Part 1: How it all started

You’re stuck in a traffic jam, you pull out your phone and mindlessly start swiping. You are waiting in a queue, you pull out your phone, start scrolling. You aren’t able to fall asleep, you pick up your phone and start fidgeting. You go into one app, then into another and back to the first. Each time you do this for a couple of minutes, you get extremely exhausted and switch tabs or put your phone away, and then do it all over again after a couple of minutes.

Then, there are some days you decide to take a hard look at yourself, realize you are getting older each day but not one bit closer to finding that ever elusive soulmate who you hope to get into a long term stable relationship with. You conclude that you need to be more disciplined about your partner hunt and decide to sit in front of your laptop/ desktop and spend a few hours scrutinising a couple of reputed matrimonial sites that are known to attract eligible singles who are just as serious as you are feeling at the moment. You decide to look past people’s terrible photographs, and read every bit of their profile carefully in order to go through the process in a non-superficial and structured manner. That discipline yields a few well crafted expressions of interest to the select few that were the best among the worst available online. You end the weekend feeling great, having made a lot of progress by “settling” on what was available and assume that if you can pull off the ability to “make do” for a little bit longer, your search would end soon.

At this point, having aimed quite low, you are reasonably confident of hearing back. But just when you are revelling in your little success, your mind starts wondering when you’ll hear back. You constantly keep going into your inbox wondering if one of them has already responded, then when you don’t see any replies yet, you decide to disable your notifications and decide you won’t check your inbox for another week. You prefer to be surprised when you open your inbox randomly in a week and find a message you didn’t expect. Except, you keep wanting to look for the surprise every day, every other minute. So you then decide to delete the app because you can’t believe how this has taken over your life. Except, you re-install it the very next day. And you go over this cycle of deleting and re-installing a couple of more times.

By this point, your body has completely taken over your mind. Your body desperately wants to experience the rush of dopamine levels that come out of experiencing something unexpectedly pleasant. So it cannot get you to stop fingering your phone every now and then. It’s going to be a while before you realise that your body has taken over this process and is controlling the way you choose a partner.

Part 2: How do you get it to stop

First, pause for a moment. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is happening here — Your body has taken over a process that should ideally have involved your mind as well. Now, it’s one thing when you are 16, lust over someone and confuse that for love, and that over time evolves into much more and eventually does become “love” and you end up with that person forever. But here, let’s face it, your hormones aren’t exactly raging anymore and your mind is probably worth trusting a bit more, so it’s important to gain back some control from your body. But listen, it’s easier said than done. So, I want to share a few things I know works better than most of the advice I have personally ever given myself –

1. You are made up of two people

You are made up of (1) Core you and (2) what I call the “valent” you. Core you is who you are when no one is looking. It is your identity devoid of any external association. You could be someone who reads, writes, enjoys art or science, etc. and it’s what best describes you or your interests, and is responsible for attracting a partner. “Valent” you originates from the concept in chemistry related to the ability of an element to react with other elements and combine to form compounds. Similarly, the “valent” self in each of us craves for association, be it in a couple or as a member of an organisation. You need both parts to attract a partner.

2. Restoring balance between them both

With extended partner hunt, the “valent you” has taken over and subdued the “core you” hence, impeding you from attracting a partner. So, it’s important to restore balance, and it takes a ton of discipline to do that — You need to tame your valent self while encouraging your core self to become a bit more pushy. In order to tame your valent self, you need to be strict about when and how you will seek association. If you’re logging into dating apps/ sites everyday, stop. Do it once a week. Dedicate a day of the week, when you will go wild hunting, but that’s it. On the other hand, dedicate some time every day to spend time on yourself, exploring your own likes and dislikes. Give yourself a month to try this new routine to see you’ve been successful in restoring balance. Ask yourself if you’ve become any more interesting than you were a month ago. If yes, great. It won’t be long before your fingering skills will be put to use elsewhere. If not, try again, but try harder this time.

3. Serendipity happens when you least expect it, not when you go looking for it

We all like to meet our partners by chance. Despite spending hours on apps consciously looking for partners, we expect to be caught by surprise. So, if you are one of those people expecting to have a chance encounter that results in a long term relationship, let me remind you that serenity actually happens when you least expect it, not when you are wildly hunting for it day in and day out. So, focus on 1 and 2, and leave the rest to serendipity.

Of course, as always, if nothing works, you know where to find me!

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