Why does dating seem like looking for a parking space when going to the supermarket? All the good ones are taken, and the ones that are perfect are allocated for someone else and under no uncertain terms are you allowed to park there. Is it something you’ve done wrong?  Have you missed your time slot, and are now destined to circle aimlessly around, or pick the space that seems to be in a completely different time zone to where you want to be?

Clearly, the answer is no.  No, you haven’t missed your time slot, and no, you don’t just have to settle for something that isn’t right for you.

When you were a child, coming up to birthdays and Christmases you were wishing your days away, counting down the time when presents and attention would be lavished on you. Unfortunately, when finding a partner, there is no set time frame.  Heck, I dated mountains of men (and no, I didn’t have a revolving door on my bedroom) trying to find “the one.”

I  lasted nearly three years in a relationship with a guy I knew wasn’t right for me, but held in there because I didn’t think there was anyone else better than him.  How wrong was I!  When I dumped the wrong guy, I did go through the supermarket parking lot feeling, thinking all the good guys were taken.  Then all of a sudden I stopped looking, found my true happiness, took my focus away from meeting the one, planning the picket fence, long brunches and getting a puppy, and started living my life.   Within a year of dumping the unsuitable ex, I met the one, the one and only, and within another year we were married, traveling the world and setting up a life together.

What were the magic ingredients?

Patience? I am definitely not patient in any way what-so-ever. But I suppose it did take a little bit of that. I wasn’t just hurtling down the fast lane of dating, screaming at dates to jump on board like this was a time trial. Nor was I jumping aboard any emotional roller coaster that a date was demanding I clamber into.

Life?  Most definitely, I started living my life — for me.  No, I didn’t start to act like the world revolved around me, but I wasn’t purely focused on finding a date and forming that mystical relationship before starting to live my life.  I had a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment: a close relative of mine died, and I decided to stop putting my life on hold.  I started doing the things I wanted to do, and my dating focus was prioritized at a lower level.  Yes, I still had my eye out for man candy. What single guy doesn’t?

Tolerance?  Well, my tolerance level for bad behavior was reduced. I didn’t just agree with a date to make him like me. I said “no” if certain traits were displayed and they affected me, and I learned to highlight them and say I was uncomfortable with that behavior.  After all I had put up with in a relationship with my ex, doing what he wanted, and pacifying him when he acted up if things didn’t go his way, my self-worth was at its lowest when I was with him.  And that is just not me. I am a confident and self-assured guy.  I’m a Relationship and Personal Coach, and yet I fell into that relationship trap.  It’s a common occurrence, so if this has happened to you, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Learn from it, and move on.

Self Image?  I have never been body beautiful.  My modeling career started and ended with doing children knitting pattern brochures and a one-off magazine spread for department store teen sweaters. (Naturally, my street credibility was through the floor at school.)  I’ve been thin, I’ve been fat, toned and flabby, long hair, short hair, shaved and bearded, but no matter what size or look I’ve displayed I’ve never had an issue getting a date.  Dates come in all shapes and sizes.  As I wrote in my Relationship book, The Dating Expert, so long as you are dating someone of equal or similar attractiveness (give or take 10%), then there will always be a date for you.  If you’re overweight, nearing retirement age and are only attracted to guys around the age of 21 that have stepped off a Ralph Lauren photo shoot, then stakes are against you — unless you have a large wallet and don’t mind paying for the privilege or, potentially, being used.  Apologies for anyone that is in a healthy and respectful age-disparity relationship: well done you, but you are really bucking against the norm.

Morals?  I am not going to wedge any preachy religious monologue at you, but if you are looking for a monogamous faithful relationship, then look in the right places for a date.   If you are clicking on an online profile which just has genitalia as the main picture, or which shows many pictures of your potential date having sex with other guys, this isn’t really a good formula to start romantic candlelit dates. Hurtling around a sex club to find a long lasting relationship with a planned future spouse to start picking out kitchenware with isn’t very realistic either.  Also, dating a married or partnered guy is not doing you any favors. If he does leave his current partner, what is going to stop him doing the dirty on you?  Go into a relationship with your head held high. Starting anything deceitful will only end up hurting you. Yes, we all have a past, and most of us have behaved in a manner we are not proud of; however, you can ultimately choose not to repeat that inappropriate behavior.

Not getting hurt?  Well unfortunately, the old term “no pain, no gain” is sort of correct.  I am not insisting you push through the pain barrier, and run up some very steep steps like you’re in some sort of Rocky movie.  But unlike in the fairy tales, there will be some frogs out there that won’t turn into your personal prince.  But you have to be swimming in to the pond to meet them.  And eventually, one will be the magical one. Unless you want to do a Sleeping Beauty impression, lounging around in bed does not necessarily produce many princes.   The road to love and happiness isn’t going to be like a Hallmark card. It can be, but those occasions are as frequent as someone shouting out in a crowded bar “The drinks are on the house!” You’ve got to put some time and effort into it.

So as you circle around your supermarket parking lot, if you can’t find a parking space you like immediately, why not try ordering online, or try at a different supermarket.  Furthermore, I am sure there is a great restaurant locally where you can get a delicious meal and perhaps meet a potentially nice guy. I think the waiter may even take a shine to you. But you’ll never know unless you get out and drive around.

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Jonathan WelfordJONATHAN WELFORD heads up GayDatingExpert.com, a relationship and dating coaching practice. He was awarded the accolade of being one of the top 10 Gay Relationship Bloggers for 2013. He writes gay agony uncle columns for numerous publications in both the UK and USA, and is also a regular columnist for DatingAdvice.com. He lives with his Scottish husband in Manchester, UK.