8 Simple Steps to Finding Modern Love (Coming from a girl who was single in San Francisco)

Originally published August 22, 2017 on P.S. I Love You

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she realizes that she has absolutely no time for a serious relationship and that she is much better off being on her own romantically. And then there are times when that’s not the case. If said girl lives in a metropolitan city, she may find that her environment supported and fueled her want to be single and independent. But then when she is ready to make a commitment, it’s hard to get into the swing of things…or get others into the swing of things.

For years I was single but not alone in San Francisco. Meaning that I experienced togetherness and love with men when the timing worked out, but that like many relationships in this city, they were more a matter of convenience than a commitment. If either of us lost interest, we had every right to move on. If one of us needed to focus on our career or school was getting hectic, we didn’t owe the other person an explanation if less time was to be spent with them. And of course, many of my relationships were open as well, meaning we could see other people.

And I enjoyed my life the way it was. I’m not going to lie and pretend as though my feelings weren’t hurt when a guy I was seeing took someone else to a highly anticipated art exhibit. Or that my selfishness or the selfishness of the people I was with didn’t get in the way of creating a greater bond with each other. I’ve had all of the natural cliché issues that arise when messing with casual/open relationships. But while I was in college and doing a lot of self discovery, I personally did not have time for a serious relationship. I was the kind of girl who needed all the alone time I could get with my insane internships and part time jobs being juggled with a full course load. And I personally feel I benefited and grew from having a wide range of experiences with different kinds of relationships and people. Luckily for me, San Francisco was a city that supported my train of thought. There were so many dating websites filled with so many interesting profiles, right at my fingertips.

But then there came a time when I decided that that time in my life was over. And that I was suddenly ready for a more serious relationship. It was a feeling that felt like it came to me overnight, although I know that subconsciously that was probably not true. And so I ventured off to find a person I could establish a much stronger bond with. And was getting nowhere with my search fast. I gave the wrong people chances and time, I at times forgot what my goal was, and I ultimately made myself miserable. I was also living in a city that didn’t support monogamous or serious relationships very much, what with online dating being standard, the city being full of open couples and everyone constantly moving in and out of the Bay Area.

But over time, I developed a new perspective on the situation and a new way of looking at myself and the people I went out with. And it resulted in me finding the greatest guy I’ve ever met in my life and creating a new and fantastic life with him. And before you accuse me of thinking I’m some sort of relationship expert, I’ll say this: My current relationship, like every relationship, is far from perfect. And I am far from a perfect participant in it. But it is a great relationship, and it makes me better all the time, and I want to help anyone out there who is as frustrated now as I was last year in finding love to speed up the process and avoid a few of my mistakes.

Something important to note before reading on is that everyone’s experience and journey is different. Some people only have two relationships their whole life and are fulfilled, some date until they’re 35 and then finally settle down. Some feel they learn more from long-term relationships, and some feel they learn more from having variety in their life. Some people are going to have internal struggles and values like mine, and others are going to feel they’re very different from me. That being said, all 8 steps I took to finding love are not going to all necessarily apply to you. Pick and choose what you think is relevant or reminds you of yourself and feel free to run with it. You may just be pleasantly surprised as to what life brings. And for the record, no I don’t think there’s anything wrong or pathetic about wanting to find love. There is something wrong with not wanting to be alone or feeling worthless about not having romance in your life, but romantic love is like anything in our lives: It doesn’t always present itself at the right time. And these are steps that could help someone who is ready to create an opportunity for themselves.


1. Be completely honest with yourself and others. Do you really have the time and energy for a committed relationship?

Weirdly enough, people are more honest with themselves as to whether they have the time and energy when deciding whether or not to get a cat, than when deciding whether or not to let a partner into their life. Just because you are emotionally ready doesn’t mean that you are fully capable of participating in a serious relationship.

And it’s not something that’s necessarily a bad thing, or your fault. Maybe you’re in school and finals will be coming up and you need time to focus. Maybe your job or hobbies keep you up and running 60+ hours a week. Maybe you have plans to backpack through Europe in six months or take on a job that may relocate you.

But I think it’s good to remind yourself of what your short and long-term goals are so you can be honest with anyone interested in you. Be fair to yourself and those around you, and always be open about your goals and intentions before going on the hunt for love. Sure, making that decision may push potential love interests away or cause you to have to put your dreams on hold. But at the end of the day, you’ll be working toward the goal you find most important.


2. If you’re looking for a needle, don’t search in a haystack

All drug-related jokes aside, one must have a great understanding of this if they’re looking for love in a big city. People flock to big cities for great career opportunities and for new exciting experiences…and those plans don’t always mix well with long-term or serious relationships. So as you date around, you’ll realize that the majority of those you meet are going to be looking for something casual or short. And that’s why it’s important to look in the right places for people who are looking for the same thing as you.

Developing a loving and mature relationship from a Tinder meet-up or a night of scoping out the bar for hotties is totally possible, don’t get me wrong. But technically, so is catching lightning in a bottle. If you want to increase your chances of success, find dating websites/apps where people are actually looking to get to know someone. Or where you can actually search for matches based on what their intentions are on the site. Go to mixers your friends invite you to. Start spending time with your friends who are in stable relationships, because more than likely they’re friends with other people who are interested or capable of stable relationships. Maybe they can introduce you to someone. But whatever your MO is, make sure you’re doing the version of it that helps you toward your goal.


3. Rid yourself of any distractions…you know who they are

While you search for that someone special, ask yourself: Is there anyone if your life you could probably spend less time with in order to better focus on your goals? A friend with benefits you often see? That ex of yours who you still sometimes hook up with? That one person in your phone who you call at two in the morning when all else fails? Or even that *ahem* “platonic” friend you enjoy keeping on the hook because you know they’ve got a thing for you.

If your answer is no, you have no one like any of these descriptions in your life, please continue on to tip 4. If you do have anyone who plays a role like what I described above, it may be time to either give them the boot or politely let them know that you’ll have to spend less time with them…or at least change the context of your time together. It may sound ridiculous, but these are all people who will stand in your way of finding love, even if you have a mutual understanding that you don’t want a serious relationship with them.

First of all, they take time and emotional energy from you throughout the week, giving you less time to spend with serious relationship candidates. Secondly, if your relationships with these people ever get mentioned in conversation with people you’re dating, or they get tipped off that you’re still constantly talking to an ex, a friend with benefit, etc, they may get the wrong idea and decide that you don’t take them seriously, whether or not that’s true. I’m not saying you have to tell these people to get out of your life forever and slap them Telenovela style. But I am saying that you shouldn’t continue to devote a ton of time to them. Or you should make your relationships with them truly platonic. And if you’re having a hard time making this change, be sure to ask yourself why this step is so difficult for you, and whether or not this is really a good time to commit to someone new.


4. Regardless of how much you value your time, value it 10x more

I always believe that when it comes to dating, we’re all smarter than we think. Because we’re the ones who at the end of the day deep down in our hearts know what kind of person is good for us. In the back of our minds, we carry all of our values and all of the traits that our past experiences have taught us we can or cannot overlook or live without. So when a friend of mine holds up a dating profile to me or introduces me to someone they’ve met at the bar and asks me what I think, I always know that their decision has already been made. Either they think the person is a great catch and they just want to show them off to me before they go for the gold, or they know that the person is awful beyond belief, but they are attracted to something about them, so they need me to help them off the ledge before they do something stupid.

Very rarely do people actually find someone that fits every single little detail of what they want in a partner, so I’m not telling you that you should make a mental list (or physical one for that matter) of every trait you want in another person and kick everyone to the curb who doesn’t perfectly match the description. But I am saying that if the person has any red flags about them that don’t jive with your values and goals for a relationship, do yourself a huge favor and stop spending time with them. Like I said, looking for love and being a hopeless romantic is not lame. What is though, is forcing yourself on a second or third date with someone you had a boring time with the first time around because you don’t want to be alone that weekend. Treat yourself like the CEO of your own life that you are, and only make time for the important things and people.


5. Avoid The Following Topics on First Dates

While you go on dates with people you take seriously, be sure to avoid the following topics while getting to know them: Your exes, their exes, why your past relationships didn’t work, and any recent dating you’ve been doing.

I know this may sound obvious and cliché, but it’s very easy in a metropolitan city to talk about your exes on one of your first dates. Our exes are big parts of our lives in many ways and sometimes our best and funniest stories have to do with them, but it’s human nature for the other person to wonder if you’re still not over your ex, still think of them fondly, or still hook up with them. And it’s human nature for them to also think that you do like the other people you’re seeing quite a bit if you’re talking about them so much. This thought process may discourage them from calling you back and could cost you someone with a lot of potential.

My boyfriend and I had a fantastic time talking on our first date. We yapped for 6 hours straight until finally a bar staff had to ask us to leave. But neither of us called each other back until way later on when we got in touch a second time. And that was because we spent so much time joking around about people we used to go out with. It made us both assume that the other person was more interested in the past or in the casual dating world to even consider us a potential love interest.

Don’t waste time like I did, complaining about weird things from the past, and spend more time learning about someone new and investing your thoughts and enthusiasm in something right in front of you, and almost certainly more worthy of your time.


6. If You Like Someone, Call Them Back

This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but this was one of the ways I almost lost my opportunity of getting together with my boyfriend. I had a lot of fun with him, but because of my assumptions of his state of mind, I subconsciously decided we wouldn’t end up together and didn’t call him back. He made the same mistake on his end as well.

But a couple of months after our first date, something happened to me that reminded me of an inside joke that we had shared. I decided to text him and have a good laugh about it, and it caused us to go grab food together that week. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

I believe in destiny, and I believe that I was meant to get together with my boyfriend at the time that we did. But then again, if I had been just as stubborn and proud as I had been in the past, I wouldn’t have called him and we may never have gotten together. While no one really can say what would have happened in an alternate universe, the point is I called back someone who I enjoyed being around. And any outcome would have been better than wondering what could have been out of fear. Don’t be egotistical. Take the metaphorical plunge.


7. Don’t Worry About Seeming Cheesy

One thing I’ve noticed about my generation and the people who live in this city is that we really admire stoic people. We admire tough and ambitious people. And associate toughness and ambition with either a blaze or hardened exterior, which shouldn’t always be the case.

With the number of casual and open relationships going on in these metropolitan areas, it’s easy for people to dismiss old-fashioned romantic gestures and expressions of feelings. For some reason feelings are the devil, and acting with a lack of sensitivity for yourself and others is admirable and sexy. Go figure. I’ve fallen for this trope myself. In who I’ve dated, and also how I’ve acted.

And yet you may have noticed that there are constantly heartwarming romance videos going viral, showing couples proposing to each other in sweet ways, or LGBT community make huge strides to gain the rights and visibility to share their love, or elderly couples who have been married for 65 years and still can’t get enough of each other’s presence. Just because this generation is full of career-driven and independent individuals who have to worry about $75,000 worth of student loan debt, doesn’t mean that we don’t love the idea of romance and the idea of that special someone being out there for us.

Not every person wants a serious or even monogamous relationship. Or needs one for that matter. The world is full of options on how to be fulfilled depending on what makes you happy. But there is also nothing wrong with doing what humans have been doing for centuries, and being a little romantic and a lot cheesy. As strange as it sounds, I encourage people to share their affections with those they really like. Because it’s natural for that person to pick up what you’re putting down if you’re transparent for them. Acting cool and aloof or playing games, is kind of fun if you’re just trying to casually date or have sex. But it’s rarely effective when trying to be with someone in a meaningful way. It’s easy to accidentally give someone the impression that you’re not that into them, just by not expressing yourself enough. This impression could send them packing or could make them prioritize someone else over you who has decided to express themselves.

If you think someone is amazing, let them know. Either tell them you’re having fun with them, or do something thoughtful for them, offer to do a favor for them (no not like that,) or even just call them on the phone to talk on a random night. The latter is what worked for me. I’m not telling you to overdo it or to tell them you love them on the third date. I’m not even telling you to chase them or make a fool of yourself. That in itself can push someone away too. But I do think that it’s a good use of your time to show someone who’s special that you see something great in them and that you value your time with them. Maybe they share the same feelings for you and maybe they don’t. The point is, you now know how they feel and can do what you’d like with that information.


8. Remember All Of Your Effort as You Move Forward

If in the end you follow all or a combination of these steps and find yourself in a happy and fulfilling relationship, the final thing to do is remember all of the effort you put into being with the person you really wanted. When you inevitably come to points in the relationship where you’re fighting over small things, or finding flaws in each other, just remember the steps you took to getting with them and ask yourself if these issues are worth fighting about.

Clearly, if this person is at all abusive or hurtful or bringing you down emotionally, I will not stop you from exiting the situation. Not everyone is exactly who we thought they were when we were first dating them. But if the person makes you happy and is good to you, do not forget the effort that went into being with them. You did this for both you and them. A relationship is constructed of people who are ready to be with each other and ready to give and take with someone else. And when both people sign up to make promises with one another, that’s a beautiful thing. This is something I constantly remind myself too: Don’t sweat the small stuff. These days, getting into relationships with people is such a complex and tedious process. Remember that in a world where open relationships and flings are commonplace and socially accepted/encouraged, that someone made the effort to be with you in a different way, and that you did the same back.

No two dating situations are the same as each other, meaning no one will have the same journey as me. However, I hope this has given at least food for thought on the kind of attitude one would need to find a relationship such as this.

Ultimately, the point of this is that you need to give yourself an opportunity for happiness. If that means holding off on dating or sex, do it. If that means casually going out to see what you like, do it. And if that means getting into a meaningful relationship, do not feel cheesy or pathetic for working towards that goal too. The best thing a person can do is be kind and honest to their own selves in order to succeed emotionally. That honesty, inevitably is projected outwards at those you interact with as well.