One of the most well-meaning sentiments might also seem to be of the most patronizing: “Just hang in there.” When you’re a man and you’ve struck out several times in a row in the dating world, “just hang in there” can either be a comfort or an irritant, depending on the mood you’re in when you hear it, where you are in your struggle, and who is imparting this wisdom. When you think about it, though, it really is the best advice. After all, what are your options?
Well, let’s think about that. As far as I can see, there are three:
You can give up. As a single Catholic some days are so bleak that it actually seems as if giving up is the most sensible thing to do. After all, why should you have to face more rejection and more pain? But as a man that may be just what God has in mind for you. The fact is that men are hardwired for struggle. Most men know intuitively that you have to fight for the things that are worth getting. One of the reasons we like the chase is because we appreciate things when there is a little bit of risk involved. The prize is always sweeter when it has been won. Hang in there.
You can turn bitter. We’ve all been dumped, or suffered rejection, or perhaps had a really long dry spell when no one is returning any attention. We’ve had it up to here with dating and women in general, and we’re not going to get hurt anymore. So we complain. Hey, sometimes you have to let it all out. Go ahead and rant and rave, but make sure you do it while you’re alone, or with friends or family who know you and want to be there for you. Do it in front of anyone except a potential date. That means don’t post it on online dating sites or in the forums. It’s human to have those feelings but you don’t want to broadcast to the opposite sex every single thing you’re feeling at any given moment. There’s nothing wrong with a little venting from time to time, but you simply cannot let the occasional discouragement turn into full-blown pessimism. Believe me, it will come out in the tone of your correspondence!
Another reaction to bitterness is this: we make sure we tell anyone who will listen just how insane dating is, and how self-absorbed and shallow all the women we contact are, and how no one can see just what a gem they have staring them right in the face. We’ve stayed true to our faith and our ideals and we’ve been cast aside! But as men it’s important to remember that feeling sorry for ourselves is not going to attract anyone. We should be about action. If you want women to see what a gem you are then show them in the way you speak, act, and live. Write a profile that highlights your strengths but don’t brag. Be confident. Someone will see it eventually. And eventually may mean longer than we would like. Just hang in there.
You can forge ahead. There is a point we reach where things seem as if they could not get any bleaker. We all know that point. But I think we all know that it can indeed get bleaker, and very often does. Pain does not last forever (though it can be revisited when we least expect it). But it is not continuous. When things seem really hopeless sometimes we just have to laugh. Feeling pain? Offer it up as reparation for past sins. Feeling hopeless? Pray a decade of the Rosary and meditate on Christ’s Agony in the Garden. Just feel it, get through it, and try again. It’s how we’re built.
Rejection (or being ignored completely) hurts. There is no getting around that. For most of us there will be rejection. Perhaps even periods of frequent rejection. This is part of dating. “Hang in there” is not meant to imply that things will be easy.
I’ve been there. I did not meet my wife until I was 44. Sometimes she is still amazed at my ability to remain hopeful after decades of searching, false starts, painful break-ups and rejection. I hung in there.
Lastly remember that a vocation comes from God. If we have discerned marriage as our vocation, then we have to remember that it is what God wants for us, and it is on God’s timetable. He won’t steer us wrong. He can’t.