I met my ex-girlfriend on Tinder. We matched, we met, we were together for almost two years. We broke up two years ago and I haven’t been with anyone since. What I learned is that even when you feel ready, you can’t skip to the end.
The moment you start searching, you’ve already twisted yourself into a pretzel that’s nothing but a poor copy of the awesome you you actually are. That’s why online dating rarely works out in the long run. Because from the beginning, something felt ‘off.’
In 1951, Alan Watts wrote in The Wisdom of Insecurity:
“I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it the ‘backwards law.’ When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float. When you hold your breath, you lose it — which immediately calls to mind an ancient and much neglected saying, ‘Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.’”
The law of reversed effort is universal, but it feels beyond unfair that it applies to love. The harder we work for it, the less we get. Back then, Watts said about his book:
“It is written in the conviction that no theme could be more appropriate in a time when human life seems to be so peculiarly insecure and uncertain. It maintains that this insecurity is the result of trying to be secure, and that, contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.”
There are no degrees to truth, but if there were, his words would rank higher up the ladder today than they did some 70 years ago. In a world that’s always connected, opportunities to feel insecure and uncertain are infinite. And what better way to a sense of security than to commit to a relationship. Forever.
Or so it seems. Maybe the marriages that take the most effort to build are the quickest to fall apart. I don’t know.
It’s a sick, cosmic joke, this strange law of love. Facing its truth, you’re only left with one of two reactions: you breathe or you break. What I do know, however, is that this reaction is a choice.
Love starts with loving yourself. Only then can you give it freely and receive more in return. It’s one of those “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” kind of things. Like attracts like. And if you don’t think you’re awesome, work on it. Do something for yourself. Go to the gym. Start a business. Buy a book. Paint. Whatever gets you closer to being someone you would want to date yourself.
Make sure you’re in great company.