Something happens to a lot of women when they hit their late 20s: Panic sets in. It feels a bit like you've climbed aboard a runaway train and it's barreling right through your life. Suddenly, there's an urgent need for things to fall into place—career, home, and, of course, love. And then, when your buds start to find that special guy while he's taking his sweet-ass time showing up in your world, that panic takes on an even stronger hold. To put it simply, your "married-by-30, kids-soon-after" plan isn't working out.
Whoa. Breathe. Okay, yes, it's completely natural to want to be with a great man, but hyperventilating over why he's MIA isn't going to drop him at your doorstep, like, tomorrow. "You can't enjoy life's pleasures when you put so much pressure on finding The One, because you'll become completely consumed by it," says Doree Lewak, author of The Panic Years. "Then later, you'll look back and realize that you missed out on relishing some great years." Avoid that fate. Cosmo came up with three steps that'll help you chill out about finding Mr. Future Father of My Children...and putting your love life on a schedule.
- Just Trust That You Will Meet Someone...
Perhaps you're -already feeling miserable because there's no potential partner in the picture and you've brainwashed yourself into thinking that you'll wind up solo during dinner parties. Well, Little Miss Sunshine, here's a reality check: According to the National Statistics Office, the number of registered marriages in the Philippines grew from 583,167 in 2002 to 593,553 in 2003, and the number has allegedly increased in the succeeding years. So, break out the bubbly, because, statistically, you're bound to get hitched if that's what you want. Another reason your odds look good: You're a pretty cool woman. "If you have friends, take it to mean you're a likeable, social person," says Terri Orbuch, PhD, director of the University of Michigan's Early Years of Marriage Project. Consider it double insurance that love and marriage are in your future.
"Once you can have faith in the fact that you'll eventually meet someone—today, tomorrow, next month, whenever—you'll naturally loosen up," says Orbuch. "And guess what? That relaxed attitude is precisely what attracts guys." Dudes don't really dig the desperate thing, but they love a girl who's comfy with herself.
- ...But You Still Need To Get Out There
Now that some of the weight has been lifted, be active in your quest to meet someone with whom you'll really be happy. To be clear, "active" means going out a lot, saying yes to invites, and actually having fun doing all kinds of stuff. It doesn't mean putting on blinders and zeroing in only on potential mates. The point is that you're taking control, which always feels good, and putting yourself in the path of possibility. The point is also that you eke out the most enjoyment from your situation right now. Think: "I'll go to that networking event because it'll be interesting, I'll learn something, I'm single, and I have a free Thursday night to do it. And, hey, if I hit it off with someone, great; if not, I've gotten a nice evening out of it."
And, when you do meet a guy, ditch the "Is he The One?" mindset. "When you put so much stress on whether or not he's the right man or if you have a future together, you end up sucking the fun out of the moment," says Orbuch. It may seem too cliché, but ideally, you should try to have a good time with every new dude. So what if he's not your soul mate? You'll figure that out, but along the way, why not appreciate his quirky sense of humor or the new restos he's introduced you to? Hell, you can always feign interest in whatever he's gabbing about while checking out the hottie at the next table.
- Fight Off Those Panic Relapses
Even with your newfound confidence in your singlehood, little freak-outs are bound to resurface. Maybe another friend got engaged or the initial fireworks with a new guy faded. Find a trick to stop the negative thoughts. "Literally pinch yourself," suggests Orbuch. "It snaps you out of your head." Or, call up a no-nonsense friend to tell you you're being ridiculous because getting down on yourself is such a waste of time.
- Beware The Desperate Vibes
If there's one thing that repels guys, it's a chick itchin' to get hitched, pronto. Here, men describe what tips them off.
"I hate when I'm on a date, and then she has to go and ask what we're doing next. It's like she won't let the night end." —Brian, 27, entrepreneur
"If she tells me about the exotic vacation her friend went on with her boyfriend, it's a parinig that she's looking for the same thing." —Paul, 28, copywriter
"When she calls all the time 'just to talk'—man, I absolutely can't stand that. I can't help but think that she's psycho!" —Jon, 25, HR specialist
"If you start hearing about other people's boyfriends on a first or second date, she's telling you what she's looking for." —Ramon, 33, doctor
"It's bad when she tries to make future plans on the first date. I get uncomfortable because it makes me feel like The One." —Migs, 26, call center agent
"If she's always talking about how many kids she wants to have or what kind of wedding she plans to have—it's like she has your future mapped out already." —Cholo, 30, architect