I really don't want to end up alone. What can I start doing to break this generational cycle?
I’m scared of ending up alone. I know this is a common fear, but I feel like mine is founded in generations of unsatisfied, lonely, women. I was raised by my mom and grandmother, and while they were both independent, intelligent, and attractive, neither of them ever settled into a long-term, loving partnership. The consensus on metafilter usually tends to be “don’t worry if you haven’t found that person yet, date and do OKcupid and you will find love!” but I’m really wary about embracing that optimism. My mom and grandma dated and never found a person that they wanted to settle down with, and I’m worried that there’s something about us that impedes us from wanting to commit, some attitude or behavior or something that I’m not quite aware of, but want to identify so that I can work on it.
I think part of what contributed to their chronic singledom, and seems to be affecting my pattern in relationships as well, is the lack of a strong drive/need to be coupled. They were both very independent women, as am I, and while this is a good thing I also worry that it thwarts any urge to fully commit. I once had a girlfriend (I’m bisexual) say to me that my independence intimidated her. When I asked her what she meant, she said that it seemed like I didn’t NEED anyone. That resonated because it feels true – I get lonely but I would never stay in an unhappy relationship for the sake of having someone. What worries me is that maybe my definition of unhappy is too broad. Maybe my expectations about a happy, healthy, relationship are unrealistic, or maybe I didn’t learn to put up with the hardships of a relationship in order to reap the benefits.
I really want to settle down at some point. I’m in my late twenties, entering grad school in the next year or two, and would like to start a family in the next ten years. In my early-mid twenties I felt okay about ending relationships because we fought too much, or were sexually incompatible, or because none of my friends liked the girl who had a hard time respecting boundaries. And these all still seem like valid reasons to end something, but I wonder if any relationship will ever really be free of this crap? I know there will be things I don’t like about any person, and hard times in a relationship, and I’m okay with that, I just worry that I don’t have a good gauge of dealbreakers, or that I’m too optimistic that I’ll find someone more compatible.
I think in a way metafilter and okcupid may fuel this optimism. The standard response to unhappy-relationship questions is to end it and trust that you’ll find someone better. And online dating offers this world of possibilities so that it appears that you’ll never lack for dates again. But I’m starting to feel like this is all a paradox of choice, like there are too many possibilities open to us, so that we will never be happy with the choice we do make. I really don’t want to fall into that trap but I think I’m already there. I’m scared of never feeling satisfied with anyone.
I just want to feel like I am capable of a long-term, committed, stable, loving relationship, and I don’t feel right now like I am. I’m in therapy, my therapist says that I partner well, and she seems to support the reasons that I’ve had for breaking up with people. But I’m always the one breaking up with people, I’m tired of hurting them, and I’m getting scared to date anyone because I feel like it’s just a matter of time before I’ll feel unsatisfied and antsy. I’m scared that I’m too picky, too independent, or incapable of loving long and hard.
How can I get to a place where I am more open to commitment on an emotional level? I want it so bad on a rational level – I want a family, I want a life-partner – but emotionally I just never feel really invested. How can I avoid feeling like I’m ‘settling’ if I don’t find anyone that makes me feel otherwise? I would rather settle than be alone forever (again rationally, not emotionally. Emotionally I want to leave a relationship as soon as I feel like I’m settling, but rationally I want to commit to someone and not think about what other possibilities could be). How do I adjust my expectations of both myself and my partner so that I feel comfortable committing, so that I can handle relationship hurdles, and so that I don’t get the urge to flee when things go awry? And how can I learn to feel more sure in the person that I do choose to be with? I wish these things would fall into place naturally for me like they seem to for many people, that I would find love and that all of this would feel redundant, but I feel like maybe that’s just not the way it’s going to happen for me, and like maybe I have to do a lot of work on myself if I’m going to be able to commit to someone long-term.