Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill.
October 23, 2010 2:15 PM   Subscribe

How to maintain hope that I will find someone to be in a committed relationship in the face of what feels like overwhelming odds?

I am a 30 year old single woman. About a year ago my long-term boyfriend and I broke up, and since then, just about nothing. I had a one night stand that was pretty terrible. Despite telling my friends and meeting friends of friends that I would really like to start dating again, I hardly ever seem to meet any men. Needless to say, I haven't even been on one date since my ex and I broke up. Guys don't even hit on me, and I know that I'm not unattractive.

Online dating isn't really an option for me--I live in a foreign country. This evening I went to several parties...and again, nothing. I didn't even meet anyone I hadn't already known before. One guy that I am interested in, it turns out my friend is dating him.

This kind of effort, to be out in the hope of meeting someone, anyone to just flirt with for a bit, is exhausting and sometimes, to be honest, rather soul-destroying. I feel that I'm constantly disappointed; probably my expectations are too high. It would be nice just to go out on a date again, it would be nice just to meet someone.

So how can I stay hopeful? At this point, being a hermit for the winter sounds like a good idea.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
So you are you trying only to date expats? You don't consider the locals as potential mates for whatever reason?

Sorry, to state the obvious, but it sounds like you need to either broaden your horizons, move to somewhere where the kind of people you want to be in a relationship live, or get used to being single.
posted by 256 at 2:21 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Stop going out with the "hope of meeting someone". Start going out to do the things you enjoy. You are living the one life you get right now, day by day. Don't squander it! Pursue your interests, seek out new adventures and challenge yourself to grow and do fun and unexpected things. Do this because it's a good way to live your life, not because you "might meet someone". You are probably giving off a whiff of desperation and sadness. Just stop looking to meet someone. You don't sound very happy and people likely sense that. Discover some joy in the world and then .. enjoy it. You might meet someone, you might not, but it sounds a lot more appealing than moping about and feeling washed up at 30.

PS: I met my hubby and got married at 44. And it wasn't out of desperation .. I was just too busy to settle down until then.

You should get busy and go have some fun, just for the sake of having fun. See where it takes you.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:32 PM on October 23, 2010 [24 favorites]

256: I've always counseled the same thing - there are choices one makes, and it just may be that the OP has to either widen her dating pool, move, or stay single.

However, her being an expat puts another spin on this - because "date a local" isn't always an option. If the OP is a Western woman, sometimes the locals have such different cultural values and expectations for a marriage partner that it makes a relationship very, very, VERY hard to deal with. That said, in these types of situations the educated, professional local men have standards closer to what a Western women might like in a partner and have to offer herself. Without the OP saying where she is, we cannot really know. The locals might just be very compatible and the OP needs to get around the "well, it's just not done!" mentality.

And at the same time, often expat guys in countries where Western men are prized will often ONLY date locals.

OP, meanwhile, here are a couple of ideas. One, I would ask some trusted friends first if they actually know of any good men, and if they do, is there a reason why they aren't setting you up? And if so, how can you change that?

Second, if there are things to do where you live other than bars and clubs and nightlife, DO THEM. Volunteer, socialize, join groups, get involved with whatever is out there. You may or may not meet a man that way but it will enrich your life and you will be less preoccupied with finding a man because you'll be having fun and living life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:35 PM on October 23, 2010

Remind yourself that a year, particularly one in which you probably spent some time in a funk, is hardly any time at all. How many fantastic new soulmate-type friends do you expect to make in a year, typically?

Focus on other things. Don't go to parties just to meet dates--you may come across in an off way. Check out to see if there's anything that actually involves an interest of yours (it's international, though may not work well for small cities). Take a class--are you fluent in the local language yet if it's not your first language? If you are, take some other kind of class.

Most of my friends (and I) met their eventual partners when they were relaxing and doing something totally unrelated to "marriage-hunting," as Japanese pop culture would call it.

(If you do want to try online dating, a friend of mine actually wound up having coffee with a couple of people she met through OKCupid in Korea. So unless it's banned in your country, it still might be a possibility.)

Good luck. :)
posted by wintersweet at 2:41 PM on October 23, 2010

At the risk of being counterintuitive and woo-woo, I think you're going about this the wrong way.

Until you realize that you would prefer to be single the rest of your life rather than be in a bad relationship, you're too needy. Putting aside that the kind of man you really want is likely to steer clear of the neediness, the simple matter is that anyone you meet will be compared to an unrealistic standard in which he "completes you", always says and does the perfect thing, and never never pisses you off.

So: live your life, make plans for the future that don't involve a mate, do the things you like to do. Get comfortable with yourself. Once that happens, you can start dating. Some of the men you date will be fun, some will be weird, maybe one will be interesting enough to make you willing to adjust your world to welcome him into it.
posted by DrGail at 3:03 PM on October 23, 2010 [13 favorites]

Hard to give advice without knowing which country you're in, or at least what the 'locals' scene is like.
Look, lets be honest about's just too damn hard to seek advice on an open forum about how you might about meeting a significant other. There are just far too many variable at play...and your situation, aside from the specifics of being in a foreign country etc, is very, very similar to a lot of people out there. It's very much the classic "what am I doing wrong?" and "How do I meet someone?".
The answers posted above are good..but, the only thing they will do for you right now is give you encouragement. That might give you a burst of energy to do something, anything, for what, one week? two weeks? And then you will likely start to feel the same way you feel now..if you don't meet someone. It's this shitty, vicious, perpetual cycle.
The smart people that posted above gave you good counsel by encouraging you to make some lifestyle changes - get out there and do things, anything...where you interact with others..and meet people. Personally, that never worked for me. I'm outgoing (to an extent) but have always been AWFUL at meeting a person to date at these kinds of functions. It was always just too awkward or required feeling trashy by asking someone out (not a trashy thing to do, but always made me feel trashy).

My personal opinion is that you need a solid wingman. You need someone to help you meet you explore the group setting. Maybe help provide a little counseling now and then. Someone that can help you navigate through weird situations - those kind where you're trying to interpret what the guy is really saying/thinking. You may be attractive, and you may be a total sweetheart, but you may not be approachable. Guys, we tend to have this sense of whether we should approach a woman. All other things equal (no alcohol involved), we're going to assess a situation and the woman in about ten seconds flat and most often go with our gut instinct. The problem is that we don't *know* the woman (i.e. you) and so maybe our gut instinct or initial assessment is wrong...but we never really get that far to find it out..unless we see you repeatedly in a class or at work..and then we find out we were wrong about you and then you can't get rid of us. :-)
Sorry for the long, drawn out answer...people will disagree..but I think it comes down to taking a deep, hard look at yourself in addition to making some of the changes to your environment as recommended above.
Can't do much from the states, but if you need some honest advice, or just a male opinion, never ever hesitate to use me-mail (or whatever this is called) and send me a note. Always happy to provide a male view.
I feel you on this one..been there..but once you figure out what the hangup has been..and you fix it..then meeting people of the opposite sex actually becomes fun and interesting again.
posted by Yunani at 3:19 PM on October 23, 2010

In these situations, it can be hard not to over-obsess and end up losing hope. Living abroad can be a blast, but this is one of those areas that requires a bit of creativity. When I was away I found it an absolute pain making any kind of decent connections, but it only made me persevere and now I have some good friendships to show for it. However, instead of focusing on the end results (or lack of), it's much easier to jump into doing fun stuff without viewing it as a means to an end.

What I found most helpful was using the trick of making the process of meeting people into a game. One way of doing this is by saying YES to everything (of course, within reason). I'm still doing this, and it's quite wonderful the way the world opens up to you if you go at things with a positive frame of mind. I can't guarantee this will find you a guy, but it should make you the kind of woman guys want to meet.

Failing this, if online dating is out, do they have matchmaking companies where you are?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You seem fuzzy about many things.

First, what kind of relationship do you really want?

Part of you seems to just want to flirt and go out on simple dates. But the title says you want to be in a committed relationship.

You're in a foreign country. Maybe someone can give pointers if you can share the name of the country.

What if you do meet a wonderful person there? How are your life goals going to match his going forward?

It could get complicated if he wants to stay there and you don't.

My first impression is that you're just a bit lonely and bored and need some attention.

I get that. But don't let that wreck your longer term vision of who you want to be with and where you want to live.
posted by simpleton at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2010

Well, it's okay to go through long periods of just not finding anyone special. I've gone through a couple of those, lasting two to three years. As I'm sure many will point out, we meet committed partners at a lot of different points in life and thirty's early to get too worked up about it. I met my partner at 36-ish, after a brief disastrous marriage and several miscarriages and was pretty much accepting of 'well, that's it for me.' Many people find people later than that.

Second, as you know, obsessing about it has never worked for anyone. Sometimes it's seriously just nothing you can do anything about, so you have to focus on some other aspect of your life that you might have better control over, like fitness, career, academics, whatever, something where you can see progress and feel that you're moving forward.

Third, I was really lonely once and a little obsessive about finding someone and a therapist told me it was probably better if I didn't date for a while and just tabled the whole idea for six months or a year. When she said it, I felt a huge relief. I pass this on to you in case you feel a similar relief.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:21 PM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

nthing Kangaroo, but also want to say that one of the best things about going on with your life and spending time doing things you are interested in and love to do without always being on the lookout for your soul mate is that they often show up at the same places because they love the same things...

I know it's hard to not act desperate when you're feeling desperate, but believe me -- desperation shows. Keep in mind that there are far worse things than not being married or in a committed relationship. Like being in a relationship that you had convinced yourself would be perfect, and then turns out to be horrible or lifeless, for instance.

Relax and spend some time discovering yourself -- and I'll bet your prince finds you in the process!
posted by northernlightgardener at 4:40 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I live in a foreign country too, China. I am around your age. I am on okcupid and still get messages sometimes from either expats or Chinese people. I joined a local dating site and got flooded with messages. So, maybe online dating is an option you're not considering. There are also English-language websites that list activties here; not sure about where you are.

If you don't want to date the locals I'm guessing you're in a non-Western country. I understand your reasoning, but there are probably certain places/activities you can go to (hard to advise since you didn't saywhat country you are in) where you can meet local men who have been educated in Western countries, or who are particularly open-minded. I understand your dilemma as I find it difficult to date Chinese men, but there are so many of them! And I have met some who I could picture dating with few problems. It sounds like you are somewhere with a lot of expats; if that's true, it's probably a fairly big city and there will also be nationals there who are more open-minded.
posted by bearette at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2010

I used to live overseas (and probably will be again in another few years), and I know what you're going through all too well. Dating is hard enough State-side, and being abroad can add some unique challenges.

That being said, I wouldn't trade my current situation for anything in the world. You know why? Because everything else about my life is absolutely fantastic. I love my job, I love where I live, and I love the adventures I've had - many of which might have never happened if I had gotten married and settled down young, like the rest of my family. Am I still hoping to meet someone? Of course, but who knows when or where it'll happen - until then, why not enjoy the ride?

So I guess my point is this - focus on yourself. I know at least a dozen people have probably said it already, but once you do that it will make a HUGE difference, I promise.

Best of luck to you...and if you ever feel a need to talk, feel free to MeMail me. Seriously, I've been there, done that and it does improve :)
posted by photo guy at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2010

I think we each know ourselves and have our own answers if we will only listen. One technique I learned to use for dealing with this kind of fear is to have an internal dialog in which I try to visualize what I would do if this terrible thing had actually already happened.

In other words, suppose you are never going to find your soul mate or a fun date (whatever it is you're afraid of not having) and then look at that as the way it is and deliberately make some plans about how you would then live your life. What would you do and choose to have in your life instead. Be honest with yourself and work at figuring this out.

Then, of course, embark on a plan to make your life the best it can be without that one thing. If nothing else, you'll be presenting yourself very differently and you might find people you really like who fit into your meaningful life whether or not they're someone you date.
posted by Anitanola at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

No one wants to be the rebound person.

What you need is a break from the search. A break from feeling the desperation. I mean it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not just outright kill this hope and see what happens?

Despite a question I asked a little while ago, what I've found to be most helpful is giving up entirely. I was inspired especially by this thread and some of the great answers there. While I won't pretend the giving up thing is coming easily, it is coming—I get better and better at it every day—and the longing is slowly fading and being replaced by a deep sense of satisfaction at not feeling like I need some other person.

By the way, I'm a 35 year-old male (who has also been single more than a year now), and I think 30 is pretty young for a woman. Maybe if you're really focused on having kids (your own, that is) you've got more pressure, but if that's the case—if bearing children is really priority #1—then you have to make a choice about how to get that; you may not be able to have your cake and eat it too, so figure out whether you have to move somewhere or whatever it is you have to do.

Otherwise, what's the rush? Learn to be happy with yourself and where you are—or if you aren't happy where you are and with the work you're doing, you've got a great opportunity to change that while you don't have to concern yourself with another person's needs.

I know it seems like I'm sidestepping your question, but I am sincerely trying to provide you with some solace. Being in a relationship can be great (supposedly...) but it can also be miserable (I know for certain). There are so many bad things about being in a bad relationship so count your blessings that you aren't in one. I promise you if you work hard on being satisfied without someone else (remember that old adage, a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle...I personally think it works both ways but, um, I digress...) you will be happier, and you will be happier in the long run even if you do find a special guy to be with: it will be a pleasant surprise, not something that you were desperate for...and if it fails for whatever reason, you'll more likely say to yourself "oh well, guess I'll go back to being single, I know I'm good at that at least" rather than "god damnit, not again, why does this always happen..."

I guess after reading a billion of these threads—they seem to come up every other week or so on Ask MeFi, in some form or another (hell, mine was one of them)—I'm starting to feel like I need to be a voice of resistance, assuring the rest of the single masses that it isn't necessarily that great on the other side. So, there's my advice, take it or leave it.

But if you give it a shot, you may be very pleasantly surprised.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was single for several years between two serious relationships at the same time in my life as you, and I did all the soul-searching and happy happy me time you're supposed to do. I was okay but I was also lonely as hell and it hurt. I don't know you, but here were my issues and how I dealt with them:

1. Touch. To some degree, everyone suffers when they lack it but I'm convinced some of us dry up like unwatered houseplants without it. If you are one of those people get as many massages and pedicures and hairdos as you can afford. Try to make at least a friend or two that is comfortable with being touchy-feely -- women are lucky that we can be physically affectionate with our friends with more cultural sanctions so you know, cuddle up on a sofa with a pal and watch a movie.

2. Sex. If you miss it badly there is not a thing wrong with you. If one night stands/no-strings arrangements leave you cold then exercise your brains out. It will release energy and make you fitter and healthier. Right before I met my now-husband I was up to a near-daily gym routine involving an hour on the elliptical and an hour of swimming. I've never been in better shape in my life and it made everything else, including my emotional state, much better as well.

3. Meeting partners. You've told family and friends you are looking and that's good, keep doing that. Do not become a hermit! You need interaction and fun and a good full life for you, but you can't meet people without trying. I went to tons of shows, plays, galleries, pub quizzes -- never missed a party -- and genuinely had fun. You make friends, you expand your circle -- and when you least expect it, good things happen.

4. Sadness. Don't wallow but don't pretend you don't want what you want, and don't let anyone minimize how you feel. It's completely normal to desire love and companionship and miss it when it's gone. Don't make the mistake of feeling like a loser -- treat yourself like you'd want to be treated by a good partner. I kept my house sparkling clean and filled it with music and fancy sheets and real silk shirts and any other damn thing that felt physically and emotionally good. I ate well and took good care of myself. I had a fantastic little cat. It all helped.

Don't give up hope, ever. Love is the damnedest thing, and can sweep you up when you least expect. Be good to yourself. Fill your own life with love for yourself and your friends, family, community, neighbors, work -- whoever and whatever it is that makes you truly happy. I'm rooting for you, sister.
posted by melissa may at 5:54 PM on October 23, 2010 [18 favorites]

I was going to write a comment, but melissa may went and said everything I was going to say and then some.

I didn't start dating my sweetie until I was in my mid-30's. (we've been together 10 years, now.)
posted by rmd1023 at 6:42 PM on October 23, 2010

first of all, you're 30, not dead. geeze . seriously? i wish ppl would quit writing in all oh-my-god-i'm-30-and-it's over!!

second, everyone who's saying you sort of need to stop focusing so much on why aren't i meeting anyone?? is totally right. as are those who are saying you just need to go about learning how to enjoy your life as it is now.

i spent the last few years unhappily dating (albeit intermittently) because i really wanted to finally meet the person i wanted to spend my life with. consequently, i was settling for ppl who really were inappropriate for me. after one final ridiculous guy i was seeing earlier this year, i called it a day, quit looking to date, and reconciled myself to the idea that i might be single for most of my life, if not all. i mean, really reconciled myself with the possibility. because even without a partner in my life, my life was pretty damned great, all things considered. and then, what do you know? bam, a few months later, i met (or i should say, reconnected with) someone with whom i'm sure i will be spending my life. also, i'm not 30; i just recently turned 38.

so yeah, at 30, you've got a lot of years to go being unhappily single. or you can be happily single (or not). that's pretty much up to you.
posted by violetk at 6:59 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was an expat and when my then-boyfriend and I broke up, one of my big reasons for moving back to the US was to have access to a better dating pool. (The locals were almost all pretty sexist, and the expat men mostly there to meet submissive little things.)

So you might need to move back to your home country for a while to meet someone acceptable, if the pickings are slim where you are.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:37 PM on October 23, 2010

I'd like to tell you that you shouldn't worry and you'll meet someone, and a lot of MeFites sort of rush to give reassurance, but I see the honest truth differently and, as a married person, I'm sort of fully aware that my situation is too unique and I was a little driven to make it happen with this one person. If I had been who I am now, and had I grown up in Western culture instead of just being educated in it at the tertiary levels, I know I wouldn't have been married and probably would have had a string of failed relationships. The only reason I am married is because I'm Indian, born in India, and he (not marriage minded) would have been ashamed of himself to date and not marry me. There were expectations and I called him out on it. Otherwise, I don't know if I could have done it all without cultural expectations on my side. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have.

For you though, the odds may just be overwhelming, it's really hard to tell. I have a lot of single women friends and we're in our early thirties. They are professional, nice, smart, good-looking---they've dated guys who are professional, nice, smart, and also good-looking, with purportedly similar values. The men are generally either non-committal or simply don't want to get married. Meanwhile, my friends don't want to date guys who don't meet their romantic ideals and we've all been taught not to settle for less than fireworks. The guys they date are genuinely nice and should be mature for their age, but there's no reason for them to do much other than be serial monogamists.

I noticed that the only friends in my social circle from college and graduate school and beyond who are married come from either conservative cultures (non-practicing Hindus that are very close to their families or were born in India and came to the US for their American-born Indian spouse (which is me and I really had to lay down the law when it came to formalizing our relationship in marriage or else he would have been happy to just "see what happens" -- actually, I had to tell him that I'd get an arranged marriage in India if we didn't get married) or somewhat conservative religions (Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, or at least very culturally Jewish, Muslim) or from the South or Midwest. My Catholic friends were the ones who started marrying the earliest (excepting Indian born friends who married a year after graduation from college and their return to India)), and even they were marrying in their late twenties, to other Catholics. Some of my non-practicing Jewish girlfriends actually converted to Orthodox Judaism and the guys they married were Orthodox and very observant.

Which is to say that if I had been in your shoes, I would have most likely ended up single or maybe in a relationship with a commitmentphobe I was wild about or in a lackluster relationship where I was the phobe.

I know plenty of single women who have loved and lost the person they thought they would marry, the guy who would have probably married them if the idea of commitment didn't invoke such a feeling of burden. I know fewer women who are married and settled, and their decisions and lives were culturally driven because marriage and all was important culturally to them. For the vast majority of my friends who don't really practice faith or are part of the self-supporting, professional world, they're single and didn't really get lucky in meeting the right guy. Which doesn't mean they won't eventually, but they're grappling with their whole "I thought I'd be married and have kids like my mom did."

So, from my POV (as a married and childless person with student debt obligations living in an extremely expensive part of the country who would like to move back to my home country and can't), it's probably best that you start accepting your day to day life and living it for the fullest. You may never meet the right person or you may meet him in twenty years. You might be better off learning to accept that it might never happen for you than waiting in frustration, sadness, and ever-dimming anticipation, which is where a lot of women in the US are.
posted by anniecat at 5:09 AM on October 24, 2010

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