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5 Signs You’re Trying Too Hard

Sure, we all want a little romance in our lives. But are you working a bit too hard at love? Here’s how to tell.

By Bob Strauss

here’s an old saying by the animator Chuck Jones (by way of the philosopher George Santayana): “A fanatic is someone who redoubles his effort when he’s forgotten his aim.” Jones was describing Wile E. Coyote’s relentless pursuit of the Road Runner, but this maxim also applies to your dating life. How can you tell when it’s time to unstrap those Acme rocket boots from your feet and throttle back from your desperate chase after the opposite sex? Here are some surefire signs that you need to take a step back and chill out:

1. Agreeing with everything your date says (whether you really agree or not).
“No one likes a doormat,” says John Seeley, author of
Don’t agree with your date just to be polite.
Get Unstuck: The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life. “If you say or agree with things only to make another person happy, that person will eventually realize that a yes man or woman isn’t needed.” For example: I once took a date to a big-budget sci-fi movie that wasn’t quite as spectacular as advertised. When I asked her what she thought, she insisted on hearing my opinion first, and then agreed with what I said completely. Next!

2. Writing to people online (who you’re not really interested in).
I’ve been guilty of this transgression myself. Sometimes it can be hard to throttle back your dating engine, and you find yourself going through the motions—scouring online profiles, writing to people who are inappropriate for one reason or another (say, she’s six-foot-five and will only date fellow giants) and being disappointed by the results. If you sense that you’re pushing, there’s no harm in taking a week’s break and getting on with other aspects of your life. You’ll come back to the online world relaxed and refreshed, with actual real-life experiences to write about to your prospective dates.

3. Getting a dog (when you’re really a cat person).
It’s true, there’s nothing like walking a dog to encounter eligible singles you might not ordinarily find at nightclubs or online dating services (though in my experience, most dog-walkers just chat mindlessly about their pets’ eating habits, then proceed merrily on their way). However, “you should have a pet because you love animals,” Seeley says. “Getting a dog specifically to meet someone is like saying that you, by yourself, aren’t enough.” The only thing worse than walking a dog just to meet someone is walking a cat, which puts you in another dating category entirely.

4. Contacting long-lost flames (who have long since moved on).
It’s only in TV dramas (and the occasional story in People magazine) that a 40-something bachelor contacts his high-school squeeze out of the blue, takes her out for a
Only take classes in subjects you really want to learn.
night on the town, and bang! They’re married three weeks later. Usually, there’s a good reason why that guy you dated briefly a couple of years ago drifted away, never to be heard from again. While you may justify calling or emailing him with the thought, “Well, at least I’m trying,” you’re likely to achieve the same result (that is, if he even writes back to you, which is far from a sure thing).

5. Taking a class (when you already know the subject).
If you’re a classical music buff, there’s nothing wrong with attending a lecture series about Mozart, even if you’ve read every Mozart biography written since the 19th century. But it’s another thing entirely to enroll in a “Spanish for Beginners” course when you grew up in Venezuela. “Sometimes people want to show they’re really good at something,” Seeley acknowledges, “but relationships are based on trust, and if you have to disguise who you are in order to meet someone, it violates that trust.”

So check for these signs that you’re working too hard at love. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, go home, rest, see your friends and explore some new interests and hobbies… you should be recovered in ten days to two weeks.


Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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