Is not dating unhealthy?
June 18, 2005 12:06 PM   Subscribe

MonasteryFilter: I'm a 22 year old male. I've never dated, even though I've had opportunities. Is this unhealthy?

For whatever reason, dating has just never been that big a deal to me. I don't have anything against it, and don't intend to remain single forever, but in the past I've always either felt that it would be a distraction from more important stuff, or wasn't interested in the particular female that was interested in me.

I'm asking because I'd like to know whether I'm somehow conditioning myself to be a horrible boyfriend, husband or astrologist in the future. Or maybe I'm going to look back 30 twisted years from now and wish I'd gotten more ass when I had the chance (right before I kidnap Miss America and throw her from the top of the Empire State Building).

Preemptive responses: I'm reasonably happy as it is, though this is clearly weighing on my mind. I don't put much effort into meeting girls currently (I'm in my last year of college), partly because [stereotype] I go to a small private school that has a high freqency of what I consider to be cute, wealthy, shallow (conservative) females.[/stereotype] Thanks in advance MetaFilter!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't worry about it.

I didn't start dating until I was 28, when I came out. It's been a couple of years but now I'm in a pretty healthy (and fun!) relationship.

What it is, I think, is that pop culture seems to put forth the notion that there's something wrong with someone who doesn't date, get married and have kids. My theory is this has something to do with getting people to consume more shit.

Date when you're ready, with someone you like, but only if you want to. Don't sweat other people's expectations.
posted by Rothko at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2005

Don't sweat it. You're celibate by choice.

Saving yourself for the right person and not being oblidged to be in a hurry to hook up &/or settle down is not something widely encouraged, as it seems prudish; it does, however, save you from embarrassing situations.

Had you been sniffing about for tail and racking up a list of rateable "fuckbuddies", you'd be opening yourself up for some definate mockery and scorn. Instead, you've gained wisdom.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2005

(No offense to any swingers out there. This message if for anonymous.)
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2005

I'm 28 and I know how you feel. Don't worry about being one of the crowd. It is hard to find people with integrity these days.
posted by madmath at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2005

hmmm. on the one hand, sure, don't worry about it. on the other, college is by far the best place to meet people that i've known in my life. so i'd say it's not a big thing, but yes, you might vaguely regret not putting more effort into things, later.

also, you might be surprised how deep shallow people can be. just because they're not identical to you doesn't make the sub-human.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2005

If you're reasonably happy with the way things are going, then I don't see any need to go out of your way to date if you don't feel inclined to do so. I've never been very big on the idea of dating for the sake of dating. It seems to me that you'd be a worse boyfriend if you went out with a girl because you thought you "should" rather than because you genuinely wanted to. Being a good boyfriend is more about listening to, caring for, and respecting your partner than anything else.

When you meet someone who sparks your interest, someone you want to go out with, go out with her. Until then, don't sweat it.
posted by Aster at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2005

and cute + wealthy could mean good times without needing to work for a living. just saying.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2005

Had you been sniffing about for tail and racking up a list of rateable "fuckbuddies", you'd be opening yourself up for some definate mockery and scorn.

Not to mention the trauma of rejection, and quite possibly venereal disease.

A very wise man once said "Noting is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." Do what feels right for you.
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2005

I'll offer the other viewpoint and say yeah, you should be dating, and this could put you at a severe disadvantage. Human relationships seem all about learning: you have a few, you make mistakes, they make mistakes, and you do better the next time around. Every failure and awkward moment is a lesson, as is every little slice of joy.

That seems to me to be how it works. If you don't start dating until you're 28 or whatever, you don't get to make a lot of the silly mistakes most of us end up making when we're 16 or 18 or 20. That could make things really hard if you do meet someone that you really like.

So yeah, get out there. Put yourself at risk. Be willing to mess up and to lose, because in the end all of that stuff will only make you better and stronger and more capable when the real thing does come along.

Good luck.
posted by xmutex at 1:02 PM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's nobody around who's worthy of your time? Nobody deep enough to hold your interest even momentarily? Really?

I don't know you at all, but I'd guess you're probably rationalizing away your shyness and fear at approaching somebody. That's comfortable sure, but you can only grow when you're out of your comfort zone.

Dating or not dating isn't that big a deal, but personal and emotional growth is. So, at least from my pop-psych perspective, I think you should think about dating or at least making sure you're doing lots of other things that make you feel uncomfortable.
posted by willnot at 1:33 PM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree with xmutex - you should be doing it; not because your peers are doing it and it's a socialized norm, but - and this is the way I looked at dating at your age - because when you do meet someone so special, you want to have a rack of experience under your belt so that you can make the absolute most of it.

Oh, and on preview, that last bit of what willnot said too.
posted by forallmankind at 2:04 PM on June 18, 2005

the trauma of rejection, and quite possibly venereal disease.

listen to Uncle Renzo, Giovanni -- rejection isn't really trauma, it builds character, and it often tells you that you're doing something wrong, not the person who rejected you.
and VD? well, don't be a drama king! that's what protection is for, isn't it?
having said that, if anonymous really doesn't have a problem with celibacy, more power to him. and if he's in the process of figuring things out re his sexuality, even more power to him. peer pressure sucks, self-analysis is always a good thing. and for many people, sex is clearly overrated, so it's cool, too. you don't have to do it only because it's supposed to be what everybody does.
just try to figure out exactly what -- and whom -- you really want, anonymous, and I'm sure you'll be OK. good luck.
posted by matteo at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2005

If most kids are at least trying to be involved in sex and romance by their early teens (kids) these days, you will soon be a decade behind on the real facts of life, which are learned only through experience.

That may not make you a horrible boyfriend and husband, but probably you are a bit clueless compared to most guys your age.

In some ways you're still 13, and unless you plan to start dating 13-year-olds, your dates, if you ever get around to having dates, will certainly be aware of your inexperience. They could respond positively (you're sweet, innocent, fresh, etc.) or negatively (you're a clumsy oaf, clueless twat, selfish bastard, friggin' idiot, etc.), depending on how you respond to them. It will all come down to how your head is screwed on. But I would listen to Herrick:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting;
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best, which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
posted by pracowity at 2:12 PM on June 18, 2005

Do you have a few close friends? Are you otherwise reasonably social? If so, I'd say you're probably better off not dating just for the sake of dating. You'll eventually meet someone who will make you want to spring into action. But if the answer to my question is no, I'd say you're still handling things reasonably because it would be unwise to jump into a relationship if you find friendship and moderate social activity unpleasurable. So try to get out a little more. I, of all people, know how tempting it can be to simply hover inside the house and look out the window at the people passing by. Look online for people who share your common interests. Start by "talking" to people via computer. When you feel ready, perhaps have a phone conversation. And then make gradual steps to meet someone in person, whether for friendship or more.
posted by crapulent at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2005

I didn't really get into dating until I was 23 (all of a year ago!), and I don't think I'm any worse for wear. If anything, I spent a lot of time figuring out what makes me happy and how to be independent, all the while watching other relationship styles, and I think that's been really good for my relationship. I would worry more about people who have never been without a significant other since they were 16 -- the type who always had the next one set up and ready to go by the time they dumped the first.

I'm asking because I'd like to know whether I'm somehow conditioning myself to be a horrible boyfriend, husband or astrologist in the future.

Nah. You do that by being selfish, inconsiderate, chauvinistic, unreasonable, unbending, etc. If you know how to be a loyal, trust-worthy friend, I wouldn't worry about it. Also: the Internet is your friend, so use it when the time comes.
posted by heatherann at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2005

Of course you're missing out. Yes, if you don't want to date you shouldn't, but you might regret it later. Hell, I regret not dating more in high school, but last year of college? It's part of the education you're missing out on, and it's obviously on your's not going to get better. It might be your over generalization of the entire class of girls at your school (which you admit) that's part of the problem.

Not to mention the trauma of rejection, and quite possibly venereal disease.

Such nonsense. Apply for a school, a job, you might be rejected. You're in college, not grade school. Rejection is part of life. Being rejected by one girl makes the acceptance of the next all the more sweeter. An as far as disease, you can protect yourself, not to mention that dating doesn't have to mean sex.

Start by "talking" to people via computer.

Jesus, no. See that cute girl in the front row of physics class? Go say hello.
posted by justgary at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2005

The Asexual movement is picking up steam, and you might consider yourself that to some degree.
posted by emyd at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2005

You probably are setting yourself up to be a difficult and troubled (though not necessarily horrible) boyfriend and husband...but that's assuming that you have any interest in eventually being a boyfriend or husband. It sounds to me like you just have a low sex drive. I envy that! If you really aren't interested in sex, then don't feel guilty about it. A lot of guys (well, one anyway) wish that they could think less about the opposite sex and more about other priorities in their lives.
posted by bingo at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2005

You know what's best for you. Trust yourself. If you don't want to date, then don't date. The world does not need another person who's unhappy because they're doing something they don't want to do, just to fit in.
posted by elisabeth r at 3:19 PM on June 18, 2005

I only dated one person until I was 23 (4 years ago), and the only thing I regret about it now is that I wasted my time with that loser when I would have been better off single. However, at the time I did desperately want to date, have unrequited crushes, and feel frustrated that nothing seemed to be working out.

If you're not interested in dating now, but you think you do want to have a girlfriend or wife someday, I think you need to spend some time thinking about your wife/girlfriend aspirations. Are your goals realistic for you? Why do you want a girlfriend/wife someday? What is it about you now, where you are, that prevents you from pursuing a relationship with women?

I hate to break it to you, but once you get out of school you'll probably live farther away from interesting women, have a harder time meeting them, and have less free time. If your main reason for not dating is that the time is not right, you should consider that the time may never be right. Can you live with that?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:32 PM on June 18, 2005

Just wanted to chime in that I agree with xmutex.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:28 PM on June 18, 2005

I've never dated, even though I've had opportunities. Is this unhealthy?

I've never flossed, even though I've had opportunities. Is this unhealthy?

I've never rotated my tires, even though I've had opportunities. Is this unhealthy?

I've never had a colonoscopy, even though I've had opportunities. Is this unhealthy?

I really, truly, don't mean to snark, but your question is your answer: nobody dates because to not do so would be "unhealthy". At least I hope not. People date because they enjoy it (or don't because they don't), not because it's some kind of pre-requisite or it's going to be on the final exam.

I suspect from how you've framed and phrased your question that you have some real problems relating to people in general or maybe women in particular. In any case, I think you'd probably benefit from some counseling. Good luck.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:28 PM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

Some things are easier to do in college. Getting credit is one. Starting dating is another. You have a pool of women who you see frequently and who are familiar with you (a great advantage of small private colleges). Just take some time to enjoy this opportunity. If not, in a few years you may be posting, "How do I met women?" I'm not talking about commiting your life to any of these women or even sleeping with them. Just get in the practice of taking a woman out and relating to her on a romantic level.
posted by wallaby at 5:41 PM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you haven't met anyone that you really wanted to date - anyone you felt was worth the time and distraction and yeah, occasional angst - it doesn't seem to me that you should've been dating. (Most) relationships aren't just about the sex, and if the emotional component hasn't been there for you, it seems to me you would've racked up a bunch of bad relationships. Also, if you dated 'just for the experience' and the girl cared a lot about you, it would seem really unfair to her.

As for whether you'll be a bad boyfriend once you start - I rather doubt it. There are plenty of people who start dating late. Sure, you'll be exploring novel territory, and you'll make some mistakes when you start dating, but it seems to me that people have to relearn what to do for every relationship anyways. As heatherann says, you probably are much more self-sufficient and self-knowledgeable than someone who's never been without someone or other to date since high school. Being able to live with and understand yourself (and define yourself apart from the person you're dating) is something a surprising number of people have problems with.

That said, croutonsupafreak is right - it will be harder to meet people once you leave college, particularly if you're not in a largish city. Depending on what you do after college, you may find meeting women that you consider interesting much harder. Unless you go to grad school, life starts to revolve around the workplace for many people, and for you that may or may not be a problem. Does this mean that you really should start dating now? Only you can really decide. Still, it seems to me that unless there's someone you actually want to date, you'll only end up causing a bunch of pain for someone else [and possibly yourself] by dating just to date.
posted by ubersturm at 5:55 PM on June 18, 2005

Yeah, you're making a mistake. It's not really about dating. You can't dismiss things like this until you've tried them. That's the only way to know for sure what's the right choice for you. Otherwise you'll always be wondering... So go ahead and do it once, twice, and then three times. Afterwards you may find you really don't like the dating scene that's fine too. These things tend to take care of themselves for the most part. When you do meet the right girl and you really care for her I have a feeling you'll learn real quick how to take care of her. And, in fact, you already have a big step up in the game because you're not one of those people that need to be in a relationship and clinging to somebody else and, in fact, you can do just great on your own. But still, start being honest, stop wondering, and go on a few dates before you leave college. Otherwise, yes, you will continue to wonder and eventually regret because you never could be sure.
posted by nixerman at 8:35 PM on June 18, 2005

I will be 40 in a couple of months.

I never, ever 'dated'. Not once. I'd rather be single than suffer the ritualized stupidity of it. Odd thing was, I've rarely been single for too long in my life, and never when I didn't want to be, and I've always been social and happy.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:54 PM on June 18, 2005

Are we talking about dating, or having sex, or are they interchangeable?

I'd vote yes on dating a lot, or doing things in groups that you like and maintaining lots of good friendships. I regret the times I got involved in shallow physical relationships more than the times I decided not to try and shove my tongue down the throat of someone I didn't really like that much because of the siren call of hormones.

that said, I just ran into someone I had gone out with 15 years ago, briefliy. I am happiliy married, but I regret not getting to know this person better back in the day, having bailed because she seemed too quirky. Seeing her 15 year older self, I wished I would have cut her some slack, even knowing at some level that it wouldn't have gone anywhere long-term. Crap I'm tired and rambling. Other midlife regrets include wasting time playing eunuch-buddy to this cute friend. I should have just said, "I wish I could have romantic feelings for you, but I think of you like a sister" and if that didn't work cut myself free from a frustrating situation.
posted by craniac at 10:54 PM on June 18, 2005

My partner, with whom I've been for 8 years, never dated. He was 24 when we met. We met, we fell for eachother, we shacked up (his last year of grad school), we made the long-term commitment. We're very happy. Not sure what he would have learned had he dated, other than how to screw around.

I won't totally invalidate the points about practice and learning your lessons on casual relationships. But I also know that's not required for relationship success.

So long as you know what you want, I think you're fine. The guys for whom this is a problem are the ones that area hiding from themselves that what they want is other than what everyone expects them to want.

Besides all that, you've been busy. I bet you have a fabulous GPA. There is nothing wrong with keeping your head clear of the rigors of the dating game in order to deal with school in a highly responsible way.
posted by Goofyy at 10:59 PM on June 18, 2005

Starting to date is like getting chicken pox. It's much harder to go through when you're older.

Now, you still have a decent chance of finding people who are relatively close to your level of experience. With each year that goes by, that chance will dwindle. Is this the end of the world? No. Are many/most ladies 25+ years old turned off by the idea of a guy who has never had a serious relationship? In my experience, yes.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:04 PM on June 18, 2005

Well according to Erik Erikson you're in a time of your life when you're trying to find the answer to the question of Isolation vs. Intimacy. It seems like you're trying to put off the answer by convincing yourself that there are a lot more important things in life, or inadvertently choosing isolation. You should definitely try to find a connection with someone because it's only going to get harder after college. One can balance a girlfriend and schoolwork, so you shouldn't hide behind such a flimsy excuse. Good luck with all of that.
posted by vodkadin at 2:45 AM on June 19, 2005

anonymous posted "Is this unhealthy?"

No, it is not.
posted by peacay at 5:47 AM on June 19, 2005

It's very hard to respond meaningfully without knowing more about you, but just based on what you said (both tone and content), I'm going to have to go with Uncle Renzo, vodkadin, et al. There's nothing wrong with not dating (although I think stav is being a bit disingenuous by pretending "dating" literally means "going on dates" -- anonymous clearly doesn't have any romantic/sexual involvement at all), but it does sound as if you're avoiding something. I mean, sure my early relationships were ill-conceived and caused me a lot of trauma, but that's what being in your early 20s is for (and I had a fine GPA anyway, Gooffy). Like they say, I don't think anybody looks back from their deathbed and says "Gee, I'm glad I lived a sensible life." You don't need to go through a bunch of failed relationships to have a good one -- I personally know at least one shining counterexample -- but practice often helps, and anyway, I don't think this is so much about your future relationships as who you are and are going to be. If you think you'll be happy continuing on this way (in WCW's words:"I am lonely, lonely. /I was born to be lonely, /I am best so!"), fine; otherwise you might work on forcing yourself out of your shell. Like andrew cooke said, you don't really know those women are shallow. Give them a chance.

This message if for anonymous.

Don't you mean "Thif meffage if for anonymouf"?

posted by languagehat at 7:27 AM on June 19, 2005

I don't know, I think dating is something that comes pretty naturally once you're motivated for it. What really messes people up tends to be TOO MUCH experience; when you jump into something and end up getting hurt and having some terrible baggage that your next partner has to work through.

So no, I don't think you're setting yourself up for failure in the future by waiting any more than you could be by not waiting.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2005

Though if you really want to be inspired to start dating, letting go of your stereotypes and prejudices is always good. You're already on your way by recognizing them somewhat.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:35 AM on June 19, 2005

There are some great answers here.

I'm curious about what Rothko said at the beginning of the thread...anon, is it possible that you're gay? It's certainly possible to be attracted to women without wanting to date them, and it's certainly possible that you just don't have a high sex drive at all, as others have suggested. But it also seems possible that you're not interested in dating women because you're not--and are never going to be--very sexually or romantically interested in women at all.

Perhaps your friends or family or religion have made homosexuality seem impossible for you? Perhaps you haven't thought much about it because it would be a very painful realization for you? Perhaps you're hoping that you will grow attracted to women? If so, I would recommend seeking support groups, formal or informal, to talk about your sexuality. Please don't deprive yourself of a lifetime of love and intimacy because of what some bigots have taught you.
posted by equipoise at 9:07 AM on June 19, 2005

I didn't date until I was 20, no regrets.

Might as well give it a try, though, so you get those first 10 awful blunders out of the way. Then if you meet someone who matters you'll have the core competencies that will be expected of you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:05 PM on June 19, 2005

« Older Good book for inexperienced gigging band?   |   Phone Sex! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.