How weird is it to be willingly, permanently single but not asexual?
April 16, 2013 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I don't want a permanent romantic relationship. My primary relationships are all platonic, and I like it that way. I've done the madly-in-love/lust thing, I've even been married. I just don't really want to do those things ever again. Am I okay? (details inside)

I'm 37, female, and I've been in relationships before. I'm not asexual - I get turned on, I'm not a virgin, I enjoy sex, I masturbate with fairly regular but not excessive frequency, I have orgasms, I really like orgasms - all is fine in the orgasm department. I've had bad sex (what sex-having person hasn't) but I've never had a "bad sexual experience" perse. I was never abused emotionally or sexually.

I'm fit, considered moderately attractive by many, and I don't often have problems finding somebody to be with when I want to be with somebody. I don't have body image issues.

I'm just not that into romantic relationships. I might end up in one someday again, but I'm not looking. I haven't dated in over 5 years, and this doesn't bother me at all.

At this point I can't imagine merging my life with someone else's life. I'm a happy, active, social person and I don't have a lot of room in my schedule for the kind of one-on-one time it would take to build and maintain a romantic relationship. My social network is like a big family and there's not much I need in terms of verbal affection, physical (but non-sexual) affection, and general concern/caring that I don't get from that source. I'm not commitment-phobic; I've made long-term commitments to people and jobs and ideals, and I don't feel smothered by them or feel any desire to get out of them.

But I feel like I'm a weird outlier. Everyone I know (and everyone I read about here!) seems to want to be in a romantic relationship. Either they're in one already, or they're actively hoping to get into one. I like a good romance novel or chick flick, but when the credits roll I don't long for that kind of experience in my life. I like kids, but don't want any of my own, so I don't have that motivation to pair up.

And I guess I just don't get the overwhelming societal fascination with falling in love and coupling up. When I think about it, it just seems like a kind of mass insanity to me. TV, books, music - it's all wall-to-wall sex-and-romance, and it just seems weird to me. Why the fascination with that instead of with something else like loyalty or friendship? Those things are just as complex and hard to come by, but they don't involve sex so they rarely get top billing in artistic expression these days.

So my question is - how weird am I? Am I all by myself in this? I've never met anyone like me, completely lacking in the couplehood drive. A few years ago my friends started toppling like dominoes into marriage, child-rearing, etc. and most of them think I'm pretty bizarre for not wanting those things.

How bizarre am I?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you're an outlier (I won't call you weird). That's ok, though. You can want what you want, and not want what you don't want. You may want different things later, or you may not.

It's all good.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:04 PM on April 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

Honestly, I feel like I just read my own biography. You even got the age correct! :-)

I think it's perfectly's all these other people who are weird.
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:06 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm a happy, active, social person

You sound perfectly fine to me. Actually you sound mentally healthier than most people I know in long term relationships.

And I guess I just don't get the overwhelming societal fascination with falling in love and coupling up. When I think about it, it just seems like a kind of mass insanity to me

It's a narrative, the coupling and LTR thing. It isn't universally real or good or true or whatever. That it is a requirement for happiness is of course a huge myth. Some people actually want to be in them. Some people are in them because they feel like they ought to be in them. Some people are in them for tax and child purposes. It is not at all bizarre to not want to be in one. Your life is yours. More people I think generally ought to take that attitude.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Hmm, what kind of answers are you expecting? As you probably realize, it's certainly not the most common lifestyle, but neither is it entirely unheard of. At the very least, plenty of people go through periods of their life when they feel like this, even if they eventually end up in a relationship. Even if you don't ever want to be in a relationship, though, you won't be the only one out there - and everyone has things about them that makes them different from other people. It's okay.

Not that you need to hear this from me, but you're allowed to be single.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2013

Weird? No. The thing is, people in your situation are generally okay with how they are. And those people don't post AskMes or write in to Dear Abby or complain to their friends about how so very hard it is to just be single. They just go on with their jobs and hobbies and circle of friends who have figured out not to set them up on dates (or they go on those dates and just say, "Nah, I wasn't feeling any spark. Oh well.").
posted by Etrigan at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ok, so I am someone who cannot fathom feeling the way you do. At all. And I don't know anyone personally who feels like you.

But I think what you write sounds pretty awesome. I am a bit envious because you sound so well centered in yourself and so happy to be you, more so than most relationshippy people I know.

So I guess in my social circle you would be a bit "weird" but I would also think you are pretty awesome and I would hope you would go on rocking it!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2013

I too have a rich happy unpartnered life. When I feel weird about that, I remind myself that our current cultural preoccupation with romantic love/coupling up as the expected raison d'ĂȘtre itself seems to be an outlier when viewed from a historical/cross-cultural perspective. In other words, you and I may be outside our cultural norms, but not at all outside human norms.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Well, if you want a label for yourself, or a way to find others who share similar ideals with you (which can be important to have), you could go with aromantic.
posted by muddgirl at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2013

I also look around at people who seem highly motivated by the couple imperative, and ask myself how happy they seem to be. The answer is "not very."
posted by ottereroticist at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you're an outlier, I'm one too. Although I've done the long-term relationship thing, and the having kids thing, I'm happily single (aged 44) and quite at ease with the knowledge that I'll probably never be in a romantic relationship again.

Only a few weeks ago, a coupled-up friend insisted that I needed to find a partner. I insisted I didn't want one - I'm happy doing my own thing, putting my kids and myself first, instead of having to take a third party into account in almost every decision I make. She just couldn't get her head around that. But it's just how I feel, so it's right for me.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are who you are and you know who that is. It makes sense to you. You enjoy your life. Does it matter who thinks you're weird or not? Also this is where you are right now. None of us know who we'll be down the line. But for right now you're happy. That's success, so don't waste your time wondering if strangers understand it. Who cares? Go enjoy it!
posted by billiebee at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2013

There is a word for you if you want a word and that will make you feel better! (But if not that is okay, too, some people don't want a word or don't care about a word or don't like a word or whatever else and that is okay!). Anyway the word is aromantic.

It isn't a super common word but basically when all the asexual people were getting together and making words, they were like, "Yeah, but what if I don't want sex but I still want snuggles and going dancing and getting a dog together what is the word for that??" So people were like, hey, maybe the word for that is being romantic! And maybe the word for not wanting that is aromantic! And some people are asexual and aromantic and some people are one but not the other and there are many combinations and possibilities and obviously there are some people who don't care about the words or the phylums and that is just fine, too. So anyway there you go.

You are totally okay. You are fine. You are not weird.

Everyone is allowed to have relationships of whatever kind and description in the way that feels natural and authentic to them. If you feel natural and authentic with friends, that is GREAT. What is wrong with that? There is nothing wrong with that.

I've never met anyone like me, completely lacking in the couplehood drive.

posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:20 PM on April 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

There's a (admittedly cheesy) book called Quirkyalone that talks about how some people just don't want to be in relationships. It's helpful to see it reinforced because there's nothing wrong with wanting to be alone, either for a period of time or forever.
posted by SassHat at 1:21 PM on April 16, 2013

I'm asexual and aromantic, but I know people who are only one or the other. Aromantic sexuals are indeed rare, but not unheard of.
posted by MinusCelsius at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2013

I've read a book on your group, called "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone". The group of single people around the world is growing very rapidly, so I wouldn't feel bad about being a part of it.
posted by dobi at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2013

Eh, I think a lot of that focus on romantic relationships has one of three roots:

1) Urge to procreate. It is generally better to do that with a partner that sticks around and is good to you. I have two adult sons and no particular urge to have more. Having that issue off the table has drastically reduced my urge to couple up. Most people have an urge to procreate. That's part of why the species survives. So I think this is a big factor and nothing neurotic about it. It isn't a criticism of anyone. But since you don't have this, that is one less reason for you to think "romance" is extremely important.

2) Unmet emotional need of some sort. I dealt with a lot of those issues over the years. Again, the result is I am a lot more okay with staying single than I used to be.

3) Legacy of abuse of some sort that makes a person feel they "need" someone. I guess some folks might lump this in with number 2 above but I guess I think 2 might be more like being hungry and needing a meal but this might be more like having an injury and needing medical attention. I have dealt with a lot of this too and it has also greatly reduced my sense of "must have a man!!!!!"

I am pretty relationship-oriented. I would still prefer to have a man. However, I have been surprisingly okay with being alone for several years post-divorce. It would be nice to find "true love" but if a man isn't really enhancing my life I am not up for more relationship drama. At this point, a man will have to meet a pretty high standard to get next to me.

It sounds to me like you are pretty healthy and stable. Between that and not wanting children, there is no gun to your head, so to speak. Be glad. I spent much of my life with multiple guns to my head on this issue. I am extremely relieved to be in a different mental space now. It was not something I ever expected to experience. I think it positions me to have a healthier relationship than I have ever had. Being able to take it or leave it is a position of strength I never had before.
posted by Michele in California at 1:30 PM on April 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Are you happy?

I ask that question a lot, but for me it's one of the fundamental questions of human existence. If one is happy, and not hurting others, then do as one will. The lives of others and their opinions of your life are of little relevance. As humans, we generally share some characteristics but there are a LOT of people on this planet and their lives are all unique. Indeed, the lives of every single person who has ever existed are all unique. When looking at the life of another, it's easy to see it through one's own lens and apply one's own rules to it. But if you're coming from a fundamentally different place, then you're going to be looking through a fundamentally different lens.

You're different to a lot of people, but you're not weird. "Weird" implies wrongness, and I don't think you're wrong at all. Your lifestyle might be wrong for someone else, but if it's working for you, then it's working. What other people think of it is so much noise.

There's a large focus on MARRY AND REPRODUCE in human culture, especially aimed at women. A lot of people buy into it and mould themselves in its image, and more want that simply because they just do. And it works for a lot of people, and that's great for them. It makes them happy, which is a pretty important thing to be.

You're not alone. I'm a pretty asocial person. I don't hate people at all, indeed I find them to be fun and fascinating. I just don't generally want to be in romantic relationships with them. I need a lot of alone time, but I like to spend time with my friends too. People seem to like me well enough and I have some several-year friendships going on.

This book really helped me crystallise things for myself. There's not much out there that tells people like us that we're OK, but this book does.

Large portions of society tell you that you can't possibly be happy on your own. How often, though, are those portions trying to sell you something?

Memail if you want to chat.
posted by Solomon at 1:34 PM on April 16, 2013

If you were a man you wouldn't be questioning for a moment whether you were weird or if there was something wrong with you. I mean to use a pretty out of date term your just the female version of a "confirmed bachelor."
posted by whoaali at 1:50 PM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Confirmed bachelor" is actually a gay dude.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2013 [14 favorites]

You have my permission to enjoy your life just as it is. You have my permission to change your mind if and when a person comes along who makes you want to do that.

You don't have to pigeonhole yourself if you don't want to.

FYI, I finally married at the age of 39, by that time I was too set in my ways. I need my own space and my own bed. So although I'm very happily married, I sleep alone.

You get to define your life and your relationships exactly as you want to.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:54 PM on April 16, 2013

You are not alone. You sound exactly like me. For a while I figured that, at some point, I would want a romantic relationship again, but it's been years now, and it hasn't happened yet. This book is not at all about being "like this" or whatever, but I found it relevant/interesting/reassuring, especially her Marxist critique of romantic love.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2013

You are not alone. I am right there with you! I could have written your question -- down to every single word, every single detail.

I am also a woman, also 37, have also been married, and now also live alone (with a puppy!). I am netflixing and enjoying watching My Fair Wedding as I write this comment, oh yes, but I could never, ever have that sort of event personally, nor do I want it. (Years ago when I was married, I was so horrified at the idea of having a wedding for myself that I insisted on eloping and not having vows.)

I know lots of lovely people who are in relationships and I 100% support their path to happiness, but quite frankly, I wouldn't want to be in any relationship I have ever encountered. If I could be a married person one day every third Tuesday or so and have my own house, that would feel just about right.

My family is just beginning to understand this about me, and it's been great. My friends know me well enough to realize I am a walking Bechdel test. They ask me what I'm reading, what I'm writing, what I'm doing for my next travel adventure, but never, ever about finding a partner. I love them.

Google QUIRKY ALONE. I found several reassuring results.
posted by mochapickle at 2:01 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Totally normal. Our culture has very narrow, specific, and demanding beliefs regarding relationship arrangements. That's what's strange, not you. Even if you don't know people in the same boat, very few people think about much less challenge how they've been raised to act to begin with.
posted by MillMan at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2013

Not strange in the least, in my view. I went through pretty much the entirety of my thirties quite happily on my own and not especially missing couplehood. I am now half of a couple, but it is as unfraught a relationship as anyone I have ever met has. I see my friends going through huge dramas that seem like teenage angst to me, but they seem to be keen to repeat it. The tide of hormones has ebbed, and my sins (such as they are) are those of contemplation rather than action. Feel free to memail me if you want to chat more.

By the way, the book unknowncommand mentions is excellent, although I think "Against Marriage" would be a more accurate title (although admittedly much less snappy). Kipnis mostly addresses how marriage is an institution that serves the needs of the state better than those of the parties involved.

It is also occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, which is something I had not expected from the book. There is a segment early on where she lists answers to a question she asked many of her friends: "What can you no longer do because you are part of a couple?" She adds that the answers are not exaggerated, nor do they need to be.

The answers are just in big block paragraphs, and because they are from many people, they are contradictory and overwhelming. I do not have the book in front of me, but they are along the lines of: "You cannot stay out past midnight, or past eleven, or past ten, or past nine, or past eight, or not come home straight after work. You cannot pick up dinner without consulting the other partner, you cannot expect the other partner to take care of dinner. You cannot put the toilet paper over the roll, or under the roll . You cannot sleep in when the other one is doing housework, you cannot do noisy housework when the other is trying to sleep in. You cannot play that stupid D&D game, you cannot complain about your partner's hobbies. You cannot drag your partner to boring office parties, you cannot leave your partner at home while you got to an office party." This runs for about eight pages.

Then comes the kicker: "Thus is love obtained."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:14 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

This sounds pretty normal to me. Being in a relationship means having to make compromises - you can't always do what you want whenever you feel like doing it, because when you're romantically involved with somebody, you have to take the feelings of your partner into account. If somebody is so awesome that it's worth making that trade-off, then a relationship with that person would be worthwhile. But otherwise, being in a relationship just doesn't make logical sense to any independent-minded person. I suspect many other people do it because they subconsciously feel like they need the love of another human being to be "whole" or some nonsense like that. But if you're comfortable and happy with who you are, relationships generally don't make sense in terms of a cost-benefit analysis.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2013

You--we--are not alone. (I was very heartened to see others respond the same way.) If you are happy and your life works for you, then you are fine. As someone pointed out upthread, different does not equal weird.

Like you, I am open to the idea of another LTR someday, but I am just not into twisting myself into knots to get into it, or to stay in it once I'm there. There is enormous social pressure to at least appear eager to couple up, though, and I think that is why people like us aren't very vocal. It's also why there are so many confused people in unhappy relationships, IMHO.
posted by rpfields at 2:22 PM on April 16, 2013

Not at all bizarre, at your age I was pretty much you, I had no urge to couple up couldn't see the point, in fact it all seemed too much like hard work, then I met the man who became my husband. I'm not saying that it's not OK to be like you are, heck I'd have been happy staying like that until I died, but things can change so don't be so set in your identity as a single and happy person that you miss opportunities that come along, I almost did except my husband is super stubborn. Being single and happy was great, I'm really liking the whole being married thing, but if this were to end once I was over the end of relationship grieving I'd go back to being single, happy and not looking for a relationship. As long as you are happy how you are that is the main thing.
posted by wwax at 2:23 PM on April 16, 2013


Society is right now going through this weird shift where they first have to get over homosexuality and eventually we'll get to the whole relationship thing itself.

So no, you're honestly not weird, I'm with you on this one, but it'll take some time before people finally stop asking "So, are you in relationship?". I hate that questions, it's like talking about the weather.
posted by ahtlast93 at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2013

I'd like to believe that, as someone who isn't particularly fussed about being single and enjoys it most of the time, those who don't need love deal with it really well when it comes their way.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:41 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're normal, you should live the life that makes you happy and content, and also be thankful that you are a woman in an era and a place that allows you to live the life you want. Be glad you are not Charlotte Lucas. You don't need to be married for support or sex.

My grandmother was widowed at a young age (mid-40s) and, as far as I know, never dated or had sex since. She also led a full and contented life, was an awesome grandma, and one of the few people I knew who could actually get African violets to bloom. Looking back, I think she would have chosen the single life if she could but she had a "shot gun" wedding (this was the 30's).

I am not exactly aromantic (I keep reading it as "aromatic!") but I'm not so driven to be part of a couple that I will do anything to seek it out. I cherish my independence and quiet time. If it happens, great; if not, I'm happy being a Single Woman With Cats.

I will say that I am very lucky in that I have good friends who don't try to make me feel odd or ashamed of my single-ness, whether or not they are married themselves. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area also helps a lot, because there's not a lot of religious or social pressure urging everyone to couple up. If you are taking any kind of position that is not in the mainstream, it really helps to be around like-minded people. Can you make friends with other happy singles so you feel less like an outsider? If you live in an especially churchy/conservative area, maybe consider a move to a more liberal city or town?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:01 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are my aunt! And she is awesome. She never met anyone she like enough that she felt is was worth compromising her much-loved independence. No biggie. She has a great day job, plays in the philharmonic and in a quartet, has great friends, family, travels... It's fine. Totally totally fine. I have a cousin who's always been more or less single and just got back from spending a year in Jordan on a Fulbright. She's cool too. And actually, her sister's always been sorta single and awesome too - and she just had a baby (yup, sans-man!).

Basically, independent women who are comfortable with themselves are some of my favorite people. They are often (though not always) single by choice.

I think it's weird to just abstractly want to "be married and have children" too... and I AM married. But for me, it's about *this* relationship with *this particular* person. I wasn't aching to get married before that, and I'm not sure I'd do it again with anyone else. Being part of a couple can be a huge hassle (especially if you're introverted like me!). I agree - it sucks up time like you wouldn't believe!

FWIW, I live in a major international city and at 30 our friends are mostly still dating. I have been to exactly two weddings other than mine (one was my brother's), and no one has kids. Part of your problem may be cultural/geographical.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:37 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Considering how very recent it was that women weren't able to or allowed to support themselves, it's not too surprising that the social pressure to pair up still exists. Think of it like a cultural appendix; had an important use at one time, now it just occasionally gets infected and explodes.

I'm single and have a bevy of single lady friends where we all agree that there is nothing missing in our lives. It would be nice to meet someone, but it's not our focus. I think the main cause of this is our mutual lack of interest in having children. Maybe start collecting some childfree friends. Having a group of like minded people is important for us social humans, we do better with that validation.
posted by Dynex at 3:53 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are who you are. A couple of people have asked you the critical question, which is: are you happy?

If you're happy, there's nothing wrong. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for everyone to conform to certain basic storylines in American society, and it may be useful to remember that many (if not all) of those storylines are strongly influenced by marketing for companies that want to sell you things.

  • 16th birthday: in many states you can now drive. Marketing opportunity: vehicle sale, auto insurance, additional driver insurance on existing policies, general lifestyle/brand opportunity.
  • High school graduation. Marketing opportunity: clothes, college dorm furniture, credit card customers who are likely to overspend and become long-term clients, loans, computer equipment (and brand loyalty).
  • College graduation. Marketing opportunity: first apartment. First new car. First job, which requires first Professional Wardrobe. More credit, because of increased social opportunities. Aspirational goods pressure: that X is better than this X because Reasons. Excellent opportunity to inculcate booze habits and brand loyalty.
  • Marriage. Marketing opportunity: Wedding Industry (shorthand: add "wedding" to anything and quadruple the price. Not really a joke.).
  • Home purchase. Marketing opportunity: the mortgage and real estate industries. Debt. The lure of homeownership, coupled with more aspirational goods pressure: that house is better than this house because Reasons.
  • Having children. Marketing opportunity: The Child Industry. q.v. the Wedding Industry, only more so. Yet more aspirational upselling: you need more space|money|objects!
  • Children, Part II: clothes, goods, services aimed at kids. Yet more aspirational upselling: that school is better than this school.
Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseaum infinitum. As you can see, you are not following certain scripts, and that is annoying, because you are not fitting into the correct slots for Being Sold To.

So there's a shitload of pressure on you to conform to certain narratives, mostly because corporations have entire departments devoted to trying to figure out how to get you to buy stuff, and they've figured out that if they bullhorn the right messages loud enough, culture at large will internalize some of those messages.

Because your friends are humans and also different people than you, they may not only make different decisions but sometimes innocently repeat the messages they've internalized, which can make it seem like it's you against the world.

All of this is basically to say that I think you're okay, and even awesome, and I think you have absolutely nothing to worry about unless you're unhappy. And if you're not unhappy, excellent!
posted by scrump at 4:49 PM on April 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

Frankly, I'm quite envious of you.

You're not weird at all. Keep being your good self.
posted by Salamander at 11:48 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some Buddhists would say that you are transcending attachment. Some feminists would say that you are transcending patriarchy. Some people, if you identified as male, would apply the label "eligible bachelor" to you, whether you want it or not.

But it's not really about how how others perceive you. It's about what is right for your life now. Might be you do best flying solo (with friends and lovers for support) now and for the foreseeable future. Might be that changes someday and you discover one or more partners you want to be with. Or not - there is a beautiful life to be lived by blazing your own path.

FWIW, I and many of my friends have swung for long periods of time between partnered and unpartnered. Each of those times are valuable to us. Each mode has advantages and disadvantages depending on where you want to spend your energy. Go forth and realize your ambitions, creative, professional, etc., and let the right rleationship(s) grow organically (if any!).
posted by SakuraK at 12:42 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nope, you're not alone. I am pretty happy being single and living by myself. Sometimes I feel a bit wistful about the lack of relationship and think it would be nice to have someone to snuggle up with, especially as the nights get colder, but I'm not sure I really want all the other things that go along with a relationship. I've been single for almost a year and a half and have worked through a lot of feelings about it (as one does after a breakup) but I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that I'm happier like this. I have good friends (including my most recent ex) and am in a choir and have a lot of alone time which I like. I also have a cat, which helps with the need to show and receive physical affection. Obviously, it's not a sexual thing, but the whole touch thing can be very nice.

For me, one of the things that I have been thinking about a lot on my journey to being happily single is the whole "what is the point of life" question. If you think the answer is to reproduce, then obviously having a partner is good for that. If you think the answer is to have a satisfying career, then that's obviously something to prioritise. I go through periods where I don't think I know what the point is, but suspect I am missing it. But most of the time now, I think that the point of life is, as EM Forster said, "Only connect". I feel I must add that in Howard's End, from which the quote comes, it is more in the context of a romantic relationship but I don't think it needs to be. Here's the full quote:

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."
posted by Athanassiel at 1:48 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone I know (and everyone I read about here!) seems to want to be in a romantic relationship.

I'm one of the commenters who keeps telling newly-single question-askers who are worried about whether they'll die single, not to worry, because singlehood can be awesome when the romance-fear is quelled. And there are others too, some of them in this thread, so it's not actually "everyone" :) I've only had two short relationships since ending a long commitment in 2004, and after the last one, have felt no desire to date. I don't even get crushes any more; my last one was back in 2006, which I remember because I went out with the guy for a few months and it just didn't work out. I too have great friends, two adorable lovebug cats, and a life I'm so happy with that sometimes I have to pinch myself. After a trip to Australia in December, I realized that all of the discontent I felt towards where I live (France) essentially boiled down to expectations surrounding relationships: people here really really really subscribe to A Relationship Makes You Normal. I stopped giving a flip about it, largely thanks to the change of being in a different country, with a different-yet-familiar culture (I'm American; it reminded me a lot of the West Coast), and with friends. That brief yet pronounced change helped me realize that I was giving too much importance to societal discourse in France. I finally stopped repeating that societal "Not In Relationship = *GASP* Abnormal!!" to myself, and allowed myself to shrug my shoulders at those who say it to me.

It really does boil down to "are you happy?" I am, but it's true that the part of me saw the big glaring You Need A Relationship sign, and put any discontent I felt in life to that, rather than giving more importance to my own values. Does that make sense? No one's 100% happy with their lives, and it's easy to get drawn into societal narratives about Big Important Things. Interestingly, as I've been further easing in to how happy I actually am, I also see that the discontent is pretty minor, and I had been working on it anyway (still am).

Michele in California summed up my feelings on it pretty well too: while I would like a relationship, I've been single (living on my own) for nearly 10 years now, and have been very happy that way. Love would be great, but I'm not going to spend any more of my precious thirties on dating. It will need to develop organically, and if it doesn't, that's fine, I'm not prioritizing it; I'm happy as is, enjoying life.

Long story short, are you happy, according to your values? If the answer is yes, that's awesome. Give yourself permission to shrug at the societal discourse banging on your romance door.
posted by fraula at 1:52 AM on April 17, 2013

Part of what may make it seem like you're alone in this feeling is that many people your age are already in relationships achieved during their earlier company-seeking phases, and either those relationships have subsided into pleasant companionability or they've been hijacked by parenthood, and in both cases, people just attribute the change to something exterior (marriage, or middle age, or being exhausted all the time) rather to an evolution in their needs. There's probably a lot of folks with lower drive in both sexual and romantic departments, but if they're already happily coupled they have a good friend and team-mate they're in no rush to jettison either. So they become gradually asexual in that relationship, or they pathologize the lack of interest (and get a lot of counseling, esp. if one hasn't subsided), or whatever. But it presents differently from single-and-don't-care. Be glad you're happy with the life you have! yay!!
posted by acm at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for happily single. Your question sort of explains to me really well my feeling of a disappearance of my beloved pool of similarly-aged people available for hanging out and activities you can do without it being weird you're single and childless.

WRT finding new friends. It seems to me there exist more and less healthy scenes around the activities pursued by the non-coupled, childless, but not too young set. Remaining single and childless could be for voluntary or involuntary reasons. I only find people "weird" who had to stay single as they're too kooky / broken but had nothing else going for them either.

I currently randomly have a vague presence in a social circle of 40something couples with little kids so I'm feelin' ya, ugh. I try to embrace the inevitable odd-man-out feeling and just enjoy everyone being so damn wholesome. I'm glad that's not my actual scene though and I know people who aren't too tired to meet up and sing or discuss books or watch movies without falling asleep.

PS. Godchildren. It's like kids lite.
posted by yoHighness at 3:21 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally ok. Gut is telling you what it wants. Go with it.
posted by ead at 11:10 PM on April 17, 2013

I'm late to this question, but I totally love your sentiments. I agree, and I think your characterization of it as mass insanity is right on. It's to the point where I think many people are faking how happy they are about being coupled up.
posted by Philemon at 5:32 AM on April 21, 2013

Came in to say basically what Salamander wrote, word for word.
posted by Another Sock Puppet at 12:02 PM on May 28, 2013

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