I feel like my relationshipper is broken.
November 20, 2008 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 28 year old single guy living in a college town in the middle of nowhere. I moved here to date someone (and since broken up with her and dated several others), but now I'm staying because I've got a great job, a great living situation, and some good friends. Unfortunately, I'm really frustrated with dating.

Every single guy who reads the above-the-fold on this question has probably already thought: "Dude, if you can't get laid in a college town in the middle of nowhere..."

And that's exactly the problem. I can get laid left right and center (ok, well, I could before I let my waistline go to hell, but that's returning) if I wanted, but I don't really want it anymore. I'm surrounded by a sea of pretty little undergrads and sophomorically sophisticated grad students, and I've got absolutely no desire whatsoever to make their daddies hate me.

There's two parts to the puzzle. The first is that I finally sought medical/psych help last year for anxiety and depression, and this year, it's working. I used to self-medicate with alcohol and casual sex and I no longer drink alcohol. (As a result, I'm in bars a lot less.) The second is that earlier this year, I met (via Craigslist) a wonderful grad student and we ended up hooking up and having a wonderfully comfortable relationship of equals... and if I'm going to get into something, that's what I want. I just don't know how to get it. I could find all the sex I want if I wanted it. I don't want it anymore. I want that other thing, the thing I can't even describe, without having to deal with the drama and immaturity that's a consequence of dating someone who's eight years or so younger.

The woman I dated earlier this year moved away to do her postdoc, and while we've stayed in touch, aren't as close as we were... and weren't a perfect match anyway, just a convenient and comfortable one. Ok, put a gun to my head: Whenever we were together in the house or out on the town, we created kind of this bubble of calm and peace together. It really only worked when we were together, but even if we were just in the same room doing different things completely, it just made life feel smooth and crisp like a good set of freshly washed sheets.

Craigslist, by the way, is no longer a good way to meet people in the area. Match.com and other typical avenues are exhausted partially because this is a relatively small town where everyone pretty much knows each other, so people are MUCH less willing to post their pictures, and partially because all of these services seem to have become giant spam generators.

Other issues ... This area is also heavily red-state religious/conservative, and I'm decidedly blue-state FSM/left-leaning-libertarian. I've got friends (I do canine rescue volunteering, hang out with some people from a web forum, and have plenty of grad student & staff friends that are my age) but none of them are female & single or likely to be able to hook me up with anyone.

There just doesn't seem to be many older, single women in this town that match (or even can deal with) my religious beliefs, don't have kids, aren't seriously messed up barflies, or so on so forth. I've tried the dating in bigger cities an hour's drive away thing, but didn't seem to meet anyone willing to do it ... go figure. Part of it is probably that the women in this town are doing the same thing I am, which means they are never anywhere where I can find them... which leads me to...

So why am I still here? I can meet my financial goals by staying in this town. I have an easy commute, a yard for the dogs, I have an easy job that doesn't force me to work 80 hours a week, I have plenty of time for hobbies and social events. If I stay on track this year, I can be a homeowner next year and could even have it entirely paid for a few years later. My life goal is to be independently (if frugally) wealthy so that I can pursue my hobbies as I wish. I can get there far easier by staying here as opposed to moving to a larger community. Back on the other hand, in regards to making the decision to stay here, I feel like I'm being pressured into making a choice between pursuing the life I've always wanted independently and actively pursuing something that I got only a taste of and now want more of.

If I had to summarize all of this, I guess I'd say: I seem to have finally grown the hell up. What do I do now?
posted by SpecialK to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to say this, but if the town that you're in is still College Station, it's not going to happen. If it does, it will take years and years. A good number of people that I went to high school with went to school at A&M and ran into the same problem. They all decided that they could find the same cost/quality of living in other towns that aren't so openly hostile to liberals/newcomers. You'll find grad students that are cool, but they tend to leave as soon as their program is up. It sucks, and I like CS too, but I'd never live there mostly for the reasons that you're encountering. (Instead, I'm moving to the middle of nowhere, Vermont. It works.)
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2008

This is not the answer you want, but:

Financial goals are nice, and they give you money. Money's nice to have. But it's a means to an end, nothing more - and the end is being happy. You could have a house, easy. So what? What good is a house if you're not happy?

If you need a relationship to be happy, you're in a horrible place, geographically speaking. And you've tried basically everything. Okay, not quite everything, in that I might suggest dating the grad students anyway and hoping something works out.

But let's say something does - you're living in the kind of place that people leave. Even if you meet someone, there's going to be a very good chance she'll have to leave to have any kind of career of her own. This is super-true for grad students, but still true of basically anyone in such a town. So even if you figure something out, or get lucky... what then? Before too long, she's going to say "Sorry, SpecialK, I need to have a life, and as much as I like you, you're not worth sacrificing everything else for."

I know you're happy, and it's great that you know what makes you happy. But the chances of finding a good relationship that will last, and that it'll be with someone who'll want to stick around your small town forever, are dangerously low. Take your savings, find a good inexpensive city with an actual population of young-but-not-college folks, and find someone to love - ideally, someone who likes small-town life as much as you do, and is interested in moving to one as soon as you can track one down that fits both of your career needs.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:56 PM on November 20, 2008

If you want to find a woman to have a relationship with, and the obstacles to that seem to be related primarily to your (isolated) location, why would you want to buy a house in that town? What I mean is, if you want to keep your current job and save money, that's a pretty reasonable thing to do; but buying a house and paying it off (and, presumably, settling there permanently) sounds like you're intentionally locking in not only the economic advantages but also the social disadvantages of your current situation. Why not stay flexible?

Also, it seems likely to me that any future dating prospect of interest to you will be someone like your recent ex--a grad student, someone who won't want to stay in town after she graduates, and whose career probably won't even permit it. Again, I don't think it's a bad idea to stay in the town while it is enjoyable for you (you have a job you like, you can save money, maybe you'll meet a nice grad student), but putting down roots where most of the women you might "click" with are only really there for a few years seems unwise.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:04 PM on November 20, 2008

Why not go ahead and move to follow the (former) grad student who makes you so happy?
posted by amtho at 9:06 PM on November 20, 2008

Every single guy who reads the above-the-fold on this question has probably already thought: "Dude, if you can't get laid in a college town in the middle of nowhere..."

This way of thinking is at the core of your problem. People go through cycles.
The person you want is out there and you must trust that fate will deliver her to you.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:37 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

i'm going to chime in here...and tell you not to just pack up and leave your smallish college town in the middle of nowhere on the chance you'll meet someone elsewhere. i mean really, moving to some city just because there is a bigger pool of potential girlfriends sounds very odd to me. if being financially independent and being able to pursue your favorite hobbies is your life goal and you can attain it in your current town, follow that. doing the things that bring you joy are more important than going on a quest for "the relationship."
posted by ms.jones at 10:44 PM on November 20, 2008

i should add, as a disclaimer, that i tend to think that if things are meant to happen, they will. so i'm inclined to lean toward doing what makes you happy as opposed to "the quest" unless that is what you're after...
posted by ms.jones at 10:48 PM on November 20, 2008

You are stuck in a reality that will never meet your expectations.

I seem to have finally grown the hell up. What do I do now?

posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 11:03 PM on November 20, 2008

Even in a college town, there are people that live and work there and don't use it as a stopping point on their way to bigger and better places. There are utility companies, government offices, banks, etc, with full-time female employees in your age range. Maybe your pickings are slim because you're concentrating on grad students and university types? I don't know, just something in your post makes your search for a relationship sound somewhat mercenary or calculated... Maybe if you just relax and don't actively search for The One, you'll meet more women that way.

My best friend met her husband in a college town...he was a city bus driver and (she thought) not at all her type - she was working on an advanced degree at the time, and he was, well, a bus driver. But he started chatting with her during her daily commute, and they became friendly. Turns out he had a college degree, too, but had started working for the city right out of high school, and since he made very good money with excellent benefits driving the bus, and his work day was over by 3:00PM, he decided to stick with it. So I guess my point is to keep your options open and don't discount someone off the bat because they don't initially appear to measure up intellectually.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:55 PM on November 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

You seem to have done a fantastic job at assessing your situation but stop short of facing what I'm sure you don't want to, that is that you're just going to have to choose what you want more - money or a relationship. It may not be fair but those two things seem to be mutually exclusive in the life that you have at the moment. You can't have both so which is it going to be?

Two good things though - you're young enough that if you want to have both you can if you can wait on the relationship a bit. What if you stayed in the college town for five years? Don't buy a house but save as much money as possible. Then you're 33, very financially secure and VERY ready to finally have a fulfilling relationship. Any reasonable girl in her mid-late 20s will assess that situation as an incredibly positive one if she's looking for a husband. Or, if you don't want to wait, you can move. Life is all about choices and honestly it doesn't sound like you're in that desperate a situation. You just can't have everything that you want right now. Prioritize your goals and you'll be fine. (PS - My guess is that you wouldn't be single for long if you moved to the northeast!)
posted by smallstatic at 5:28 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Consider a long distance relationship with someone in Austin or Houston. The number pool is such that there is likely to be someone who is compatible with you. With a long distance relationship meet-ups are special events and you can get to know each other more slowly and deeply by telephone or IM communication.
How to find the person? I recommend start with your interests, animal rescue, politics. Look for meetings that involve these. Look for internet interest groups that match your own interests and include these areas. Don't dangle out there that you are looking for a life partner, but say something like, I enjoy theater and College Station doesn't have much variety. I'm looking for someone to hook-up with to see plays in the Houston area.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:20 AM on November 21, 2008

I am going to go against the grain here and say don't move, keep on trying to date grad students. Seriously, dude, the way you described your last relationship ("it just made life feel smooth and crisp like a good set of freshly washed sheets") sounds amazing and wholly enviable! You met one girl like that where you are now; you'll meet another. In fact, I can't imagine a better dating pool for you than grad students. The trick will be holding on to the relationship: the next time, once she moves for her postdoc, you'll have to go with her.
posted by footnote at 7:15 AM on November 21, 2008

Hey buddy.

You know I'm from the area so of course my hat goes in the ring for don't move. Honestly I've seen a lot of the world and you're in a prime corner of it at the moment. If you do insist on a move, I'd shoot for moving into that big city slightly to your south-east or perhaps another of the 2 further south. Or NYC, its nice here but not as warm.

I haven't been in your exact shoes but you should note the first 2 answers in my question, which I know you've seen before. Also note jessamyn's answer in particular (hint: she was right on all counts, especially the second point on her list. IRRESISTIBLE. please use this power for good and not evil.).
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:34 AM on November 21, 2008

Hah, dude, I could have written most of this post, as I am in a similar situation. I have pretty much given up on dating until/unless I move, though (everyone my age here is married), and I don't think I'll be doing that for at least a few more years, if ever. Oh well, I have my reasons for not moving for the next few, and I don't plan on doing so just to find a date if I like everything else about the area.

I think in your case, I'd recommend continuing to date grad students, but NOT buying a house and planning on settling down permanently in the town. When you meet one and she moves, it'd be great if you could move with her. I'm assuming you have some kind of university job (sounds like it), so when her job is less flexible and she has to move somewhere, you could probably find something compatible with a similar schedule in another town. That might be the best way for you to go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2008

Howdy! I have two siblings who gaduated from A&M eons ago (right before I went to UT). I know the Bryan/College Station area, but look: You're in the middle of Texas not that far from several cities (what dances_with_sneetches said) not to mention a few million people in small towns and exurbs. Co-eds and grad students? If you've --really-- met everyone in town, try Huntsville? Young professionals? You're not --that-- far from Conroe and the Woodlands. I know people who drive farther than that to go to work every day.

More than all that, maybe you've been limiting yourself by looking online. Maybe you've been limiting yourself by looking for women who are similar to you in outlook or who share your interests. There's something to the idea that "opposites attract," at least for people who are opposites in some areas. My partner didn't finish college, seldom reads, and can't spell worth a damn; I graduated with highest honors and went on to grad school. And if people couldn't love and nourish a relationship with those of different beliefs, then James Carville and Mary Matalin sure wouldn't still be together! There's some value to the idea of broadening your, what shall we call it, your "pool of potential candidates."
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm surrounded by a sea of pretty little undergrads and sophomorically sophisticated grad students, and I've got absolutely no desire whatsoever to make their daddies hate me

If this is your attitude towards women I would suggest to you that's your problem right there.

FWIW, I'm probably in the pool of women you'd be looking to date - 26 years old, educated, stable career, decidedly lefty - and that comment would put me right off. Forgive me if you don't normally say things like that and I'm taking it out of context, but frankly you come off as patronizing and contemptuous. The "grown up" women who are likely to be a match for grown-up you won't put up with that.

Just sayin'.
posted by AV at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2008

sophomorically sophisticated grad students

Agreed that your attitude ain't gonna get you far. Neither will your spelling. You don't have to be soph*o*moric to be sophisticated. Or vice versa. Don't sneer at people for getting an education.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:35 AM on November 25, 2008

Oh whoops. You did spell it right. I saw it wrong. My apologies. But the point stands: criticizing people for being "sophomorically sophisticated" when they are probably actual sophomores (or 2d year grad students) won't win you many dates.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:40 AM on November 25, 2008

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