“You’ll never get married. It’s more likely you’ll be killed by a terrorist!”
“There’s a better chance you’ll fall into a black hole!”
“You’re going to end up an old maid!”
“You’re too assertive and too up-front with your feelings. The man is wired to be the trapper. You’re supposed to be the fox.”
These words of discouragement came from my girlfriends during my 20s and 30s. I was unwilling to play the traditional romance game or let the man chase me. It would have felt dishonest. It would have felt alien. It would have felt un-Charlotte-like.
Plus, I was disinterested in almost every man I met. It felt like I was on the brink of asexuality. I was always one step away from an attraction to no one. Did I belong to the same phylum as bacteria, fungus, or the annelid worm? Did I not need a mate? Was there something wrong with me?
My gal pals would gush over tons of guys, from male models to movie stars and stylish chaps they met around town. Yet I’d be indifferent. They would drag me to pick-up joints, where I’d read philosophy books in the corner. They would vixen it up at singles parties, but I’d sit alone on the patio with the crickets and toads. They would flirt with “tall, dark, and handsomes” at the dog park, while I’d fawn over my neutered sheepdog as if he were the sexiest stud in the state.
Thankfully, there was usually one guy who piqued my interest during those mostly-celibate years. First there was Tom (a singer), and then years later there was Jed (a teacher). Years after that, there was Eric (an engineer), then James (an executive), then Pat (a psychologist) and finally Charles (a lawyer).
I did not pretend to be aloof and make these guys chase me because that would be deceptive and dismissive of my independent and decisive nature. In addition, “playing the game” would require waiting by the phone for my boyfriend to call. This would lead to anxiety and depression, which would lead to a lack of focus on self-improvement, which would lead to being a boring human being, which would lead to getting ditched and having to start the romance game over. Starting over did not work for me, especially as I assumed my boyfriend was the last dapper dude on the planet, the only man who could capture my heart. From past experience, I knew that I’d go through years of celibacy in order to find another “keeper”—that is, if I was lucky.
I eventually got dumped by each of these guys. Sometimes it was after years. Sometimes it was after months. I was loyal and devoted, thus I was always the dumpee. Ironically, this led to the angst and crushing misery that I was trying to avoid in the first place.
When my final boyfriend, Charles, called it quits after our three-year relationship, I changed my strategy. I invented the Three-Step Persistence Plan (TSPP).
The TSPP—which embraces a woman’s tenacious and assertive nature—is based on several assumptions: 1) If a man was once interested in you, he can be interested again, 2) It is beneficial to avoid the pain that normally accompanies a break-up, 3) Time provides a loving girlfriend with a wide array of permanent-partner options because she has more past boyfriends with whom she could be reunited. In my case, I was still in love with Charles so he was my target.
The first step was to mark a date on the calendar at least six months in the future. This would be the day in which I would coincidentally (defined as “not so coincidentally”) run into Charles. I would have no contact with him until then. During this six-month period, I would not bury my tears in self-help books, join the all-men-are-jerks bandwagon, or eat crates of Double Stuff Oreos. The biggest benefit of the TSPP was that I was able to remain upbeat and optimistic because I had a goal. I had hope for a romantic reunion.
Step two was to better myself and improve my life. I wanted to be the best I could be, not only for myself, but also for Charles. I exercised, dieted, was industrious in order to increase my income, and worked toward a doctorate at USC.
Step three was to show up for the reunion. I knew that in-person contact was crucial because most men are visual creatures. I could have popped into Charles’ favorite gym, pretended to visit someone at his office building, or gotten a mutual friend to invite him to a restaurant where I already happened to be. Instead I sent him an anonymous invitation for dinner at a Venice Beach apartment.
Although I was unsure whether Charles would go to a strange place to meet a possibly even stranger person, I made the preparations. I got dolled up, cooked a tasty meal, and positioned romantic candles around the apartment. Then I waited nervously.
To make an amusing story short, Charles showed up, surprised to find that I was the foreman behind the ploy. We rekindled our relationship that evening and a year later, he proposed marriage.
The Three-Step Persistence Plan is the reason why I’ve been happily married for over twenty years. It is the reason why I no longer pour over philosophy books at pick-up bars. And it is the reason why I feel like a stronger and more self-sufficient woman.
This strategy will increase your chance of finding a permanent partner, allow you to embrace your assertive nature, and reduce the odds of being killed by a terrorist. (Well, maybe not that last part.)