Now how do I get sex and relationships off my mind?
March 5, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I want to stay single. I'm keeping myself busy. Now how do I get and keep sex and relationships off my mind?

After this last breakup, I’ve decided to give singleness a shot. I’m in my mid-20s and, until now, haven’t been single for longer than a month in about five years. The relationships I have been in were, each in their own special ways, both great and distinctly unhealthy. Before those five years it was one long dry spell punctuated by short affairs with other men’s girlfriends. I’ve had enough. So, I’m doing everything suggested: socializing, regularly going to museums, rock shows, dance clubs, watching good films, reading good books, developing constructive hobbies, etc. etc. Except the problem is that relationships (and, more often, sex) are always on my mind throughout all these activities. All. The. Damn. Time. I feel like Woody Allen’s character in Deconstructing Harry.

This is why I could never stay single before. This is also why I consistently make a mess (read: become desperately infatuated) whenever I try to have a physical thing with someone who isn’t already a friend. And I’m out of those sorts of friends - well, I’m still friends with them but I’m pretty much the Last Man Standing in my social circles. That used to make sad and angry, but I’m glad to say that’s not the case anymore. I’m happy for my friends and I am not envious of nor begrudge their relationships. I've gotten past the social entitlement of "where's mine?!"

I honestly want to be single. I want to stop being dependent on relationships to make my life complete. Plus I’m an emotional wreck right now and really do not want to inflict myself on anyone who is not a close friend. While that may sound like a low-self-esteem thing, I’m currently being treated for bipolar disorder and the medication works wonders but I'm still a (functioning!) ball of nerves and neuroses. Plus my mom just got seriously – and possibly permanently – ill and while her husband is taking great care of her, I doubt anyone goes through something like this all faculties intact. So, as you can see, bad time to date. Bad time to hook up knowing my history with it.

So, how do I stop the constant thinking-about-sex-and-relationships?

(Yes. Therapy. What else?)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Isn't thinking about sex pretty much the human condition?

Thinking about to a debilitating degree is one thing (and therapy should help you if that's the issue), but being single doesn't mean never thinking about sex. It just means thinking about it and/or having it outside the confines of a relationship.
posted by sallybrown at 10:26 AM on March 5, 2010


the way i see it, sex and relationships is kind of a "default" condition for humans; if you want to fight it, you need to take on an enormous personal project that requires the kind of ongoing focus and absorption that previously you had spent on relationships.

I'd suggest some form of trying to save the world. Seriously, its ambition on that level that can be worthy of competing with the otherwise default human condition.
posted by jak68 at 10:32 AM on March 5, 2010


Have you tried meditation? Seems to me that's how a lot of people do it.
posted by ropeladder at 10:39 AM on March 5, 2010


Keep yourself busy. It should keep you from having those lonely moments where you wish someone were there with you to snuggle, spoon, or otherwise get friendly with. I agree with Jak68...a personal project could work out well, or maybe volunteer somewhere. Do all the things you couldn't do when you were in a relationship. Just stay busy and keep your mind focused on things other than yourself.

And when that fails, masturbation.
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:40 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and I don't mean to be glib with the masturbation thing, sorry if I came off that way! I'm not clear if you want total abstinence or just no partnered sex for a while.)
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:42 AM on March 5, 2010


I honestly want to be am conflicted about being single.

Which isn't to say that you don't want to be single, but if you weren't also interested in being in a relationship it wouldn't be on your mind so much.

Rather than just trying to blanket out conflicting thoughts, you may want to recognize that you're going to be leaning in both directions for some time to come. Just make sure to stay present and don't make unwise short term moves because of how you're feeling at any given moment.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:55 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I’m currently being treated for bipolar disorder and the medication works wonders but I'm still a (functioning!) ball of nerves and neuroses.

I'm going to suggest that you examine the possibility that these dramas you create regarding sex and women are all about avoiding the very difficult feelings you have to deal with. If this is so, I suggest you allow yourself to feel the difficult emotions rather than escape them through sex, or worse, through the obvious drama that is affairs with other people's partners.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know this feeling. I know it very well. It is so normal.

You said you haven't been single for longer than a month. Well, that's just it. Time. This will take time. You're doing everything you should be doing. Keep doing it. For awhile, it will feel weird, maybe even a little forced. But you'll come to appreciate those moments alone and those fun, interesting times with friends. One day you'll have a moment when you'll say to yourself "I'm alone, and I am totally content right now." And you'll feel really good about it. And those moments will start to happen more frequently. It takes getting used to. It takes time.

It sounds like you're going through a lot right now, and it must feel even more daunting with your mom getting sick. It's natural for us to crave the kind of emotional support you get from a significant other in times of crisis. This could be part of it. Of course, there's therapy, and talking can be helpful. But I don't think you necessarily NEED that. Reach out to friends or family members for support. Keep giving yourself that you-time that you need. But don't overthink this. This is a process.

As far as the sex thing is concerned - to quote Woody Allen: "Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love." Can also be really relaxing. And fantasizing alone can be a lot of fun.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 11:29 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm in a really similar place. The only way I've been able to reconcile with being single is just living through it. Time, really. At first I really despised having alone time because I'd start to wish that I were spending it with a significant other- for the sex, or the closeness, whatever. It's slowly changed to where I'm starting to revel in the time I have to myself. There are good days and bad days where I revert to my lonely self, but the good days are starting to outnumber the others.
When I was in the relationships, I noticed I lost a lot of the things I was once obsessed with (reading, good TV shows, tinkering with computers, etc.). The obsession sort of transferred to the relationship and that's where I put most of my energy. Now that I'm out of the relationships, I find that I can take the obsession over the loss and put it back into some of the old stuff I really used to enjoy. I'm starting to really look forward to having time back to focus on those things.

A favorite quote of mine from a related question a while back: "Loneliness sucks. You can't fill it. I'm sorry. It does get better though, so keep your eye on that prize, all by your badass lonesome."

Hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by pyrom at 11:35 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was in a very similar situation as you about a year and a half ago. The first few months are a bit frustrating, especially if you were coming from a serious relationship where getting sex and intimacy was as easy as getting a Coke™ from the fridge.

The main thing is you build you friendships, and stay close with your family, these will provide the emotional support needed that you would get from a SO. Modern society puts a lot of pressure on people to be in relationships, dating, married, etc. so you'll run the gauntlet of being bombarded by images, music, and media showing happy couples. It's kinda like They Live once you realize that you're under a lot of pressure to be in a relationship, I think its easier to just go the other way and buck the trend until you're ready.

Let your time alone be a time where you rebuild yourself; become someone better, become well-read, become skilled, volunteer, travel, exercise, do all the things you wanted to do that your ex wasn't on board with.

It DOES get easier.
posted by Scientifik at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Be very clear and committed to your reasons for staying single. You must have some core or positive value that is inspiring this choice. Focus, as much as possible, on that. What? Self-development and self-discovery? Devoting one's energies to helping others? Getting the highest score in World of Goo? What inspires you to set aside that part of your life?

And once you are clear, then quit trying not to think about sex and relationships. Acknowledge and honor these thoughts and then gently let them pass. Don't push them out. Don't cling to them and perseverate. Don't pass any judgement on them other than to look them in the eye and call them by name. You owe them nothing and they have no power over you that you do not give them yourself.

Treat such thoughts as clouds passing across the sky. They are just as inevitable and just as natural. And just as substantive.

Then get back to your core motivation or value. It is not the thoughts of sex that make you suffer, it is your attachments and expectations about them that make you suffer.

Now that I think of it, you can practice this concept by meditating as suggested above. Do that.
posted by cross_impact at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Btw, the idea that you *should* be single to "work on yourself" or "learn about your issues" or for whatever reason of the week that people give is not based on anything whatsoever, it's just untested conventional psychological wisdom that doesn't really make sense if you think about it much. Most humans really didn't spend much time single for most of our evolution. There's no reason you *have to* be single if you are unhappy being single.

And you know what, everyone needs relationships to make their life complete-- these don't always have to be romantic relationships, but we *are by nature* dependent on each other and the idea that you "must love yourself before you can be loved" is a bunch of malarky, again, with no evidence other than that psychologists started making the claim.

We're a social species who are inherently interdependent. When we evolved, a lone human was a soon to be dead human. This notion of emotional self-sufficiency is absurd: yes, you can become too dependent on others and use other people's problems to escape, but the idea that we don't need each other for emotional health is a myth.
posted by Maias at 4:16 PM on March 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Try visiting prostitutes. It may take you a few visits to get over some awkward feelings, but it can be very rewarding once you reach that point. Make sure prostitution is legal where you live, though.
posted by cow at 8:17 PM on March 5, 2010


Working out can give you the physically exhausted endorphin rush.

Massage can give you the benefits of human touch without the complication of relationships.

With time, you will become more used to this and will learn to deal with it in new ways, and even to appreciate aspects of solitude.
posted by heatherann at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2010


Btw, the idea that you *should* be single to "work on yourself" or "learn about your issues" or for whatever reason of the week that people give is not based on anything whatsoever, it's just untested conventional psychological wisdom that doesn't really make sense if you think about it much.

But in individualistic contemporary societies, in which one is expected to have a strong personal identity and in which there is broad choice in whom one pairs up with and what life path one may take (which is affected by who one's partner/spouse is), there may be some benefit in spending some time single to "work on yourself." So it's not necessarily "malarkey."
posted by jayder at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


i am in the same exact place. i have not been single for a total of 7 years now....i went from my first boyfriend to my last one within 2 months of each other. my friends joke that i am a serial monogamist and, looking back, that joke seems a little pathetic to me now. i am nearing a month on my recent breakup and have finally been ok with being home. i have redecorated and am currently getting new things to spruce up my house. i've also gone out with friends or had them over 5-6 times a week, i have yet to be ok with being at home alone for more than a day or two a week. the only problem i have had is that some of my guy friends are coming out of the woodwork and i think are spending time with me to see if they have a shot. but, like you, i have decided to stay single....for the next year. it is my personal goal just to spend time on myself and to see if i have the resolve to turn a guy down for myself and not get caught up on the "he likes me, he really, really likes me" feeling.

i suggest you keep doing what you are doing. and invest in a hobby or something that will teach you to enjoy your own company. i am a fan of sculpting and drawing. art has a way of being a distraction, so you might want to try that. if not art, take cooking classes! someone else mentioned working out and that is also a great idea. i commend you for what you are doing, what we are both doing. having spent so much time putting someone else first in your life, especially for so long, you have a tendency to lose sight of yourself, your needs, your interests, and even your passions outside of that someone. an ex's mom always told me that "you can't take care of anyone unless you are taking care of yourself 100%" and i think she is dead on about that.
posted by penguingrl at 2:28 PM on March 6, 2010


Cheggit.net, empornium.us... these are some very NSFW sites dedicated to helping people through situations like your own. Honestly, though, being self-satisfied and exploring with your own body can help take the edge off the sexual side of things.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:51 PM on March 6, 2010


Could you focus on specifics? WHAT EXACTLY do you miss about being in a relationship?

After my last breakup, I really missed having someone to snuggle with at night.
So, I started letting the dog sleep on the bed. (she could hardly believe her good fortune - and I get a lot of pleasure out of her enthusiasm to get into bed at night and 'snuggle mom'.)

I had gotten into the habit of txt mssging my husband on breaks, etc.
So I talked to my mom about it, and we started txting each other 'luv u' and etc. - the little notes I used to send / receive previously (that made me feel good).
I also set up a twitter account to receive texts.

After being dumped, I've found its the little things that really add up, and really hurt.

Perhaps you could break it down into pieces, and find solutions to the little things? Maybe it would help you obsess less.
posted by saragoodman3 at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


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