Posted by: Dan Savage
Topic: Are some people unlovable? What would you say to a person who has been trying and trying to forge a relationship yet is still completely alone?
Are some people unlovable?
That sounds harsh, I realize, but the question is phrased in such a way that it's impossible to answer honestly without sounding harsh. And for the record: the "unlovable" in this sentence doesn't mean unlovable in the Hitler/Pol Pot/Jim Jones sense, but "unlovable" in the "will never find a romantic partner" sense. Even people who never find a romantic partner are loved by family and friends. But we're not discussing familial love or friendships here. We're discussing romantic love—SOs, LTRs, marriage. And the sad fact is that some people are, indeed, unlovable in that sense. Some people are going to be alone all their lives. Some people shouldn't be told "there's someone out there for everyone!" because there isn't someone out there for them.
Harsh, harsh, harsh.
I wouldn't normally just blurt out, "Some people are unlovable, so deal!" I would prefer to phrase it like this: Some folks, men and women, gay and straight, are destined to be alone. It may be due to some deep-seated character flaw, or some insurmountable social maladaptation, or simple bad luck. But facts are facts: some folks are going to be alone all their lives no amount of going out or speed dating or introspection is going to change that.
Unfortunately there's no way to know for certain that you're one of those people— unlucky in love for life—until... well, until you're life is over. Some people find love at 50, 60, 70, even 80. So we can't ever tell someone to give up for good because, hey, you never know. But I do tell people that have been unlucky in love for a decade or two to consider the possibility that they may well be alone all their lives. Instead of telling themselves that they'll never be happy until they find a partner—that they're somehow incomplete, that they've failed at life, that single people have a duty to be miserable—I encourage these folks to think about how they can be single and happy.
Once someone has reconciled himself to the possibility that he's going to be alone all his life, he can start to think about other ways of being fulfilled, other ways of being happy. Besides romantic love, what else interests you? What else are you passionate about? What can you fill your life with that will give it meaning and bring you pleasure?
Dr. Helen says "keep trying," and a lot of folks would agree that her advice is sound and compassionate. But some folks, frustrated after many years of trying, need to hear "give up," and they'll be happier once they do.