Still searching? Don’t give up on love, says Simran Mangharam - Hindustan Times
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Still searching? Don’t give up on love, says Simran Mangharam

BySimran Mangharam
May 18, 2024 06:33 PM IST

The unsolicited advice can be exhausting. Loneliness can feel like despair. Remember (and I speak from past experience) there are many like yourself out there.

Merely mention that one is trying to find love, and the advice pours in.

Love may appear where you least expect it: Art attributed to Banksy, showing a Cupid-like figure and an explosion of flowers, appeared in Bristol on Valentine’s Day, 2020. (Getty Images) PREMIUM
Love may appear where you least expect it: Art attributed to Banksy, showing a Cupid-like figure and an explosion of flowers, appeared in Bristol on Valentine’s Day, 2020. (Getty Images)

A lot of it is trite: “It will happen when you least expect it to”. “You have to put yourself out there”. Such advice can feel both baffling and somehow laden with blame. Sometimes the advice can be downright damaging (“Is it possible you expect too much?” No. The answer is invariably no).

The worst kind of advice is the unsolicited advice, from people who will ask about one’s marital status and then set about trying to “fix” it.

Elaine, a 37-year-old management consultant from Delhi, had been at the receiving end of such tips for almost a decade. She had put herself out there, tried matrimonial sites and dating apps, attending speed-dating meets and went on blind dates. She sought love at alumni meets and at the gym; signed up for mixers that charged large sums for a shot at a happily-ever-after. She still remained single, and yearned not to be.

As the advice kept pouring in, she began to hit back with “I’ve tried that, many times.” At which point she was now advised, in contrarian tones, to step back and “stop trying so hard”.

Stepping back is difficult when one has been seeking for so long. She has spent years hoping that someone she encounters in an unexpected way will turn out to be the person she spends her life with. She even prayed at her church that she would find the right person, she told me tearfully, at our first session.

What else was there for her to do? Was there any point holding out hope any longer?

I usually start, in such cases, with a gentle reminder that the person I am coaching is far from alone. They are, in fact, part of a large, diverse and determined global community, many of whom have also spent years looking, with little success. The vast and scattered nature of this community, after all, is a big part of what makes dating apps such big business.

So what should one do? I recommend a combination of patience, balance and simplicity. And in this context, some of the trite advice actually holds true. Allow me to explain.

* “Put yourself out there”: One does have to continue to make the effort to meet new people. But try to choose activities that you actually enjoy. There is a reason so many people meet their significant other at work, for instance; it’s often a room full of like-minded individuals. In the search for love, it can help to think about what you enjoy, and pick a group that enjoys this activity too. Now, attend for the activity, not the hope of a date. This bit is crucial, and leads me to adage two…

* “It will happen when you least expect it”: If one is on a hike because one enjoys hiking, one is in a positive state of mind, actively working towards a goal but not consumed by it. This matters. How often has anyone been asked out, when they were agitated, anxious and eager to impress?

There is a terrible word that people use for others who have spent a long time searching unsuccessfully for love: Desperate. I must admit I judge anyone who uses this term. It is unkind, and usually untrue. It isn’t “desperation” that causes tension between two new acquaintances, preventing a possible meet cute; it is the mental fatigue, loneliness and slow ebb of hope. So, be open to new people, but try not to actively and anxiously scan the horizon.

* “Don’t give up hope.” I truly believe that there is someone out there for every genuine person. But aim for balance, as the search stretches out. It is hard; I know. I searched for a long time before I found my husband, Siddharth. But I used patience, and worked on not allowing the search to eat away at my morale.

I eventually found my husband at a party. We were both devouring blue cheese, and talked for an hour about the cheeses we loved, before we even knew each other’s names.

Give it time. Give it patience. Be kind to yourself. Those really are the most important steps, and often the most effective ones too.

(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on simran@floh.in)

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