Having a (not that) unconventional relationships
July 6, 2010 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I don't want a normal life, I guess, but it'd be nice to have romantic relationships. Is it possible?

I'm a straight male, of about average attractiveness I think. All of a sudden I've found myself in my thirties and I'm feeling alone and lonely. Being alone isn't so bad, but I'd like to be in a relationship! However, I don't want to have kids, and I don't really want to buy a house either, or do that kind of settling down stuff. It seems like other people my age do and because of this the all the women I've dated in the last few years have broken it off with me, or I've broken it off with them. All of a sudden things are serious and I can't just have a simple relationship like I could in my twenties. Not that I mind, or that I'm afraid of commitment, but it seems like commitment means more than just commitment to all the women I've met!

Sorry to stereotype, this is just my personal experience to be clear. In fact, I don't want to believe this stereotype. But I've given up on dating sites--it's hard enough to just get someone to respond to me let alone find someone who feels similarly. And meetup.com has been a bust for me, meeting people through those channels or through friends is useless.

I guess this is degenerating into something that is little more than whining, sorry. But my problem is really that I've started to withdraw from expressing any sort of interest in women because I have started to believe that no woman I meet will be interested in sharing my "vagabond" lifestyle. It's not like I don't have a job or am irresponsible or anything, it's just that my idea of commitment is different. My question boils down to, how do I get over this attitude problem I have, and how do I figure out really early on whether we will fit so that I'm not just going to disappoint them and myself because I don't want all that?

posted by innocuous_sockpuppet to Human Relations (52 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This woman, who does not want to settle down and have children, she exists, she's out there. Don't get down.
posted by mreleganza at 1:12 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

how do I figure out really early on whether we will fit so that I'm not just going to disappoint them and myself because I don't want all that?

Bring it up in conversation early on. Just don't talk about whether you'll settle down together.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:14 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm a chick. I don't have a house, don't want kids, neither does Mr. M.

Women generally look for stability and a guy who's not a bum. On dating sites, you want to weed out the asshat who's looking to not work and sponge off women. I have dated men who make less money than me. I have been the primary earner of a household. I only cared when the dude wasn't getting off his duff to do his part.

When you say don't want to do "that kind of settling down stuff" and you want to find a woman to share your "vagabond" lifestyle, what does that mean, exactly? Can you hold down a job? Do you live paycheck to paycheck? Do you not have savings? You need to worry less about what "people" think and know what YOU want. To me, it sounds like you don't even know what you want, so you can't present yourself as a confident fellow.

I would guess that you are probably replying to the wrong types of women on dating sites, which is why it's "useless". What does your profile say about YOU? What do YOU want? If your profile is bleah you're not exactly going to get a response from Heidi Klum, dude.
posted by micawber at 1:17 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm unclear about what you do want. You just want to date the same woman, but not ever move in with her? Do you want an open relationship?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on July 6, 2010

You don't say at all what kind of relationship/commitment you are interested in. If you could provide more information, that'd probably be helpful. Maybe start by explaining what a "simple relationship" or "vagabond" lifestyle is? On preview, if all you mean is not "settling down" (getting married, buying a house, having kids), these women exist. See below.

The simple solution is to be honest with the people you are going on dates with, preferably on or before the first date. And, of course, try to be more clear with them than you have been with us. This just sounds like you don't know what you are looking for.
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:18 PM on July 6, 2010

Best answer: My first thought is that I'm reading a lot here about what you *don't* want in a relationship, I am not seeing a lot of what you *do* want. What if you made a list, with only concrete things in it? What I am reading here doesn't suggest that you're so far outside the norm that you can't find someone to be in a relationship with, but there are lots of fuzzies that might scare someone off.

Here's what's concrete:

You want a girlfriend.
You do not want to have kids. (Cool, there are women out there who don't want to have kids!).
You do not want to buy a house. (Cool, there are women out there who don't want to buy a house).

Here's what's fuzzy and could mean a lot of different things to different people:

"I don't want to do that settling down stuff" - what exactly does that mean? You're not into monogamy? Or you're willing to not date anybody else until someone better/hotter/more interesting comes along? You don't want to move in together? You only want to spend 3 nights a week max together? You are cool with living together but pets are off of the table? Being vague about this is going to cause a lot of women anxiety, and I think that's natural. Nobody wants to get attached to someone with the worry that 2 years in they'll break up with you for an unforseen reason and say "well, I told you I didn't want to do all of that settling down stuff."

"My idea of commitment is different."

What, exactly, is your idea of commitment? It really does mean a lot of things to different types of people -- are you talking this out with the women you date?

I think if you visualize your ideal relationship with more fidelity, you'll be a lot more likely to get what you want. It sounds to me that you have a fuzzy idea of what a happy relationship is, and are framing it all around what you don't want. For a person who wants a non-traditional happy relationship, that happy relationship is built, brick by brick, with purpose and vision from end to end. There is no cultural map for a non-traditional relationship. You don't have to fall in line with the pre-fab dream that is presented to you every night on primetime TV, but if you don't want that, you'd better present an alternative. You can't leave that up to chance.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:20 PM on July 6, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: If I'm reading this right, you're having trouble finding women who are looking for a relationship that isn't ultimately about buying a house and having kids.

Assuming that, I'd warn you to not make too many assumptions. In the couples I know in their late twenties and early thirties with mismatched desires, there are just as many, if not more, women who are the partner in the couple that doesn't want kids and the more traditional settling down.

What I'm trying to say, is that you shouldn't assume what the default is for other people, and that there are way more women out there who don't want the white picket fence than you would otherwise assume.
posted by mercredi at 1:25 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: Quick answers:

me: responsible, has job, very employable, relatively successful in my field, not rich but not broke.

monogamy: yes.

settling down stuff: includes staying in one place (city, country, etc.) for too long, buying a house, having kids (these are things I don't want to be clear). Probably more but that's what comes to mind.

Sorry to be vague!
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2010

Well, where are you meeting these women? If you're meeting them at bars near downtown office buildings, then yeah, this might be a problem. But there are lots of places to meet people- someone you meet at some remote campground in Alaska, or for that matter a couchsurfing meetup in your city, might be a lot more your type.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:31 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: What, exactly, is your idea of commitment? It really does mean a lot of things to different types of people -- are you talking this out with the women you date?

Sorry, again to be vague--it means having open communication, sharing some general life-goals, not cheating, being good to each other, but still having our own lives and friend/family relationships and personalities.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 1:32 PM on July 6, 2010

You still haven't really said what you are looking for... if I understand correctly you want a woman to date you exclusively, not live with you, and be okay when you move around the country, if not the world?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:33 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your second post helps a little, but you're still telling us what you don't want. Are you interested in meeting a woman who wants to travel the world on fabulous vacations? Do you plan to quite your job every few years and move to a different country, and want a woman who will follow you? Would you be interested in quitting your job to follow her if she wants to move someplace else? Do you want to live together in your non-bought home, or would you prefer to live separately? Are you interested in a long-distance relationship if you decide you want to live in different places? How much time do you want to spend with your partner? Do you want to share hobbies and interests with someone, or keep relatively separate lives? What do you like to do? In other words, tell us what it is about "having a relationship" that is attractive to you and what such a relationship would ideally look like for you. That'll allow us to give you more specific suggestions for where and how to meet women you're compatible with.
posted by decathecting at 1:41 PM on July 6, 2010

I think if you visualize your ideal relationship with more fidelity, you'll be a lot more likely to get what you want.

Agreed- have a solid idea of what you want and sell it. Right now, I see a lot of what you don't want- I don't want marriage, I don't want kids, I don't want real estate. You have a job but consider yourself a "vagabond" (might want to look up the definitions on that one, btw; I have a hard time seeing how those two things don't contradict). Without a well thought-out alternative, all the "don'ts" make it sound like you're scared of growing up, and that guy is going to have a hard time finding a long-term committed relationship.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:42 PM on July 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Two words, dude: Younger women.

It's working out pretty well for me.
posted by brand-gnu at 1:42 PM on July 6, 2010

You still haven't really said what you are looking for... if I understand correctly you want a woman to date you exclusively, not live with you, and be okay when you move around the country, if not the world?

I think he's been pretty clear at this point. He doesn't want a traditional suburban life, with the 2.4 kids and sedentary lifestyle that sort of thing typically entails.

Even as a 26 year old I know exactly what that means and how it tends to drastically reduce your dating pool of available women, because as he is finding, the majority of women, especially as they approach 30, do tend to want those things. Sure, there are women out there who do not, but they are few and far between. I would agree with drjimmy11, in that you might have to be more creative in where you meet people. I was also disappointed recently with OK Cupid in this regard because I thought it would be easier to screen for these type of free spirits, but the profile format seems to encourage homogeneity somehow....wish i had better advice, but like I said, i'm in the same boat.
posted by the foreground at 1:49 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think he's been pretty clear at this point. He doesn't want a traditional suburban life, with the 2.4 kids and sedentary lifestyle that sort of thing typically entails.

Yes, I understood that, but he seems to want the woman in the relationship to wait around for him, no matter where he goes, and not date anyone else. That is unusual.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

he seems to want the woman in the relationship to wait around for him, no matter where he goes, and not date anyone else.

He doesn't want to feel obligated to stay in the same city for his whole life. That doesn't seem too bizarre: lots of people move from one city to another at various points in their life. Presumably if he does so at a time in the future when he has a girlfriend, they'd move together. I don't see where he has said he would be the one moving around and the woman would need to "wait" for him.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want kids. We do have a house, but we travel roughly 40% of the year. I am currently writing from an apartment in Sweden while the house we own is in Houston, Texas.

One of the reasons I knew my husband was right for me is because he shared my vagabonding mindset. I am a freelance writer and his job affords us the opportunity to travel a lot. I couldn't believe a guy like that existed. It just took me a while to find him.
posted by Brittanie at 1:58 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't think OP is saying he wants women to wait around for him. I think he is saying that he wants someone who is equally flexible on which city they live in and be OK with the idea that that could/would change and possibly frequently.
posted by alice ayres at 2:01 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I understood that, but he seems to want the woman in the relationship to wait around for him, no matter where he goes, and not date anyone else. That is unusual.

Yikes. Didn't realize I said this...where was that again? As far as I know, stating "monogamy" as a preference implies I would also behave in a certain way. And I don't expect any woman to wait around for me wherever I go. Your response shows the kind of weird attitude I've gotten from some women pretty consistently over the last few years...so, yeah, case in point, thanks for exemplifying what I'm talking about.

That'll allow us to give you more specific suggestions for where and how to meet women you're compatible with.

Actually my question was: "...how do I get over this attitude problem I have, and how do I figure out really early on whether we will fit so that I'm not just going to disappoint them and myself because I don't want all that?"

...and the information I've given is making this post start to resemble a dating profile, so I'm going to stop with that. I hope it's pretty clear at this point what I want and how that contrasts with what a lot of women want...enough to answer my question (if you care to).

Anyways, otherwise, thanks for the answers, this has been very helpful! You guys are great.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 2:05 PM on July 6, 2010

There are plenty of women who don't want kids and aren't set on owning a house, and who might be open to moving for a change of pace. But it sounds like you want to be able to hop around the country at will, and that's a lot harder to find. It's not practical or comfortable for a lot of people. People - women and men - like to stay put for a variety of reasons: a great job, a job at all, close friends, family, quality of life. Are you expecting your partner to follow you from town to town to town? If so, you're expecting her to put you above all those things - which is a fuckload of commitment on her part. Not as much as having a kid, but way more so than buying a house.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:07 PM on July 6, 2010

IMO the trouble here is not the kids-issue (since plenty of women don't want them) but the moving-at-will issue. Because that means that if the woman isn't living with you, that she has to be okay with either dropping everything she's doing (including presumably, her job) and following you wherever you have a whim to move --BUT NOT SHARING A LIVING SPACE WITH YOU.

OR her alternative is to have the possibility of a long-distance relationship (which suck) hovering over her head, if the whim ever strikes you to take off. And that is a just a hotbed of resentment, because it means you are essentially telling her "acting on a whim of being alone in Stockholm (or wherever) for an indefinite period of time, potentially screwing up our relationship, is preferable to staying here with you." Which is something that might scare off even the most easy-going, no-kids, no-house kinda gal. Because who wants to get emotionally invested in someone who might leave at any moment for any reason, and won't let you come along?

I think when you find the right girl, the one you fall in love with, the thought of vagabonding without her won't be so appealing. But she will have every right to ask for more commitment from you (in terms of living together abroad or whatnot) in exchange for uprooting her lifestyle.

Then again, if you can find a girl who loves long distance relationships, or can work anywhere (travel journalist?) then you will have found your own great white buffalo. Good luck to you.
posted by np312 at 2:08 PM on July 6, 2010

innocuous_sockpuppet, sorry for the mixup! If you want to live/move in with this girl, but just not own a house, I understand that. My SO and I are in exactly that type of relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:10 PM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, I'm just going to add this because it seems that if I don't explicitly state it something else is assumed: living together is fine with me, it's preferred actually. But having a living situation which isn't very permanent and requires few(er) physical possessions is ideal for me. This is not the same as not wanting to live with someone.

I apologize; I sincerely thought that this wouldn't be so confusing! But maybe that's exactly it; my idea is so outside of what is normal that I really need to work hard at nailing it all down so I can be explicit about it (per pazazygeek's great post). It's not that I don't know what I want. It's just that it's very different and I think I may be bad at communicating that.

Your answers are helping me understand that. Thank you!
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 2:14 PM on July 6, 2010

Best answer: Well, you could wait 15 years and then date women like my mom. What I mean is, you're probably not wrong in thinking that your dating pool has gotten smaller due to age.

I think there are phases in life when many people will seek out stability in their lives, work, and relationships. There's less pressure to "settle down" in your 20s than there used to be, so a lot of people are doing so in their 30s. Now, for some of them settling down equals house/babies/401k, but for a lot of them it doesn't. But I do notice that most people interested in dating are also interested in stability and long term plans. They want to think about the next 10-20 years of their life and they want to include their SO in those plans.

They might intend to buy a house and breed or they might want to spend half the year backpacking through South America. The thing both kinds of people have in common is that they're establishing their lives and want a partner that is in sync with their longer term goals (as opposed to a casual, short term person to just date and hang out with).

Many of the people in their 30s I know who aren't looking for this kind of partnership have high stress careers that they're essentially married to.

I also know ton of women in their 40s and 50s who, like my mom, have already established their goals, have a life that works and makes sense for them, and don't want change those things for a romantic partner. They want to go on nice dates, have sex and companionship, and then go home to peace and solitude at night without it being a forever commitment.

So I guess my not terribly comforting or helpful point is, I'm not surprised you're noticing this, but it may get easier as you get older.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:21 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you live in a major city? I think that would make a big difference in helping you find what you're looking for. Anywhere that has large populations of 1) foreigners 2) grad students 3) artist/writer types, might be a good place focus your attention.
posted by the foreground at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2010

Best answer: Just to clarify/add to my answer — my husband is an only child who lived with his parents on a sailboat while growing up. So the no posessions/no basecamp thing was normal for him.

And he was 100% clear from the moment we first started dating that long-term travel was a major part of his lifestyle/career. So in our case, being upfront about it actually solidified our bond because that was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

But you also need to be aware that this kind of lifestyle involves compromise, and that YOU must also sometimes drop everything in order to do what SHE wants — that this exchange can not be one way. Sometimes I get sick of traveling, sometimes my husband gets sick of traveling, and sometimes we both get sick and depressed with where we are but can not leave right away.

It's not for everyone, which is why it's important to be clear about your expectations form the beginning.
posted by Brittanie at 2:24 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

my idea is so outside of what is normal that I really need to work hard at nailing it all down so I can be explicit about it

Actually, I really don't think your ideas are as outside of normal as you think you do. As many people have pointed out, not all women want children. Not all women want a home.

having a living situation which isn't very permanent and requires few(er) physical possessions is ideal for me

Fantastic - a low consumption lifestyle is high on the list of plenty of super awesome people.

Really, it seems to my armchair observer self that you are viewing everything as a deal-breaker. Could you ever compromise with these goals? Like, say there was someone who you click with that seeks a low-consumer lifestyle, but still wants to own a house. Could you deal with that? There will be compromises, but if travel is high on your list - and there's no reason it shouldn't be - you should be considering that as a selling point for your potential datability, not a disadvantage.

In short: None of us are as weird as we think we are, which means that all of us probably would like each other a lot more than we think we would.
posted by Think_Long at 2:26 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think it's just an odds thing. There are women who want what you want, like Brittanie above. But the number of women who don't want kids, desire a "vagabond" (nomadic?) lifestyle, and have the freedom and means to pursue that lifestyle are already probably relatively small percentage of women. And that's before you even factor in being personally compatible.

So you just need to step up meeting new women big time! (Online dating may actually still be a good choice.) Be upfront and clear with your goals and wants, and be prepared to meet a lot of otherwise great women who are nevertheless unable or unwilling to live your kind of lifestyle.
posted by 6550 at 2:27 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can you tell us where you're located? I've noticed that people in smaller cities and rural communities tend to settle into marriage and parenthood earlier and with more enthusiasm.
posted by pullayup at 2:39 PM on July 6, 2010

Ooh, I have a far out suggestion! Have you considered teaching internationally? I'm assuming you're American. I attended some international American schools and a fair number of the teachers were married couples. Maybe 1/3 or so at the schools I attended? I'm not sure how easy it is to break into that kind of teaching. But I've kept in touch with some of these teachers and a common pattern was to teach a few years at a school in a particular country, use that opportunity as a springboard to travel within the region during holidays or school trips, and then move on to another school as a couple. So if you've got any interest in teaching try to find a teacher who is interested in teaching internationally.
posted by 6550 at 2:39 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a woman. I don't want kids. I don't care about marriage. I have a house, but only because it made financial sense vs. renting. I actually wish I didn't have it, since I feel tied down with a sense of responsibility.

There are people like you out there. In my last relationship, I felt completely stifled and that I didn't have enough freedom and independence.

I would suggest looking online for people. Also, in travelling to other countries I met a lot of other like-minded people. Just make it very clear up-front what you are looking for, and you will definitely be able to find people like this.
posted by E-Boogie at 2:52 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Personally, I think your best bet would be meeting fellow travelers. Either by traveling yourself (staying in a hostel, couchsurfing at homes of big travelers, taking a class in another country), or possibly by getting involved in groups somehow related to traveling (Meetup, web forums like Bootsnall, etc.) I also like the suggestion of teaching English in another country, if that is at all appealing, because many of the people you meet will definitely be on the same page. I think your biggest hurdle is communicating your interests in a confident, assured and optimistic manner. If you act downtrodden and fearful about how much of an outlier you are, others will respond to that energy. What you want is really not outlandish.
posted by wondershrew with a helping of potato salad at 3:05 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not impossible! I've never wanted to get married, have kids, or have a monogamous relationship, and I was lucky enough to find a partner who felt the same way. We live together, have moved back and forth across the country together, have a successfully open relationship, and have zero desire to get married or have children. In August we'll be celebrating our 10th anniversary.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:12 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I sincerely thought that this wouldn't be so confusing! But maybe that's exactly it; my idea is so outside of what is normal that I really need to work hard at nailing it all down so I can be explicit about it (per pazazygeek's great post).

I think the confused response does show something. But it doesn't necessarily show that your preferences are "so far outside of what is normal." It could show that a lot depends on how you choose to express your preferences. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but you've seen the response to phrases like this:
- my "vagabond" lifestyle...
- unconventional relationships...
- my idea of commitment is different...
- I don't really want to ... do that kind of settling down stuff...
The response wasn't what you expected. What you really meant is you're interested in being in a pretty conventional, long-term, committed relationship, but with the potential to move to a different city, and not having kids or buying a house.

If you were saying similarly vague/suggestive things when you were using OKCupid, you might have made an initial impression as someone who was very intent on being in "unconventional" relationships in the sense of non-monogamous, maybe not that serious, maybe polygamous, or just plain unstable. (That's probably so far from what you meant that you hadn't even considered the possible misinterpretations. But the world of dating is full of coded, euphemistic characterizations, and skeptical types are going to read between the lines if you let them.)

I use OKCupid, and I'm constantly seeing profiles of attractive women in your age range who are interested in moving from city to city and don't want to have kids. I find it hard to believe that your problem is the lack of such women on OKCupid.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:21 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm another who doesn't think what you want is that weird. Not the norm, sure, but not totally bizarre. (Though I maybe biased because I want the moving around thing too.) But there are plenty of women who don't want kids, and there are also some (though fewer, I imagine) who would be happy either to move cities or countries every now and then, or to stay in a home-base city and enjoy some time alone while you travel by yourself. Think about how many people do that anyway, because their jobs require it. Finding the two together narrows it down a bit, just because you have two not-the-norm requirements instead of one.

I absolutely agree with everyone who said that you need to work on explaining exactly what you want your life to look like. Even with your clarifications I'm still slightly confused. (Though that might be because the heat wave is frying my brain.) Iam in no position to give suggestions about how to meet people, but I just wanted to add my voice to the "it's not that strange!" chorus.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:29 PM on July 6, 2010

Best answer: When I was younger, my parents made friends with an older couple who had blown into town on the tradewinds. Ann and Stretch were ancient as far as I was concerned, and their fantastical stories didn't help convince me that they were anything this side of several centuries old.

Conversations with Ann and Stretch meandered through time and space. ...and then we lived in Russia for a while. (Of course, that's back when we were Communists.) Oh, but doesn't this weather just remind you of Hawaii at this time of year... Hawaii and Cuba and Russia and Harlem in the 30s and the Virgin Islands and eventually, sleepy old Galveston. The characters in their stories were never well defined - friends from past lives, children from previous relationships strewn across the globe, stray activists that they had just met on their adventures who would stick around for a while and then move on.

It suited them. It was the life that they wanted to have, built not on mortgages and roots, but on friendship and loyalty and adventure and companionship. They met in 1962, after Stretch already had a handful of lifetimes under his belt. He had been a dancer with Duke Ellington's Orchestra at the Cotton Club in the 30s, he had fought with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War 2 (earning a limp and a couple Purple Hearts), helped campaign to end segregation in Major League Baseball, and had an interracial marriage and three children. Ann and he met in 1962; Stretch would have been 45. They spent the better part of the next 40 years together.

In 2000, Stretch died at 85 and Ann picked up again and headed off into the southwest to paint in a desert sanctuary and have another lifetime. She's still there and for a while came to visit us at holidays. Then her visits became less frequent, and now it has been years since I've seen her. I suppose at some point, you stop moving just because your legs wont keep carrying you.

Knowing them - hearing their stories - imagining the richness of their younger lives and getting to observe the beauty of their last years - I can't imagine deciding to stake my little claim, scratch my mark in the dirt and settle down. I'm sure it sounds terribly melodramatic, but settling down is a fate far worse than death in my opinion.

When I get worried that I might not meet someone who will go with me on my adventures, there are a couple of things that I do. First, I remind myself that I have seen love last across continents and decades. And that gives me hope. Then, I remind myself that Stretch was 45 when he met Ann, and that they had 40 years together. And then I momentarily consider whether I could even stand to spend 40 years with the same person. That helps with the urgency. And finally, I think of Ann out in the southwest in what my father affectionately calls "her Georgia O'Keefe Phase." She's on an adventure all alone in the world right now, but she'd miss out on a lot of excitement and beauty if she wasted time and energy being lonely. I can't imagine her doing that. And that helps with the loneliness.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:36 PM on July 6, 2010 [36 favorites]

You are not confusing to me at all. To answer one of your questions directly: you simply need to be very clear with stating your goals. Once you have dated awhile, keep the goals conversation going with playing with scenarios. Keep talking about things that may come up, deal breakers, what ifs.

We are going off the grid in about a year or two. Every woman I have spoken to about it is envious. There are plenty of them out there.

Also, hang out more with creative types, artists, fellow travelers. You need to put yourself in the right demographic to meet the right people. There are thousands and thousands of them out there.
posted by Vaike at 4:01 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're really overestimating how unusual you are. You want to have a committed monogamous relationship, where you intend to stay with that person, but you don't want to buy a house, and you want to move around a lot. Honestly, that looks like 90% of normal for me.

my problem is really that I've started to withdraw from expressing any sort of interest in women because I have started to believe that no woman I meet will be interested in sharing my "vagabond" lifestyle

Solution: Perhaps you should just stop scaring people off with the whole 'oh but I'm SO UNUSUAL' schtick, and use a few of the tips in here to express yourself a little better on match.com, etc.
posted by jacalata at 4:16 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree that its not as unusual as you think but you may need to compromise a bit on one thing or perhaps on who you imagine your ideal companion to be. I'm having similar problems but am a woman — if only I met a guy that I could compare stories of traveling in a cage for 24 hours through Africa with. Actually, I have met one or two that might live up to my vagabonding experience except that I had no romantic interest in them. You can't fake that connection.

You're just working with a very small percentage of a small percentage of woman so you're going to have to keep looking. I agree with others that you might be scaring off potentials with some of the terminology you're using which may make you simply sound irresponsible and commitment-phobic.
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:38 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing you need to rethink: "still having our own lives and friend/family relationships and personalities"

Where are you getting this idea that it's typical for people who are coupled up to give up their friend/family relationships and personalities? It happens, and so does cheating and secretly gambling away all the savings - but those things aren't normal or what most people want.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:46 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreed: if you want a committed relationship, it will help if you paint a concrete picture of what they're committing to! Then it sounds more like a fun way to spend a lifetime and not aimless rebellion or a warning that someone should keep their expectations low. It's like sending an invitation to a party, if you want to attract people who will have fun there, you'll get fewer excited attendees with "it's not going to be all that fancy stuff" than you would with "bring your bathing suit and frisbee!"
posted by salvia at 4:59 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stopped reading half way through the comments - and I think the lack of understanding about this guy's desires (I happen to think he's been very clear) kind of expresses the problem pretty well.

If I were straight I'd be looking for a guy just like you. As it is, I have the same problem in the women I date. They want the house (which I actually went ahead and bought for the last significant relationship I had), the kids, the "settled down" thing.

I want adventure. I want to see the world and taste all it has to offer. I'm 40 years old now and I've only been seriously traveling for the last few years. I have a lot of time to make up for. I've also lived in four different states during the past five years. I love getting to know a new area and finding out about the local flavor and then moving on to the next thing. I would LOVE to do this with someone special. But I've also made peace with the fact that I might be "a spinster" in the best sense of the word. I love to travel alone and explore things that are of particular interest to me. If I want to eat at the same divey grill every night while I'm in a particular town I'll do it and no one is there to get upset with me.

I don't think it's an attitude you need to get over. It is something you'll have to accept will be a challenge to make a match with - but it doesn't have to be impossible. Are there not travel groups that you could join? Adventure clubs? Something along those lines that might be inhabited by like-minded women? I think wondershrew is on the money - meet other people who travel and have adventures. Heck, start a blog/forum for like-minded people and link it up in Projects. I'd join! I know an alarming number of people who have met their mates from running a website about a passion.

When you do start dating someone be clear. Yes, you're looking for commitment and are capable and happy to be monogamous, but your ideal partner needs to be a partner in adventure! You do not want children. This is not a negotiable. State that. You understand that having a home is important to some people, but it is a deal breaker for you. Also - I would not recommend younger women. At all. Having dated plenty of them, in my experience, their wants change. They think it's all fun and games at first and then all the other stuff comes to the surface. I would argue just the opposite, if anything. Older women know who they are and what they want. But I don't think it's age based in the slightest anyway.

Good luck.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:08 PM on July 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

Ah, but as to your other questions, besides using concrete language on your dating site and painting a concrete picture of what you want your life to look like in early dates (and comparing that with theirs), the point above to consider where you're meeting people is right on. There are certain professions and locations that attract the footloose or require moving every four years. (Can't list them without overly stereotyping but ask yourself where you might meet others with wandering shoes.)
posted by salvia at 5:11 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, just checked back in. Some fantastic responses that I think transcend the question (muddled as it was) that I asked.

I've gotten a lot of reassurance that what I want isn't really that weird (thank you!!) and a lot of food for thought. I think it's obvious I need to reflect upon how I'm presenting myself and how that reads, both in person and online.

I've favorited posts I liked and marked the posts that most spoke to me as "best answer." But I can't pretend I was particularly systematic about it! So, thank you to everyone who bothered to respond with thoughtfulness and consideration. Your responses have been incredibly helpful and affirming.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 5:53 PM on July 6, 2010

Your question makes perfect sense, just to validate that to know what you don't want is more important here because of how much weight these things carry in society, any society. What you do want from your relationships is really irrelevant to the problem at hand.

But yes, there are women who share the thought. Its not only important that you convey this to a potential partner but the way you discuss this would probably make or break the deal. You can filter out a lot of people when dating online, then chatting online. It would, however, take a while to figure this out in person- not to figure out whether the woman want kids and a house but to figure out if the woman doesn't. And to think of it, you can ask any person where they see themselves 5/10/15 years from now and you'll get an idea pretty easily.
posted by xm at 5:58 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get what you're looking for and I think it's awesome. Memail me. :)
posted by metametababe at 10:26 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi, OP and all you other men who are looking for a woman who wants a committed monogamous relationship without the kids, house, etc. We exist!

If any of you gentlemen are in the SF Bay Area, consider shooting me a MeMail to introduce yourself. Frankly, you guys (the non-douchy ones, that is) aren't that easy for us to find either.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:51 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Gosh sometimes I wonder if I'll ever meet a guy who wants to live like this - I want my life to be a big adventure, and ultimately it would be nice to have someone to share that adventure with, to say "Wow, how crazy was this day?" or "How beautiful is this mountain?!" or "Yeah, let's try that, why not?!", or whatever. Someone who would rather spend our money on experiences that "things" that will just anchor us in the one place. Someone who knows how to make anywhere "home". I don't necessarily want to move from place to place constantly but I don't ever want to "settle" if it means not having adventures. You're not the only one.
posted by Chrysalis at 6:00 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out Location Independent. It is about not being rooted in place. I sort of get the idea that the website is set up as a little cash cow for this specific couple, but it seems to serve as a focal point for people who are interested in the nomadic life and who refuse to believe that things like companionship and adventure are mutually exclusive. There is even a ning community set up which might be fertile ground for finding a fellow adventurer...
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:00 AM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

You sound like my type of guy. I'm a Texas gal but don't want kids, having to maintain a house, etc. I've stayed in one place because I like this city and I have family nearby, but otherwise I love traveling. Shoot me a MeMail if you're ever in Austin.
posted by lychee at 1:20 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you want definitely isn't that weird. I'm one of those women, and I know there are others like me - but I've mostly met them abroad. Traveling, especially getting off the tourist track or living abroad are great things in their own right, and might make it easier to find a kindred spirit. Also, Burning Man and its associated communities seem to attract a fair number of people who are less drawn to a settled lifestyle, and might offer a place closer to home to meet people who won't think you're weird.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:19 PM on July 7, 2010

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