I've been single for almost two years, and I don't want to be. I've been dating; some guys were nice enough but we just didn't click, but most weren't up to par or didn't want to be in a relationship. I'm tired of being the single one, of dating and all the games, and it never goes anywhere. Is it me? Should I move? Give up? What? —Y.D.
Some version of this question is always landing in my inbox, being asked by one of my coaching clients or popping up from an audience member when I'm hosting a lecture or doing a book signing. The asker's frustration is hard to miss.
If it makes you feel the slightest bit better, you are far from alone, especially not when it comes to being "the single one." A recent Pew Research Center study found that 49 percent of American adults are single.
Since June, I've been on a book tour to multiple cities, including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles. At each city someone always laments the lack of good dating options in their town, wondering if they'd have better luck somewhere else.
I've yet to come across any batch of women in any city, in the U.S. or abroad, who says, "Yes, I have more options of suitable, relationship-minded partners than I know what to do with." So if you like most everything about your city except the options when it comes to finding a mate, you might as well stay put and make do with what you have.
I'm not sure where so many people got the idea that finding a partner was supposed to be easy. For any other, even less monumental, decision, like picking the right car or renting an apartment or deciding on a college, there is a frustrating process to go through before you make the right choice.
Of course, we've all heard stories that are exceptions to the rule, but isn't that why they get told? "She tried and tried and tried and then randomly found what she wanted" is a lot less sexy story than "He did nothing and poof! What he wanted just happened."
Most women wouldn't think so, but guys lament not being able to find a partner, too. Of course, with all the stories about women who want mates and can't find them, it would seem that the guys' options would be bountiful. Still, it's a challenge meeting the right person, and even after you meet that person, there's a continuous challenge to stay together.
Recently I pulled an all-nighter, coaching two men through their dating woes. One is pushing 30; the other is on the better side of it. They were talking about dating purposefully for the woman they want to marry, complaining about how long it's been since they got excited to see a particular lady or simply talked to someone all night who "gets it." Like so many women I coach, they didn't understand why looking for someone to love (or at least really, really like) had to be so hard.
Skip the clubs and lounges. Although there are good folks there, the numbers are grossly not in your favor as a woman, and they tend to be "hunting grounds." I actually encourage you to stop just looking and do more living, then pay attention to who's around you when you're out doing things you enjoy or need to get done.
Good, interesting people go to CVS, run to the ATM and pick up lunch. They also pop up in coffeehouses, art exhibits and gyms. Put yourself in the position to spend most of your time outside your house. If you see someone, say something. There's never a time when saying "hello" and paying a compliment or asking a question isn't a sufficient way to get on someone's radar.
Also, don't be afraid to try online dating — some people still are — and ask friends, family or a close co-worker if they know of any available men they can vouch for (very important) and are worth meeting. Ask them for a hookup. Implement all of these options. A single woman who doesn't want to be single needs to fire on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, meeting people is the easiest part, and you can't tell if someone is relationship material out the gate. Do ask up front what the person's relationship status is. (I'm always surprised how many people don't.) It will require a time investment to get to know if someone is a good match.
One of the best ways to keep your feelings from getting caught up too soon is to date — but not have sex with — multiple people. You date differently when you avoid putting all your clichéd eggs in one basket, because you know you have options.
Also, you can avoid a lot of the game playing by watching to see if a person's words match his or her actions. Someone who says that he or she is looking to settle down and focus isn't the person who's on the scene every night, unless it's for work or he or she is taking you along.
The person who says that he or she is into you acts like it — spending time, calling consistently and showing a progressing interest level. Don't ignore mixed signals; that's a sign of a lack of interest.
If a relationship is what you want, keep trying. You're guaranteed not to get what you want if you don't expend any effort to get it. Even Cinderella hoped against the odds and showed up to the ball to find her prince. If you're not willing to go after what you want, how important is it to you, really?
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.