As much as I fancy myself to be a classic strong, confident woman who doesn’t need a man, I still find myself feeling weak, lonely, and very much in want of a man from time to time. In a recent moment of such weakness, I found myself responding to a notorious “Bachelorette” villain’s Instagram story about whether he should keep or shave his moustache. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he already follows me, so I knew my message would go through to him. I let him know that he should “def keep the stache,” to which he promptly replied, “Come down here and make me,” accompanied by a classic, not-so-subtle side smile emoji. At the end of our exchange he told me to visit him in LA, winky face.

Am I attracted to this man? Not in the slightest. Is he kind of terrifying, and did he display chaotic, violent tendencies on national television? Absolutely. But was he giving me attention and thus validation? Ding, ding, ding, yes! During this indulgence in my own isolation, I was very ready to lower my standards (like really lower them) just to suppress my loneliness. As literally all of my friends asked when they heard about this: WHY?
Look, if love makes you stupid, then loneliness makes you an absolute idiot. We are all guilty of Instagram stalking people we shouldn’t or dating people who aren’t really right for us out of sheer desperation. So please heed the following advice, and hopefully none of us find ourselves actually meeting up with a “Bachelorette” contestant (unless it’s Peter Kraus because I mean like, hello, he’s a 10).

What To Do

1. Do some soul-searching. 

“[Unlike] dwelling on your loneliness, trying to solve it will ultimately make you more resilient,” says Demetrius Figueroa, dating and relationship writer and host of the podcast, A Mighty Love. “Reflect on why you’re lonely. Is it being single? Or is it not being understood? It’s good to know so you can work through that problem.” Basically, don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If being single is truly the underlying cause of your loneliness, then sure, get out onto the dating scene. If you realize that you just need human connection in general, consider starting off with making efforts to spend time with those who are already part of your life.

2. Broaden your social circle

“Once we leave high school and college, the ready-made pool of potential partners begins to shrink, [so] meeting new people can take ingenuity and effort,” notes dating coach Jill Gross, Psy.D. If going on dates or even just chatting with new people makes you feel less lonely, go for it. Meeting people IRL is, of course, appreciated and encouraged, but dating apps can be one way to dip your toes into the water. Talking to or meeting up with someone could lead to a romantic relationship, but it could also lead to a new friend or, at the very least, exposure to a different kind of person than is your norm. Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands, or specifically, thumbs.

3. Take your time.

So you’ve met someone who quells your loneliness and seems promising. Naturally, you want to keep things moving right along. But remember to pace yourself. “Let’s be honest: I imagine what my name will sound like if I were to take my date’s last name immediately upon meeting them, but I take care to never share this with them,” says Emma, 26. This kind of self-control is crucial.

“It’s OK to show interest in people we find interesting. It’s equally important to pace the unfolding of the relationship so that you and the other person have room to breathe,” advises Gross. “When we date from a place of loneliness, it emanates like a cologne in ways that potential dates [can] find off-putting, [and] come across as overly eager.” While pursuing this exciting new interest, hold space for your hobbies and the platonic relationships in your life. This helps ensure that if things don’t pan out, you still have a support system in place that can help you avoid spiraling into the dark abyss of your loneliness and self-pity.

4. Live your life observantly.

“If you’re trying too hard to meet the love of your life, it’s going to be a long wait,” says Jenna Birch, dating coach and author of “The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love.” When you’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to preoccupy yourself with attempting to feel less so. Try to take a little pressure off of yourself while staying open to potential connections. “Continue to do the things you do every day, but pay more attention to those around you,” Birch adds. “See who [enjoys doing the same things] as you.” It’s amazing what can happen when you pull your head out of the sand phone screen and look at who is around you — like that cute barista who always “forgets” to charge you an extra dollar for your oat milk.

What Not To Do

1. Become overly familiar on first dates.

“When you’re lonely, you want to feel closeness to someone,” says Figueroa. “Faking that closeness is unhealthy.” If your connection is contrived, you are already impeding yourself from building a genuine connection. So while you might be excited about a prospective love interest, remember to reign it in and maybe save your story about the time your parents got in a fight at the Grand Canyon when they were on the brink of divorce in 2005 for the third or fourth date.

2. Jump from one relationship to the next.

“People associate [being single] with loneliness, which terrifies them,” says Figueroa, “To avoid that loneliness, they commit to whoever is available, whether its an ex who they always get back with or the first person who comes along and is ready for a relationship.” Don’t let your fear of loneliness make you settle. If you allow one relationship to end without immediately rushing into another, you may find that your fear of loneliness was unfounded. That’s not to say it won’t be uncomfortable, but who knows? You could actually enjoy the extra time you get to spend with yourself.nbsp;

3. Text or virtually stalk your ex.

“I constantly stalked [my ex] on social media… It always made me feel like he was moving on an I wasn’t. It stunted my healing and constantly invalidated me, which made me feel like shit all the time,” says Katie, 23*. This is a practice that we all fall into from time to time.

“When you’re lonely, it’s easy to remember all the good parts [of your relationship] and forget the bad,” notes Birch. At that point, you may be tempted to send your ex an out-of-the-blue text or comb through their most recent tagged photos, but before you do this, “pause [and ask yourself if] this is really a can of worms you want to open,” says Birch.

It can be healthy to stay in touch after ending a relationship, but avoiding such interactions is your best bet if you are a vulnerable state. Is the prospect of feeling a little less lonely worth the agonizing anxiety of waiting for them to (maybe not) respond to your text reading, “I swear I just saw your doppelganger, so weird, lol, anyway how are you?!” Probably not. And while you’re at it, stop sliding into the DMs of D-list reality stars.

*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.