Alone after an obsessive relationship, having trouble making friends in a sea of the elderly...
October 6, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

How do I make friends in an unfriendly place for young folks (18-20), and how can I make him believe that I've made changes to myself?

I have a very obsessive brain, especially when it comes to love. Even before I started dating my (now ex) boyfriend, I was obsessed with love stories and fantasizing about love. I think this might be a good thing somewhere along the line, since I'm hoping to be a writer later in life. Now, however, it's a giant issue.

My boyfriend broke up for me for this reason (though he just said "i don't want to be in a relationship in general", which I don't quite believe after knowing him for 3 years, because I could tell he didn't want me to think I was the cause). I'm a freshman in college, and he's a sophomore. He kept all his friends from high school since they all stayed in our hometown. We both go to the same school, a community college. I'm transferring to a larger college next year, but for now... I'm in hell.

In this quite obsessive relationship, I let him in completely and didn't get close to anyone else for most of my high school years. I kept one friend, who resides about 200 miles away now. This particular community college we go to is full of single parents and people too busy working to make friends. My ex doesn't realize this, since all his friends are from high school, where everyone is out to make friends.

I've been trying extremely hard these past couple months to make strides and gain friendships from my classes, but nobody is really interested and it's discouraging. I feel like I have nothing to do. I tried looking for meet-ups, but I live in Florida. This is an issue.

As everyone knows, Florida is a retirement home. Especially where I live, close to beaches, there are more bored old people looking for fun. I don't mind older people, but they're not what I'm looking for, friend-wise. I'm so frustrated because I feel like I can't move forward because all my options are closed off to me.

Also, while I'm here, I'd like to ask you all for your advice on one more thing. I've been making huge improvements to myself in terms of independence and self-worth. I really believe I'm a different person than who was in that relationship, and I think if I were to be back in it, the relationship could really flourish. However, there's no way for me to tell my ex this.

I was completely clingy and afraid of him leaving while I was in the relationship, and right after the breakup I did a lot of begging. This hurts my chances of him taking me seriously when I tell him that I have truly changed. I feel stronger now, I've taken a rational look at our situation, and my opinions on what makes a successful relationship have changed drastically, especially regarding independence. I'm currently in therapy for my issues with my anxious and obsessive tendencies and I'm getting stronger every day.

I really would like to talk to him about it, but I don't know how to do this without him automatically thinking "she's lying and trying to get me back because she needs me."

Our relationship was really a good one, and if I picture it without my constant jealousy and anxiety, it could honestly be wonderful. I just need some way to convince him that I'm not lying and that I can really make some important changes if he gave me the chance to.

So, what do you think? How to make friends in an unfriendly place for young folks (18-20), and how to make him believe that I've made changes to myself...?
posted by orchidgenes to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There is sort of a Catch-22 going on. Until you set aside your need for your boyfriend's approval, you're not really all that much better. Once you can let go of his input and presence in your life, you'll no longer feel compelled to prove to him that you're different, stronger, more rational.

Maybe you can re-kindle this relationship in the distant future when you have eradicated so much of the neediness that is still, quite frankly, emanating from this question, but for now you need to work on accepting that the relationship is over and you must work on your own issues. For so long you've created this relationship as your entire world, and right now you're in the middle phase where you are making juuuuuust enough changes so that you feel you can bargain your way in to getting it back. You can't, at least not right now, and probably not ever. He was your first love, and you'll likely have many others.

Learn to let this relationship go. Learn to love yourself, regardless of what that guy or anyone else thinks of you. Get new hobbies, get the hell out of Florida if it's making you miserable, have some direction, make plans, set goals, be motivated to DO something other than getting this guy back. Learn to be alone, and to love others while allowing many facets of your life to grow and flourish. That's an ongoing, ever-evolving skill that you have the rest of your life to work on.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

The last thing you need to do is talk to the ex, frankly because the way we humans are wired, we tend to slip into old patterns and that is the last thing you need to do.

Second, I was a young person-in Florida-and I understand that the whole scene is skewed older. But there ARE younger people out there. It takes time, and maybe you are out of practice making new friends. I assume when the new semester starts there will be new people in class? Start with that.

Also, don't knock getting to know older folks as friends. Having the ability to make friends of all ages is a very useful skill to have and us old bats might have a thing or two worth learning.

Meanwhile, make great grades in your classes and look forward to your college transfer.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:12 AM on October 6, 2012

Meeting people is hard as an adult. I would suggest looking for a job in a restaurant or retail store, the kind of place that young people usually work (I'm sure you're busy with school, but even if you can work a few hours a week). Those jobs also tend to be pretty social and you might meet co-workers or customers who could become friends.
posted by entropyiswinning at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2012

It sounds like you're still obsessing about your ex, honestly. When you position your inability to make friends as something your ex doesn't understand, it worries me that you are still thinking of everything in your life as being related to him, his opinion, or his viewpoint. Until you are no longer doing this, I don't think it's healthy to have any kind of contact with him at all.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:31 AM on October 6, 2012 [10 favorites]

I have a very obsessive brain, especially when it comes to love. Even before I started dating my (now ex) boyfriend, I was obsessed with love stories and fantasizing about love.

You should ask yourself why you are obsessed with love. I suspect it is because you think that, somehow, love is going to fix all your problems (whether they be small ones or big ones), or that it is going to allow you to step into some eternally happy moment, which you think will last forever.

One of the weirdest things about finding real love is realizing that, actually, it does nothing to solve your problems. All you have is real love, on top of everything else. And an additional set of logistical stuff to work through, like figuring out how to keep the house clean, now that the number of sloppy people living in it has doubled. Obviously, there are tremendously wonderful things about love, but if you are doing it right, it is just one important facet, among others, in your life. If you are doing it right, you are a fully independent individual who is sharing your independence jointly with another independent individual. It's voluntary interdependence, not an involuntary one.

And it doesn't really look like the overwhelming, over-the-top, all-consuming melodrama you see in the movies...

As everyone knows, Florida is a retirement home. Especially where I live, close to beaches, there are more bored old people looking for fun. I don't mind older people, but they're not what I'm looking for, friend-wise. I'm so frustrated because I feel like I can't move forward because all my options are closed off to me.

I have a very good friend who moved to Florida at 22 and he shares your pain. For years, he lived in a gated community in which he was one of three people under the age of 55. It can be awkward for him, and his social life is slower than before. That said, he never accepted that his options were closed off to him, and he didn't give up on making friends and finding things to do. He definitely has an active social circle, and they definitely do things, even if it means going out of their way and driving to larger cities, like Miami, for the weekends. You may have to work for it, and keep working at it, but I don't think you are doomed.

Also, going back to school helped him find his peer group. Like, in one semester, his friend circle tripled. Easy peasy.

Our relationship was really a good one, and if I picture it without my constant jealousy and anxiety, it could honestly be wonderful. I just need some way to convince him that I'm not lying and that I can really make some important changes if he gave me the chance to.

How did you make these changes? How long did it take?
Or are you anxiously convincing yourself that you can do Just One More Thing (ie convincing yourself that you've changed, or forcing yourself to compartmentalize past and present behavior) in order to win him back? Have you thought about how, maybe, some time of independence might do you good? Have you buckled down in therapy to address your obsessions? Do you really think you've learned from this, or are you self-flagellating with an inner promise that you'll "never do it again."

That isn't actually how change works.
Maybe you guys can get together in the future, but maybe this is also a great time for self-discovery, independence, and trying new things. Honestly, I don't think that scrambling to win him back is going to make you happy. I think that taking this as an opportunity to embrace your life, as it is, wholeheartedly, might do you better in the long run...
posted by vivid postcard at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I would try to make friends with people at my school, but like I said, it's a community college that is mostly populated with people who are scrambling to get their AA to make more money and provide for their families. Being 18, I'm not the same age-group or in the same mindset as them. They don't really care to talk to people outside of class, since they're so busy with their adult lives; paying bills, picking the kids up from school, etc.

And about the changes, I definitely understand what you're saying and I'm in the process of evaluating my feelings of wanting to prove myself. I know that it probably isn't healthy that I'm still thinking of things in terms of him, but I should probably qualify this, which is kind of important. As i'm writing this question, I am in a "weak day", so I call it. Grief comes in waves, and in a way I'm mourning this lost best friend and lover. I have days where I don't care about what he thinks and I'm completely carefree and happy with my life. Then there are days where sometimes my ideas come out through the filter of "what would he think of this?".

So, you're right, vivid postcard. It takes a while to make these changes, and I'm obviously not completely there yet. However, at the beginning of the breakup process, I thought that I would be stuck in my rut of obsession forever. The prospect of recovery is so amazing to me that even though it's not "complete" yet and I am still weak, I believe in the near future I could be with him and still grow myself independently.

This breakup has made me see independence in SUCH a different light. I covet it now, and I'm absolutely dead-set on not falling back into old patterns. It's such a strong conviction I don't think there would be words to explain it to him, which is what's frustrating me.

And on the prospect of me wanting love to fix all my problems, I think I'm kind of half-and-half on that. I definitely used to be into the whole "romantic movie" kind of love, but now I really fantasize about a real kind of love, someone who really will help me grow and a kind of joint support. It's more a deep friendship plus some romance thrown in that I want, which I feel is more realistic than wanting a prince to sweep away all my problems.
posted by orchidgenes at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since you are at a community college with mostly older adults, I would imagine there would be some younger people there in the same boat as you are, looking for friends their age, but not meeting them because they may be in different classes, etc.

Could you create some sort of meet up or activities that would draw out people your age at school? It could help pull these people out of the woodwork.
posted by Vaike at 12:13 PM on October 6, 2012

You're even putting your recovery from obsession from him into context by thinking about how it will relate to a relationship with need to move on completely from him, not move on into a different way of relating to him.

I'm afraid that you have a rather large blind spot here. You seem to think that the goal is to get better in order to have a better relationship with him, whereas the more healthy and realistic goal would be to get better so that you can be happier without him.

I also wonder if you have issues with socializing in general, and if you've ever been screened for Asperger's? It is underdiagnosed in girls and women.

Good luck
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were you, as a writer, I'd be totally journalling all of this for future stories. I remember being 18 and in college, and the whole idea of love. But I was in the theater department, where these things were accepted and there was a new romance with each production.

Why don't you indulge your creative side and write a story about it? Then write stories about your classmates, maybe from their point of view? You could interview them over coffee and get their insights.

It's perfectly okay to be obsessive about someone, as long as you're not acting on the feelings, because it will pass in time. Work it out through your art, which is writing! Ask your classmates for their perspective and write about it? And think about it, these older people have kids your age, you might meet someone that way.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:48 PM on October 6, 2012

I should also say congratulations on all of your hard work and progress so far.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2012 I live in a small retirement community with very little social activities for those who don't like to drink. There are freethinker groups and lots of groups for outdoor activities or just general 20-30 year old groups that do a variety of things. (Hey, I might even meet you as one of I'm currently not at the place my ID says I am).

I have to drive an hour to meetups and I've met a couple people who I can go kayaking with or eat out with ect. It sucks, but this town only has 20k people and 60% of them are over 60.
posted by eq21 at 6:19 PM on October 6, 2012

BTW add, pouring all your love into one person is not healthy and once you start pouring that love into several different "buckets" the obsession with one individual will lessen. But, romantic love is by its very nature is obsessive, so going in knowing that might help you restrain yourself a bit next time.

It might be helpful to reprogram your brain by watching more realistic romantic comedies. I can't really think of many since it't not what I typically watch, but you can ask another question here.

I think some of this anxiety and things are also things that will settle down as you get older and into your mid 20's when your frontal cortex finishes developing. Exercise helps tremendously on a biological level as well.

Get some new hobbies or invest in old ones. This is also the time for career research and experimentation. Research career, job shadow, go on Indeed forums, volunteer at a place related to what you think you might want to do to see if it's really something you want to do, look for internships.

You are pretty much describing my early 20's (except being obsessively infatuated with a boy I took a class with and no other social interaction to help me forget about him even though he has a girlfriend and moved away and I was in no way ready for a relationship ect....) If you want to PM me, let me know.
posted by eq21 at 6:33 PM on October 6, 2012

If you're making the changes you're making in your life in so as to impress your ex-boyfriend, trying to rekindle that would be a mistake even if he were amenable to it. If one morning you wake up and realize it's been months and months since you even thought about your ex, that's more like where you need to be to critically evaluate where you are now.

As far as making friends go, I know/have known several under 30s who are or have attended community colleges in different parts of Florida. Not seeming like fertile ground for forging friendships they're interested in, they're not terribly engaged socially at school. That doesn't mean they're not around, though.
posted by wierdo at 1:27 AM on October 7, 2012

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