I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. When I was single, it felt like I was being accosted by images of happy couples waltzing into the sunset. Now that I’m married, V-day seems like a commercialized excuse to show my partner the loving thoughts that I should be expressing every day anyway. So let me start by making it clear that I don’t think anyone should feel pressure to find a partner. In fact, research suggests that, contrary to popular belief, single people are quite happy.
However, as someone who spent several years studying the science of romantic relationships, I decided it might be time to share my take on attracting a mate.
1. Get Clear on What You Want
If there’s one thing that the universe loves, it’s clarity of intention. The trick here is to make sure that your intentions are coming from your Truth, not from what others expect of you. For example, you might think that you want to marry a wealthy doctor or someone who is of a certain ethnicity. But if you look closely, this might be what your parents want for you, not what you want for yourself.
Take some time to create a list of what you really desire in a partner. Then pay attention to which of these characteristics are flexible, and which are non-negotiable.
For me, I have very little interest in how much money my partner makes. But one of my non-negotiables is passion. I don’t necessarily mean passion in the bedroom – I mean a passion for and interest in life. A desire to live one’s true purpose and to have authentic conversations that last until the wee hours of the morning. In other words, I want my mate to be awake. Awake to the potential of life – regardless of whether he is a millionaire or living paycheck to paycheck.
A word of caution, however, with regard to this exercise. Keep in mind that a relationship is always a complex interaction between two personalities. Research suggests that as we get to know our partners, we begin to incorporate their self-concept into our self-concept. And in many cases our partners begin to match our ideals over time – even if the person wasn’t ideal in the first place. Some might call this settling. Whatever you want to call it – it happens. So make your ideal list, but remember that it’s possible for potential partners to start matching some of your ideals over time.
2. Clean Up Your Act
Author Gabby Bernstein teaches that before we can bring what we want into our lives, “we need to clean up our side of the street.” In other words, it’s very difficult to be in an authentic relationship with someone when you haven’t spent time digging through your own shadows.
For example, in my early 20s I was a powder keg of wants and needs, and I was trying to fill them in all the wrong places. I was sleeping with men to try to fill a void within that no one could fill except for me. Externally I had a handful of men orbiting around my center, and it looked like I was plucking them from my sky for pleasure whenever I felt like it. But what was actually happening on the inside is that I was terrified of being alone – and convinced that I was unlovable. So any time that one man seemed disinterested, I would move on to someone else. The worst part of the situation was that I ended up heartbroken, because I hurt the person that I actually wanted to be with (who no longer wanted to be with me because of my behavior). So, with my heart in my hands, I made a promise to myself that I was going to clean up my act. I would no longer use sex as a proxy for love and as an activity to fill my loneliness.
Then I spent three months feeling more lonely than I’d ever felt in my life. I stayed away from opportunities to re-engage in my destructive behavior. I kept seeing my therapist. I cried. A lot. And while three months of single-hood and celibacy might not seem like a long time, for a relationship addict like me it felt like an eternity.
I didn’t solve all of my problems in those three months. But I think I sent a sign to the universe that I was ready to change. I was ready to enter into a healthy relationship and I would not rely on the new relationship to satisfy my insecurities.
And that’s when I met my future husband.
3. Get Innovative
My husband and I met online almost twelve years ago, long before online dating was remotely cool or accepted. However, after spending three months doing a lot of soul searching and personal work, I felt like I might be ready to meet someone. So I created a profile on LavaLife and waited to see what would happen. At the time I was embarrassed to admit that I was trying to meet partners online. But the ways that I’d met men in the past weren’t working, so I knew that I needed to do something different.
Sometimes we need to break out of our routines and comfort zones in order to usher in a potential mate. For example, if you’re used to meeting partners in bars, maybe you should try joining a sports team to see who you’ll meet there. Or if you are still among those who think online dating is for losers, perhaps you need to give it a chance.
4. Come Clean
Many of us are afraid to be vulnerable with potential mates. We’re nervous that if we show our scars and our demons, we will scare the person away. But sharing our authenticity is how we develop closeness, trust, and intimacy with others. And, in my opinion, anyone who is scared of your wants, needs, or demons shouldn’t be with you anyway.
In this blog, Karen Salmansohn talks about how she wanted a baby when she was in her 40s and single. She didn’t give up on what she wanted, and eventually started sharing her desire for a family with potential partners (on their second date!). Now she has a son and a partner – because she made her needs known up front.
Similarly, within the first few weeks of dating my husband, I told him that I was on antidepressants, seeing a therapist, and still struggling with a broken heart. To my great surprise, he accepted me as I was in that moment. It would be two years before I eventually got off the medication and stopped seeing a therapist, but he stuck with me.
Dating can be full of many needless games. Don’t be afraid to show people who you are or tell them how you feel. Throw the games aside and be authentic.
5. Don’t Expect Your Partner To Complete You
My husband doesn’t complete me. In fact, I think it would be cruel for either of us to expect all of our needs to be met solely from each other. And, as I’m sure anyone who has been married for more than a few years will tell you, monogamy can be a bitch. Seriously. Being in a committed relationship, day after day, is some of the hardest work I’ve done in my life.
After the initial passion dies down and you begin being part of someone’s every day, you bump up against the many ways that you can’t fulfill each others’ every need. At first this stings a little. You want to be everything for your partner. But the sooner you realize that this isn’t possible, the happier you’ll be.
Here’s an example. Yoga and meditation are a huge part of my life. I do both practices almost every day. And I do research on yoga for a living. But guess what? My husband has done yoga a total of seven times (and most of these were within the first year or so of us dating, when he was still trying to impress me). For him, soccer is his yoga. He plays soccer, reads soccer news every morning, and reads books about his favorite players. I, on the other hand, find soccer incredibly boring. In the same way that my husband isn’t at all interested in my twenty minute diatribe about my chakras, I have very little interest in talking to him about the latest soccer statistics. And so we find other ways to get these needs met.
Remember that your partner doesn’t have to be the only person on this planet who you love.
If you end up getting (and staying) married, you will love your partner in small and big ways. You will love them in ways that feel easy and in ways that hurt so badly you can barely breathe. But you can also share deep, lasting love with friends and family. And the cool part is that the love you have for these other people doesn’t involve the every day. You don’t get annoyed at the way these people put the toilet paper on the wall “upside down” (what is right side up for this, anyway?). You will love these people in a special way that isn’t tainted by such minor details. And that’s a beautiful thing.
If you’re single, start by taking the pressure off yourself to find someone. Get to know yourself – your truths and your demons – and eventually your mate will come along. And, as Skylar Liberty Rose states in this beautifully written blog, when you find him, you’ll know why the others before him had to leave. What are your thoughts on soulfully manifesting a mate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution. If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love and have a thriving relationship, check out her online courses on Creating A Life You Love and Practical Tips to Enhance Your Partnerships.