How old were you when you first genuinely fell in love with someone...
May 19, 2013 6:29 PM   Subscribe

How old were you when you first genuinely fell in love with someone that resulted in a relatively lasting, satisfying relationship?

I'm 23, I've had crushes and dated a girl for about 3 years from the end of high school through the middle of college. While I had some of the best memories of my young life with her, looking back I feel like we were more friends than lovers. Since it was my first "serious" relationship that started in my teens, I made a lot of romantically retarded mistakes and I don't think I was a very good boyfriend most of the time. The decision to separate was pretty mutual, although it was still somewhat painful.

Since then I've had several short flings with people but never a lasting relationship. I know I'm still very young and probably have a lot of years ahead to find someone, but after a few crushing disappointments I still feel a little hopeless and desperately lonely at times. I'm good at being a loner, (and it's much less complicated), but I long for a real mutually supportive relationship.

Ever since I moved to a new city a thousand miles from home, I've been emotionally isolated for almost six months and it's taking a toll on me. I'm desperately lonely. I've tried online dating a bit but it has always led to either creeps or flickers of hope followed by crushing disappointment. My life is just work and then hiding away in my apartment almost every night and weekend. I recently fell for someone who I got all the right signals and signs of affection from, but learned out of the blue via text that he doesn't feel the same way I do and just "sincerely wants to be friends". That's not going to work. I like him too much and know better than to torture myself like that.

I'm physically attractive, educated, financially stable and can hold a good conversation, but I have trouble putting myself out there. I hate bars, I'm disenchanted with the idea of online dating, I find myself just waiting for someone to fall into my life (not a good life strategy in general, I know). I'm at a vulnerable and somewhat unstable point in my life. Although I'm in therapy (both talk and medical), it's just barely keeping me together. I'm so lonely, bored, and feel so hopeless that I'm starting to spiral into a pattern of drug abuse that I find increasingly easy to rationalize in the state I'm in.

The only bright spot in my life right now is that I have a wonderful family (mom, dad, brother) that I love more every day, but they're so far away, along with all of my close friends. I have a nice pet that I love. I wake up crying every few days.
posted by WhitenoisE to Human Relations (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry, that sounds so hard. I'd really recommend focusing on trying to make some friends locally before you try to find someone to date. Force yourself to go out after work- go to Meetups, book reading, concerts, whatever you're interested in- and then force yourself to practice striking up conversations with people there. It will help distract you from being lonely and bored, and eventually you'll undoubtedly meet some people you want to keep hanging out with. Also, as something of a loner myself, I know that it can sometimes be hard to give people a chance to be your friends- sometimes it seems easier to be on your own, but the more time you spend with others, the better it gets.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:34 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go out and do stuff that you like to do, where you'll be around people that like that same thing. Relax, be friendly, make friends. Maybe you'll meet somebody, maybe you won't. Either way you'll be happier with an active social life hanging out with people that have similar interests.
posted by COD at 6:37 PM on May 19, 2013

I was 25-26, and I had dated a few people before that, one extremely seriously-- that's why it kind of blew my mind walking around one day, totally in love with the woman I was dating thinking, "OOooooh..... THAT'S what that feels like that everyone talks about." It was kind of mindblowing to realize that there was this experience that everyone else was having that I only just right then finally understood for myself.

But that is not your priority now. You need to get out and make more friends before you can approach the angst of dating life. Don't expect dating to fix the loneliness you feel. Then you'll just be a lonely person with a significant other who has to deal with dating someone who's sad and lonely. Get engaged with your hobbies and activities in your neighborhood. Attend local festivals. Look up old friends from college. Meet up with friends/acquaintances for drinks local bars.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

I was you ten years ago, and I know my how much it sucks to be lonely. I'm sorry about that. But it sounds to me like you, in common with many other people, are putting too much faith in romance when you really just need friends. If you're the kind of person that doesn't enjoy bars (I'm with you there!) find an activity you do like - art, hiking, whatever - and find the other people doing that.

As far as finding a long term partner: you're old enough, no question. It's more about whether you're ready and what you're looking for, and no Internet forum can answer that for you. The best way to look at Internet dating is that it's just another way to meet people, so I wouldn't write it off totally, but that's a side issue. It's a cliche and all, but your best bet at this point is to learn to be a happy, interesting person on your own. You'll find friends, you won't be lonely, and as a bonus you'll be more interesting to women. :-)

I know it's easier said than done though. Good luck!
posted by captainawesome at 6:48 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well, to answer the first bit... 28. I had pretty much given up on searching, and was half-or-more considering deleting what minimal online profile I had up at the time. I finally met one who clicked very well. she's not perfect, but... 3.5 years.

Ok, first and foremost: NO DRUG ABUSE. This will really truly ruin your life faster than just about anything you can do.

Are you on antidepressants? Meds + therapy is the most effective combination. They (well, if they work right.... bad meds can be admittedly scary, but I guarantee there is one that works for you with minimal side effects) don't change who you are; they just smooth out the jagged peaks and valleys to help people function better. If your therapist has not mentioned them, you may need to find a new therapist.

Do you exercise enough? Join a gym. Find a trainer you like. Go at least weekly, if not two or three times. It really does help, a lot.

And, lastly, if I was your therapist, I'd be looking into self worth issues. Do you like yourself? Do you love yourself? Do you think you are worth good things?

Feel free to memail me.
posted by Jacen at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was 16 when I met and fell in love with my husband. I am now 37 and we are still married and going strong.

Have you taken your troubles to God and prayed about where he is leading you? I agree with other posters that what you need now are friends more than lovers, and specifically i think you need friends who care about you deeply and are edifying and help you be the very best person you can be. Friends who encourage you and love you and champion your worth and success.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 8:58 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Love seems to come in stages...

if you are lucky in your teens you can be smitten and love... but when college hits, there is another level of difficulty and challenge.

My first big love was at 19, I thought I was set. We tore it up together and had what seemed like a perfect connection. After a year we had to split for the summer jobs in our respective towns. I wrote her twice a day (pre-internet) and she crushed me by falling for someone far more handsome, virile, and experienced than me.

At first,I was devastated and after fucking my way through her friends and friends of friends.... I understood that she had given me a gift. I was able to grow up, move on and understand myself and the world on an entirely different level.

Oddly, she is now my "friend" on Facebook an I have zero regrets about our thing, and celebrate her healthy mariage and family while I have found peace and happiness somewhere else.
posted by bobdow at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

To answer the question you asked: 20. I met my husband when I was 20. Six months after we met, I realized "crap, I've been in love before, but I've never been in this." Seven years after we met, we got married. We just celebrated our ten year anniversary.

To answer the question you DIDN'T ask: my friend, you need to get better. I'm not saying this to be facile; I don't know if I've been where you are per se, but I have definitely been in bad, vulnerable, unstable, barely making it places, and I can tell you that falling in love will not fix it. You might need to change meds, or shrinks, and you almost certainly need to stop abusing drugs, because any relief those drugs give you is false and just lets you go on hurting yourself worse. But waiting for something external to fix you is not going to get you anywhere.

My own journey out of the twisty hole was long and kind of weird, and there are still some days where I can feel it snapping at my heels, and it was definitely hard work with a lot of false starts. But I got out. I am happy to talk about that process anytime you (or anyone else reading this) wants to; memail me if you want. I'm on your side.
posted by KathrynT at 9:39 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

27, almost 28. I had given up.
posted by thejoshu at 9:51 PM on May 19, 2013

Response by poster: To clarify, I started experimenting with drugs when I was 15. What began as youthful experimentation / curiosity weekend fun with weed and psychedelics turned into a crutch about halfway through college as I struggled with serious physical anxiety issues. After seeking help that didn't work for me, I began to rely more and more on opiates, benzos and other downers just to function socially, in school, and work.

I've struggled with feelings of worthlessness during college, but now I have more self-confidence. My current psychiatrist is pretty great, and we're in the process of working with a few different medications options that seem to be helping significantly so far, despite bad experiences with psych meds in the past. I've tried several SSRIs, and am finally on one that seems to agree with me (less side effects than the others). It helps a little with my emotions but not much for my anxiety.

I know I need to stop the opiates. For what it's worth, my habit has stayed small and manageable (mostly using poppy tea, so not much financial or legal risk). It's typical abuse rationalization, I know...I've sought professional help for it, but haven't had much luck staying clean for an extended period of time. I don't have much to live for right now besides that artificial comfort; it's the only reliable thing in my life right now.

This was the first time I felt LOVE, the kind that just clicks in your head and you finally understand what all those songwriters have been trumpeting since time immemorial. The dual punch of being led on after years of loneliness, walking on air for a few weeks before being suddenly, unexpectedly deflated was just too much. It feels like my heart sunk into my shoes. It made me feel unlovable and more alone than I've ever felt.

I need to find friends and a life outside work, and take better care of my health. I'm just so tired...
posted by WhitenoisE at 10:08 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Every time I have fallen in love, I thought wow, this is incredible, I had no idea something like this exists. I think it is more important to consider love in terms of the authenticity of the connection you have with the person that supports it rather than how the love itself rates on the "puppy" to "real thing" spectrum.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:23 PM on May 19, 2013

How old were you when you first genuinely fell in love with someone that resulted in a relatively lasting, satisfying relationship?

I'm in my 30s and still waiting.

Please remember though that this latest disappointment was mere weeks ago. It was apparently your first LOVE. Honey, you're just going through what every single sentient being on this planet goes through: first heartbreak. It feels like death and end and hopeless and like nobody on earth has ever been so miserable, and then it all stops. Until your second heartbreak. And third, fourth, tenth, thirty-fifth....

This too shall pass, you're just in the fog of it so thick you can't remember that there was a before and there will be an after and there will be a long after, and some day someone's going to crush you so hard that THIS? will feel like a papercut. You will LAUGH to think that you once thought THIS was bad. And even that will one day feel better.

It might be worth considering, though, that the people you're looking for aren't going to want to hang around when you're still firmly in the grips of a substance addiction. You have everything else in place, but you're making sure to place an almost immovable obstacle between yourself and the thing you are convinced is your only source of happiness. Might want to look into why you're doing that...
posted by like_a_friend at 10:39 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Join a volleyball or softball league. Go bowling. Volunteer to feed the poor. You need to have more contact with different people than your job or school offer. Get out of your apartment and find people who are doing something.
posted by Cranberry at 11:16 PM on May 19, 2013

Finding love is not going to solve the problems you describe. Being with the people you love might. Is moving back out of the question?
posted by BenPens at 2:49 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was 35. I struggled with dating and looking for love in all the wrong places and persons in my 20s. I know it sounds cliche, but it's totally true: You gotta focus on yourself and give yourself the love you need. The most important relationship you will have is with yourself.

That empty pit of loneliness you have inside of you won't go away when you find someone to be with. You'll forget about it for a little bit, then it'll start sucking your relationship into it, like a black hole. You'll suffer and feel great frustration and pain, and your partner will, too.

You have to take care of that all, it's your responsiblity to yourself, and the sooner you start the sooner you will be really for a loving relationship with another.

Stop the drugs!!! This is probably affecting you so much more than you can even admit or recognize, so get clean and go out and volunteer or something.
posted by Locochona at 3:32 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

We were 13. We never broke up and we're 27 now, and married.

We're outliers.

I also know several people who fell in love for the first time in their 40s. They aren't any less happy.
posted by Cygnet at 5:15 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just remember... at the absolute worst, you have a metafilter worth of random people who will do whatever we can to help. :)
posted by Jacen at 6:21 AM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I fell in love with Husbunny when I was 38 and married him when I was 39. We'll be celebrating our 11th anniversary in July.

I will say this, that I didn't sit around on my hands waiting for love to knock on my door. I went out and had a wonderful time, living my life, having adventures and hanging out with my friends. I traveled, I got an advanced degree, I learned a ton of random crap.

FWIW, I met Husbunny in a chat room. I wasn't there looking for love, but we both liked a TV show and we hung out with other like-minded folks and it turned out to be a love connection.

Join a gym, take some classes. When I lived in Pittsburgh I took a class where on Saturdays, we'd meet in a neighborhood and then we'd walk around while the teached told us all the history of the buildings. It was awesome!

Join a UU church. I met a butt-load of great people at the one I belonged to. (and a butt-load of adorable eccentrics.) Mine had a fun Wiccan group the did rituals once a month.

Don't view the world through a filter of trying to find a girlfriend, view the world as this amazing place full of amazing things and go out there and learn about whatever interests you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:42 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

To answer your explicit question (how old?): hasn't happened yet. I'm 25. I get lonely, but I'm alive. And most days, I'm happy.

To answer your implicit question (what should you do?): I haven't been in your exact shoes, but I've been in some that were similar: isolated, alienated, deep in depression, desperately lonely and miserable and hopeless, wanting like hell to go back to where my family and friends—the only really good, important aspect of my life—were. So that's what I ultimately did (not moving back in with my parents, but moving to their area, to where I felt like I had real roots and real stability), and things are so much better now. I can't imagine how barren and loveless my life would seem, compared to what I have now, if I had kept following a cultural script that didn't make sense to me.

Have you thought about moving back? If you're like a lot of people your & my age, you haven't considered it a serious option because it would feel like an admission of failure, like a disappointment to others, like an act of regression, like you would be falling behind the cultural expectation of what "everybody else" in our generation does. That's how it feels, but it's not true. You are not required to move a thousand miles to become a real person, or a real grown-up. You are not required to live far away from your family if your family is what you love and value. You are not required to suffer for the sake of following a certain prescribed course of 20's life. Nobody can force you do this. Anybody who looks down on you (which actually, almost nobody in your real life will) for making this choice is not worth admiring or trying to emulate, no matter what the fashionable set or the cultural zeitgeist (or your own anxieties and fear of being judged) tell you. You are allowed to value what you value.

Maybe this isn't helpful to you. Maybe your top priority in your life right now is living in the city you've moved to. If so, that's fine; you should take the other posters' sound advice about volunteering, therapy, exercise. But when you say that the only bright spot in your life is your family and friends, that makes me think that your bonds with them, your love for them, is your real top priority, and that maybe you don't think you have permission to have that priority. Well, you have permission now, if you want it. You're allowed to do what's best for yourself.

Stay safe. Be well.
posted by honey wheat at 7:03 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I find myself just waiting for someone to fall into my life

That happened to me. We met, fell in love, and 4 years later we're still going strong. It's possible, but can only work if you're in a place in your life that you can truly nurture the relationship.

Even if you find someone now, you will not be a happy person and they will not stay with you because of this. If they do, you will have a miserable relationship on your hands.

Be interesting, feel interesting, care about yourself, and others will see it too. Only when you feel truly happy and right with your "world", will it get better. Find out what it means to be there and you need to do to get there.

You need to focus on yourself and see where this sense of worthlessness, etc. is stemming from. To answer the love question, i was a teenager when I first felt "love". But real honest, compassionate love I have right now. I couldn't have gotten to this type of love without first experiencing the other.
posted by lunastellasol at 7:10 AM on May 20, 2013

My 15th wedding anniversary is coming up later this week. I'm 38.

We met when we were 21. I had literally just gotten out of a dead-end relationship and decided that I would be completely happy being single for a long time. I've heard from others that this is the key: to genuinely be happy, to not be looking for a relationship.

So my advice is, stop thinking about/focusing on finding someone for a while. Work on you. Find things you're interested in, pick up new hobbies, learn new things. Focus on making friends, not finding a romantic partner.

You're really young. Don't waste time thinking about what you don't have, you will have it eventually and you'll be in a different place then, with less time to focus purely on yourself. So think of this as an opportunity! Lucky you, you get to start fresh and learn new interesting things and selfishly pursue your own agenda!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:23 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Serious inquiry (and not meant hurtfully): what is your question and what do you hope to gain from getting an answer? Your stated question (which can obviously only be answered with anecdotes that would probably range from three years old to never if you could aggressively poll a large group of people) doesn't bear much relationship to your [more inside] narrative and your follow-up is a whole other ball of wax. Trying to intuit what you're scratching at, maybe the following answer will help or at least provide a perspective with some utility. If not, maybe you don't quite know what your question really is yet.

I say this from the experience of a vantage nearly twice your age: the Quest for Love is the best and biggest distraction there is from getting your shit together. It kept me distracted when it was plain as the nose on your face that I had set myself the wrong course in college so I never bothered to fix it and ended up with a degree I have no idea what to do with to this day. It kept me distracted when I was drifting through jobs, letting necessity drive me, pinning any hope of quelling the essential dissatisfaction that had dogged my whole life on vague dreams of accomplishments I wasn't earning or even bothering to learn how to earn, even bothering to figure out if I really wanted, and Mr. Micawber's assertion (good for literature, terrible for real life) that "something will turn up".

It kept me distracted from treating my obvious depression for fifteen years - fifteen years in which I squandered some of the best opportunities I have been offered in my life. I will never be offered opportunities like these again. The world likes to promote youthful potential, it is not much interested in rehabilitating middle-aged used-to-be "high potential" cases who drifted out of the picture and accomplished nothing particularly visible for a couple decades. Any opportunity I get from this point out I will have to dig out of the rock, one miserable pick at a time.

So I found love and you know, it's wonderful, it certainly does a lot (though not everything by any means) to cure loneliness. I wouldn't trade my kid for the chance to go back and fix every mistake, so I guess I'm doing my best to live the life I chose. But love didn't solve my problems, it didn't get my life on track, it didn't get me to quit smoking cigarettes or weed. All that was still on me. Had nothing to do with it. Not solving those problems were only an obstruction to getting the most out of the love I ultimately found, they were never something that love was going to solve.

Love can be pretty great but that walking on clouds, pop-songs-are-meaningful phase doesn't last even in the best outcomes and a universal truth is that your problems persist through the happy haze and are waiting for you on the other side.

And more to the point if your life is becoming truly unmanageable the Quest for Love becomes nothing more than a crutch and a drug, with all its attendant highs and lows and deeply engaging if psychologically harmful roller coaster of drama.

You can't make love show up and about the only thing you can do to make it more likely to turn up is go get out into public, and about the only thing you can do to make it work and last when it does turn up is to get your shit together.

Telling yourself that your addiction is manageable because it's just poppy tea is no different than a drunk who says their addiction is manageable because they only drink wine or beer. There is no difference between a bottle of wine and five martinis (and then there's that "mostly using..." comment you slip in). The fact that are able to say with an apparently straight face that it is the one "reliable" thing in your life and that you don't have much else "to live for" suggests to me that you are in fact dealing with a pretty profound addiction and it is probably one of if not the single most important issues you need to deal with right now. The only thing "reliable" about opiate abuse is that you can rely on them to make true emotional stability impossible.

Does your "pretty great" psychiatrist know you are medicating yourself? Do you think they should? Objectively - not how you feel about them knowing - do you think they should? Are you doing any regular talking therapy in addition to trying medication? Meds don't work for everyone, sad but true. I never found one that worked for me. I'm not a psychiatrist anyway and I don't mean that last bit as advice, just context - but in my book helping "a little" with emotions (you're waking up crying once a week?!) but "not much" for anxiety - but with low side effects - is not a successful medication.

Are you working on your diet, your sleep, are you working on meditation or another form of disciplined relaxation, are you exercising, are you pursuing a plan in your life that you believe in?

I know these things aren't easy. I know this. I know you do them, you try hard and work at it and the returns seem so slight and ambiguous and it is so easy to return to the crutches, especially the chemical ones. But don't expect anything to change as long as you don't work on changing the obvious stuff that you know is what needs to be done. It gets easier but it will never start until you start doing it. It pays off but it takes a long time and you have to find immediate motivations that work for you day in and day out. It sounds to me like you have plenty to live for. If feelings of meaninglessness and worthlessness are the underpinnings of a lot of your issues you might want to look into the positive psychology work of people like Seligman or Lyubomirsky. Talk to someone in your family, every day if you feel like it. It is not a burden to them. Stop making excuses for things you know aren't really excusable, at the very least. Live with the honest reality of it and its consequences. Engage your mental health professionals in the you you're actually suffering with right now, not with some improved, more successful, slightly sanitized version of yourself who wakes up crying and drowns the suffering in poppy tea (just guessing, it's how I behaved with my therapist more or less, to my detriment, for many years).

I don't mean this to make you feel bad about yourself. It isn't about a moral failing or personal insufficiency (and thinking of it in those terms just makes it harder to change). But no matter how compassionate and empathetic I might feel about your situation, what helps helps and what hurts hurts and if you don't take control of those things, with whatever level of support you need in doing so, it will absolutely obstruct every aspect of your life - including love.
posted by Luke Skywalker at 9:00 AM on May 20, 2013 [30 favorites]

wow. Luke Skywalker... totally best name and best advice in this thread. Listen to this sage advice.
posted by lunastellasol at 10:07 AM on May 20, 2013

Deep breath....I'm 38 so I guess I've been around the block a few more times. So maybe some of what I have to say will help.

Being in your twenties just really sucks. I think it's because you go from living at home (where you are loved and cared for and have a sense of belonging) to just being out there in the world by yourself and that can Very lonely as you discovered and confusing. Also, if you're like me, you are infinitely happier when you live with someone you love.

So okay, it kind of sucks, what do you do about it? I think the first thing to do is build a life for yourself. What do I mean by that? What are things that You want to do? Travel? Write poetry? Run? Play tennis? Make Art? Join a book club? Woodwork?

What do you want to do with your career? Stay where you are? Do something else?

What have you done to make lasting friendships?

I think once you've built a life with a career you love, hobbies that are fulfilling, and lasting friends, then you won't be so desperately lonely and maybe you'll make better choices when dating.

Because here's the thing: I met my husband when I was 28 and I love him more deeply than I could have imagined possible when I was your age. Even so he isn't and shouldn't be the be all and end all of my life. I have a career that is engaging, lots of good friends, I volunteer, I read, I write. It wouldn't be healthy if it were otherwise. You're focusing on having a relationship like it will be a panacea. It's not. It's one component of the healthy fulfilling life you seek to build.
posted by bananafish at 11:59 AM on May 20, 2013

I'm going through the same thing except I just turned 44. Unfortunately, I still don't think I've fallen in love with someone and actually had a relationship with them too.

The drug piece is not good. And take it from me, I ought to know. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. In fact, the big part of why I've never fallen in love or had a substantial relationship is because I spent 20 years fucking my life up with alcohol & drugs. I digress. Using substances never helped me to feel better (or less bad) about anything in my life.

I, myself, am trying to concentrate on the things in my life that I DO have control over. Meeting the right person and falling in love is NOT one of those things. Unfortunately. As I type, I am at a professional conference to work on getting ahead in my career. I have friends who think I'm fabulous, got a helluva lot going for me, and I'm doing my best to live in this moment. It's the only way I can handle the uncertainty of my romantic future. It sucks, especially when almost everyone my age is or has been married. Oh well, my path is my path, and actively seeking the beauty of the world around me in each step is the only way I know to get through it.

Hugs. And remember to just breathe.
posted by strelitzia at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2013

1. You're 23 - That's very young! Young enough that you have plenty of time to work on yourself and get your shit together and be the best you can be for when you do find love. I am going to hazard to say you don't want to find it right now because no offense but you sound like you're in a place where you would mess it up if it did fall into your lap like you want it to. (I know this from having been in that place.) Anyway, that's the first good news! The second good news, is you are so young and have so much time!

It sounds like you have a big emotional hole inside of you and you want nothing more than to find a person to fill that hole. And while you are waiting around for the person, you are using drugs to fill that hole. Those are both really bad ideas. Finding a person to fill your hole is going to make you feel heroin-like happy for a very brief period of time and really really unhappy shortly afterwards when you get to the dealing with reality stage. Drugs, I imagine, are going to feel really good briefly and then very very bad when it's time to emerge out of the happy fog into the real world.

Probably the best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to clench your teeth really hard to get ready to deal with whatever it is in your life that's actually making you unhappy (read: not the state of being single, but the actual thing) and try to weather the unhappy feelings with no drugs involved and get so that you can be present for it and listen to your inner wisdom about the right thing to do. But anyway, let me echo everyone else who says please please don't find a person to substitute for feeling fulfilled. If you just show up for your life and are present for whatever horrid loneliness and heartache you're feeling and plow through the reality of that, it is going to make you 100% times more fulfilled and connected and capable of loving someone in a non-codependent way.
posted by mermily at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm only answering the explicit question, as I think you've gotten some great advice above:

I was 28. It took me my entire twenties to realise that I don't need another person to be the axis my planet rotates around and that "being with someone" is not a satisfying life goal.
posted by sm1tten at 5:39 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Luke Skywalker speaks sage advice.

Loving relationships do not and will not solve everything; they nourish parts of you but also place demands that those parts stand up and participate in the relationship in a way that is as challenging, often much more challenging, as spending time alone. Nor is love a thing you "find" or "get". It's a thing you do, over and over, and you can only do it to the extent your soul, and the rest of your life, is healthy and in order. The more you scar yourself, the harder it is to open your heart and be vulnerable to people who are willing to dance. Practice compassion and kindness to the world and yourself. Let love come and go as it does.

(To answer your first question, 21, for a decade, but I have been through much subsequent love and heartbreak and it never, ever solved the problems I thought it would. At best it helped clear cobwebs of fantasy and illusion out of my head so I could finally begin to pay attention to the life I was leading. The sooner you can do that, the better.)
posted by ead at 9:39 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

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