Fucking love how do they work
November 2, 2011 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm tired of feeling so "issue-y" about relationships. Please help me stop.

Hi. I'm a straight guy, I've got issues, yeah. Recently, after a two-year hiatus after a looong, tiring relationship, I fell madly in love with someone. She is much younger than me (9 years; I'm 36, she is 27) . And while that isn't a problem in itself, the fact is that she is in a very different place in her life, in a number of ways. There's not really any way around it and, maybe even if she was a year older, or whatever (if, if, if...) she may be willing to be in a relationship with me. But she's not. I could work around her shit; she can't work around it with me around, that's the basic story. There's more but it's boring.

So, we're done, and I'm back to feeling like I've felt for the past few years, but worse. I wasn't looking for anything, I just hung out with her (she's someone I knew from years before and we connected again in a new city we were both living in) and fell hard right away. She claims she did too, but I'm not so sure now. I mean, who knows really.

The thing that bugs me is that I can't feel SANE about relationships. I thought I could be happy alone, and I have been...less miserable, definitely. But in the end it seems like I'm either in this phase of...well, read the comment I linked to above...or I'm in this phase of intense omg-I-want-to-die-for-you-shit. Neither style is healthy. Now, even now that I know she is bad for me on a number of levels, I can't help feeling like I'm a loser and will forever be losing the girls I truly could love and picking the wrong ones for stupidly long relationships that I waste time on. I just don't know why I'm chasing after desperately/hiding from women, and I really, really want to get off the roller coaster. What the fuck is up with me? Can someone give me a clue? I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself or, like, insane in love past the point of reason all the fucking time. Christ.

And shit, I'm 36 and I can't get this together. I'm generally considerate and like talking things out and have a lot of practice balancing my needs in a day-to-day way with someone in a relationship (way too much practice with the wrong people makes you good at it), but I don't know how to find the person in the first place who actually fits me and makes me happy, OR, just stop stressing about it and get on being single. Most the time I'm just not attracted to anyone, but I'm fucking lonely all the time. I'm tired of thinking about it at all really.

Yeah, I know, maybe some of you will go back and read my old comments and say HA SUCKER TOLD YOU SO. So be it, I guess I deserve a little told-you-so...
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet to Human Relations (11 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I realize that I'm going to be one of many people asking if you've spoken to a therapist about this? You've linked to one of your comments, and I feel your pain -- in fact, I felt that exact pain.

And going to a therapist for a while helped it. It gave me coping skills for when I did feel that way so I didn't take it out on my partner, and it gave me a "reality check" for when I started to feel all weird - I could stop and catch my breath and say "okay, wait, this is actually about something entirely in my HEAD, and doesn't have anything to do with the relationship itself." And that really helped. It didn't fix everything like a magic panacea, but I'm not sure that's how it works -- what it did was help me stop things from getting to be big problems and help me manage things and cope better.

I would urge you to find a good counselor -- the fact taht you're practically begging us to look at some of your past comments and drag you over the coals for them tells me something else is going on (honestly, I'm not sure I want to, and I'm not sure why you're ASKING me to -- who'd want that?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


And shit, I'm 36 and I can't get this together.

I didn't get my shit together until much later.

but I don't know how to find the person in the first place who actually fits me and makes me happy, OR, just stop stressing about it and get on being single. Most the time I'm just not attracted to anyone, but I'm fucking lonely all the time. I'm tired of thinking about it at all really.

Man this brings back memories..... I was exactly in the same situation when I was 36, except I had a train wreck of a divorce on the tracks behind me. And then a serial string of failed relationships strewn all over the place. I was always thinking "I want to love someone, I want someone to love me, if I could just find this person... tired of being lonely.. etc. etc. etc" looking at all of the dorks around me who managed to find a happy relationship. You are so not alone in feeling like this.

It's a hard place in life - you're too old to be hanging out with the 20s crowd - and too young to be doing the grown-up daddy thing. And everyone your own age is either happily in a relationship, or standing on the ledge next to you with their own baggage busting at the seams.

So yeah, have I been there.... and then BAM I met my wife and it's like that period of life never happened. It was blind, dumb, underserving luck - and the help of a Lebanese friend who fixed me up. I never had so many bad feelings disappear like magic.

Dude, it gets better.

It doesn't sound like you want to be single so don't force yourself to accept this. We humans are social animals. Don't beat yourself up over it. I won't tell you to not think about it, because you can't.

But let me fast forward for you - in ten years your happy self will look back on this period of your life - with no feeling whatsoever - because you'll be so far from it you won't recognize it.

So toughen up buttercup.
posted by three blind mice at 6:45 AM on November 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


Just echoing it gets better. Where do you live? In my part of the world there are a LOT of single 30 somethings who've ended "starter" marriages; it's pretty typical actually. And don't beat yourself up for being lonely or "issuey." Almost everyone craves intimacy.

The one thing I'd say is, you gotta give people a chance even if they don't look right to you at first glance. People in their 30s mostly do not look like models (and honestly? The women I know who are in their 30s and do look like models? The amount of upkeep, obsession and expense that goes into that preservation is its own set of problems.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:14 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell, it boils down to "you get lucky or you don't and until then there really ain't shit you can do," as per three blind mice's example. Living in limbo is fucking irritating, but you don't have control over the situation. Okay, sure, you can buy "How To Find A Mate After 35" and date everyone online you possibly can, but... you get lucky or you don't and there's nothing you can do about it. Some folks aren't meant to find lasting love until they're 40. Or 50 (like my shrink, who said she never had a relationship last longer than a few months in her entire life, and at one point went over a decade without dating anybody). Or 60 (Gloria Steinem). Or possibly ever. Meanwhile you're fucking stuck with that hole in your life to deal with and nobody filling it.

I don't necessarily think you "can't get it together" so much as you just haven't gotten lucky yet. Okay, so I don't know your entire story, but it doesn't sound like you were trying to sabotage anything or be an asshole. Shit just happened, people weren't compatible enough lifewise.

Really... you're just going to have to live with that hole until you get lucky, however many years or decades it may be. You can't really fill it, you just...get used to it. You find things to do in the meantime to keep you interested, if not all nurtured and snuggly. Can you be happy while single? Maybe, though it might just have to be a "do the best you can" sort of thing there. But...what else can you do? You can't hurry it up. You just have to deal with things as they are right now, while coming off of a love high to boot. Sorry it doesn't really get any more fixable than that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:24 AM on November 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with jenfullmoon, meeting the right person is luck for most people. Sure there are some people who get along well with others and can make things work with just about any decent, reasonable person but there are others where there has to be a really good fit.

I think you're staying too long at your own pity party. Keep busy so that you aren't wallowing in your own misery. Tutor kids that need help with homework, volunteer at a soup kitchen, walk dogs at the SPCA, get a dog, work out, join a running club and be involved in life so that you're meeting people. Even if you don't meet 'the one', you're making friends and acquaintances. Date online but don't worry if you don't meet anyone, try six months on and six months off. Try different sites. Let people you know that you're interested in meeting someone. But most importantly, cut yourself some slack.

I'm single, older than you, and I still want to meet someone. I'm going to Paris in a few months and I would love to go with someone. I travel alone a lot and it can be hard always eating alone in restaurants but I'd still rather go to Paris alone than sit on my couch watching Law and Order reruns.

Mopiness and desperation are not attractive traits. They say 'be the person you want to date' so make yourself interesting and keep your fingers crossed cause I think luck plays into it more than we think.
posted by shoesietart at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ditto to everyone above me. Luck plays a major role, and as dumb as this sounds, you'll be alone... until you're not.

The thing is, you need to be okay with that, which is easier said than done.

I have a friend in her 30s who is desperate to get married, to the point that she goes on this death march of hundreds of first dates, all with an air of desperate severity. She wants to be married immediately, which scares the guys off, which makes her more sad and desperate. It's a terrible cycle. I just want to yell at her, "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!"

You may be single the rest of your life. You probably won't be, but you might be, and that's okay. Plenty of single people do amazing things with their lives. JK Rowling was married for years, and didn't write Harry Potter until she divorced.

You need to get in the mindset that being single is OKAY. And once you are comfortable with that, meeting women comes so much easier. It seems counterintuitive, but its true.

I was right there with you. It took me two years of self imposed isolation to get past it. It was long and pretty miserable. I'd recommend going to a therapist instead, it'll probably be faster and more productive. But once I got to a point where I was truly okay with being single, I met my future wife like a month later.

And if it happened to this schlub, it can happen to you too. Good luck!
posted by shovel_mage at 9:34 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"but I don't know how to find the person in the first place who actually fits me and makes me happy,"

This is possibly a dumb question, but are you hanging out in the places where you will meet people who share your values and interests? For example, I saw in a prior question (I only looked because you mentioned it) that you like a "vagabond lifestyle" and that it's hard to find a woman who fits in with it. Are you going to adventure/travel club meetings? Taking foreign language classes? Going to talks at the local university by archaeologists just back from Mars? Traveling, and making a point to seek out others who speak your language(s) who are also traveling? (Singles trips, hostels, overseas organizations for speakers/nationals of X, whatever.)

We have a friend who's almost 40 and is looking to settle down with a woman who shares his values (stability, hard work, house in the suburbs, lots of education, etc.) who wants to have kids right away, which is clearly why he spends all his time at college bars hitting on 18-22 year old co-eds and then disappointed he can't find anyone mature, adult, and marriage-ready. HE SERIOUSLY DOES NOT SEE THE DISCONNECT. So are you looking in the right places?

As for the bipolar love feelings problem, you certainly can take that to therapy if you feel like you need to or you can't figure out how to cope on your own. Or you can do some self-therapy by reading novels about healthy and unhealthy relationships -- sometimes that can help people recognize their own bad patterns and figure out how to rewrite them. I'm sure there are many other options but those two leapt to mind for me. I often self-therapized after being an ass in human relations by reading lots of novels.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hello chap. There's a lot of good advice here, so I won't repeat too much of it.

The first thought is that you may want to adopt the attitude, "there is no problem here". It's a bit of zen and a bit of reframing. It sounds like the rest of your life is ticking over quite well, and the one aspect you feel incapable of sorting out is the 'significant other' piece. Thus, please tell yourself each morning -- or indeed when you begin bombarding yourself with negative messages -- that indeed there is no problem here. You are fine. You are living a life of your choosing and by and large, it's a good, fulfilling life.

The big result of this shift in thinking is to change your mind from, "there is a problem here" and recreating that problem or pounding your face into the wall trying to solve it, into a place where you are ready to grow and include someone in your life.

Often, when we cannot sort something out, we feel as if we are in a hole and must somehow climb out. What that thinking results in is no less than doubling the task at hand, as first one must climb out of the hole, and then one must go climb the hill. So long as you are looking up at the hill from inside a hole, it will inevitable seem twice as high.

Make a concerted effort to see yourself on flat ground, by realising that in fact, you are not in a hole, because there is no problem here.

Now, the next step will be to attract the Right One into your life. Perhaps the best way of doing this is to become the person you want to be with, and then allow them to join you on the journey. Love your life and love yourself, be kind to yourself, and fill your life with elements that are good and healthy for you. In each instance, rejoice in whatever situation you find yourself.

If you find yourself with a significant other on Christmas, realise the opportunity that creates to spend time with your loved ones. If you go and see a movie with mates, think of how much you enjoy their company and appreciate their presence in your life. Want nothing more.

When you have achieved a place where you literally are in love with your life and satisfied with it in most dimensions, someone will come join you in that bliss and that person will be the right person.

Thirdly, please realise that relationships do not spontaneously occur, but rather you work at them each day. Every day, you make a decision to continue the relationship -- to cultivate it and develop it. That starts small, with a coffee. And then a movie. And then a dinner. And then a dance. If you overwater a plant, it will drown, for whilst water is good and necessary, too much water too soon will wash away the tiny roots that need time to, well, take root.

And that brings me to the last point which is probably very key. In Western society, we live in such a results orientation. Everything is about results. We perform jobs we hate for the financial result. We compete to achieve recognition. We date to find a life companion.

Closely related to the theme above is that perhaps you may do better if you adopt a process-orientation. Let the process be its own reward. When you meet a woman, enjoy your time with her with nary a thought of your future together. Do not think about if she will or will not be the person with which you spend your future days. Be in the moment with her, and take from it what is there to be given.

Some encounters will last for an afternoon, some for an evening, and some for a lifetime. Allow the encounter to be what it is and be peaceful. Do not try to force yourself to make it more than it inherently is. Allow it to blossom to its full capacity and then appreciate that capacity.

So my suggestion is four-fold:

1) Get out of the hole by realising you are not in a hole
2) Appreciate all that you have and realise that at this moment, it is all exactly what you need
3) Take things slowly and allow new people to meet you have way
4) Enjoy each interaction you have with a woman with no expectation of what comes next

When you have embarked upon this new course, I predict you will find yourself more at home in your life. And when you are at home in your life, you will without direct action, attract the partner that you so seek.
posted by nickrussell at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


I can't help feeling like I'm a loser and will forever be losing the girls I truly could love and picking the wrong ones for stupidly long relationships that I waste time on.

You sound pretty normal to me, but are maybe having a bit of a pity party right now and maybe angry at yourself or at these women that you feel you've wasted time on. Can you reframe these thoughts for yourself? Relationships don't work out, even friendships fade, but were they really a waste of time? You probably had good times and bad times-- Did you learn anything from them? Did you learn something by dating the 27 year old that you can think about for future partners? You need to put those past relationships in proper perspective. It doesn't always work out, but they're not total trash either.

how to find the person in the first place who actually fits me and makes me happy, OR, just stop stressing about it and get on being single. Most the time I'm just not attracted to anyone, but I'm fucking lonely all the time.

Right now it sounds like you're on a desperation rollercoaster where the women have to save you from your unhappiness. You want something so badly, and when you get it you feel an intense sense of relief, like you're done and set for life. When you lose it, you're back to feeling miserable, angry that you can't have what you want, and stuck without it. It also probably proves the point to yourself that you couldn't have it, will never have it, don't deserve it, etc.

Anyways, I recognize this cycle. Can you see how much pressure you're putting on a potential girlfriend if she's got to save you from being lonely and make you happy? Right now, can you think of ways to increase your own sense of connection and happiness that doesn't involve a relationship? You don't have to be all black and white about it (accept feeling single or get a girlfriend NOW). I'd just work on your own level of happiness right now that doesn't involve romance. It will fall into place.
posted by biscuits at 11:09 AM on November 2, 2011


Check your MeFiMail.
posted by xenophile at 8:09 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some folks sent me some messages via MeFi-mail (including xenophile): thanks, I really appreciate what you said. I'll get back to you soon.

To those who posted, also, of course, thank you. I feel like Ask MeFi is great on these sorts of questions because all of you perceive a different facet of the person through the initial question, and all of you have your own experience to bring to it, and all of you post really considerate responses. So, sincerely, thank you. I want to try to respond in general to some of the major points that struck me when reading your comments.

First of all, I have been in therapy in the past, as recently as earlier this year, and I'll consider doing it again. The main reason I'm not is because I moved not too long ago to a new country so things have been in flux. The other thing is that I couldn't get a lot of traction on this issue at that time I was in therapy--in fact, my therapist kept telling me I needed to meet more women. Maybe the problem is that I didn't take his advice! I just feel like it's such a burden and commitment to get involved emotionally with someone. I'm the sort of guy that can't even kiss someone without it feeling super intense. Maybe that's the problem too. Hmm.

The thing that stung the most out of all your comments, and therefore probably is the pointer to where I need to look, is biscuits's point about depending on others for happiness:

Right now it sounds like you're on a desperation rollercoaster where the women have to save you from your unhappiness...Can you see how much pressure you're putting on a potential girlfriend if she's got to save you from being lonely and make you happy?

I guess what is frustrating about this is that I thought I was getting better. I did take time away to try and work on myself and get to a place where I was happy and moving forward in my life in every other way--nickrussell, your comment especially touched on this. I wasn't completely miserable when I was single, just pretty lonely a lot of the time when I was alone (not all, but much). I was trying hard as hell not to get involved with anyone, and just be as happy as I could be, and try to understand myself as well as I could. Then I met this woman and BANG it was like I was back in the old place. So reading what biscuits wrote stung and made me feel like, shit, did I learn anything at all from being alone for more than two years? Guess not.

However, something else biscuits said rang true as well: Did you learn something by dating the 27 year old that you can think about for future partners?

Too often I've thrown out my past relationships as merely being failures (mine). While I know I've learned things from them, "tactically" speaking, I haven't really learned anything "strategically." That is, like I said I can function well day-to-day, but when it comes to understanding the overall function of someone in my life I'm at a loss; and when the relationship ends I'm like, "why the fuck did I do this in the first place again?"

...and then the loneliness hits. "Oh right, that." So, yeah. Not sure what I'm saying here other than yes, I know I have learned things. I have to keep working on learning things. And I think if I process this a bit more I'll come out of this experience with some good indications of how I should behave in the future. So your comments served as a wake-up call to help me understand how to think about this going forward without getting mired in self-pity. I can't thank you all enough for that.

Something else that came back to me when thinking through this, thinking about what I've written above already in this comment, is that there are some things we can't learn outside of a relationship. I think I read that somewhere else on this site too. So no matter how hard I try to "figure things out" while I'm alone, there are somethings I can't work on unless I'm in a relationship with someone. I guess that's why I reverted back to old behavior when I started getting involved with this woman: I can't work on that stuff on my own.

Finally, I want to say that the comments like three blind mice's are just nice to hear when you're feeling down. Having a sense of hope rather than fear regarding the future is really important. I accept that, as some of you pointed out, I may never have what I think I want, but I believe having a sense of hope will help me regardless. So thanks for the plain old "it can get better" comments too.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 9:52 PM on November 2, 2011


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