Separated for a while, divorce on the way, and I'm lonely - but unsure about dating
November 23, 2010 4:34 PM   Subscribe

When I was 23, I got married. It was really great for six years, and then for a year and a bit, really pretty horrible. We worked hard at it, but it didn't. Now I'm 30 and we've been separated for 3 months. Definitely feels right that it's over, and in time we'll divorce. It feels too soon to start dating - problem is, I'm lonely and really missing sex.

For six years, our marriage was great - we were really close friends and physically had a tremendous connection, with a sex life we were both happy with. Then there came a point when we realised where we wanted to go in our lives was different - I wanted kids and a certain pace of life, she didn't. She said she still loved me, but had no interest in sex, wanted to change the relationship to be much more platonic. We spent a year talking to each other, doing counselling and in the summer of this year, realised we just wanted different, irreconcilable things from life. Rather than grind each other down with it, we decided to separate. At the time, it felt like the right decision. Painful, really fucking painful, but right, and it still does.

Three months on, I'm doing OK, and my ex and I are being civil about splitting up the house and the possessions etc. In time we'll be friends, I hope.

My own friends have been great - popped round to see how I'm doing, invited me out for drinks etc. My career is going well too, which is a good distraction. I have hobbies and interests. I'm keeping fit. I'm healing, slowly - feeling fairly positive and while there's a way to go, I know I'll make it, gradually. Not really into thinking about a new relationship just yet.

However. However.

It has been over a year since I've had sex. The last year of the marriage was lonely, frustrating and damaging to my self-esteem in that I was with a woman who I really wanted and desired and who didn't want me. Now I am actually on my own and I find I'm really missing that physical connection thing and the the pleasure of just having sex. Sure there's porn and masturbation but that only gets you so far.

So I guess the question is - what are my options? If any? Naive as it sounds, I am (comically, almost) out of my depth here: it's been 7 years since I thought about a women aside from my ex. She was my first real girlfriend and the only woman I've had sex with. When we were together, we were either very into each other or I was desperately trying to save what we had.

I'm not good at flirting, and being quiet and bookish I'm not particularly into clubbing. I live in London - not a city where (to my eyes at least) it's easy to meet women. I've got no idea how you do the one night stand thing, or casual encounters or whatever it's called. A couple of friends have asked whether I'm ready to start dating. I've browsed OKCupid and Match with a throwaway profile, but it feels too soon even to answer the questions about myself let alone check out other people's profiles.

So, hive mind, please help me out - I'll owe you.

Throwaway for advice, stories, more etc:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Hey, look at match for gals that aren't looking for long term. It really sounds like you need a rebound. Maybe have some friends (both sexes) over for drinks and a write-me-a-profile session. Have fun with it.
posted by notsnot at 4:42 PM on November 23, 2010

I live in London - not a city where (to my eyes at least) it's easy to meet women.

I don't know if it's ever 'easy' to meet women, but it's certainly easier in a large city with lots of active groups and activities to take part in. I recently moved to a tiny coastal town (Pop. 800) and I guarantee you it's easier to meet women in London.

it feels too soon even to answer the questions about myself let alone check out other people's profiles.

That sounds like you're not ready to throw yourself into the dating scene. Is it the online aspect that makes you uncomfortable, or the questions themselves? If you were in a conversation with a woman, would you feel comfortable discussing your life and hers?

I think you need to decide whether this discomfort stems from the fact that you haven't done it in so long or from the fact that the separation was so recent. If it's the former, then time will only make it harder, so you just need to get out there and mess up and be awkward and slowly get used to how this kind of thing works (there are lots of previous questions about meeting people - think clubs and classes and groups and activities that you're interested in). If you're uncomfortable because it's 'too soon', then there's no great harm in avoiding the dating scene for a little while, and looking into the casual encounters route (hopefully others can offer some advice there).
posted by twirlypen at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

but it feels too soon even to answer the questions about myself let alone check out other people's profiles.

Based on the rest of your question, I don't understand this. Clearly you want to "get back out there" in some respect. Online dating has changed a lot in the last seven years, and it's an easy way to dip one's toe into the dating pool, so to speak. Especially with an ad-supported site like OKCupid, there's really no commitment in putting up a sparse profile (i.e., not life story, but also not throwaway) and sending out a few messages.

There's a middle ground between dating in a LTR and one night stands-- casual dating. Can be exclusive; doesn't have to be. Should definitely be fun and easy (well, as far dating goes). Online dating is great for that. Don't go out there looking for your next wife; you won't have fun. If it hits you, it hits you. If not, it's still getting out of the house, meeting people, and making intimate connections.

Personal data point: I met my wife through OKC when I wasn't really looking for a forever forever relationship.
posted by supercres at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

London, you say? This dovetails quite nicely with the OK Cupid thread on the front page right now. It is difficult to meet people in this city - but it's well-represented on OKC, so it's a good option if you're ready for that.

But it sounds to me as if you're maybe not quite ready - if you're not able to fill in a profile or answer questions about what it is that you want, you're probably not quite there yet.

That's OK. The important thing is, you seem to know what you want. And sooner or later, that inistent biological urge will drive you into action... when you're ready.

You also mention that your friends are asking whether you're ready to start dating - any change they're able to hook you up with like-minded single friends of theirs? No shame in asking, when you feel the time is right.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2010

When you're ready to start dating, you will start seeing options.

Don't worry about being a certain way. Just keep doing the things you do, stop worrying about sex, and, again, when you're emotionally ready for it, it will come. There are plenty of people who will be attracted to your quiet, bookish self when you're ready for it. I think the idea is that you have to be ok being single first. Not just ok with it, but really truly comfortable with yourself.

If you really want sex, there are always sex workers. But be sure to treat them with respect. My guess is that that's not what you want. If not, just keep working on healing.
posted by lover at 4:48 PM on November 23, 2010

It's OK to be lonely. Being lonely is what will eventually dive you through the questions and into actually putting up a profile. Because genuinely, if it's too soon to answer basic profile questions about yourself, it's probably too soon and too raw and too new to be looking for pickup sex.

And it is soon. You're coming out of a seven year marriage. You really need to give it time, and by time I mean "more than three months."

I am also concerned that after seven years with one partner, and having had only one partner, a one night stand might not actually help your confidence getting back into the market. But since you asked what your options are...

You're in London. In terms of pro services, you are surrounded by massage parlours and escorts. In terms of meeting new people that include women, there's, MeFi meetups, classes and clubs you can join. In terms of dating, and OK Cupid have a lot of people in your area, but you have to be willing to play a vast numbers game and it doesn't sound like you are.

If all of those things sound overwhelming and unappealing, I would again suggest that your need for company is not yet greater than your want, and that you wait until it is.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind there's no magic amount of time you have to wait, or in which you have to start dating. Some people wait very little, some people may wait years. I only waited a couple months after my divorce, but we had a full year of counseling/gradual separation and it felt over long before it was "over".

Since you're not there yet, casual dating is a good option --- IF you can do it. I can't date casually or have one night stands, it's just not something I have any interest in. If your ex was the only woman you've had sex with, you may be like this too. If you want to give it a try, it's not really going to hurt anything (any potential drama will probably pale in comparison to the divorce).

But otherwise I think you're on the right track. If you don't feel up to / ready to do things like fill out online profiles, you're probably not ready. You will (likely) eventually start thinking about dating, noticing women you want to date, etc.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:16 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmmm. You sound like you're in a lot of pain and feeling lonely. And for very good reason. It's the holidays; your heart is broken. I don't think you're ready to date yet. My gut is saying you need to lick your wounds a bit and focus on yourself. Some thoughts: give yourself three months -- exercise more and eat better. Make plans with your friends. Don't visit a hooker but do get a therapeutic massage, a great haircut, some nice shoes and a dapper jacket. Make a list of things you want to learn or try that maybe you've put off. Learn to cook, take a metalworking class, volunteer for something.

After the holidays and some self-attention, I think you'll find yourself more ready to date. Plus, you'll feel better about yourself and be more attractive to others.

I just don't think you're ready to go on a bunch of first dates. And I don't know that meaningless sex is going to feel that great. Focus on yourself - you deserve it.
posted by amanda at 5:53 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would advise two things here, but first, a note: the length of time you've gone without sex isn't as important here as the length of time you've gone without support and intimacy, and I suspect if you get those latter things, the former thing won't seem quite so important in the short-term.

Now then...

One: talk with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse about this, before you proceed. If you're certain you're both heading for divorce, make sure it's explicit, and that you are both communicating regarding things like "when are we doing this", "do you have any expectations that we might be getting back together if" and "what if one of us meets someone we'd like to date, before the divorce happens?"

Being on the same page -- even if it means a few uncomfortable talks and delaying dating et al until the divorce -- will help you avoid a situation where one assumes it's okay, it's not okay with the other, and so the nice, painless division of property et al turns into a more typical divorce nightmare. Nobody wants that.

Two: once you've dealt with that and are certain you can proceed without animosity or misunderstanding, be completely honest with the women you meet, as to your status (whether it be separated or divorced.) You'll have to trust me on this: an honest man in a sub-par situation for a new relationship is much more likely to end up in a healthy future relationship than a dishonest man pretending to be in a solid situation for a new relationship.

Does that mean you might need to wait longer? Yes. If all you want is short-term sex, and point number one is taken care of, then there are lots of options available -- but if you really want intimacy and support from a good partner going forward, honesty and openness are your tools, and a big dollop of patience. Patience for the sex, that is; I bet if you met a woman today and were honest about being interested, but also honest about your situation, you'd end up with a supportive friend. That will go a long way to helping you get through this.

disclaimer: if women come in here and claim I'm wrong, trust them, not me. but I really don't think I'm wrong.
posted by davejay at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2010

Oh, one more thing (don't I always have one more thing?) -- if you're not ready, don't rush. You have lots of time. The best things (relationship-wise) tend to happen to people who are taking good care of themselves and spending time doing things they like with people they like. More of that will make your life better, generally, with or without a relationship, too.
posted by davejay at 6:17 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sex is great, but touch matters more than you probably think, in this healing time. Do consider massage (of the aboveboard variety), haircuts, even pedicures (yes, boys get them), as you work your way up to Internet dating etc.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:05 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think wildcrdj raises a good point: are you sure you WANT casual sex? Many people say they do because they're horny, but when it comes down to taking action they can't. I can't say that you are or are not interested, but your history shows that you might consider taking some time to consider it.

People (especially men) who seek one-night-stands are generally very confident, or at least know how to appear that way. After being with only one woman, and being bookish and not into nightlife, you probably wouldn't know how to act in that situation. Having sex with a friend might be a better option, if the option presents itself. Just be honest with her about the probable timeline of your divorce.

Make sure you are focusing on your friends. Friends are often ignored during drawn-out periods of depression. And that's a shame, because they can help pull you out of it.
posted by CorduroyCorset at 10:50 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing touch as important. Certainly was for me, and I went 5 years before I dated.

Old time dancing, folk dancing are a great way to touch and be touched. Also good for 'meeting people', and folk dancing can also be a great workout I have found.

Take your time, and don't rush your fences. It worked for me, and I reckon I am a lot better for it.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:11 AM on November 24, 2010

Listen to davejay. I was going to say what he said, but he said it perfectly!
posted by xenophile at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2010

I've been pretty much exactly where you are, and while I don't have any solutions, I do have a few words of advice.

You sound like you probably have more self-esteem problems that you're letting on. You may not even be aware of it per se, but if you find yourself struggling to connect with people (especially women), that's probably a big part of the reason why. You don't want to let something like that go unchecked. If you feel like you're not making progress towards the kind of life you want, consider getting some counseling. It's helped me a ton.

When it comes to online dating, be sure to have realistic expectations. Unless you're extremely lucky, you'll have to contact tons and tons to women to make it work, because 95% of them will completely ignore you. That's just how it works, so don't get impression that it's just you and you're undesirable.
posted by shponglespore at 9:20 AM on November 24, 2010

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