“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
In Dante’s Inferno, this is the official motto of the underworld. It’s also one of my favorite mantras for clients chasing love. It’s not that I want everyone to give up, lie down on the couch, and watch Netflix—far from it! I take my interpretation of Dante’s warning from the great spiritual teacher Pema Chödrön: it means that hope is addictive and blinding. Hope is denying the flexibility of the present by telling yourself, “Once Joe realizes I’m right for him, we can be together in a townhouse by the beach, and I’ll never have to be sad again!” Hope is making your happiness wait on someone else.
Countless times, I’ve advised people paralyzed with hoping that the object of their affection will soon come around offering love, commitment, and security. There’s nothing wrong with some amount of pining (where would poetry be without longing?), and sometimes, like in a long-distance relationship, the wait is worth it. What I’m talking about is clinging to one expected outcome, the singular dream of “catching” that elusive person who either doesn’t notice or won’t cooperate with your romantic plans.
How do people get up on that pedestal, anyway? If you’ve recently promoted your cute barista from coffee break diversion to demigod, you may be compensating for insecurity somewhere else in your life. When you’re afraid of the future, it’s tempting to see other people as the guardians of your happiness—that way, if you’re miserable, it’s their fault for withholding love.
In any game of romantic cat and mouse, it’s common to ask yourself, “Should I let go?” As the wise poet Dante would say, abandon hope if….
1. You don’t agree on commitment.
When you met in the summer, it was all about fun—bikinis, drinks by the beach, sharing a questionable hot dog on the pier. Now that sweater weather approaches, you’re looking for more cuddling and commitment. But do they want that, too? If you asked your summer sweetheart for more and they started fading away, let them go. Trying to pressure someone into a relationship never works—when they stop playing by your rules, it’s easy to become resentful. And why be with someone who needs convincing? Don’t try to change them. Acknowledge the bittersweet end of your fling as gracefully as possible, then open yourself up to meeting like-minded partners.
2. You’re still not “Facebook official.”
It’s been weeks now. You’ve been wined, dined, and maybe a little more. Your new lover says you’re special—so why does his Great Aunt Margie have more visibility on his Facebook page than you? Come to think of it, you’re rankled that you still haven’t met his friends. If you’re tired of being kept at arm’s length, you need to ask him what’s up without making accusations. If you don’t like the answer, consider moving on.
3. You can never reach them.
Is she a globe-trotting hotshot surgeon? Is he probably just home playing XBox? In any case, the best balm for a cold phone isn’t sending an eleventh unanswered text. Get up and do something fun and enriching—if they feel the same and have room in their life for love, they’ll reach back soon.
4. They’ll be ready in six months.
My client Derek had fallen hard for his newly single friend, Cara. When he shared his feelings, Cara replied that she needed some time to heal before dating again. Derek waited patiently for months as several kind, attractive, and available women passed him by. When Cara eventually moved on with someone else, Derek was devastated and disappointed. Save yourself the trouble: “Maybe later!” means “Don’t wait up.”
5. They’re in a committed relationship.
The man of your dreams saunters into your life—followed by his wife. How did this happen?! Sometimes, you miss a soulmate in one life but find them in another (which, by the way, doesn’t mean there’s no one else in this life for you). Then again, a manipulative person will do anything to charm you into a secret affair. No matter what, waiting for someone to leave their partner is a waste of time and love you could be offering to someone who can reciprocate. And cheating is number one on my list of karmic natural disasters—just don’t do it.
6. They just need a little love potion.
She’s smart, funny, and gorgeous. She’s also not interested in you. But put down that aphrodisiac cocktail! Even though it hurts to be dismissed, rejection isn’t a personal challenge to prove your worth. Consider it a blessing that she was so upfront. She’s saved you from an unsatisfying relationship. So instead of investing yourself in becoming her fantasy, be the best you possible—you’ll attract admirers without even trying.
7. You’re playing relationship musical chairs.
Jillian contacted me in a panic—on the eve of her 34th birthday, she still wasn’t hitched. Plenty of phenomenal men and women don’t wed until later in life, but in Jillian’s family, the fear of becoming an “old spinster” looms over every birthday cake. “Ryan has to make me his girlfriend—who else is left to marry?!” she blurted out. It was apparent that she was hanging her happiness on her date; Ryan didn’t exactly light her fire, but he did score high on her checklist (employed, stable, and okay with her two Pomeranians). To Jillian, dating was a game of musical chairs, and she would not be left standing. Once we identified that she’d made Ryan a symbol of security, she relaxed. She even started to enjoy their dates more once the pressure was off.
Abandoning hope, picking up possibility
As the sweltering summer gives way to brisk autumn, the energy of the universe is conspiring to help you break free of the fixations that obstruct real love. Your warm-weather fling may go the way of the changing leaves, but have no fear—fresh chances for autumn romance abound, from pumpkin carving and Halloween mischief to snuggling up with hot ciders.
So when you’re considering pursuing or continuing a potentially fruitless relationship, ask yourself a question: how many great romances do you know of starring a cowboy who forgets to text back, a warrior princess who doesn’t mind lukewarm love as long as he’s employed, or a handsome prince who thinks he might be into you, but just isn’t totally sure because this chick he’s been SnapChatting is also pretty cute? Right, I thought so. None. A partner worth opening your heart to will move mountains and cross oceans to prove their love, so don’t waste your time on someone who leaves you hanging.
Could you be hooked on a dating disaster? Not sure if you’re driving down a romantic dead end? A KEEN advisor can help set you on the path for real love.