I understand why people love the concept of “Fate.” It feels good to think someone’s been earmarked for you, and that unseen forces are, even now, guiding you two hopeless romantics toward each other. It’s an appealing, plot-worthy idea. Unfortunately, that’s bunk — and worse, it’s bunk that puts you in the weakest position of all. Because by believing this theory, you willingly renounce freedom, choice, and most importantly, action. You’ll sit back and figure Fate will find you. Wrong.
It’s not entirely your fault — after all, you, like me and nearly everyone else on the planet, were raised on fairy tales that fool you into thinking this is how the world works: if you’re a good girl or boy, “deserving” of true love, and you put your intention “out there,” then the right person will pick up on your lovelorn sonar. (Thanks, The Secret, for giving wistful thinking a new package!)
Case in point: I met a woman recently who, by all accounts, had been very strategic in all elements of her life, including her career (she owned her own pedi-cab business), her apartment (a well-appointed one-bedroom in Chelsea), and even her body (we’d met in a fitness class — she was ripped). And yet, when the topic moved to love, she said she wasn’t dating, but was open to it. “If it happens, it happens,” were her exact words.
I’m sorry, wha? Is that the position she took anywhere else in her life? Nope. She wasn’t willing to take a chance with anything else — except the one massive thing she didn’t have and clearly wanted. Which, with apologies to my new friend, seems pretty nuts. Few people sit and wait for a new job or house to arrive on their doorstep. But somehow it’s acceptable to wile away the years and assume that when the angels and saints are good and ready, the Right Person will show up, and everything will snap into place.
In “Romance: Reading Fate Into Coincidence,” republished by The Good Men Project, Gary Bobroff argues that human beings (call it the brain, the soul, whatever) create the notion of fate by reading into coincidences we find particularly meaningful. In other words: we are pattern-seeking creatures who tend to elevate the significance of situations that are most emotionally resonant to us.
“In general, attributing to fate the role of bringing us our ‘right‘ or best romantic partners, gives away much of our power. ‘Faith is a disability insofar as it constrains you from self-interest,”[ii] says Solomon and having too much faith in the universe demonstrates an abandonment of the power to choose; a natural authority given up; an unwillingness to exercise conscious, mature choice.’ ”
In other words, the day you decided to go to Whole Foods instead of Fairway must have been Fate’s work, because that’s where you met Harry at the salad bar, and the rest was history. Thank God Fate made you hungry for lunch in time! The reality is, you made a decision (to go to one store over another) and then another (to engage with Harry).
Fate has a pretty sweet job — she gets all the credit and none of the blame. Meet a hot guy or girl who likes you back, thanks Fate! But what about all the times Fate puts you in front of douchebags, clowns, or straight-up jerks? You blame yourself. Figure that one out.
Chance, luck, synchronicity — sure, they play a role. But not a bigger one than you do. After all, if my iMovie wasn’t giving me such a headache, I wouldn’t have made an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar, and wouldn’t have met the guy I ended up dating. Chance had a hand in putting me in front of this man, but I kicked that ball all the way down the field. I’m the one who gave him my card, and he decided to write, and then I wrote back. And so on. (More on how to “happen to” somebody you’re interested in.)
My point is this: Your romantic life is about the choices you make, whether it’s to go to that party when you’d normally stay in, say yes to a stranger who asks you out for coffee, or post an online dating profile even though you’re angsty about it. Think of luck, circumstance, or Fate, if you must, as just the raw material. The relationships you create from your choices should be credited to you and you alone. Would I leave that skilled work to some nebulous external force? Not a chance.