Please give me some hope.
February 17, 2011 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Please give me some hope.

I'm 32. I am going through a bad break up. The relationship lasted 1.5 years. It's been only a few days since the break up and I'm trying to act normal and go about normal life even as I find myself tearing up in my stupid cubicle at work. I do not plan to ever have contact with the ex again and so far have had no contact since the breakup. I need to make a clean break.

Can anyone give me stories of hope? I have been searching the internet for matchmaking sites and reading bad review after bad review. My social circle is small and none of my friends has single friends they could introduce me to. My mom actually has a lot of younger friends who have friends who could maybe introduce me to someone new, but I find it difficult to believe that a relationship could work if my mom is setting me up.

My ex and I met on okcupid. I tried craigslist and okcupid. Previously, I spent nearly 3 years single. I felt OK during this time, but I really did have a sense of emptiness despite doing all the right things - such as volunteering, going out with friends, meeting as many new people as I could, seeing a psychologist, and going to meetups. I was thrilled to meet the new guy and I thought I would never be single again.

It takes me a long time to fall for someone. I dread the idea of waiting another 3 years to find someone I love again. I remember coming back from dates and sobbing on the car ride home because I didn't feel a connection and felt like I never would.

Now, I feel incredibly old. I am looking for stories of hope from people who have found love in their 30s and beyond.

At this point, my mind is only capable of remembering the stories of people who wanted to find a partner, but never found one. For instance, one family friend is 62 and she has been single for 30 years despite wanting a relationship. Another, has been a widow for 4 years now and wants to meet someone new, but hasn't had any luck. The third is a friend who is the same age as me who has never been in a relationship despite wanting one.

Please, share your happy success stories with me. I could use some hope right about now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
I went on my first date with my husband three weeks after breaking up with the man I was "supposed" to marry.

Take a class. Join a club. There are men out there who are wonderful.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:12 AM on February 17, 2011

One of my BFFs just got married in October ... at 39. Had various serious relationships in her 20s but nothing really panned out. Nothing great in her 30s. She focused on her career and, when she turned 35, decided she wanted kids even if she didn't have a husband, and became a foster parent fostering-to-adopt. Met this guy (who's 31 or 32, I forget) in a bar when introduced by a mutual friend. Dated as a single mother. Of troubled children. They got married like 8 months after they started dating.

They are very happy!

She went through some of the same stuff as you're talking about in her early 30s, feeling frustrated that she was going to end up alone and why couldn't she meet people and so on and so forth. (And she's very outgoing, very fascinating, very accomplished, pretty badass, very fun to be with, very generous as a friend, etc. She wasn't suffering from shy or boring!) She finally decided to live her life and love herself and achieve her goals when she was about 35 because she'd either meet the right person or she wouldn't, and she didn't have a whole lot of control over it other than, you know, going out and meeting people, so it wasn't worth worrying about. (That, you'll note, is when she decided to start fostering and become a mother instead of waiting for her life to start.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

32 is pretty young nowadays. Here in New York City, there's nothing remarkable about not yet being married at that age.

My mom actually has a lot of younger friends who have friends who could maybe introduce me to someone new, but I find it difficult to believe that a relationship could work if my mom is setting me up.

Why? This sounds like distorted thinking. Give this article a try and maybe the book on which it's based. With some work, you may be able to feel better about your situation.

However, there's another thing to think about in this:

Previously, I spent nearly 3 years single. I felt OK during this time, but I really did have a sense of emptiness despite doing all the right things - such as volunteering, going out with friends, meeting as many new people as I could, seeing a psychologist, and going to meetups. I was thrilled to meet the new guy and I thought I would never be single again.

Even if you find someone new, get married etc. they might get run over by a bus, or get cancer or something else might happen. If you feel fundamentally empty outside of a romantic relationship, the only way you'll solve that problem is by changing yourself, because any romantic relationship will be temporal.
posted by Jahaza at 9:20 AM on February 17, 2011 [12 favorites]

Stop wondering how on earth you're going to find the next person until you've begun to get over this one. This is a time in your life where you're accountable to no one but yourself -- perhaps it's not where you wanted to be, but while you're here you can consider lots of things that you'd never be able to if you were trying to be a good partner to someone

I remember coming back from dates and sobbing on the car ride home because I didn't feel a connection and felt like I never would.

This tells me that you are investing too much emotionally in the idea of dating. It's one thing to feel a little bummed, or to think, "Gosh, what a waste of time THAT was." It's another to be sobbing in your car because this random person didn't turn out to be the man of your dreams. I don't think becoming numb or detached is the answer, but perhaps embracing a more adventurous spirit when it comes to these interactions would take the pressure off. Instead of getting whipped up into a froth of anticipation before the date, just think, "I've been here before. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Either way, I'll be just fine." Repeat it until you believe it.

There are as many ways to live (and love) as there are people in the world. Even if you wind up meeting someone three years from now (an unthinkably sad thing by your current mindset), no matter what you will feel that it has been worth the wait.
posted by hermitosis at 9:21 AM on February 17, 2011 [19 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear this and know how you're feeling. Give yourself a little time to grieve and acknowledge the loss of that's healthy to do this. Then pick yourself up and dust yourself off an move on.

Ok. Moving on! First, stop feeling like life after 30 is a big downhill, because it's not. In fact, I think that 30 is seriously the new 20 - you're more well established, you have more resources, and most of the instablitity (MOST being the key word haha) is gone! I went through an AWFUL breakup last year and then turned 30. I guess once the dust settled, I saw it as an opportunity to rebuild myself and to find my own stability, rather than finding stability within the relationship. I'm still singleish right now, but I'm having a blast and couldn't picture life any other way!

Let's see...I broke up with my BF of 5 years (and we lived together - ugh). I bought a house, got a pet, bought a car, changed jobs, repaired friendships, rebuilt my relationship with my parents, focused on keeping myself healthy and happy, discovered some new hobbies, made new friends...the list goes on. Oh yeah, and I turned 30 somewhere in there as well.

I read somewhere that writing two lists helps:

List 1: Goals that you want to accomplish, someday (mine sound ridiculous, but I find both humor and comfort in this list: get married, buy a real house, sell my condo, retire, pay off credit card debt, etc.)

List 2: What have you always wanted to do but now you have the time to do?! (e.g. learn to tap dance, workout on a regular basis, stop eating chocolate, etc. etc.)

Focus on List #2, and List #1 will surprisingly start falling into place I've found.

Get motivated! Get excited! You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. See this as an opportunity to do and see and become the person who you will love.
posted by floweredfish at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2011 [13 favorites]

I know SO many people who completely gave up until one day... there was their soulmate. Sometimes it's a friend you never realized felt that way. Sometimes it's one last chance on an online dating site. There's no set schedule for this sort of thing. But there is hope. Right now, while you're going through this breakup is probably when it's going to be hardest to see.

Get involved in activities with other people just for fun. Volunteer. Check out or go to MetaFilter meetups! Get a new hairstyle or dress up for no reason at all. Look strangers in the eye and smile at them as you pass by, though be careful with that last one as it's more effective than you might expect. ;-) Mostly - learn to like yourself on your own.

Whatever you do, don't just sit at your cubicle and cry. Well, all right, cry for a while. You probably need to. But don't tell yourself it's hopeless. It isn't unless you believe it is.

Oh, and when you do start dating again - try to have fun first and foremost. Expecting everyone you go out with to be The One is an awful lot of pressure on everyone involved.
posted by katillathehun at 9:23 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was with my ex-wife for 15 years or so--high school until mid-30s--when she had an affair with a married co-worker. We divorced; it was all out of the blue. I ended up in a rebound relationship pretty quickly that didn't pan out, and then I signed up for

After two years with Lovely GF, wedding bells can be heard in the not-too-distant future. She was the second person I went on a date with.

There's always hope!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:23 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take it easy! You broke up a few days ago? Then get the hell off those dating sites and ignore set-ups for now.

Take a while to heal and rediscover yourself, THEN put yourself back out there. A year and a half is a long time, and you've got to get out of the habit of being in that relationship before you jump back into the game. (Although, if serendipity falls into your lap, but all means take it.) But seriously, give yourself some time to mourn, then to take care of yourself, and THEN to open up to the travails and rejections that can come with modern dating.
posted by motsque at 9:25 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know a few people who split up with major partners (as in, both names on the mortgage) in their 30s and then started happily dating. Someone I work with got engaged to his girlfriend at 39. People often marry twice, especially in the US.

However, I echo what everyone said here - you need time to discover a lovelier you. Take time out. Remember who you are. Try that thing you always wanted to. Then when you get back into it, the stakes won't seem so high.
posted by mippy at 9:30 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know it's a cliche, but my best relationships came about when I wasn't looking and was totally happy being single. I have never found a great guy by "looking." When you are happy and content, you give off a good vibe that others are naturally attracted to. No one wants to hang out with the person giving off desperation signals. You said you just recently ended a relationship. Take some time off of scouting for a mate and do something you're passionate about or just want to learn about. Tak a photography or dance class, volunteer at an animal shelter or as an usher at a theater, etc. You may just find someone who you have a lot in common with. Or, worst case scenario, you learn some things and find out a lot about yourself, which can still only help you in the long run.

When I met my husband in grad school, I was totally fine with being single. I met a lot of people and was just having fun. I got a reputation for being very easygoing and fun to be around, and my now husband made a move at a party because he was attracted to me because of what a positive person I was. I had liked him for a while because he was quiet but seemed to get along with everyone. We both had our own things going and were attracted to the other because of that.

I don't believe in the whole "you complete me" thing. I believe people should work on being complete on their own, and when they find another "complete" person, the sum is greater than the parts. If you disagree, you may want to talk to a therapist about codependency issues.
posted by Francophilex at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Spent years single and looking, and endured some of the worst dates, the most disappointing encounters, and some really damaging relationships during that time.

Moved to a new city, resolved to stay single for at least a year so I could experience it without the tarnish of more bad relationships, and then went to a gig with a friend who lived there and met the man of my dreams.

Sometimes I feel like while you're worrying about your future, fate holds it back from you cause you can't deal with it. When you calm down and forget about your future, fate calmly places it in your hands and whispers "you know what to do".
posted by greenish at 9:34 AM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

In my experience, the important thing is to stay open to people. Don't have preconceptions, take a chance on the people you do meet. There are many wonderful people out there, but you have to learn to recognise them and accept them for who they are.
posted by londongeezer at 9:36 AM on February 17, 2011

I broke up with a live-in bf of one year when I was 32. It had been a whirl-wind, romantic courtship, and we started living together after three months. Even now, I remember parts of our relationship as magic. But it was a brutal, ugly break-up, rife with betrayal. I was a mess for months (I even did some short-term counseling). Not eating, crying at work... a mess. It took a while to get back into the swing. I even broke down into tears on (not after) a first date. But time does heal.

A year later, I met a man online. He seemed pretty great, but had recently ended a 5 year relationship. I was very hesitant about moving forward, thinking I was probably rebound material. After a slow and steady year of dating, we stepped it up. We are now creeping up on seven years, have lived together for two, and are domestically partnered in NYC. We are talking about marriage.

It wasn't exactly a whirl-wind courtship, but it has certainly become a deep and abiding love. We've weathered some intense stress (both of us layed-off, death of his parents, and a couple of serious health events for me), and have come out stronger and more committed for it.

So keep the hope, but give yourself time to shake off the last relationship. Love is there, but just unpredictable.
posted by kimdog at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

My parents were divorced when my mom was 23 or 24. Let me tell you, I love my mom but she is NOT a femme fatale by any stretch of the imagination. She met my stepdad when she was 49 and he was 42 (he had also been divorced a long time). She is now in her early 60s and they are together.
Another person close 2 me had a couple of Long term relationships when she was in her 20s and early 30s, including a very serious one. Then a lot of nothing. Just after her 50th birthday, she married a wonderful fella, also long divorced. I cannot imagine either of them with anyone else; they are very much in love.
posted by pointystick at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2011

Even if you find someone new, get married etc. they might get run over by a bus, or get cancer or something else might happen. If you feel fundamentally empty outside of a romantic relationship, the only way you'll solve that problem is by changing yourself, because any romantic relationship will be temporal.


And the 'success story' you're looking for: my OH and I met via online dating 3 years ago. I'm now in my late 30s, and we have an adorable baby together and a happy home life.
posted by rubbish bin night at 9:51 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Please, share your happy success stories with me. I could use some hope right about now.

I broke up with a boyfriend of 4 years at age 34. I felt much as you did, despite being a very independent person who, in the past, had been happy being single. But, after a couple of years of random bits and pieces, I met my now husband at 36. Happy ending!

And I should say: I would not have been capable of having a relationship this good -- with this level of faith and trust and love -- when I was younger. It's not just wine that gets better with age.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

My dad divorced at 29, and found himself a part-time single dad of a toddler. He married my stepmom (after dating for a long time) six years later, and they've been married just shy of 11 times as long as he'd been married to my mom. My mom was a year older than him, got together with a guy she knew in high school a year after the divorce, and has now been married to my stepdad for almost half her life.

There's always hope.
posted by SMPA at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My marriage ended when I was 37. I took a self-imposed year off from any dating at all to rediscover and redefine myself as an individual outside of a relationship. I started into dating casually and with no thought or intent of long-term relationship. I soon met someone (through internet dating) who was perfect for me. I'm now 45 and very happily married to her.
If it's only been a few days then it's way too early for you to be thinking of dating again. It's cliche, but you're only ready for someone else in your life when you don't need someone else in your life. Work on healing and accepting yourself, and they'll find you.
posted by rocket88 at 9:56 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, here's my true tale. Had a serious boyfriend with whom I owned a house. He was pretty openly planning what kind of ring to buy for our engagement. Small problem: he was an abusive jerk. The second time he was arrested for domestic violence against me, I finally applied for a restraining order.

So, there I was. I was older than you are -- at that point in my late 30s -- and I'd just demonstrated spectacularly bad judgment in my choice of man with whom to have a very serious relationship, and I figured I'd blown my chance for settling down happily.

So, I expressed these thoughts to my very supportive and wonderful brother, who told me kindly that they were idiotic, and suggested I do some dating. So, I glanced at the personals section of a local paper, called the voice mail boxes of three of the guys who'd advertised, and went out for three dinners with strangers. One turned out to be a racist, one was a tedious bore, and the third was my husband, who I love more than I will ever be able to express. We dated for about a year and then got married. That was quite awhile ago. I feel lucky every day that I met him.

I hope that helps. I'd suggest you just move on with your life, enjoy it, and be glad it is no longer consumed by your ex. You never know what fate has in store, or on what schedule.
posted by bearwife at 10:00 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

I was married for 15 years. Then things got rough when I needed to care for a sick parent. Then my wife, my partner, the person I most needed to have my back in times of trouble -- she divorced me.

Things looked bleak. I was depressed, broke, living at home with a senile mother who required constant care. I had no social life. I had no hope of meeting anyone.

Then I did. Online. Then we met. In person. Then we fell in love. Now we're married.

And she is the most awesome punk-as-fuck completely compatible person I have ever known.

I spent 15 years modulating my wavelength, making it work, for a person who, it turned out, never really had my back.

Now there's someone who GETS me, who loves me, who shares my values and my tastes and my aspirations. Someone I love unreservedly.

There is hope!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:03 AM on February 17, 2011 [28 favorites]

And did I mention we're both in our 40s?

Hope: there is it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:05 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

My happy success story:

I was divorced after a LONG marriage (25 years) and even though there was no other option, and it was the right thing for myself and my daughter, it still was horribly depressing, lonely, and painful, and left me feeling helpless and hopeless for quite a long time. After a few years, I finally had an inkling that I might (might) be interested in dating.

So, I went on some coffee dates with a few people in my social circle, a couple of whom I was really fond of. I got along well with several people, but nothing ever turned into "something." I also went out with people I met through online services. Everyone was nice, and I have no horror stories or regrets, but again, nothing came of it.

I had come to the point where I felt I would not even go out with anyone I met online. I was just going to wait until something magical happened and I would accidentally somehow bump into someone and we would hit it off, like in the movies. I knew that wasn't realistic, but that's what I was thinking. I even told my best friend that I wasn't going to even respond to any more online date requests.

But then (spoiler alert!)... within a week of saying that, I got an online response that intrigued me enough that I went out with a lovely young woman. And we hit it off immediately! Everything has clicked in a way that I never thought was possible. We are true partners, friends, and companions, and at 49 years old I am now engaged to a wonderful woman. Even my friends say we are such a good fit, and so natural with each other that it seems as if we have always been together. I am amazed every day at how wonderful it is, and not only in a romantic sense (although that part is fantastic), but in tangible, realistic, everyday measures of compatibility.

So, don't think this is the end. And don't think you are old!

I'll add a brief 2nd story:
My mother and father divorced after many years of marriage. My mom was newly single and in her early 60s! She pretty much thought (as did I) that she would likely remain single for th rest of her life. But then, she met a wonderful man who treats her like a queen. They fell madly for each other and got married after only 10 days! (Thanks, Reno!) Such a quick romance is not recommended, but they have now been married 14 years with never a cross word between them. Now in their late 70s, they still are obviously deeply in love and treat each other with kindness and tenderness, and never hesitate to tell me or anyone who will listen how wonderful the other person is to be with.

You never know what's around the corner. Stay hopeful, and trust that you will feel different later than you do now, and you will look back in awe of how far you've come.
posted by The Deej at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

My parents were older when they met - moreso considering the times. The way they tell it, everyone had given up on them. They were taking the same airplane flight and my mom sat next to my dad because she thought he looked quiet and wouldn't talk to her. Little did she know that my dad is a master of snappy chatter. So I'm the product of a couple of strangers who met by dumb luck and hit it off in a few short hours. They're still married, and chit-chatting away. This helps me remember that you really never know how or when people will come into your life.
posted by griselda at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

When I was 32, I had split with my wife and hadn't yet met my second. Turns out, third is a charm.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:12 AM on February 17, 2011

At the age of 46, after 9 years of living with a man, we broke up. We owned a house together and everything; this was supposed to be a forever thing.

At the time, I had a profile on OK Cupid, but it was set to "Seeing Someone". I was most definitely not looking for anyone - this was before Facebook, and I used it for social networking. I did, however, have a fairly in-depth profile on the site, and I had made some good friends there. I left my profile set as Seeing Someone because I didn't want to deal with dating until we had sold the house, etc. Plus, it takes a while to get over a 9 year relationship.

However, within a week of the breakup, I got an email on OK Cupid from a guy who was just commenting on something I had said in my profile. Four and a half years later, we are still together, and we are solid.

I had a lot more going against me than you have. For one thing, I was 46. Forty-six year old women are not hot properties on dating sites. Even if you look good, the general population on those sites skews a lot younger. I was living with my ex. I hadn't been in the dating scene in years, and didn't remember how to flirt. And 46-year-old men bored the hell out of me. I had nothing in common with them, and my friends have always been younger than me. I had no desire to spend my weekends watching King of Queens, or listening to Van Halen, Motley Crue, and other 25-year-old music, or listening to people's stories about their knee surgery. I was a left-wing, liberal, atheist living in Texas. I figured it was hopeless. And then he showed up, and he was gorgeous, hyperactive like me, intelligent, funny, kind, unbelievably nice, had a glamorous job, and as I eventually found out, is better in bed than anyone I have ever been with. Oh, and he's even a bit younger than me. We have a great life full of adventures and laughing, and I truly couldn't be happier. I honestly never, ever have a moment when I feel lonely. I know that he's there for me, come hell or high water.

But if you had told me when I was your age that I was going to be single again at 46, I probably would have cried for weeks. I never would have thought this could happen, but I'm living proof that it can.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:13 AM on February 17, 2011 [12 favorites]

It'll be OK. The older I get, the cooler the women I meet wind up being. I'm 34 and looking right now myself. It'll happen.
posted by clango at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2011

Last year, just a month after I turned 33, I went through a break-up which destroyed me emotionally because the way it ended was similar to another breakup I went through three years prior. For the next two months, I continued to be in serious therapy and focused on getting my self back together again. I most assuredly didn't date, but tried to go out with friends as often as I could.

Then, someone whom I'd met years ago in real life but forgot about found me again on Twitter and we started talking about tax preparation and intellectual property, as I wanted to refile my 2009 taxes and grow my blog business and he was in the ideal spot to be able to help me with both. One evening in December, we started talking about non-business stuff and what was originally a brief conversation while dropping off receipts turned into a four to five hour conversation and the realization that we were mutually attracted to each other.

Now, after having had our two-month anniversary we've exchanged keys so he has access to my place and I have access to his now. We're talking about moving into his building once it comes time to renew his lease, which isn't till the end of the year and that's fine for my time table. It's almost funny and a little scary how much we have in common, and in particular how much easier it is to be with him than it was my most immediate ex.

Someone here on the green said once that great romantic relationships feel easy a lot of the time. I never believed it until now.
posted by TrishaLynn at 10:51 AM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best part of all: He's a stealth MeFite. :)
posted by TrishaLynn at 10:53 AM on February 17, 2011

There is hope all around. I'd dated very little until I was in my thirties, and thirty-five before I had a sense that the current guy and I were pretty awesome together. And so many of my friends met their mates on-line while in the their 30's that I tend to think of it as the Norm.
posted by ldthomps at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2011

Wife left unexpectedly when I hit 40, and as a fairly recent immigrant (UK => US) I had no family and few social connections. I used the time to get to know myself a bit better and develop a positive outlook on life - tried to see the opportunities in setbacks and so forth. And there were many. After a year, I was cautiously investigating online dating but never got as far as creating a profile, and Craigslist, frankly, was terrifying.

A chance invite to a New Year party and I met the most wonderful woman, in a very similar situation to myself, and we've never looked back.

Relax, try not to seem desperate and give it time!
posted by nicktf at 11:23 AM on February 17, 2011

Two more stories of hope:

My husband met me when he was 36 years old. By that point, he'd more or less given up on finding someone and thought that he'd probably never marry. (At 36!) He'd had a long-term relationship with a childhood sweetheart that ended when he was around 25, and a couple of serious relationships after that, but all of them obviously ended. When we started dating, it was about a year after he'd ended a 3-year, on-again, off-again relationship. We got married a few months after his 38th birthday. So much can change in such a short span of time!

A close friend met his wife at age 39, and they married right before his 41st birthday. They now have a newborn and are all blissfully happy (if, of course, sleep-deprived). He'd previously been engaged twice.

Both of these men are intelligent, sincere, well-educated, responsible, loving adults. They simply didn't meet their partners until later in life. Just because a person's not married or partnered by 30 doesn't mean there's something wrong with them or they're not good partner material. I hope you don't think that about yourself.

Finally, the better you know yourself, the better you'll be able to choose a compatible long-term partner.
posted by pecanpies at 11:32 AM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Why do you need to date? I'm a 35-year-old guy, broke up after a 7 year long relationship about a year and a half ago, if I'm counting right. I haven't gone on a date since, and it's been pretty refreshing. There is real value in not feeling as though you need to be dating or in a relationship.

You sound like you've never even considered this, but I urge you to do so, even if temporarily: you don't need to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. More to the point, you are the only one who can make yourself happy—this is a true fact, not a glib rationalization. And if you figure out how to be happy being single, you become so much better of a possible companion, and you become so much more attractive as a person. It's sort of anti-intuitive and ironic but it's true: if you aren't looking, if you don't need a relationship, you are much more capable of finding one, and finding a good one at that.

So here's my story of hope for you: you will take some time now, get over this break-up, get comfortable with yourself, get comfortable in your own skin. You'll realize it was a fantastic move that you broke up with this person, because you needed that time to feel good about yourself alone, and they weren't the right person for you anyways. And you will also realize that 31 is really, really young in the scheme of things and it's not a big deal. Finally you'll wake up one morning, go about your business, and then halfway through the day have the realization that you haven't once thought about relationships or your ex or falling in love and yet, for some reason, you're happy nonetheless. And you'll be truly happy. And maybe on that day, you'll meet the person who you'll spend the rest of your life with, because you'll be truly happy and glowing because you'll have figured your shit out. Or maybe you won't, but you won't care.

I know this is possible because it's been happening for me. Good luck. Feel free to me-mail me if you'd like.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Wordy, McWord, i_s. Despite my internalizing the breakup a bit, I did try my best to remember that the best me was a happy me and that it wasn't the end of the world being 33 and single (again).
posted by TrishaLynn at 11:54 AM on February 17, 2011

I read NYTimes Weddings and Celebrations section, in particular, the Vows column that comes out every Sunday which features a couple and how they met. And. It. Is. Amazing. Yeah, sure, there are the couples who met young, have no problems and get married young. But the majority of stories feature stories from couples who are older, or couples who met young, had problems, broke it off, and a couple of years later reunite to get married. I read and go through the archives when I'm feeling depressed about my chances of finding my soulmate. It gives me hope to hear that not everyone has a linear path towards marriage, and that true love is hard to find and hard to keep.

(They have archives that go back to 1981! Just search for "vows" in that section!)
posted by moiraine at 12:00 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

I didn't even start seriously dating until I was well until my 20s. I met my wife-to-be when I was 35 and we got married when I was 40. Six years later, we're still very happy together.

At age 32, you've got plenty of years ahead of you for love. Give yourself some time to take care of yourself and find your emotional center. Then you can start looking again.
posted by tdismukes at 12:12 PM on February 17, 2011

I'm just chiming in to let you know you are so not alone. I'm 31 and going through something eerily similar. I'm on the verge of breaking up with a guy after a year and half relationship and meeting on OKcupid, and the thought of having to start over and date for another how ever many years, at an age that is fastly approaching the "high risk" for pregnancy and all that, is just downright paralyzing to me. I am in need of hope as well, so I will read with anticipation the answers to your question. Thank you for having the courage to reach out and ask it.
posted by GeniPalm at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

tl;dr warning

My partner (let's call him M.) and his [former] wife S. were friends with another married couple (C. and G.). S. and the husband (G.) had an affair; both marriages broke up. At the time, M was 33 and C was 31.

C., seeking social contact after a long relationship in which her ill-tempered, introverted husband had discouraged it, began hosting barbecues, picnics, movie nights and costume parties nearly every weekend. M. drove up from Iowa. When I arrived, C. said, "Oh, go sit by those guys; they're musicians and you'll have something in common."

So I sat down next to M. I was NOT looking for a relationship; I had broken up with someone five months earlier (same weekend M's marriage had imploded, actually), but we were still physically and emotionally entangled. Being in a Mood, and not caring who knew about it, I launched into a rant about the situation. M responded with his own experiences. Six hours later, he hadn't stood up once; we'd talked the whole time. I found him on the internet and chatted him up the next day.

We haven't missed a night since; within a week we'd had two 8-hour phone chats that lasted until the sun came up. We began dating officially a month later; we had a year of weekend visits and have shacked up for 18 months. We've survived grad school, underemployment, bad schedules, cancer, death and craziness on every front. We'll be married this fall; I'll be 32 and he'll be 36.

The guy with whom I was entangled (aka B)? I met him three weeks after my own marriage had split up, when a friend invited me to a hockey game (but neglected to tell me I was on a date). I was 27 and had never lived on my own or paid my own rent; he was 30 and had dated around but never had a serious relationship.

We dated for a year; it was passionate but argumentative, with many high and low points of our own making. Worth it, but I didn't realize how a good relationship really felt until my current one. As TrishaLynn said above, it feels easy. "Oh, so THAT'S how it's supposed to be!"

Ultimately, though, I learned a lot about myself that I hadn't learned in my marriage. Even during the time we were going back and forth after breaking up, I learned so much about being single, being a good partner, realizing what I needed in a relationship and realizing when I just wanted a companion. It was tough but very necessary.

The key part with both of these stories was realizing what was right for me. I went with the flow; I was open to new experiences. When I met B, I thought he was boring and bland. I found out that he loved travel and ethnic foods, had the musical taste of a 45-year-old lesbian (what beer-drinking ogre has seen the Indigo Girls 11 times?), was unfailingly loyal to friends, ran theater productions and collected canned meat. We always had stuff to do and talk about.

When we broke up but still entertained the [misguided] idea that we might try again in the future, I was able to separate my desire for a companion from my specific desire to be with him. That helped me not settle -- for anyone, but most of all for him.

My current relationship is much stronger for it.

Other stories branching out from my own:
B started dating someone about eight months after we disentangled (as far as I can tell). They got engaged several months ago. He was 32; I believe she's a couple years older. (I would give anything to see how they shack up. This is a guy who kept a metal lathe on his kitchen table and didn't like it when I threw out one of his four cheap, ancient jars of pepper. Still, they look very happy. I like to think we straightened each other up a little.)

My ex-husband, who was 36 when we split, found someone (39ish at the time) on about five months later. They've been dating long-distance (including three months when she was in Germany) for nearly three years.

M's roommate, who had no job and had barely touched a woman for eight years (since breaking up with a lesbian who only wanted him to father her child and give her Vicodin), found a lovely woman in England. He was 38.

Due to C's parties, her many friends started a group on Facebook called "C's Divorce Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To My Social Life." Off the top of my head, I can name at least one marriage, one (other) engagement, multiple long-term relationships/moving in togethers and a hell of a lot of hooking up that resulted.

After a very difficult year (of her own making), C herself buckled down and started dating someone as well. She said she'd never again live with anyone or get married, but they're shacking up in August. She's 34.

My aunt ran into the widower of her college roommate. He's a career Navy guy; she's a globetrotting media coordinator with a crazy-ass family. They got married when she was 54 and just celebrated their tenth anniversary.

My grandma was pursued relentlessly at every age. Two husbands predeceased her, including one she married at age 68; her retirement community included two guys who had pined away for her for over 50 years.

Never give up. Be yourself, or whatever version of yourself you happen to be that day (even if it involves ranting, beer and/or being sweaty from a move). Just be open, thoughtful and ready.
posted by Madamina at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2011 [18 favorites]

You won't like my advice, but I'm not going to be flowery and patronizing.

Forget about love right now. You are putting way, waaaaaaaaaay too much emphasis on finding a partner. Yes, having someone in your life to love is a great goal, but it shouldn't be the only goal. When you have a break-up, if you feel like you lost your ENTIRE LIFE, you are not having healthy relationships. A lover should just be one part of your life, not the whole focus.

You, regardless of who you are, where you are, what you look like and what you're into, deserve healthy relationships. You can't have those if you are fully focused on the relationship. I know it's a paradox.

You will meet other fish, so to speak. You will find love with someone else at some other point in your life. There are almost 7 billion people out there. At least a few of them would probably think you're great if they knew you. But unless you have a healthy life and are happy with yourself and what you're doing first, none of those relationships will last, regardless of how much you love each other.

Find your passions. Get into things you like. FIND what you enjoy and are passionate about if you don't allready know. Google things you like online. I bet there are groups of people you don't know who are into what you're into. Go there. Meet them.
Maybe they like different things you've never tried. Try them, you might like something you didn't even know about. Sounds like you've looked a little, but if you're still hung up on this relationship thing then even if you've tried to find stuff you still haven't found the right things that make you as an individual happy. Which means you don't know yourself very well. And if you don't know yourself very well, how can anyone else? Keep looking for YOURSELF, not someone else to fill the void left by you not knowing yourself.

If you are sobbing after dates where you don't connect and devoting all your time to finding love, you'll never find it. You're doing it wrong. You as a healthy individual need to come before ANYTHING including love. If you're not happy with your life as it is right now this very second with no one in it, having someone to love in it won't fix anything, it will just create new problems and insecurities.

Yes the prospect of facing the world alone is scary. You probably have tons of love to give, and tons of things you want to share. But stop thinking about love as a thing for you to make your life better. When you meet someone, what can you give them? where can you take them, what can you show them? how could being with you enrich their life? What sort of person do YOU WANT to share all the cool things about yourself with?
posted by RampantFerret at 12:44 PM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

My mom actually has a lot of younger friends who have friends who could maybe introduce me to someone new, but I find it difficult to believe that a relationship could work if my mom is setting me up.

That's how my parents met. My dad's mom was at a wedding of a cousin and noticed my mom, a friend of the bride. So she said, "I've got a son about your age..." And my parents have been happily married long than you or I have been alive.

The scary thing about dating is that you don't always have control over whom you meet and whether you'll click with them. I'm the same age as you. I had a huge crisis a few years ago when the woman I thought I would marry left me, right out of the blue. Broke up with me one day, moved out the next. And life goes on, and it gets better. I don't feel that being 32 dooms me any more than another age would. I'm me, and I'm here, and I choose to be happy with that because it's what I've got.

Also: don't think of OKCupid or any other matchmaking site as something that intrinsically 'works' or 'doesn't work.' All these sites are just vehicles to meet people you might not meet otherwise. Sure, each site has its own characteristics and attracts a slightly different group of people. But they're just methods, not ends in themselves. So keep going, because you never know what might happen or when. You can't *make* it happen, but you can create all the conditions that will *let* it happen.
posted by bassjump at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

My dad was 82 when my mom died. Their marriage had been 50+ years of grim passive aggression. My dad started chatting with a 79 year old lady on an AOL frisky seniors site. A few months later, he drove himself across the country to meet her. They had a couple years of merry adventures before they parted company, refreshed and in love with life again. So don't give up yet.
posted by Corvid at 1:24 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I gave up on dating after a horrible, horrible breakup. I announced to everyone I knew that I was taking a year's hiatus from dating to get my shit together.

3 months later I met my Largely Mythological Husband. Even though my shit wasn't all together. Oh, and I was 34.

I have a ton of straight female friends who married for the first time at age 40 and up, including two who married for the first time over age 50. Love! It's out there!

And so are lots of other wonderful things besides romantic love: love of friends and family, travel, volunteering for awesome causes, dancing, music, art, just sitting around with a cup of tea listening to the birds sing.

And a slight majority of my friends met their spouses or life partners through online dating, so I wouldn't dismiss that. The others met through friends, or through work, or through leisure time activities. You have friends, work, leisure time activities, and a connection to the Internets--you'll be fine.

But give yourself time to grieve the ending of your last relationship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:38 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just attended the wedding of a 61-year-old guy from my church. I've known him over 20 years. He met his bride through online dating.

He never stopped trying, and he never lowered his standards.
posted by tel3path at 1:53 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another story of hope for you - a good friend of mine recently got married. He's 40 and had never dated before he met her as he has some physical deformities that would, sadly, be a deal breaker for a lot of people. I can't recall exactly how he met her, but I know it wasn't in a dating scenario of any sort. It just worked out that way, and they're now a totally adorable couple who seem to be very happy.
posted by katillathehun at 2:08 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

There must be something in the water where I work.

Colleague #1 is 36, single, although dated a couple of people seriously. Met someone a year ago and their wedding is next month.

Colleague #2 of mine is 38. Married once, but divorced. Over the past two years, has confided in me about at least half a dozen dates, one-month relationships, a three-month relationship -- all no good, gone sideways, jerk was married, you name it. A few months ago she said to me quietly, "I'm seeing someone I met online...." She got married to the same someone two weeks ago and is expecting a baby. She had no idea she was pregnant until about a week before the wedding.

Colleague #3 is middle 40s. Two spectacularly failed marriages. Met someone online. They're engaged and will probably set the wedding date once their new house is finished. They bought a vacation home in a warm, sunny place.

And in other news, my dad got married two years ago. He's 81 now, his bride is 63; they met through a dating agency.

Just sayin'.
posted by angiep at 2:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I met my husband when I was 20 and we fell in love. We also lived in different cities, so we broke up. He actually moved to my city, and for two years we lingered in a weird "just friends" space without acknowledging our feelings. Then I moved away and we lost touch. I dated intermittently, never really developing a strong connection to anyone, and spent years single at a stretch. I never threw away the letters he wrote me in college.

Nine years after I last saw him, I moved back to my hometown to discover he had moved there, too. We got married last year.

(This is not to say you should stalk your old boyfriends, though.)
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:29 PM on February 17, 2011

He never stopped trying, and he never lowered his standards.

This is so important. The more people I date, the more I learn what's important to me in a person and in a relationship. And it sounds, at first, like that would make things harder, because my standards get higher every year. But you know what? Knowing exactly what you want is part of knowing who you are, because you learn what's important to you – in a deep and fundamental way. That's part of the reason, I think, behind the later-in-life success stories in this thread.
posted by bassjump at 3:30 PM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Okay, here goes. I was 28 when my boyfriend broke up with me. I really thought he was the one. We're still buddies to this day and he's still a great guy; just not for me (if you happen to live in Austin, he's still single by the way ;) We were together for 1.5 years just like you. My best friend also stopped talking to me around the same time and I didn't like my job that much. I had only a small social circle and I didn't really want to see any of them because they were all tied into my ex-best-friend or my ex-boyfriend.

So, I was unbelievably miserable and lonely. I, too, was crying at work thinking about going home to my efficiency apartment and my cat. I was worried about being single for the rest of life, becoming the crazy cat lady, etc.

I decided to make a plan to improve my life. I figured I needed both new friends and a new boyfriend. I decided to just go out to as many different events and social things as I could. I went to the Jaycees, a single volunteer group, the social arm of a ski club, a young professional meetup, a hiking group, and an outdoor group. I broke up with my ex-boyfriend in April. Between April and June, I went to one bowling event, one memorial day picnic, two hiking trips, one rafting trip, one wine-tasting event, two singles dinners, two happy hours, and one volunteer event. I also went on two dates, neither of which made me feel better.

In June, down the other end of the table at a singles dinner was my future husband. I knew I liked him from the moment I met him. So I took initiative and invited him to come to a barbecue and the rest is history. We've been together for almost eight years now. He's so much better than I ever could have imagined. And I've made some of my best friends through him.

Yes, you are going to be lonely for a bit. Yes, you are going to have to go on some sucky dates. But there's worse things than loneliness and bad dates aren't there? You will be fine. But you may need to make your own future by taking initiative and putting yourself out there.
posted by bananafish at 5:41 PM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

At age 32, my mom had just divorced (and she had a new baby and her mom had just died - it was a rough time all around). She figured there weren't many guys out there who were going to be up for dating a divorcee with three kids, and so decided she wasn't even going to bother trying (at least not for a very long time), and that she was just going to focus on building a new life that was just about her and us kids. A little over a year later, an old friend of hers from college introduced her to a guy (who had also gone to the same college - he and my mom had been acquaintances but not friends back then). For a few months he would spend the occasional afternoon with my mom, my siblings, and me, going to the beach, picnics - wholesome family activities, basically. Their first actual date with no kids around was a New Year's party. They were married that June. They have now been married for over 18 years. As much as I hate the whole "Love happens when you're not looking for it" thing, it seems to have been pretty accurate here.

Also, I'm in my mid-20s but dating someone who is in his late 30s, and he hadn't been in a relationship for I think around 5 years. We've been together about a year now. I think he's terrific.
posted by naoko at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I met my boyfriend on when I was 34 and he was 42. I'd been casually dating here and there, but had no intention of getting into a serious relationship. (Been there, done that for much of my 20s and in no rush to do it again) He was a little older than I preferred and didn't seem like my type, but we had plenty to talk about online and had a great time when we met in person. It wasn't love at first sight on my end, but I did enjoy his company, and we had quite a bit in common. That was in 2008. We moved in together almost a year to the day after our first date, and we're still very happily together.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:49 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd had some disasters in my love life, and no real long-term or successful relationships when I decided that I needed to branch out and meet new people. I joined OK Cupid and messaged some dude that wasn't really my type after he favourited me.
We emailed for a few weeks, and then met up for a drink. He's a chef and I'm a foodie, so we had plenty to talk about, but he really wasn't my type. I was certain that there was no chance of anything romantic happening between us. My friend asked me to give him a score - I said 6.5 out of 10.
I met up with him again a few days later, he'd kept in pretty close contact via sms and I'd been enjoying his conversation, and the second date was nothing like the first. He wasn't as nervous and I wasn't as guarded, and I had a really great time. I realised I'd gotten him wrong the first time.
Fast forward seven months to last Saturday.
I'm walking from the tram stop into town to go to my favourite bookstore, and guess who I see in my favourite jewellery store looking at rings?

It'll happen - but not when you expect or how you expect. Sometimes those expectations are what is keeping you from finding them.
posted by jonathanstrange at 1:45 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

A family friend of ours was pretty much single up until she met her husband-to-be at 39. They celebrated a decade of marriage a couple years ago.

Try not to expect every man you go on a date with to be perfect for you. They're probably not, but he seems nice and you get on alright, go out with him again. A lot of long-term relationships started after a spark on the second or third date.
posted by daysocks at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

One evening, a few years ago, I settled down with my husband and a few friends to watch a movie. The couples held hands, and the one single person, understandably, felt lonely and left out, and said so. I was compassionate, but also had a realization, and told it to her - at that moment, she was younger than any of the rest of us had been when we found our partners. We had all been uncoupled at her age too.
posted by Ellemeno at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I met my boyfriend N in July 2008. I put my profile up on on July 4th, I think, and he e-mailed me on the 7th (he was so new to the site his profile wasn't even up yet, but he was getting the e-mails of potential matches). We e-mailed back and forth for a couple of days, then talked on the phone late into the night. We met in person on the 10th and we've been together since then. I was 43 and he was 41; my weird, manipulative sort-of-boyfriend had disappeared about 6 weeks earlier, N's wife had walked out on him 10 weeks before.

There is always hope for finding love, but that shouldn't be your focus now. If you rush into dating now, you'll do something horrible like burst into tears at the wrong moment; I know it's tempting to look for comfort when you feel broken and alone, but you'll just wind up hurting yourself (and the other person) more in the long run. The only thing you can do right now is keep putting one foot in front of the other, make sure you're taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally, and remember that when you're healed from this experience, there are many wonderful people out there that will love to meet you.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:22 PM on February 19, 2011

My sister just got married last year, at the age of 35. She met her husband in grad school. She felt glad that she took the time to find someone who was right for her. I fully expect to be at their golden wedding anniversary some day.
Like others have said, take time to get over your last relationship. Dating right now is counterproductive.
posted by anotherkate at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2011

I think some of the best advice has already been mentioned. But I think of dating websites, as one big lottery, you might get lucky you might not. Think of dating and relationships as a lottery. And what you want to do is increase your odds, so depending on what kind of men you are interested you will have to act accordingly to increase your odds.

For example, if you enjoy cooking, try a cooking class, you may meet girlfriends that know some single guys.

If you like any kind of sport, go try it out, indoor soccer, softball, kickball, sailing, dodgeball, basketball, flag football, table tennis, volleyball, hiking. There are usually clubs for any and all of these in which you will meet the opposite sex.

Some agree and some disagree about going to bars, but that is more for one night stands and considered a 'meat market.'

You can look at organized trips for people such as a skiing trip, or a hiking trip, or rafting. You can try something out of your comfort zone as well.

There is dance classes with single guys & girls. There is a lot of stuff going on, with a lot of people doing it, it is your job to be able to accept the new experience and discomfort of the unknown.

Lastly you don't want to be on the 'hunt' sometimes that can discourage you. Do things you are passion about, be yourself, and be happy, the right one will show up. (I didn't believe any of this until it happened to me)

I met my girlfriend (soon to be fiance) through a coworker, and we've been crazy over each other ever since.

As for your clean break, that is the best way to do it. I have had some rough break ups, but NOT answering their phonecalls, texts, etc will make it easier to deal with. If you do attempt recontacting them, I feel as though it is just hurting yourself. (think of it as taking a push pin and just shoving it in your skin, there is no point, and it just hurts)

Good Luck! =)
posted by BigK at 9:30 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

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