At least I have my cat?
May 6, 2013 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm generally happy with where I am, but lately I've been feeling more and more envy when I see couples and it's getting distracting...

My last relationship was around 1.5 years ago (though it continued as a kind of on-off thing, with last serious contact this January), and since then I've developed a nice single life for myself. I have a very fulfilling career and loving friends and family, and I usually fill my calendar with fun/interesting things to do.

I think the envy really began when one of my roommates got into a relationship (fairly recently, about 5 months ago). She and I are really close and have known each other for a long time (not that close with the third roommate, who kind of has her own separate life), and we used to hang out with each other several times a week. I knew both members of the couple separately as friends first, so I initially thought my feelings were occurring because I was adjusting to this new dynamic. Then I started feeling more irritation at the pda (though I objectively know that it's not excessive at all), the fact that they almost always seem to come as a package deal for hangouts, and the fact that I see much less of my friend. I still try to make plans with her, but she doesn't keep track of her calls/texts as much and she'll frequently be gone several nights a week/all weekend with her bf. I imagine part of my envy is because I miss hanging out with her, but I understand that it's natural for couples to fall into that spend-all-time-with-each-other habit.

Whenever I do hang out with them as a couple, though, I also feel envious because they have exactly the kind of relationship I'd like to have. He is sweet and excited to show her things/talk to her and clearly idolizes her. Also, we all work in the same field and we all share several interests so she'll frequently talk about things they did and I'll think "Man! That sounds like so much fun! I wish I had a person and they would be excited about doing that with me...". And in case anyone suggests it, I could suggest doing some of those fun things with them but usually when I ask what they're up to she already says she has plans or by the time I think of something she's...not around. I have to admit they're a good match--she seems to have found someone who adores her, has a similar outlook on life, and someone with whom she can discuss industry info/collaborate on projects. I should just be excited and happy for her, but instead I get distracted by thoughts of how nice it'd be to be in a similar relationship.

I thought this might be a specific case of relationship envy, but when we all hang out in a large group and they're not being particularly couple-y I don't care as much. Also, I was never particularly envious about relationships before in general, but ever since they started dating it's like a switch flipped and I'm feeling little pangs whenever I see any sweet couple gestures. I'm getting alarmed because I've even started feeling envious of other married friends--people I met as couples who have been together forever--where I never felt any such feelings about them before.

The obvious answer might be to find my own relationship, but so far I haven't really met anyone that I feel excited about (at least excited enough to pursue). I'd prefer to meet someone organically, but I've tried online dating and didn't particularly find it a pleasant experience. I currently have a match profile and get a good amount of emails, but for some reason I can't muster up the enthusiasm to engage with any of the guys I see on there. It's almost like I want the relationship without the hassle of dating, which...I know, I know :(

Despite everything I wrote up there, I really am generally happy with life. There are definitely a lot of moments where I just feel ridiculously lucky and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. My day job incorporates my passions and interests and is a total blast. Outside of work I have friends who will hang out and go on food/all sorts! of adventures with me, and who overwhelm me with their support when I take on a project. I feel confident in my dateability, though I haven't really found anyone yet who revs my engine, so to speak. It is only recently that I've started noticing couples more, and the thoughts that swirl in my head are really starting to get to me. I don't want to get distracted by envy, it seems petty and a miserable way to live.

So how do I deal with this relationship envy? If you've ever experienced it before how did you deal with it? Do I just have to suck it up and realize that maybe I just haven't met someone right yet, and stay busy in the meantime? I'm going to try and give the online dating thing another fair shot, but if there are any other possible solutions/activities/mantras to remember I welcome those, too.

Sorry for the length! And some info just in case, because this is anonymous:
I'm mid-twenties female, interested in men.
I've only had one relationship so maybe I don't have enough experience.
I am specifically wistful about couple-y interaction.
I'm not at all secretly romantically interested in any of the partnered people I know.
My cat really is awesome, so that is some comfort.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Know that if they have this, that means it exists to be had.

By you, for example.
posted by tel3path at 3:05 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's ok to want a relationship! Most people want a relationship! It's not "wistful" or misguided or weird. It is totally normal to not feel completely fulfilled by single life; to want a close intimate partner. And to make finding one a goal and an intent of yours.

You sound like you are embarrassed to admit this or like you think there is something wrong with you for wanting it - why?! Having a boyfriend is AWESOME! snuggling and intimacy and sex and support and love and affection and inside jokes are awesome. A boyfriend is a best friend + lover, that's like two awesome things all rolled up. It's okay to want it, and to say that you want it. Just like it's okay to want a great group of supportive friends, or an awesome challenging job, and a cozy apartment, and a car that you have fun driving, and exciting vacation plans. Own it, admit it.

Don't let it be debilitating or become a broken record about it - any more than you would become fixated on other things about your life that are not ideal. But it's ok to set a goal of finding a relationship, cause you want one.

(See The Atlantic agreeing!)

And I don't think it's a female thing - most of my mid-twenties guy friends want girlfriends.

I'd prefer to meet someone organically, but I've tried online dating and didn't particularly find it a pleasant experience. I currently have a match profile and get a good amount of emails, but for some reason I can't muster up the enthusiasm to engage with any of the guys I see on there. It's almost like I want the relationship without the hassle of dating, which...I know, I know :(

This is the part that doesn't jive for me. Go look for a relationship! The rest of your life is awesome, this is a part that is missing, go find one!! Don't set a deadline or fixate on it...just get out there and date lots of guys till you find one! Ask men out, go to every social opportunity you can, and do online dating (online dating is great! All these stellar guys that you would never run into...and they are all looking for girlfriends!).

It's great that you are independently happy without a relationship. It's also okay that you acknowledge that you would be even happier with one.
posted by amaire at 3:19 PM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Having a boyfriend is AWESOME! snuggling and intimacy and sex and support and love and affection and inside jokes are awesome. A boyfriend is a best friend + lover, that's like two awesome things all rolled up.

Yes, but a lot of relationships are not that awesome, and going out on a lot of so-so internet dates can make you despair of the possibility of ever meeting someone you won't feel like you settled for.

So, OP, it's okay to admit that you want a relationship, but if you want to just chill and hang out with your cat, that's fine. You don't have to go on MISSION: FIND A BOYFRIEND unless you want to, and if you don't really want to, that's cool.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:41 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

You aren't in any trouble until you write "at least I have my 15 cats".

What you are going through is normal at this stage in your life. Because you were hanging out with the roommate more before she coupled up... there is loss of connection. That happens.

Relationships are nice, but do you know what's even better? Taking time to figure your shit out and become super awesome without someone else.

Take your time and have fun, lots of people in relationships envy the time, freedom and personal growth single people are able to have.
posted by bobdow at 4:08 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You definitely need a boyfriend. Your question screams it. It doesn't even have to be a great boyfriend - don't reduce your pool. A good boyfriend will do many of the things you're privately envying in other couples.

I'm going to try and give the online dating thing another fair shot,

It will be your first shot. Respond, seek out, approach - most valuable things we appreciate come from hard work.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:28 PM on May 6, 2013

Wow, you definitely do not NEED a boyfriend. That is ludicrous. And you definitely don't need to settle for someone who is good enough so you can have "most of the things" you want.

I can relate to you. Same age, single, tried online dating and didn't care for it. I have been in two serious relationships so far and the longer I am single, the more I cherish it.

I am not against dating at all, but relationships are a lot of work. Your friend is in the honeymoon phase where everything shiny and precious. She probably hasn't had to deal with his family yet, sacrifice her career so he can pursue his (or vice versa), come home to him watching that show yet again that she can't stand but will be forced to listen to for the rest of the evening, pick his boxers up off the floor, refrain from going out to a Thai restaurant because he doesn't like it, and so on.

It is perfectly okay to want a relationship and to do things that are consistent with that goal, as long as you don't equate being single with being a failure and being in a relationship as succeeding in life. There are plenty of other things to do in the world besides have a boyfriend, like be an awesome cat mom, rock your career, run a marathon, or volunteer. There is plenty of time to find a partner.
posted by thank you silence at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

Nthing the advice that your friend is in the "honeymoon phase" and yeah, it's annoying to see that. And nthing the reminder that it's okay to want a relationship, and that it's okay to not want to do online dating right now.

The best way I found to deal with the envy, though, was to read a lot of Dorothy Parker poems. I suggest Symptom Recital first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

It may help to reflect on the fact that many of us have, at times, left serious relationships not because they were bad or we were dumped, but because we wanted to be single. Dissatisfaction and the desire for change are common features of every circumstance.

Also: nobody _needs_ a boyfriend.
posted by ead at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have my sympathy! Yearning like this can be tough. Heres what I'd do: make a list of your ideal boyfriend. EVERYTHING. eye colour, smell, height, interests, hobbies, hair. everything. Now you know what to look for. Also, I suspect the act of writing it tells the universe/your subconscious/ whatever that yes, you do mean it, and its time to get on it :) Weird, but it works.

Dont be ashamed to ask your friends if they have single friends too!
posted by Jacen at 8:23 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go go go to your local MeFi meetups, if you are in a city that has them. There are very interesting people on MetaFilter, is all I'm saying.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:00 PM on May 6, 2013

This may have much less to do with wanting/needing a boyfriend then feeling like something's changed and that you're on the wrong side of that change. Since you said that you're very close to this roommate (and mention that roommate #2 has her own life), I think it actually may be more about where you stand with your friend. I mean, hanging out with her isn't the same anymore, is it? Because there's this guy there and he's kind of this unknown factor.

This is TOTALLY normal. My friends have felt this way, and I have felt this way with them when they've suddenly had big changes and moved on. My married friends seem to occupy a different space than I do because I have a fiance and not yet a husband. My one very close friend and I experienced a similar seismic shift when I moved out into my first real apartment, solo. I felt like her constant advising/fussing seemed ridiculous when she had no experience setting up a household of her own. Yes, this is unfair, but it happens, and that's just what occurs when close friends start to branch out and experience life at different frequencies.

So maybe try to strike out and find some change of your own. Rework your life so that it's radically different, so that the comparisons seem ludicrous and ill-fitting. Be as special as you can.

I think the man is a red herring. You may have one, you may not have one. But I strongly believe your feelings have less to do with envy/jealousy than they do with being a little lost when faced with the prospect of change.
posted by orangutan at 9:16 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know the feeling. The same thing happened to me with a former roommate, and I didn't deal with it well. My life was nowhere near as put together as yours at the time, so I felt really abandoned and lonely when it happened. I think a lot of it has to do with living together. When you share a space with someone, you subconsciously become more attached and habituated to having them around. When someone else comes onto the scene and fills up the space differently, subconsciously it's like your family is being reorganized. For me anyways, it woke up strong feelings of abandonment ( I might be crazy).

I definitely do not think you need a boyfriend. But there's nothing wrong with wanting one. why not give dating another try, for no other reason than that you've got your life the way you like it, you are strong and confident and ready to be an amazing partner? Approach it from the perspective of abundance: your life is rich and fulfilling, and this puts you in a perfect position to begin sharing yourself with another.

I met my sweetie on okcupid (we've been together for a year). When I signed up on the site, I met two other people before meeting this third guy. I fell in love with him in less than two months. It's totally worth it.
posted by winterportage at 10:22 PM on May 6, 2013

I went through a stage after my last relationship ended where any couple I saw publicly displaying affection, whether I knew them or not, just pissed me off. I got really irritated. Sometimes wanted to go up and tell them to enjoy it now and then go off into bitter predictions of what dire romantic fate could await them. I never did. These days I am more like you, feeling slightly wistful and sometimes a bit irritated (do they have to do that? in public? can't they keep it to themselves?)

For me, both the extreme irritation and the mild wistfulness/irritation are signs that I am actually not ready for another relationship yet. I feel as though when I actually do not care whether or not I am in a relationship will probably be when I find myself in one again. Until then, I am trying to be present in the moment, enjoy the wonderfulness of being single (and my cat!) and work on being happier with myself and my life. Like you, I am pretty happy with my life overall.

Dealing with the relationship envy? Well, I can't always manage this, but for people I know well, it helps to remember the problems that they have (because everyone always has problems) and be glad for them that they have each other for support and love. It helps to remember how much my friends care about me (which admittedly is easier since I don't know anyone in the throes of new relationship energy right now). It helps to remember that I have had relationships in the past and that they certainly included the kind of good times and intimacy that I am envying in others. It helps to know that this will probably happen again in the future, when I am actually wanting it to happen.

And if all else fails, just remember that you have succeeded at the most important thing: keeping your cat happy.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:06 AM on May 7, 2013

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