If love is a battlefield, have I become a conscious objector?
October 28, 2009 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Heterosexual male in his early 30s after a long-term relationship finds himself not really interested in the opposite sex. Is this normal?

Some Background: It's been about a year since amicably ending a 10+ year relationship[1]. I decided to do the 'smart thing' and not rush into dating or random one night standards, which I managed to keep to, other than 6 months ago I had a small fling with a female friend[2] (who I have known for a few years) that lives in another country. Barring that, in the past year, I've found myself not really 'interested' in women, dating or nsa-wise.

I'm still sexually attracted to women, I've not suddenly become sexually attracted to men. I do miss having sex, but every women I've met since the relationship ended just doesn't seem to 'pique my interest', so to speak. I've meet some beautiful, smart and funny women in the past year, but all of them just don't interest me in anyway more than friends or acquaintances.

My friends have tried to 'hook me up' with ladies from time to time, usually ending in semi-disaster usually caused by me not being interested and sometimes complete oblivious. While it all makes for funny stories at the pub, they are[3], as am I, starting to wonder what is going on.

I am happy going through life right now as things are, my work is great, challenging and feels really fulfilling. I don't pine for someone/anyone to be with me. But I do wonder, is this a normal reaction for most people out of a long term relationship to go through?
Questions can be asked at throwaway email account (thatyarrthere[a-t]googlemail.com) if required.

1. We have no intention of getting back together. Nor am I in a desperate search to find her exact replacement.
2. While we enjoy each others company, neither of us are interested in a long distance relationship.
3. They aren't pressuring me to get back in the 'game'. They are just being good friends and are 'concerned'.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Very very normal. When I got out of my longish [5 year] relationship I didn't really date again for almost two years. Wasn't really interested in it, had my days full doing stuff. At some point, I met someone who pushed my buttons and something went click and I was dating again [or dating one person that I liked very much] but I was pretty much not interested in anyone before that point except maybe a small passing fancy here or there.

When I related this to other people, there were some nodding heads. At least one big of conventional wisdom I've heard says that it takes about a third as long to totally get over a relationship as the time you were in it [I'm sure many people have similar or even conflicting bits of advice along these lines] but that was pretty much my personal timeline.
posted by jessamyn at 3:38 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's not that you're "not interested in the opposite sex," you're just not interested in getting into another relationship right now. Yes, normal. And healthy, even.

Give yourself some time. Tell your friends that you're taking that time and that, while well-meaning, they need to give it a break.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:43 PM on October 28, 2009

You sound fine to me. You're just kind of on a bit of a break right now, some parts of you may still be finding their equilibrium with this "new normal" after a long relationship.

Just do what you're doing if it makes you happy, and things will fall into place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2009

Pretty normal. All kinds of things go into a relationship -- physical in the form of hormones and neurochemicals, mental in the form of memories that surprise you at the least opportune times -- and it takes time to get over those. Especially so when your last one broke up for a *reason*.

I had a year relationship break up, had a 'friend' who I slept with for a while before she moved away, and then took a year off before I even started looking again, much less got involved in anything.

I think the old salt about "best way to get over someone is to get under someone else" is decidedly not true when you're talking long-term relationships.
posted by SpecialK at 3:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Happened to me too. Nothing to worry about, it all comes again when needed. I even believe that this is part of the beneficial effects of doing "the 'smart thing' and not rush into dating or random one night" stands. Call it a 'reset' button.
posted by Namlit at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2009

sounds like you have a very solid handle on the whole situation -- so i'd say, trust how you feel, and enjoy the other facets of your life until you get "the spark" back...
posted by LittlePumpkin at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2009

Perfectly normal, even still in a relationship.

Take time, do what you want, with whoever you want to (within reason) and enjoy some "me" time.

If someone does come along, well hey, it happens, if not just bide your time.

Your friends are just being friends, either gently tell them to back off or take it with good humour.
posted by hardcode at 4:06 PM on October 28, 2009

Another vote for totally normal.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2009

Have you made it clear to your friends that you aren't looking for anyone right now?

Because, yeah, if a friend of mine wanted a girlfriend but got all vague and oblivious any time a real woman expressed an interest, then I might think something was up (not of the "dude must be gay" variety, since it sounds like that's on your radar for some reason; more like "dude seems to be tripping over his own feet an awful lot, I wonder if he could use some advice"). But not wanting to date is perfectly legitimate — and if the mere fact that you're not looking right now has them all "concerned" about you, then they need to back off a bit and mind their own business.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:16 PM on October 28, 2009

Very normal, and perfectly healthy.

There are a lot of folks, with the best of intentions, who believe very simply that being coupled is the optimal state of happiness for everyone, and since they care about you, they want you to be in that optimal state. Therefore: you should meet my cousin! This sounds nice, but it's really a one-size-fits-all approach to human happiness that has little resemblence to the more complicated state known as reality.

One significant problem with the whole "get over your ex by getting with someone else" approach is that it creates a chain of one relationship linked into the next, without sufficient time to mourn/process the end of the previous relationship and to develop a healthy, positive sense of yourself as a single person -- two things that can take years.

From my teens onward, I had the habit of racing from one relationship to the next (I started dating pretty much immediately after I separated from my now-ex-husband, for example), and I found that by my 30s this had led to a crazy accumulation of emotional baggage (seriously, like steamer trunks) that wound up being unhealthy and unhelpful in all sorts of ways. Finally taking several years off from relationships entirely and not dating again till I felt ready (not when my friends or family thought I was ready) wound up being one of the best things I ever did for myself -- it helped me to become a much happier, more confident, more contented person, which in turn benefited me enormously in finding the right relationship with the right person when I did get back to dating.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying: don't worry about it. I think you're doing exactly what you should be doing. When you want to get back to it, you will. And you -- and your future relationship(s) -- will be better for you having used this time well.
posted by scody at 6:17 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the "perfectly normal". I'm in a similar place, having left a five year relationship about 18 months ago. I've met some cool people and have had a couple flings, but I find that I'm enjoying my time off too much to get into anything serious. I'm in no hurry. I'm fine. You're fine too.
posted by chrchr at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2009

Adding to the landslide: Completely normal.
posted by Houstonian at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2009

This not only sounds normal, but healthy too.
posted by thisperon at 1:23 AM on October 29, 2009

Another person here to chime in with "perfectly normal". I too am in a similar place - had an 8-year relationship, broke up five years ago, and apart from a 6-month stint with a sweet but eventually too-different guy four years ago, then nothing since. Enjoying singlehood has been a wonderful growing experience, one I'm grateful to have given myself. Like you, I just haven't been interested, either. Still meet people, like them as neat people, but no real spark.

I'd started to worry about it, having hit that five-year mark and wondering if there weren't something wrong I should look into. Funnily enough, yesterday this wonderful single man who I've appreciated for a while, but never really approached for various reasons (that I now see are silly), flirted with me like all get-out. My immediate emotional reaction was "RAWR!! Funny, smart, honest, sexay man *purrr*" And then, "Oh! I can still react like that. Phew!" Heh. Not sure yet what will come of it, but even just that initial spark between us reassures me.

So yes, as others have said, follow your own instincts and heart, don't push yourself into anything. Things will come in their own time. Being single can be a grand adventure.
posted by fraula at 1:45 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

What jessamyn said - in fact, that was almost word-for-word what I would've written, except that my personal rule of thumb is that it takes around 50% of the length of a relationship to get over it & be ready to get involved again, not 33%. That's only my own pattern, though. Others' mileage may vary, obviously.

One thing I might add is that there could be a maturing process at work here. I think that when people are younger the main criteria for hooking up with somebody are that they're (1) available and (2) suitably attractive to you. That's about it. So, there tends to be a lot more relationship churn, as you get together & break up with people who - in the cold light of day - were never that good a match for you.

In your 30s, some of that urgency & recklessness has died away, so it's easier to be more relaxed about things & bide your time, waiting for somebody who really does push your buttons. This might be what you're going through, especially if, as you say, "every woman I've met since the relationship ended just doesn't seem to 'pique my interest', so to speak. I've meet some beautiful, smart and funny women in the past year, but all of them just don't interest me in anyway more than friends or acquaintances"

If you do a thought experiment in which your younger self jumps at the opportunity of being with any of these women you mention, then I'd guess that you've just become a bit 'choosier', by which I mean you're more in tune now with what you are looking for in a woman & in a relationship.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:36 PM on November 1, 2009

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