This article first appeared on Mind Body Green.
Last week, I made an unexpected trip to the hospital with my father. I hate hospitals. The atmosphere is filled with so much sadness and grief.
In the midst of the heaviness, I happened upon Barry—a 70-year old diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. Malignant tumors had spread to his liver and lungs. In the four years since his diagnosis, he had undergone various types of treatments and was currently participating in a clinical trial. Despite the gravity of his illness, he radiated happiness.
“Knock on wood,” he said, “My tumors are not growing. I have not had any adverse side effects to the treatments. And, I feel great!” He smiled broadly.
“You look fantastic,” I replied. “I would never have known that you were sick, if you hadn’t told me. What’s your secret?”
He laughed. “I hear that all the time! No one believes that I have cancer! When I first got diagnosed, a friend who had beaten colon cancer came to visit me. He said, ‘Whatever you do, fight this with a great attitude. Find the silver lining.’ So, that’s what I’ve done.” He then cataloged his regular activities, including outings with his three grand kids and trips to California with his wife—all while sipping on a barium cocktail.
As a writer interested in love and relationships, what does this story have to do with your dating life?
Every day, I meet singles who are sick from loneliness and heartbreak. They complain about poor quality candidates, lack of available suitors, and the betrayal of past loves. Many give up, convincing themselves that a healthy relationship isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. How does one find the “silver lining” in a seemingly intolerable situation?
“Change your thoughts and you change your world,” said Norman Vincent Peale who authored “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
To that end, I offer four simple truths which will dramatically change your mind-set about dating and probability of success:
1. Stop looking for “The One.” Instead, use dating as a way to learn about yourself and others.
Have you ever heard that when you stop looking for love is when you usually find it? Instead of feeling frustrated when each date doesn’t end in marriage, slow down and enjoy the process. Use dating as an opportunity to become a better conversationalist, a more engaged listener, and a social anthropologist. Learn about other people. Figure out what turns you on (and off) in a potential mate.
Can you find something interesting about everyone that you meet? Can you develop a personality so engaging and uplifting that others cannot help but enjoy your company? Are you looking for valuable lessons that bring you one step closer to finding true love?
2. Keep an open mind and heart.
“I don’t date short men.” “I only am attracted to blondes.” “I must marry a Catholic.”
Limit your dating pool and you stymie your chances of finding happiness. Dating, by its very nature, is about experimentation. So, expand your consciousness and date outside your “type.”
Most people in happy relationships are intrigued by the differences, not the similarities, of their partner. Further, most people are surprised by their ultimate choice in companion. Take, for example, my parents who have been married for 47 years. My mother is Spanish (and Catholic) and my father is Indian (and Hindu). My mother often jokes that she could barely find India on a map, let alone imagine a lifetime with a man from across the globe!
3. Diligently nip negativity in the bud. Commit to surrounding yourself with positive influences.
There will be no shortage of “friends” to commiserate with you on the pains of single life and the lack of available candidates. While it’s good to make light of life’s foibles, be wary of engaging in negative talk about your love life for too long.
Words have power. We often speak our reality into existence.
Instead, surround yourself with encouraging and optimistic people. Plan outings where you’re having fun and are open to possibilities. Look for inspirational couples and love stories around you. Ask supportive people in your network to set you up with quality singles they may know.
4. If you find yourself repeatedly unsuccessful, use it as an opportunity to grow.
You may find yourself in one of two camps: perpetually single or repeatedly in unsatisfying relationships. Whatever your story, take a step back to evaluate your part and make concerted efforts to change the narrative.
Ask for help and support as you grow in new ways. Consider hiring a dating coach. If your finances are limited, ask a friend who has a successful love life if they will give you advice and constructive feedback. Read books on dating, relationships and personal development (most are free at the public library) and learn successful dating and interpersonal behaviors.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on love.