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A high return on low expectations

Phil McGrawAlzheimer's Disease

I was sitting at La Scala in Beverly Hills with my friend Karen and indulging in my chopped salad obsession. Once again, we were consumed with a question that dominates the conversation of many women.

Why am I still single?

We consider ourselves among the smart women of the world — and experienced at relationships. We have dated and dated, and then dated some more, all along keeping our standards and scruples intact, which can be a tough feat in Los Angeles. We have tried to "Dr. Phil" ourselves to death in our attempts to identify personality traits that might be sabotaging our love lives.

And yet there's some advice that never ceases to be infuriating.

"You know Debbie?" I asked. "My married friend in New York? Well, she says, 'It will happen when you least expect it.' I wanted to reach into the phone and slap her across her face." Karen nodded and laughed.

It will happen when you least expect it.

This statement is ridiculous. If you are single, you are always thinking about meeting "the one." It may not be obvious or at the top of your thoughts, but it's there, lingering like the elephant in the room. Especially for women, who always have expectations because we are planners, doers and list crosser-offers.

When I was in my 20s, out at clubs dancing with friends, meeting a guy and settling down wasn't the main goal, but I certainly was aware of the men around me. A few years later that started to change. In my 30s, I learned that work and friends do not a perfect life make. I wanted more. I wanted love, and when you're ready for a serious relationship and love, you think about it. Often.

I went after my goal with determination and confidence. I found new places to meet guys — online, meet-ups, setups. I figured that if I wanted something, as long as I put my mind to it, and added time and energy, there was no way I would fail.

But that's what I did, over and over again. I had a few relationships, but they were not "the one." I left them by the side of the road as I sped off toward my perfect pink sunset.

It took me years and more years of dating to realize that you can't make love happen. And that self-knowledge was painful to acquire. To know that I might not find true love no matter how hard I tried was heartbreaking.

By my 40th birthday, I was seriously questioning my romantic future. I was not bitter or angry, I was just very, very tired. When my father called to wish me birthday happiness, I jokingly said I had accepted that I might be single forever. He then suggested I try online dating. Again.

"Are you crazy?!" I yelled. "Don't you remember all of my hideous stories?" My father replied simply, "Consider it your last hurrah."

I hung up the phone, determined to chalk his suggestion up to early senility. Then I signed up for one month on Match.com.

I tamped down on unreasonable expectations and looked at each potential suitor as a veteran looks at his next battle — with serene maturity and the understanding that the campaign might be long and hard, and victory may not be within our grasp.

After a couple of weeks, I received an email with a Match. He was handsome, educated, tall and witty — all of the things on my list. I did a simple click saying I was interested, not thinking much of it.

Our first date produced fireworks for both of us. Literally. We met at Shutters in Santa Monica for dinner. (I broke my "no dinner" rule since our first phone conversation lasted two hours, which had never happened to me before. I figured that even if there was no chemistry in person, at least I knew we could get along during a meal.) Upon first sight, my heart fluttered. Then, after dinner, as we stood on the beach, looking at each other with the fireworks going off behind us, it was romance-movie perfection. "My heart is beating so fast," Jonathan said. I agreed and then experienced the most perfect kiss of my life.

Our second date was at Cliff's Edge in Silver Lake; the third, at his house in Huntington Beach. He cooked me dinner.

We got married one year after our first date.

Looking back, I can say that I found love not when I least expected it but when I had the least expectation of it.

Rather than expectations, I had hope. Hope makes things happen. Without it, love is impossible.

Lindsley Lowell is the author of "My Knight in Shining Armor Is Coming ... He's Just Stuck in Traffic."

L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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