Unlove Me: I Found Love Because I Got Lucky, Not Because I Changed Myself

illustration by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Sometimes I’m still shocked to find myself in a loving, happy relationship. It’s so off brand. I spent the majority of my adult life being alone, happily or unhappily, bitterly or less so. Being single was an important part of my identity for so long that even now that my romantic life has become fulfilling, joyous, easy, I still can’t completely part with my single lady angst. Years of receiving tepid advice like “it will happen when you least expect it,” of sitting at the singles table at weddings, of honing my expertise in making breakup mixes, will leave their mark. There are those of us who feel like our romantic travails can be summed up by a choice Stevie Nicks song, and those who don’t. “Silver Spring” will never not be my go-to karaoke song.

Before I met Josh I had lived alone for ten years, fiercely independent and somewhat proud of the regimen of weird habits and eccentricities I’d developed. I was committed to the idea that I didn’t need a man to be happy, but still, I wanted a boyfriend. I hated myself for pining for the heteronormative ideal of romance–all that stupid old shit, as Liz Phair sang in the 1994 single lady anthem “Fuck and Run.” But I did want it, with an intensity that made me feel like a subpar feminist and a failure at doing things that normal women have been doing since the beginning of time. And one of the most dismal parts of experiencing this kind of longing is that I was the victim of a certain brand of single lady concern trolling disguised as friendly advice. Everyone had words of wisdom (often unsolicited!) about how I should fix myself, as if singledom was an ailment for which I could find a cure if only I tried hard enough and took the appropriate steps to get healthy.

I’m here to tell you that I didn’t do anything differently than I normally did. I didn’t fundamentally change any part of myself to finally find a happy relationship: I didn’t read a slew of self-help books and start going to SoulCycle to Get Right. I didn’t try a new dating app or a new therapist, and I didn’t arrive at some place of spiritual enlightenment at the end of which I announced to the world, “I am ready for love,” with my arms outstretched in the air. Reader, I got lucky. That’s it. For once in my life I got phenomenally lucky. I’m still the same old me with the same insecurities and biases and hangups but now I’ve found someone I love very much who loves me back. My before and after photos look almost identical, except I’m not alone in the after one.

And I’ve at last gained some perspective on all of the love advice with which I’ve been barraged for most of my life.

First, I’d like to say fuck off to everyone who constantly told me to “put yourself out there!” I mourn for all of the books I could’ve read, for all of the TV I missed, simply because I was so determined to be out every night, socializing and meeting people. Yes, being around other humans is a great first step in trying to find a mate, but still, the pressure I felt to be constantly out and about could make a sometimes-introvert feel guilty for scheduling some much needed recovery time. I’d have a full-blown panic attack if a Friday night came around and I didn’t have plans, so then I’d be sitting on my couch chugging wine and frantically swiping through Tinder when I could’ve been relaxing and reading a significant portion of the modern canon all while keeping up with the Kardashians.

Even worse were the people who parroted life coaches or women’s magazines, who told me to “date like it’s your job.” Because if you’re a woman who lives in an impossibly large city where eligible single men are hard to find, apparently you must work to find them. You’ve gotta put in the time. But wait. Do you have a job that inspires you and brings you joy? Then delight in how wonderful your career is and enjoy it. Do you find your job to be tedious or dead-end or soul-crushing? Then why would you want to take on a whole other job that feels exactly as miserable? One terrible job is more than enough.

Then there were the particularly judgmental people who offered tough love by saying I should “be less picky,” perhaps inspired by a hateful 2010 book which implied that too many single women have impossibly high standards and are delusional about whom and what they deserve. Related: The well-meaning family friends who couldn’t wait to set me up with random single dudes they kind of knew, as if having a penis and a pulse and approximate geographical location were the only criteria that truly mattered in a potential mate, and any further need for complexity or compatibility just showed how snobby and difficult I was. Being lonely is awful, but it’s not nearly as agonizing as going through the motions with someone you’re ambivalent about.

I didn’t settle. I’m glad I remained stubborn until I found someone who delights me and challenges me every single day. It was easy. Josh made it easy for me to love him, and so I did, and so I do. And I deserve his love. But if he hadn’t come out to that particular bar that night, if our paths had never crossed, I’d still be me. And now I truly believe that with a loving family and great friends and great books and some Fiona Apple tunes and maybe some good bourbon, I would still be complete, even if I were single. And though I’m not planning on it, if I ever find myself single again I will try to love my flawed, picky self, and take relationship advice sparingly, if at all.

Maris Kreizman is the author of Slaughterhouse 90210. Follow her on Twitter.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t understand why just because you found love one way that makes finding love any other way automatically wrong. There are plenty of people who have met at single mingling events, through dating apps, at parties – and God forbid, at SoulCycle. Your way is just another way. No need to put down dating advice altogether. This is why there are so many jaded and bitter people in the world. Your “you have to get lucky or there’s no hope” attitude is misleading and unjustified.

    • Cue the comments from people who did not understand the article. She is not putting those things down. She is stating that too many people make single people feel as if they are wrong if they are not doing those things. Sometimes you meet your partner when you put yourself out there. Usually you do not. Meeting someone is a matter of luck and remaining single is not a commentary on your worth as a person. We need to place less pressure on ourselves and others to find romantic partners. While it is wonderful to meet someone who melds with you, it is not the end of the world if you do not.

      • I know, right? So many people are taking this personally despite the fact she specifically mentions folks in her life, not random strangers on the Internet. I don’t think she sounds bitter, just realistic and I’m really tired of people speaking in clear, concise, factual terms being branded bitter or angry for speaking their truth, especially during this election cycle. Why is the truth so frightening for people?

    • I completely agree with you, Tiffany.
      While I understand the point made above, it still reads a little, well, formulaic and immature. Fact is: a little bit of luck, magic, and will are required for most good things in life, not just finding a boyfriend. And this is going to look very different from person to person. So, enjoy your lovely BF, Maris, but maybe let others go about their lives whichever way they want, yeah?

    • Did the author say “You, don’t go to SoulCycle”? I think the author says she feels anger at the well-meaning yet clueless people who pushed her to do things she didn’t want to do and wasted her time. That’s how I’m reading the essay; nearly every paragraph (practically most sentences) uses “I” or “me”. Is there even a single paragraph that uses the word ‘you’ in connection with a piece of dating advice?

      • “I think the author says she feels anger at the well-meaning yet clueless people who pushed her to do things she didn’t want to do and wasted her time.”

        So what she’s really expressing then is anger at herself for not knowing herself better and for listening more to other people’s well-meaning advice than to her own gut. If so, this piece could still have been written with less bitterness and more compassion (as well as maturity). Before self-love there can be no love for another: anger and blame – or the singular belief in random and/or unimaginable luck! – are hardly constructive, caring or supportive advice.

    • I can see why someone would have your argument. But as someone who has been online dating for 13 years (and I’m only 35), trying to do everything and anything to “put myself out there” — along with the countless other methods she mentions in the article, I think what we as a society want so hard to believe is that eventually you meet someone. No one wants to think about the fact that sometimes is doesn’t happen. I’ve spent a lot of times trying hard to figure out what I’m doing wrong, when I’m literally trying anything and everything to give myself opportunities to meet new people: online dating, speed dating, going to bars, starting small talk with strangers, going on blind dates, putting my phone down when I’m out in the world and paying attention, therapy, going out when all I really want to do is stay in, talking to guys my friends suggest for the same reasons she’s mentioned

      I don’t think she’s positing this as the be all end all. It’s true: if you work for it, you just might find it. But I still believe it’s a little bit of luck. Based on the number of dates I’ve been on, so few work out—either because they never called—or I never did. We just didn’t click.

      I think we try really hard to believe that there is a reason we’re failing at it, when the simple truth is: nothing is guaranteed. Where did we get this idea that everyone ends up with someone?

      We want to believe it. Because how scary does it feel to think about it never happening?

      F*cking petrifying.

      But maybe sometimes there just is no hope. I think looking at it as, “What if…what if in the narrative, I don’t meet someone?” And being able to stop being afraid of it or give it this weight of it being tragic changes the bitterness.

      I think we’re often bitter because we’re told we’re not trying hard enough or maybe we are and we just have to keep doing X,Y,Z and eventually it will happen. And we do X,Y,Z, and it doesn’t. And there’s no one out there saying, “Well actually, that doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING.” Nada.

      I know so many people who spend days or weeks on a dating app and deleted it periodically because it just becomes frustrating. I mean, annoyingly so. I’m in that group for sure. And yet I always return as if maybe something will change.

      And in 13 years of online dating, let me tell you: it has. It’s now inundated with people who don’t really want to date. Even a short as 3 years ago the chances of meeting a guy (I can’t speak to the guys’ side of things) who LEGITIMATELY wanted to take you out on an actual date with the idea of possibly forming a relationship somewhere down the line was far more likely than it is now.

      Hell, most guys don’t even take the time to write a single thing in their profiles. And you’re lucky if they read what you’ve written in yours.

      I don’t think the “you have to get lucky or there’s no hope” attitude is misleading or unjustified. I think it’s taking a situation and looking at it realistically: There’s no guarantee anything that you do to try to meet someone will work. It TOTALLY might. But you making yourself miserable to meet someone isn’t guaranteeing it’ll happen. Sometimes it really is a crapshoot out there. So don’t force yourself if you’d rather be doing something else.

      Just like we all eventually redownload that dating app we said we’d swear off forever, maybe we’ll find ourselves wanting to put ourselves out there again. But if we don’t? It doesn’t mean we would have found our partner anyways.

      And I think it’s learning to find peace in that that’s important. Not lose hope, but accept that finding that perfect person is no more guaranteed by running ourselves ragged as working your ass off to land your dream job guarantees you’ll land it.

      And I think she’s just saying, “Hey—if you don’t like spending your time looking so hard and feeling like something’s wrong, you don’t really have to. But if you want to do all that stuff…it’s an equal shot, really.”

      • Comedian Lisa Allison ruined dating for all other women when she completed her plan to go on 100 dates in one year. There is no Return on Investment for spending money to entertain a stranger. Best to see if there is some chemistry there, first.

      • “We want to believe it. Because how scary does it feel to think about it never happening?
        F*cking petrifying.”

        I spent my 20’s living in hope and being crushed as a result, thinking I was no good. As I entered my 30’s, I had a shift in attitude, started believing in myself and thinking that just because I had not met anyone did not mean I should try hard to be someone else, the kind of bloke someone might want to date. I started to embrace who I was – because if I attracted someone by being someone else, I’d lock myself into a false position – and think that I’m actually good enough, maybe a bit off-brand (I like the description) and if women could not recognise that, so be it.

        Eventually, I started thinking about the kind of adjustments I’d need to make if I never found anyone, to build a satisfactory life that could be lived solo. I’ve always enjoyed pursuits that can be enjoyed as one – arts, travel and literature essentially – so the only big change was in terms of employment, from a workplace where not having a partner was a bit of an impediment to one where it was less of a thing. I’m now half way through my fifties and, while I still like the idea of someone being in my life, I’ve managed to accept that this is highly unlikely to happen. I worry a little that when my time comes, it might be a while before anyone notices, but other than that, I’m OK with the notion of living my entire life as a single person.

    • I think the fact that she happened to meet Josh at a bar shows that she has no judgment about where to meet anyone. She’s talking about SoulCycle as an example of what people think you need to do to improve yourself, it wasn’t even about meeting anyone at SoulCycle.

      • I follow both of them on Twitter and both of them have said they “met” on Twitter after one of them asked another one a question in DMs. That may’ve led to another FTF meeting in a bar, but it really is random because no one is realistically expecting they’ll find their beloved in their DMs.

  2. Another person in a relationship giving advice to single people as if single’s need sage advice from people who have succeeded at life. Nice. “Hey, now that I’m in a happy relationship, I see that being single is fulfilling!” smh

  3. Another person in a relationship giving advice to single people as if singles need sage advice from people who have succeeded at life. Nice. “Hey, now that I’m in a happy relationship, I see that being single is fulfilling!” smh

  4. As a single female also trying to navigate the dating scene in an obnoxiously fast-paced city, my takeaway from this was very different. I don’t think the overarching message here is shitting on ‘the other methods’ of finding a date/lust/love/whatever it is you may be looking for. The message is if those methods (SoulCycle, speed dating, Tinder, self-help books, what have you) are not inherently ‘you’, then don’t feel you should succumb to the relentless societal pressures to engage in them. The takeaway is that you can be yourself – completely, totally, and unapologetically yourself – and that someone is going to love you for that. If you WANT to go out to a single’s event, go for it. WANT to go on every blind date your friends try to set you up on? Have at it. But if that’s not what feels right to you, then don’t sacrifice an ounce of who you are for it.

    Perhaps it’s the hopeless romantic in me that refuses to turn into a jaded NY spinster but I found her words to be refreshing.

  5. As a single female also trying to navigate the dating scene in an obnoxiously fast-paced city, my takeaway from this was very different. I don’t think the overarching message here is shitting on ‘the other methods’ of finding a date/lust/love/whatever it is you may be looking for. The message is if those methods (SoulCycle, speed dating, Tinder, self-help books, what have you) are not inherently ‘you’, then don’t feel you should succumb to the relentless societal pressures to engage in them. The takeaway is that you can be yourself – completely, totally, and unapologetically yourself – and that someone is going to love you for that. If you WANT to go out to a single’s event, go for it. WANT to go on every blind date your friends try to set you up on? Have at it. But if that’s not what feels right to you, don’t sacrifice an ounce of who you are for it.

    Perhaps it’s the hopeless romantic in me that refuses to turn into a jaded NY spinster but I found her post to be refreshing.

  6. LOVE??
    Hey, LIFE itself is luck!
    And coincidence,
    and being in the “right” ot “wrong” place
    at the “right” or “wrong” time…
    Just chill out calm down and flow with the bumpy one way ride.
    No blame no tears no fears no guiilt no beating yourself up.
    As Dylan once said: “It’s life and life only” – within and without you.

  7. Sorry I’m confused – you revolt against all the social pressure that said in order to find someone you must “put yourself out there” and here you testify you found love (Josh) AT A BAR.
    Last time I checked – bars are out there. @johannaclear

    • I get it too! I can totally relate to this article. If I had written this article myself, I would’ve named it ‘I Found Love Because It Just Happened, Not Because I Changed Myself’. Carry on, Maris!

    • Yes! Maybe she doesn’t read the comments, because comments sections are the WORST, but in case she does, Maris, you indeed rock! Thanks for writing this.

  8. As a man, I have to say that while some of the details might the basic idea in this article applies to men too. I too spent ten years getting much of the exact same terrible advice. I too never had the slightest bit of luck with it — just ended up, over and over, in dull, unfulfilling quasi-relationships with people I only liked a little bit. After a few weeks or months they’d peter out, and I’d feel nothing but relief. My friends would rake me over the coals, telling me that I was too picky. I convinced myself that this is what love must be, just forcing yourself to be around someone until they felt like enough of a fixture that you were stuck with them. People would tell me everything came down to my attitude, and once I got that right, I’d be set.

    Like you I finally got lucky. On Tinder of all places. I met someone who I could talk to for forever, who I felt completely natural being around, who I WANTED to be around. She was as funny to me as I was to her. Loving her was completely effortless and she loved me for who I was, not for successfully performing the role of Suitable Boyfriend. She wasn’t the kind of woman I’d ever imagined myself being with — she was a full-blown weirdo, honestly — but it scarcely mattered to me. It was something I frankly hadn’t believed possible before meeting her. I realized that people get together because they’re pulled together, not because their loneliness eventually exceeds the natural repulsive tendency of two personalities.

    Then she dumped me, I still don’t know why, and now I’m back to the place you’re talking about in this article, and if anything, it’s even worse than before. Because now settling is impossible. I know how things can be and are supposed to be and I’ve got no illusions that through concentrated effort I can take a demographically-appropriate date and transform her into a life partner. Not that that’s going to convince anyone else: no matter how much I try to tell everyone that I didn’t meet my ex because I did things right or was in the right mental place, but because serendipity and a lucky Tinder swipe coincided and put me in touch with the exact right person at the exact right time, everyone lapses into therapy-speak sooner or later. “Get back out there!” “Plenty of fish in the sea.” “You should take this opportunity to examine what you’re looking for.” I know what I’m looking for, and I know there isn’t plenty of it. I didn’t solve a riddle. I won the lottery, and then I lost the ticket. I can’t win it again through sheer force of will. I know I’m supposed to be happy or at least satisfied being single, but it’s even harder now that I can’t convince myself that everyone else is crazy and I’m the realistic one. I’m back where I started, hoping that time and pure dumb luck sees fit to let me be that content again. Maybe in another decade.

    • “Loving her was completely effortless and she loved me for who I was”

      Sounds like you quit being the funny intriguing guy who had attracted her at first. Charm requires effort. And she loved you for how you appeared at first, not the shlubby guy you turned into.

      • I don’t think this is the case – when she dumped me, I was, if anything, more excited and energetic about the relationship than at any previous point. We were about to take our first real trip together and everything felt pretty intoxicating still. I left town on a work trip, she ran into an ex at a party, she said he reminded her that she didn’t love me like she ought to, and that was that.

  9. I agree that no one should make a job out of finding a partner. But if you find someone you like and who likes you, only screen for dealbreakers. The longer people are single, the fewer single people there are who will be attracted to them.

    • Your comments are so cold! Bill exposed his feelings and you went for the underbelly. Your statement that the longer someone is single, the fewer people will be attracted to them isn’t could be argued with. You state that as a fact, which it isn’t. The whole idea here is that it is often luck, not the circumstances of a person’s life or how hard they try through conventially approved means to “find someone.” Anyway, sometimes people in old folks’ homes even find love, so it’s like you are saying single people should just give up? I am not single, by the way, but I have been single in the past and worried about it like so many other people, and your words sure would not help me if I was single now!

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