- It may be best to show interest in finding love, but not desperately search for it.
- We should aim to be confident in our value regardless of the result of a date.
- Dating does not have to be hard work; when it is taken lightly, it can be enjoyable.
“You don't find love, it finds you.” —Anais Nin
Finding a suitable romantic partner has become complex in contemporary society, not because there are not enough candidates, but because there are too many of them. A major issue in this respect is how exactly we search for love. Being too serious and desperate is counterproductive.
Here are several random responses (taken from Reddit) to the saying: “If you stop looking for love, it will come naturally.”
- “This saying suggests you just live your life and don't put all your energy into looking.”
- “Learn to be happy with yourself, focus on being the best version of yourself and it will happen.”
- “Honestly, I disagree. I think the more accurate concept is: don’t try to force anything that isn’t there.”
- "Don't focus on finding the right person, focus on being the right person."
- “People will be more interested if you are not desperate.”
- “You can’t just sit there and expect the love of your life to suddenly show up with a smooch and chocolate cake.”
- “It only works if you're at least an average looking woman or attractive man.”
- “If it were true, I'd have a lot of love by now, given that I’ve never looked for it. But nope, I have none.”
- “Actively searching for love can be seen as ‘creepy’ or ‘weird.’"
Searching for Love
“Desperation is unattractive. People naturally want someone supportive and strong in a relationship, and if you are living your life happy, busy, and single, more people will be drawn to you because you fit that description better.” —SlavaBogo
The advice to call off the romantic search stems from unpleasant dating experiences and their poor success rate. The road leading to love has many seductive romantic options but finding the optimal one is often frustrating. This may make hopeful daters desperate and hurtful, and in doing so perhaps become "unattractive" and likely to make bad choices. People want a partner who will help generate a flourishing relationship where partners bring out the best in each other. A desperate and needy person cannot do so.
The advice to stop looking for love refers to how we find it—not to the romantic experience itself. The claim is that improving your dating behavior may make the road leading to love more pleasant, and the results better.
Increasing the Partner’s Interest
"Don't play hard to get, play hard to forget." —Drake
“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them." —Michael Bassey Johnson
One way of improving our romantic search is increasing the prospective partner’s interest in us. Two common tactics are playing hard to get and generating jealousy from our partner. These tactics, which are often more useful to women, are intended to make potential partners desire us more. When we play hard to get, we indicate that we are less interested in someone than we really are; this lack of enthusiasm may boost our prospective partner’s efforts to get this seemingly hard to get person. Similarly, generating a moderate jealousy in our partner may enhance our value, since we seem to be desired by other people. The tactics of playing hard to get and generating jealousy require deceiving and manipulating others. Although they may be useful in dating at times, and to a lesser extent in ongoing relationships, their value is temporary and limited (see here).
Making the Road More Pleasant
“I enjoy dating when I’m actually out on a date. The looking and pursuing part sucks.” —A woman
Being too enthusiastic and purposeful in the search for love is counterproductive, since we may be perceived as worthless and desperate. The advice to stop looking for love does not focus on enhancing the partner’s interest, but rather on the agent’s own behavior and in particular, on enhancing the agent’s calmness and self-esteem, both of which are valuable in dating and romantic relationships.
The idea that we should stop looking for love also has a deceptive aspect, since people do really want love. However, this attitude does not involve deceiving others, but rather negatively evaluating the price of a desperate search and its likely negative results. Nevertheless, playing hard to get is more valuable than completely calling off the search for love. This is because it is more restricted in scope and enables revising the decision at any time, since the agent has greater control on the situation.
Notwithstanding the advantages of hiding your worries, expressing a positive attitude is valuable as well. Take, for example, the case of afterglow, the good feeling that lingers after pleasurable sexual experiences—a kind of intense shining that is both attractive and infectious. Research suggests that even more than the effects of orgasm, sexual afterglow determines how people feel about their sexual partner (Meltzer et al., 2017; Ben-Ze’ev, 2023). Indeed, a married woman said, “While having an affair, I was sexually aroused and began to notice other men noticing me. Even my husband was more attracted to me. When it rains, it pours” (see here). In the same way that men notice sexually aroused women, people notice romantically desperate people and stay away from them.
Showing Interest but Not Desperately Searching
“If you explicitly go to parties to meet a partner, you're going to come off as desperate and not meet anyone. If you just live your best life, be content by yourself, do fun and interesting things, hang out where other people are, THEN people will be interested in you.” —Unknown
Coping with the dilemma of looking for love requires distinguishing between searching for love and an interest in love. Dictionary definitions of “searching” refer to the intention to find the often-hidden truth in a determined, complete and serious manner. Definitions of “interest” typically refer to enjoyable activity associated with the wish to learn more. What underlies the wish to find love is not the frustrating search for the hidden truth, but rather, the wish to learn more about the partner while enjoying the road, and being happy with your own lot.
You should be confident in your value regardless of the result of the date. As it has been said, “Confidence isn’t ‘They will like me,’ it’s ‘I’m perfectly fine if they don’t’”. Your life and self-esteem do not depend on what happens on the date. Worries of disappointment in dating can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are confident of your value, you are less judgmental and biased and consequently more likely to succeed. Taking oneself lightly is extremely attractive, and is often associated with humor, thereby helping coping with minor misfortunes, such as an unsuccessful date. As G. K. Chesterton eloquently puts it, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." Taking oneself lightly is associated with calmness, which is essential in flourishing romantic relationships (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019; and here).
We should not give up on the idea of love, but we should also not immerse ourselves in a serious, laborious search to find the one and only. Dating does not have to be hard work; when it is taken lightly, it can be quite enjoyable and successful.
Facebook image: mimagephotography/Shutterstock
Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The arc of love: How our romantic lives change over time. Chicago University Press.
Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2023). “Is casual sex good for you? Casualness, seriousness and wellbeing in Intimate relationships.” Philosophies, 8, 2023, 25.
Birnbaum, G. E., Zholtack, K., & Reis, H. T. (2020). No pain, no gain: Perceived partner mate value mediates the desire-inducing effect of being hard to get during online and face-to-face encounters. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37, 2510-2528.
Meltzer, A. L., Makhanova, A., Hicks, L. L., French, J. E., McNulty, J. K., & Bradbury, T. N. (2017). Quantifying the sexual afterglow: The lingering benefits of sex and their implications for pair-bonded relationships. Psychological science, 28, 587-598.