Skip

No, seriously, hope me.
April 24, 2010 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm disillusioned, and I hate it. I'm not, by nature, a cynical person but I think I'm turning into one. At least where matter of the heart are concerned.

Some part of me keeps offering up seemingly "rational" thoughts about the unlikely chances that I can ever really fall in love again.
This is what it sounds like in here: you're 36. You have two kids and the stretchmarks to prove them. Divorced women are statistically less likely to remarry. You live in a small town and you can't move. You're in a statistically small group of intellectual peers from which to choose. What are the chances of you actually finding some superfantastic man who loves you *and* the kids? And here? In this place? You'll have to settle with someone who is ok but not great. You shouldn't think about love at all and just learn to like being alone. No one is ever gauranteed love, especially anything grand. You should love yourself but don't expect anyone else to. .

The problem with this voice, although it's Vulcan like appearance is somewhat appealing, it isn't mine. It just sucks the life right out of me. I don't obsess about it too often. I'm seeing someone just for fun, I have two careers that both keep me occupied, 3 counting the kids. But at night or driving in the car I find I have this visitor. How do I ge rid of it? Something else is possible...right?
posted by madred to Human Relations (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
And pardon all the typos. My kids hijacked the computer, so I'm stuck on my phone.
posted by madred at 9:10 PM on April 24, 2010


Yep. I was in pretty much the exact same situation. I met my soulmate 4 years ago, at age 46. I met him online, on OK Cupid - and I wasn't even looking. I was seriously on there just for the quizzes, my profile said "in a relationship" because I didn't want to deal with it - and he just showed up.

He's everything I ever wanted, and some things I didn't know I wanted. It CAN happen.

He's really cute, too. :)
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:14 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure, there's always hope, but you're right: there are no guarantees. I think it's smart to be realistic.

You'll have to settle with someone who is ok but not great


Ugh, don't do that.
posted by amro at 9:19 PM on April 24, 2010


Learning to like being alone is always a useful skill.
posted by The otter lady at 9:24 PM on April 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


You shouldn't think about love at all...
Good luck with this one; I've wished time and again that my heart would just finally up and die, wished I could give up on love, maybe take up canasta or something, Parcheesi maybe. Hasn't happened yet. Seems to me that most of us are wired to seek out that social thing. Now, whether we find it or not -- as you noted, no guarantees, right? It can surely be painful.

But at night or driving in the car I find I have this visitor. How do I get rid of it?

I don't think that you *can* get rid of this visitor; it's having too much fun, a party-crasher who just does *not* want to leave. Only thing I know of is to listen to it, hear it out, listen to all its doomsday scenarios, and then thank it for sharing. And then somehow dig in somewheres inside of you to find the jam to turn away from the doom and gloom words of this visitor. Somehow, if I do this, when I can do this, it seems to shut it up somewhat.

Also: A case could be made that being disillusioned is a good thing, usually, as I am no longer living under the delusion which was causing me confusion and pain.

I wish you luck on this, I if anyone know the lay of the land here. Take your comforts where you find them -- you may as well, doesn't sound like there's some massive dating pool where you are -- enjoy your life as it is, best as you can, and if/when Capital L Love shows up you'll have had fun in the interim.*

*I want you to remind me of this when *I'm* moaning about these same issues -- thanx
posted by dancestoblue at 9:36 PM on April 24, 2010


Hey, look, I'm disillusioned too! Eponysterical jokes aside, it can definitely happen, but it's not insanely likely to just drop in your lap, especially with the other environmental considerations you've listed. OKCupid or some such is remarkably good at finding people who match up well with your needs and wants and can help narrow the pool. So many people do the online thing now because it makes sense: it's low-risk, computer-assisted, and a bunch less awkward than just randomly hoping for something to happen to you.

It sounds like you're taking preemptive measures to protect yourself, which is at least pragmatic but you shouldn't sell yourself short for them.
posted by disillusioned at 9:40 PM on April 24, 2010


Yes, something else is possible.

I don't think you're being cynical. You (or the voice) are being "rational" and that can be a bitch because it undercuts hope, which is essential too. But the opposite of hopeful romantic isn't necessarily hopeless cynic. Life does teach you lessons -- relationships teach you big lessons -- but it's hard to really know/trust those lessons with all the necessary occupations of a regular life (3 careers!) and the constant pressure of advertising-created "model" scenarios. Also, those lessons are hard and at least a little disillusioning, no matter what situation you're in. I find myself in a constant battle on two fronts: to learn from my own life, and to live those lessons. It's a struggle because we each of us have such shockingly insufficient perspective and the grooves in our mind, the lines along which our thinking runs, are deep and the hardest things to alter even slightly.

The routines of adult life can have an overwhelming sense of inertia (I remember writing in my diary at several ages, essentially the same declaration: "it seems nothing (good) will ever happen to me") and it's fucking depressing to go through them alone. Life can suck the life out of you. And I don't even have children but I would imagine that having two whole human beings depend on you completely and grow up at lightning speed in front of you would make all that even harder. For what it's worth, you seem to be doing a really good job. Honestly, I think you will find someone who will see all that - and more - in you.

I don't exactly know what kind of responses you're looking for on MetaFilter - I'm sure there will are heartening stories like the one above - but for what it's worth, I'd suggest talking back to that destructive voice in your head. Undermine it. You're not a statistic, and even the ones in question here (age, marriageability) are too broad and utterly biased towards teaching the wrong lessons. (How are they going to sell women's magazines and marital therapy if they don't keep harping on the same sad statistics and the interpretation that this means you are not enough, you are less than, you will die old and unhappy unless you fix your stretch marks and find a baby sitter for Friday night?) I'm not saying be cynical - but if the voice in your head is trying to beat you up with "rationality" - well, be rational back. Look around you - most people have probably found someone. You were with people before, and it probably started naturally and easily. You have three occupations, but at least in two of them I imagine you meet adults on a daily basis and have at least some of the socializing that goes with that. Your town is small but it's still part of the world -- new people will come, and there's always the internet.

So maybe you'll be more cynical the next time someone tries to sell you a story (movie / advertisement / greeting card) about happily ever after. Not the worst thing - we gotta have some wisdom to show for all these years of living.

(Also a side suggestion: recently I came across some excellent, empowering blogs by women in similar situations (divorced with kids). Beyond finding a partner, you can also find tons of camaraderie online. Let me know if you want a link or two to look around in.)

Anyway, sounds to me like you're awesome and good things are ahead. :)
posted by mondaygreens at 10:02 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Please. I've been married a ton of times. I come from the booger-eatin'est small town in Ohio, I had a difficult kid, the stretchmarks, etc. I met a great guy online... smart, cute, funny, kind... who really liked my 34 years old self--kid, stretchmarks, two divorces and all. Our ninth anniversary is next month.

If it can happen to me... lol. Seriously, don't worry.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2010


I'm kinda curious about the fact that this voice only recently started showing up. Any idea what that's about? I don't mean necessarily that something happened (though, maybe). An anniversary? A birthday? Something else going on in your emotional or daily life?

Also, it's so interesting that the voice is not you. Some other feeling that's surfacing and cloaking itself in this voice? What part of yourself is it talking to?

I think my theory here is that maybe this foreign voice that's sapping you has arrived due to some other cause, and that once you recognize that cause and acknowledge it more head-on, or even address it, the voice will go away and you'll be your hopeful self again.
posted by salvia at 10:13 PM on April 24, 2010


What I like to tell myself is that my future self, after finding my soul mate, will wish that I had as fabulous a time as possible right here and now. Once you meet him/her, there will be lots of compromises and adjustments, even in the best case. Enjoy not having to make those now, do things you love, and have a fabulous time!
posted by metametababe at 10:15 PM on April 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


By the way, you are EFFING beautiful. No kidding. I really think you are going to be fine. :) Now about the rest of us... ;)
posted by metametababe at 10:19 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Life never turns out the way we expect it to. You know that. That Vulcan voice in your head has no more insight into what may happen than the little pixie voice that tells you that rainbows and unicorns are heading in your direction. Yes, for sure learn to live by yourself, but usually once you're getting that down, someone will come along to knock your socks off. It's no more ridiculous to hope for love than it is to expect none at all. (and you're cute as hell, and that can't hurt!) :)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:17 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


My mom remarried later in life. Not only that, but she was in a similar situation as yours; In a relatively small town (50,000) and unable to relocate.

She was alone for the longest time, while I was in elementary, middle school and some of high school. During that time she dedicated herself to running, connected with her family and neighbors for support, and eventually met my step-dad at work.

I don't know what I can tell you to help you out. I'd reach out to your co-workers, neighbors, and family and build a support network. My mother would call her mother (my grandmother) almost daily to chat, she got to know the neighbors too.

I realize it's an anecdote, but it happens. My mom says she's the happiest she's ever been, and I have a whole new group of older cousins to talk to, plus a step-dad I can brag about.

Also, bless you for raising three kids on your own.
posted by hellojed at 12:29 AM on April 25, 2010


From what I can tell, men don't really care about stretchmarks. Many also don't care about a lot of the other stuff you mentioned.

Just throwing that out there.
posted by milarepa at 5:21 AM on April 25, 2010


I'd like to remind everyone that the OP asked for hope, not for practical advice. :)

Practical advice can give hope.

Anyway, her question is largely about probabilities (if you look at what the voice in her head is saying). I think it's worth pointing out specific ways of increasing the probability of a good outcome.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:48 AM on April 25, 2010


The problem with this voice, although it's Vulcan like appearance is somewhat appealing, it isn't mine. It just sucks the life right out of me.

It's called Mental Chatter. Check this article out.
posted by dhruva at 9:16 AM on April 25, 2010


Sure, there's always hope, but you're right: there are no guarantees. I think it's smart to be realistic.
Learning to like being alone is always a useful skill.


NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Are you in cahoots with my inner cynic? That's just it...the chatter starts like that but it always meets an apocalyptic end. I just want a healthier "realm of possibility" and there doesn't seem to be any real information nor any real stories to counteract very low statistical probabilities. I'm not saying the chatter doesn't have some practical advice, but it's mixed in with all these other things...which makes me think that somewhere along the way, I lost hope. Ew.


I'm kinda curious about the fact that this voice only recently started showing up. Any idea what that's about? I don't mean necessarily that something happened (though, maybe). An anniversary? A birthday? Something else going on in your emotional or daily life?
salvia, where do I even start with this one... yes, my emotional and daily life is packed full of painful stuff, the divorce was a little over a year ago, he started seeing someone right away and is getting married in July, I'm 3000 miles away from my family, I only have my kids every other week. I have a pretty good handle on facing it, healing it, therapy, yadda yadda yadda. But I just want to restore possibility. I don't want to restore hopeless romanticism, but I cannot function as a practical nihilist. It makes me want to stick my head in the oven. (kidding...my oven is electric).

As for online dating, OK Cupid is fantastic, but because I live in a small town, I ended up getting emails from students and I'm pretty sure a grocery clerk recognized me from there and I had a very awkward day in the checkout line. and as for my looks, well, that doesn't really help me feel more hopeful about meeting someone I like.
posted by madred at 9:47 AM on April 25, 2010


Oh, but your little voice is wrong, wrong, wrong! In the United States, widowed people are much slower to remarry than divorced people.

Also, your profile says you are in AK. You couldn't ask for a better male/female ratio, and there are probably new men moving to your town all the time for work. Maybe you are too focused on your "intellectual peers", I know people who work in the trades who are very smart and have a variety of interests. I was about to add that poetry might not be among them, but then I realized that it is.

I've ended up having a nice time when someone recognized me from an online dating site. I'm not sure why it would be awkward. If you don't want to talk to the person right then, tell them to write to you, and you can proceed to ignore them if you like.
posted by yohko at 12:15 PM on April 25, 2010


yohko, that statistic is a little misleading. the male to female ratios are only in my favor some portions of the year and only in some places in AK. and we have bumper stickers here that say "the odds are good, but the goods are odd". and that would explain the awkward encounter at the grocery store. the clerk in question was behaving like a creep.

as for my "intellectual peers" i don't mean to sound like i only date men of certain professions. i'm no snob, but from previous experience, it's hard to find common ground with people who are not nerds after a similar fashion. i was already married to a man with whom i had nothing in common... NOT interested in doing that again.

my mother says this is just my bitterness phase and then i think she called me ""miss negative nancy" or some such thing. i'll get over it eventually.
posted by madred at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure a grocery clerk recognized me from there and I had a very awkward day in the checkout line.

What's more important -- a cashier recognizing you, or increasing your chance of finding someone?
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:41 PM on April 25, 2010


Also, if the issue with OKCupid is just being recognized, then replace your photos with one that doesn't clearly show your face. If you start communicating with someone you're potentially interested in, you can privately send a clear photo to that person.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:46 PM on April 25, 2010


Oh, Jaltco, you're being so helpful. But I think I'm not actually ready to *find* said person. I just want my hope restored. And just FYI, go peruse the men on OKCupid in Fairbanks. Im a liberal overeducated city girl... I think I sound like A snob so I'll just stop now.
posted by madred at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2010


madred, even before I got to your mom's quote, I was thinking, "oh wow, the voice's arrival coincides with ALL THAT??" It does sound like a phase that will likely go away on its own. Douglas Coupland kinda captures that phase after a breakup here (or maybe, you're a bit after the point he describes). But I guess you're asking for advice about getting it to go away faster, so... brainstorming...

What really makes me start to think that potential relationships are all around me is feeling sexy. There's a certain way to do this where you start noticing that everyone around you is a sexual being, too, and -- "hmm, I wonder what the bus driver is doing after work?" I'm not saying this'd make you find Mr. Right; it's more of an Our Town / It's a Wonderful Life "I'm so glad my life is full of people (so many of whom I'd be willing to make out with)" thing. If you think this feel-more-sexy idea is on the right track, here is a thread on that topic. (Here's one that's much less relevant, but with some discussion of stretch marks.)

You've probably tried the "stop and let out whatever unacknowledged feeling is bubbling up like this" approach, right? I'm sure you didn't make it to your 30's without discovering the benefits of a good cry. The fact that you admit you're not ready to find anyone makes me think the negativity is not pure rationality. Perhaps it's that fantasizing about dating is a good way to escape pain, particularly the pain of a breakup. And perhaps nobody seems worth dating because you're not ready. Maybe it's all a matter of patience; maybe the pain would be easier if faced as pain instead of "why can't I escape it! maybe I'll never find anyone and never escape it!!" Anyway, I'm just speculating here. But when I read your Vulcan voice, my first thought was, "she sounds so sad." :(

Other random sources for hope: Even if you don't like the guys in your town, your profession will bring you into contact with others. There must be intellectuals associated with the university there, including visiting professors and post-docs and new Ph.D. students. There's a 9th District Court of Appeals that must have some law clerks (some who must be over age 24 :) ). You could plan vacations to potentially meet singles (like a Habitat for Humanity build-houses-in-Haiti thing? men with hammers and a social conscience...!) Take a sabbatical / fellowship / summer abroad? Your every-other-week arrangement gives you time and space to go to the gym, go on dates, etc. Also, there are some interesting but probably not too helpful comments in this thread. Perhaps you could just have a tete-a-tete with this other voice, try to figure out what it wants, and then explain to it how very unhelpful its input is.
posted by salvia at 10:40 PM on April 25, 2010


I was on my own for seven years after divorcing my first husband, before I met my current husband, and I had many battles with that voice in that time. The worst times for me were when I couldn't see options or opportunities; when I began feeling like nothing was ever going to change in my life, that would spark a terrible depression. The best times were when I became involved with activities that involved other people; Habitat for Humanity was a favorite, as it happens; I also took classes in various things, tried out various social groups, and dabbled in several hobbies before finding a couple that stuck. Your interactions with people will bring to your mind options for the future, personally, socially, sometimes career-related, and you don't have to be 'ready' for another relationship to see that you do have opportunities for change and growth. I think it's your perception that you're running out of opportunities for positive change that might be getting you down. I know that was always the worst for me.

Your week-on week-off arrangement, while probably painful to get used to, can be a huge blessing; I've had the same arrangement with my ex husband for over ten years. Use your 'off weeks' with the kids to find those activities that will bring you into contact with people and opportunities.

I've been to Fairbanks, it's a beautiful place, and while it's not New York, it's a good-sized town. Reading your comments, I think you might benefit from opening your mind a little (which costs you nothing at this stage), and looking at those around you as individuals rather than as 'educated' or 'not educated', 'liberal' or, well, 'other'. Right now your preconceptions of most people seem to be limiting you more than anything else. If you expand your horizons a little and give yourself time to see people as they are rather than as you assume them to be, you might find (as I have) that people can surprise you a lot with hidden depths.
posted by 2xplor at 9:08 AM on April 26, 2010


Your week-on week-off arrangement, while probably painful to get used to, can be a huge blessing; I've had the same arrangement with my ex husband for over ten years. Use your 'off weeks' with the kids to find those activities that will bring you into contact with people and opportunities.

i absolutely already agree with this. i'm university faculty and a painter, so in my off weeks i spend lots of time in my studio. i'm EXTREMELY happy with my professional life. i have lots of social interaction and i'm casually seeing someone right now who is lots younger and lots of fun, not forever-fun...but fun. i realize that my op (and some of my comments) make me sound like i'm saying "i'll never find a man!" that's not really the issue. i just want to know how to shut that voice up, not by falling in love to prove it wrong but by negating its power all together.

now that i'm really thinking about it, i enjoy the hell out of my life single and otherwise, i just hate that little voice... i swear it's not mine. i'm beginning to think after this thread that it really is a cultural perspective that some part of me bought into. i'm pretty darn happy right now and i don't like the fact that this voice is there being a kill-joy. but i don't think it's coming from me. maybe we've made a religion out of romantic love. actually, i was raised in a religion that places a tremendous amount of emphasis on romantic unions as a means by which god manifests himself in the universe, which makes a certain amount of sense... but maybe on many levels i'm losing my religion. that voice it trying to make me toe the line, get back to the status quo and be a good wife, and a good mother, and stop all this nonsense (i.e. doing what i love and doing it on my own).

and salvia, i am sad. but i'm ok with that. i think i'm supposed to be sad for a while. i lost a lot, but i'm putting the pieces back together and i'll be damned if i'm going to let that voice ruin it!

i talk a really good game... now let's see if i can play.
posted by madred at 11:29 AM on April 26, 2010


I think the voice is coming from you, firstly, not from outside. I think if you can acknowledge what (I think) it really is, you can rob it of its power, just like pulling back the curtain on the little man in the Wizard of Oz. It will take some work and courage on your part though.

I think the Spock voice is an illusion you've unknowingly concocted, a defense mechanism to pad you against the hurt of predicted disappointment. Intellectualizing to avoid feeling. Looking for any reason it can scrape together to shield you from taking risks that could wound you. If you convince yourself of these various "facts" then you won't hold out hope. And if you don't hold out hope, then you can't be hurt if what you might have hoped for doesn't happen. And then you can say "Well I wasn't hoping for that anyway, so it's not a big deal." But that's a lie. A lot of people pad themselves from life by using one form of excuse or another to avoid engaging, trying, hoping, so they won't have to feel the pain of "failing". And by doing so they fulfill their own sad prophecy.

Somebody upthread noted that Spock can't see the future any better than you and absolutely anything can happen in the future. If you listen to Spock, you won't have a goal, a target, something to strive for. So aim yourself at what you want, be patient, and keep your eyes open. Live life without pads, trusting in your ability to endure pain and to recover from it. That's the courage part. Things probably won't turn out according to any storyline you can imagine beforehand, because that's just how life works. But if you're active, receptive, flexible, and hopeful, you'll be in a much better position to take advantage of opportunities that come your way than if you had given up and paired off with Spock.

You don't have to beat the voice all at once. You can use that meditation practice technique of saying "Oh, there that thought is" whenever it floats up. Acknowledge it, but don't let it be more than an observation. You'll get better and better at not assigning it any significance, and it will fade.

Good luck! (from somebody in a similar position)
posted by Askr at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the Spock voice is an illusion you've unknowingly concocted, a defense mechanism to pad you against the hurt of predicted disappointment. Intellectualizing to avoid feeling. Looking for any reason it can scrape together to shield you from taking risks that could wound you. If you convince yourself of these various "facts" then you won't hold out hope. And if you don't hold out hope, then you can't be hurt if what you might have hoped for doesn't happen. And then you can say "Well I wasn't hoping for that anyway, so it's not a big deal." But that's a lie. A lot of people pad themselves from life by using one form of excuse or another to avoid engaging, trying, hoping, so they won't have to feel the pain of "failing". And by doing so they fulfill their own sad prophecy.

There's my problem. Can I call you Dr. House?
posted by madred at 4:30 PM on April 27, 2010


« Older Netflix on Wii -- How did I di...   |  I'm selling a cell phone on eB... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post