March 10, 2010 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I've been in only one relationship. It lasted three years, and it was fabulous in many ways. Now that it's over, I'm not sure how I can ever have that again.

I know there's no 'the one,' and that there MUST be many men out there who could make me happy.

The problem is, when I left my ex six months ago we had been happy and comfortable and had built up a rapport over the course of many years, full of little in-jokes and shared experiences and all kinds of nice little things. At any given moment there was a whole well of stories and memories to draw on. The space between us was full of things like this, I guess you could say.

We broke up due to differing on big-picture, long-term type stuff. So even though the day-to-day was great, the future just wasn't there. But in my darkest moments now I wonder if it was worth breaking up after all, because...

I can't imagine how someone I just met could ever compare to that. How am I supposed to invest myself in a stranger when the last person I was with, was my best friend? I don't know how I got to that point, from stranger to best friend, with my ex. And I can't even imagine it happening again.

I know that this is coming up for me now since I've begun dating again. I've never 'dated' like this before, I just met the very few people I've been on dates with at parties before.

I went on three or four dates. Every guy, even the ones I thought were ok, I just could not muster up any enthusiasm for them at all. I feel like I'm slogging through this process. I guess I'm supposed to just keep going until I find someone I like more than those guys... but there was nothing WRONG with them!

I met them online due to my college being a terrible place to meet guys. I thought that would be perfect because I could see how compatible we were. On paper I should have gone nuts over all of them. But I just didn't care. I was excited to meet them, I met them and I just didn't feel a thing.

I don't think I've ever felt 'a spark' when meeting someone, not even the ex. So how am I supposed to know if I'm dismissing someone for good reasons, or if I'm just holding these guys up to a standard that they could never meet?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
put yourself out there and don't over analyze things. for pretty much everyone, dating is like finding a gem on a bed of pebbles. the more rocks you look at, the better chances you have at finding that gem. you have looked at only 3-4 rocks so far :)
posted by spacefire at 8:07 AM on March 10, 2010

I don't think I've ever felt 'a spark' when meeting someone, not even the ex.

So what made you want to have a second date with your ex? Was it that you'd never had a relationship to compare it against?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:09 AM on March 10, 2010

You're comparing the newest of new relationships with a comfortable established one. OF COURSE it won't compare. How could it? Realize that the effect of this story will be to ensure that you never find another relationship. And perhaps you really don't want one right now.

So rather than dating and hating it and telling yourself how much you don't care about any of these people -- decide that you are NOT dating. Because it sounds like you are not ready yet.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2010

6 months ago? It's normal to feel this way. Give it another year or two. You'll have changed/developed as a person, on your own. Things will probably start to look up.
posted by nihraguk at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2010

Keep in mind that you are still grieving your relationship with your ex, even if it doesn't feel like it/ You're still healing and growing as a person -- it's only been 6 months since your three-year relationship ended -- so it's normal to have feelings like "I don't see how I can have that again."

The thing is, you can.

Relationships evolve over time, and if a relationship is making you happy on a day-to-day basis, you tend to stay in it. That doesn't make you best friends immediately, as I'm sure you weren't best friends with your now-ex immediately.

It does mean, though, that you share something that is making you happy. Over time, if the relationship lasts, that grows.

Expecting every relationship to culminate in what you had in your last relationship is also a mistake, though. Every relationship is different, just like every person is different. Accepting each for what it is and seeing where it goes from there is probably the best place to start from, though.

Consider that you might not be ready for another relationship as serious as the one you just ended, though. It certainly sounds like you're not from your post. You can't muster enthusiasm for any of the people you've seen.

This doesn't necessarily indicate you should stop dating for now. I think it does mean that you should shift your expectations, though. Try thinking of your "dates" as hanging out with cool people that you enjoy rather than "potentially my next best friend and partner."

Good luck!
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:18 AM on March 10, 2010

Seconding the taking time over getting back into dating.

When you do go on another date, try and enjoy the moment, enjoy it for what it is, rather than wondering how much time it might take to get this new guy "up to standard" ie, to where you were with your ex.

As someone who is settled in a relationship, I do sometimes envy that early wondering and frission, and then the passion and madness that follows.

Painting a picture can be as fun as looking at it when it is finished, so when you're ready, take the brush and enjoy every stroke, don't wait for the masterpiece to emerge.
posted by greenish at 8:30 AM on March 10, 2010

People that tell you that there's lots of fish in the sea are grossly underestimating how BIG the sea is and HOW MANY fish are in it. You know the world is a big place. But guess what? It's even bigger than you think it is. I don't care how big you think it is. It's bigger than that.

Congrats, you're normal. Keep dating, keep enjoying yourself, stop thinking about looking for the ONE. Just keep kissing frogs. One of them will be a prince. In the meantime, frogs! Thousands of them! Look at 'em all! They're all over the place, doing all sorts of wonderful things you never imagined you might like. All kinds of frogs! Whoooo!

Side note...

I met them online due to my college being a terrible place to meet guys.

Try deliberately doing something you don't normally do. You like libraries and bookstores? Go to a football game. You like bars? Hit a coffee house instead. That sort of thing.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:31 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

People often move in patterns. Your pattern might be to transition from friend to relationship again. Consider making friends with a number of the acquaintance guys in your life.

This plan helps you because:

1) You may feel that spark by getting to know them without the pressure.
2) You may not feel that spark but eventually end up in a relationship the same way you did before.
3) If neither of these happen, you've just got new friends. That's not a bad outcome either.
posted by Hiker at 8:33 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

How am I supposed to invest myself in a stranger when the last person I was with, was my best friend?

You're not supposed to. Ideally you wouldn't invest yourself in anyone until after you got to know them a bit more, after which they'd lose the 'stranger' tag. :)
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2010

Yes, you can have it again. Yes, there is someone out there (in reality, lots of them). As long as you don't sabotage yourself with "oh, woe is me, it'll never be that good again". Be open to the possibility, give it more than six months, and, ferchrissake, you're in *college*...don't be so quick to need to settle down.
posted by kjs3 at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2010

You're in college. That was your high school boyfriend?
posted by anniecat at 8:47 AM on March 10, 2010

When my (young, short) marriage ended, I was terrified in many of the same ways you are - I was losing my best friend and I would never find anyone that enjoys X, Y, Z with me and "gets" me in the same way.

Turns out he was not the only person in the world who would go camping with me. Duh, right? But when you're losing that part of your life, it is hard to imagine having someone else there to fill the void, whether it be friend or significant other. I made new friends, and ended up dating one of them (and still am!). For me it was all about getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new friends, as Cool Papa Bell suggests. You will find this person, and although it may take some time and effort, it will happen.
posted by sararah at 8:56 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unsure what "the big picture:" was that caused a breakup. Perhaps you need to address this because it might come up again when you meet someone you dig.
posted by Postroad at 9:03 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

"I am looking for friends. What does that mean--'tame'?" said the little prince.

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."

"'To establish ties'?"

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
_ _ _

"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.

"You must be very patient," replied the fox. - The Little Prince
You'll meet someone else, but all those in-jokes and memories take time. Piece by piece you'll build them together.
posted by yeti at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2010 [27 favorites]

I know exactly what you're going through and experienced it after my first long-term significant relationship. 'I miss _______ about my ex,' 'Remember how she used to __________,' 'I don't want to go through all the effort of telling someone everything about me again, especially if we might just break up,' etc. etc. The thing is, dating is supposed to be fun, and all the stuff that you do that creates a deep and lasting and meaningful relationship is stuff that you want to do because it's fun, not because it creates a deep and etc. Don't compare new people to your ex, although the inclination is natural, and don't compare your interaction with new people to the interaction you had with your ex. Have fun with people and get to know them and let them get to know you because that process itself is enjoyable, not because you hope that down the road it will someday hopefully compare to your ex.

As I said, I have gone through this same thing. But now I am happily married, and looking back, I remember things about my ex that shock me with how unsatisfactory they were, and I am much happier now. You will be, too, in time. Good luck.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:57 AM on March 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

--Love doesn't run out, it's not finite, rather it only exists when we give it and take it
--You have experienced what it's like to be in a good partnership
--You have learned interpersonal skills that will be invaluable in the future
--It will never be the same, which is very sad
--It will probably be good, and very different
--You don't have to like anyone, even if they're good on paper or "deserve it", you have the right to withhold your time and affection from anyone for any reason
--He will probably always be the one who got away
--Life will be okay anyway
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:00 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as always--have fun.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:01 AM on March 10, 2010

It's hard to break up after having a strong and long relationship - it's like we're losing a big part of who we have become. Take this time to learn who you really are and what you want. Once you feel at home with yourself (without the ex), it will be easier to have fun in a relationship.

It sounds silly, but try making a list of what you are looking for in a relationship. What did you like about your last one, and what did you not like? Divide these into two categories - things you would be willing to compromise about, and things you would not. Then, keep those lists far in the back of your mind and just have fun dating.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:24 AM on March 10, 2010

You sound like me. Turns out I was kinda gay.

But anyways, if you can have it once, you can have it again. You've proven that you're capable of a loving, healthy, committed relationship, and you're realistic and rational about why it didn't work out.
posted by whalebreath at 10:25 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're ready to date yet. Give it time!

Some people love the first-kiss part of relationships, the NEW NEW NEW. I like the old and settled and shared jokes and wordless conversations.

The beauty of being an old lady is that I can tell you that even though you think it will never happen again, it will. You just have to give it, and yourself, TIME.
posted by micawber at 10:28 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

That feeling of never finding anyone very normal.

The problem is, when I left my ex six months ago we had been happy and comfortable and had built up a rapport over the course of many years, full of little in-jokes and shared experiences and all kinds of nice little things.

You answered yourself right here - over the course of many years - that happy comfortable place of in-jokes takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. But it shouldn't be rushed. The journey's part of the fun.

So how am I supposed to know if I'm dismissing someone for good reasons, or if I'm just holding these guys up to a standard that they could never meet?

You are most likely holding these guys up to a standard. Perhaps not one they can't meet, but how will you know? Maybe they'll pass that standard and leave it coughing in the dust.

When you catch yourself thinking of all the good things you shared with your ex, it might help to remember the things that caused you to part. They sounded very important to you, and if he wasn't willing or able to compromise on them, then parting was the thing to do. It might help if you wrote out a list of qualities you are looking for, the things that are important to you in a relationship, and deal breakers. Just for your own edification.

6 months isn't very long. One ex took me a good 2.5 years to get over...and then I met my future ex-husband. I think that right now you shouldn't be focusing on finding the One - focus on meeting people, lots of people, and having fun. Take care of yourself, and keep an open mind. Sometimes that 'spark' can sneak up on you when you weren't expecting it.
posted by noxetlux at 10:55 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm like you where it's always felt off to me to just jump in and date someone I don't really know; everyone I've ever been interested in I knew for years first. You could just try making new friends and maybe one of those friendships will lead somewhere. That would be a lot less pressure on you, too. You don't necessarily have to stop dating or anything either if you want to keep options open, just something to consider.
posted by Nattie at 10:55 AM on March 10, 2010

I don't have an answer, but thank you for posting the question! I've been wondering the exact same thing since my breakup. It's nice to know it's not just me.
posted by buzzkillington at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I could have written this exact question a few years ago. I couldn't imagine ever feeling excited about a guy again. I never felt attracted to anyone and would come home and cry after dates. It took me almost two years to recover, so I think 6 months is still very early and your feelings are completely normal.

I felt like I was a weirdo who would never care about anyone again even though everyone told me that with time this would pass. After about 2 years, I started feeling a lot better and more confident. After 3 years, I met someone and it felt like we had known each other forever even when we just met. I used to think of the whole "getting to know you phase" as drudgery, but with the right person it's a lot of fun.

I really think you will recover from this. In a million years, I never thought I would recover, but I did. Six months is still early. I know it's tough, but give it some more time and try not to be too hard on yourself. The day will come when you'll find a great partner.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:38 PM on March 10, 2010

No, it will never happen again. But all kinds of things equally amazing and entirely different will happen instead.

You can rock the single life, eating things that your ex hated, living somewhere he wouldn't have liked, taking up hobbies that you wouldn't have thought of before because you would have been too busy watching a DVD with him on the couch.

You can enjoy the excitement of meeting new people and discovering more about them.

You can enjoy getting to know someone that little bit better, having that OO SHINY NEW crush, finding out what they like in bed... the first "I love you", the first holiday together.

It will never be the same as what you had before... and it shouldn't be, because hopefully you have grown and learned in all this time. You're a different person now than when you first met your ex!

As for investing yourself in strangers: don't. Make more friends instead! Give people time to grow on you (and you on them).
posted by emilyw at 2:09 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

emilyw is right- that exact feeling may never happen again. But you will never be in that same place at that same age again, so maybe that's a good thing. Dating does suck, in a way, but in another better way, it is the best thing you can do to meet and learn about a lot of different people so that when you meet that next person, you know yourself just a little better and will be able to see when that great person comes along.
posted by gjc at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2010

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