The dilemma I am 31, with a successful career, friends, my own home and a close family, but I struggle to find relationships with men. Now the time has come where I want to settle down. I usually meet men online, though never really pass date three – this often being my decision. I find it difficult to “fancy” men I have met online, though I have fancied those I’ve met in real life. Sadly these encounters recently have led no further. I usually find it’s the same reason I end up finishing with men online. They were not confident enough, not willing to take a lead, and I don’t feel sexually attracted to them. I really want a long-term relationship that leads to family life, but I don’t know how to find it.
Mariella replies First, change your criteria. If you’re looking for a long and meaningful relationship instant sexual frisson might need to slip down your priority list. You should never force yourself to endure a physical relationship with someone you don’t fancy, but it can take more than one date for people to reveal themselves. It might be better to pause your rigorous appraisal process and learn to make friends first. If choices about the people we grow to value in our lives were all based on such speedy assessments imagine the number of wonderful characters who might slip our grasp. The same is true when it comes to relationships.
Love, at first sight, can be a terrible deception.
Curiously the qualities you’re seeking an ideal mate are more appropriate to a 19th-century novel than a 21st-century woman’s life. Taking the lead and displaying confidence when you’re being hastily auditioned is perhaps more daunting than sexy. I suspect your determination to secure a lasting relationship could be the very reason it’s eluding you. Life can’t be programmed to deliver the moment we want it to. We have to embrace the mystery and surprises along with the frustrations.
The problem with internet dating is you both know why you’re at the table and that sets the stakes quite high from the outset. Then again as someone slowly but inexorably slipping back to the analog world wherever possible, I may not be the best person to advise on seeking a mate online. In my youth, we were limited by our location and chance encounters. Nowadays I can’t even get my head around the multitude of potential lovers available at one’s fingertips. Surely what your situation proves is that finding a “suitable” candidate is only a small part of the process of securing a long-term mate.
Your state of mind, your current desires, the signals that inform your pheromones and the ones that dampen them are influenced as much by circumstances as chemistry. You could be in a room full of 40 men who superficially qualify as your type and yet not find any to your taste. The point with dating is that it’s not about Mr. Right, it’s about an alignment of the stars – and I mean mystically not astrologically speaking.
Far more important than securing dates is setting about your own life with enthusiasm and appetite. If you are busy, stimulated and engaged you are at your most attractive, not just to those around you but also to yourself. Internet dating can actually present a reduction in choices and chances. It turns partner-seeking into a process better suited to casting a movie than forging lasting connections.
I know even as I write that there are plenty of people who have met, married and made a life together as a result of meeting on the world wide web. I’m delighted for them all but also impressed by their good fortune. It’s often more of a test of your resilience than a romantic journey. I’d advise you to plow your spare time not into interacting with your smartphone as you seek out Prince Charming but investing in the life you currently have.
The recent speech from the former Facebook vice president provides a sobering read.
It was surprising to hear how draconian he is about the social media ban in his own home. But the admission that Facebook knew they were creating an addiction and a tool that would ultimately “disrupt” the elements of human interaction we’ve enjoyed since time immemorial seemed to me worthy of more than a couple of days of news headlines. Would a class action of the many millions now mentally perturbed and addicted to seeking out nonsensical likes be in order?
I’m pretty sure if you take a break from your online pursuit of a partner and use the time to pursue activities and focus on friendships it will bring you pleasure and long-term success. There are parts of the human psyche that online shopping just can’t sate and I’d put the hunger for a mate at the top of them. The cyber world, with its focus on external packaging, is the most challenging of environments and one we’d all do well to take a small step back from.