiles you’re seeing? Outside of dating, are there things that interest and engage you? Do you have friends who delight you? Are there activities you enjoy?
If you find that you aren’t able to get excited about anything, then you might be suffering from a mild depression and I’d suggest talking to your doctor or therapist. This is not necessarily a big deal. A few years ago, I went through a phase when nothing seemed interesting or enjoyable to me. It lasted about a week, and then for no reason I could identify I was back to my old self.
But if there are things in your life that you are enthusiastic about: your work, your nieces, ultimate Frisbee, Game of Thrones, whatever. Then my guess is that you’re feeling uninspired because you’re not meeting potential partners who inspire you.
Women have been conditioned to believe that it’s not just our job to be desirable; it’s also our job to desire anyone who is interested in us. But the human heart doesn’t seem to work like that. A person can meet all of our “requirements” and do everything right, but sometimes there is just a missing X factor. Sometimes you want to fall for someone and you just … don’t.
I spent most of my twenties and thirties wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t will myself to get excited about a lot of very good men. There was nothing wrong with these men, but when I spoke of them I sounded a lot like my coaching clients: guilty and sad.
Then I met my husband, who is a really nice guy. But he’s also much more than that: He’s my best friend, a person who, ten years later, I love spending time with every day.
We can debate the merits and risks of holding out for this kind of connection, but my sense is that women like us don’t really have a choice. Settling, however tempting or reasonable-seeming at times, is simply not an option.
Still, it might be worth taking a chance on some of the men behind these profiles. Many people don’t come off terribly well in an online write-up, so consider taking the risk of meeting them in person–or at least by phone call. If your initial instinct is correct and you’re not into them, no problem—commend yourself for your good intuition and release them to find people who will adore them. If you’re wrong and they turn out to be a lot more fun than expected, great!
So no, I don’t think you’re undateable. I think you’re a modern woman who has appropriately high standards, and I suggest you keep them.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her any questions here.