The geography of future boyfriends
April 23, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the enviable situation of having enough online work that I can move pretty much wherever I want, as long as cost of living isn't ridiculously high. I'm grateful for the freedom, but also freaking out about the freedom. Also, I want to be in a relationship, and that's definitely a big -- but confusing! -- influence on my decision about where to live. Help me decide?

A bit of background: I'm 31, and moved to my current city -- medium-sized; Midwest -- 6 years ago for grad school. In many ways, I've been very happy here. There's a strong sense of community here, and I've found a solid group of friends, and also have a wide circle of acquaintances. There's plenty to do/see/get involved with. But over the past year, I've been feeling... unsatisfied, mainly because I can't find anyone to date. I started dating a popular "man about town" type very soon after I moved here, and we were together for 4 years. Our breakup was hard, but we're on amicable terms -- we see each other around ALL THE TIME, so we sort of have to be. Since the breakup, I've managed a few drunken hookups with friends, but nothing that led anywhere -- I wonder whether people still think of me as "[ex-boyfriend]'s girlfriend" even after two years? Also, it's also just not a very date-y town -- everyone knows each other so well that dating becomes weirdly high-stakes. There's also definitely some kind of gender gap here -- many awesome, talented women and a smaller proportion of equivalent men. My friends have had a hard time dating here as well, and there's a general sense that we all might have to leave town to find boyfriends.

I've tried online dating, but my top matches are people I already know; and as for strangers, being a part of a community is important to me, and so it makes sense (I guess?) that I'd be drawn to people who are a part of the community.

So, for the past year, I've been thinking seriously about moving, and come up with three options:

(1) Stay here. This is where my friends are! I love my friends. And it's stupid to go off and try to start over in some brand new city & try to find people as lovely as the ones I know now, especially when so many people in my age cohort are starting to focus on having families, etc. It's... fine here. Who needs a boyfriend, anyway?

(2) Move to a similar city that's not too far away. This city has an equally strong creative community, lots of fun people, a few friends who could act as a sort of "anchor" as I find my way in a new place. The idea of being somewhere new sounds unbelievably exciting right now! Just -- the energy from exploring and seeking out new things. And also: new people to possibly date.

(3) Move to a small town I love. I spent 6 months in this small town right before I moved for grad school, and I adore it here. It's gorgeous, strange, fascinating, and oddly stimulating. It tends to draw a particular creative/outcast type, so it's not your typical small town. It's a special place.

I can talk myself into any of the three. #1 has friends, connections, stability, history. #2 has potential. #3 has my heart. But I can also talk my way out of any of the three: #1 is all used up; #2 is just an attempt to recreate the past in a new place; #3 is a TINY TINY TOWN! with no boyfriends!

Do I sound desperate? I hope not; I've really sort of ignored the issue for the past 2 years, figuring that if I lived my best life, did what I loved, etc., the love stuff would take care of itself. And while I've had some wonderful experiences and solidified some friendships, nothing even resembling a relationship happened. So what can I do/where should I go? Your advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To me, The idea of being somewhere new sounds unbelievably exciting right now! tells me that you should go for (2) or (3). Maybe go to (3) for awhile, and if you end up yearning to date more widely, try (2)? Because you sound a little sick of your current town. Go, while you're still free, and live somewhere else that sounds Exciting.
posted by ldthomps at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been reading dating questions on MetaFilter for almost a decade and "small town" and "dating pool" don't tend find themselves in the same sentence without being linked by "doesn't have much of a." If having a relationship is a priority to you, I'd knock out #3. Outside of the population issue, if your idea of an ideal relationship is the traditional one, moving to a small town full of people with non-traditional values is handicapping yourself from the get-go.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you looked at the online dating services' listings for Tiny Town? Since you're footloose, could you book a short term rental or sublet there, try it out for six months or so and then abandon ship if it proves too small?
posted by carmicha at 11:11 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd say go with #3 honestly. It sounds like that's where your heart would be happy and when you're heart is happy, everything else just kind of sorts itself out.
posted by floweredfish at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

#3 sounds ideal, although I really wonder what you're going to do if you can't find an ideal partner (this sounds important to you).

Is finding a partner also about having children in the near future? This is, in my experience, a very powerful motivator for some women, which is fine, but needs to be recognized.

That said, if you're thinking that #3 is not a good option because you don't think you'll find an ideal mate, well, that's not a good enough rationale (eg, potential problems finding a mate) to make the move.

Personally, as a guy I think 30+ women are ideal - they're mature and interesting. I don't think you'll have any problems finding a life partner at all.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:18 AM on April 23, 2012

#3 is the ideal place to live if you are not making dating a priority, or even a possibility. Move to #2.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:43 AM on April 23, 2012

How hard was it for you to settle in to the city where you live now? If you moved to #2 or #3, would you have friends or a network there?

I find it incredibly hard to meet people in the small town where I live. Not just guys for dating, but ALL PEOPLE. It's a fun, funky place, but I think small towns just kind of inherently attract people who are already settled down, and settled down usually means partnered, with established friend groups. This is in addition to the fact that small towns, you know, have less people in them.

Basically, I would never recommend that someone move to a small town if one of the big reasons they wanted to leave their current locale was a lack of people to date. YSTMV (Your Small Town May Vary).
posted by mskyle at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like 2) has everything you want - some friends, but not too many, the possibility for dating, the kind of culture you like. Its only drawback is not being 3). But you know what? 3)'s not going anywhere, you can move there another time. Maybe when you've met someone nice and both wanna settle down somewhere smaller. Or when you're an old lady looking for a little place to while away your dotage. But as your main reason for thinking about leaving 1) is lack of dating potential, it doesn't make so much sense to move there at this stage in your life.

And hey, if it doesn't work out, you could always try 3) as your next option, or even move back to 1) in a few years when a whole bunch of new people have moved in! What a great position to be in - I hope you enjoy whatever you choose :)
posted by penguin pie at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, or I love carmicha's suggestion - 6 months renting in each city to try them out. (I should warn you I am living vicariously here as a former roamer who now has a mortgage!)
posted by penguin pie at 1:12 PM on April 23, 2012

I'd say give #3 a try. It doesn't have to be permanent. It sounds like interesting people live there, and interesting people have interesting friends who come to visit them.

How about a week in a BandB there just to see if you can make some connections before you make the move?
posted by sevenstars at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2012

#2, all the way.

You know #1. You can always move back if #2 doesn't work out.

You know #3. You can always move there if #2 doesn't work out. I can tell you from experience that desiring a relationship and living in #3 will not work out (and if it does, you'll be dating someone who lives five hours away, but that's another thread for a different day). I would also venture to say that #3 will be the same now as it will be in 10 or 20 years; maybe you can think about moving there with a partner, or when you're older. The creative community will welcome you regardless of your age.
posted by stellaluna at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2012

#2 #2 and #2 all the way!

#3 is for way later!
posted by vivzan at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2012

#2. Close enough that when you miss your friends you can plan to see them, but far enough for new dating opportunities.

Charming small towns get un-charming real quick when you're fundamentally lonely. Visit #3 with friends or dates.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:49 PM on April 23, 2012

If you can, move to 3 for a specific amount of time as a bookend and as a bit of you-time.

Then move to 2.
posted by mleigh at 2:22 PM on April 23, 2012

Move to 2.
Holiday in 3 till you find i) a boyfriend there or ii) a boyfriend in city 2 who wants to move there with you.

I did the small town move when single in my 30s and I realised that if you want to find a good single man in a place like that, you have to bring your own.
posted by Kerasia at 6:23 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

(4) Move somewhere where there is a significant surplus of men: oil boomtowns in such places as North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan, etc. This is if a relationship is a significant priority. Granted these may not be the kind of towns you'd want to live in permanently, but the good news is the men don't want to live there permanently either. Stay there a few years, meet a good man, then move on to a place you both like better.
posted by 6550 at 8:37 PM on April 23, 2012

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