Does happy lifelong singledom exist?
September 29, 2013 10:58 PM   Subscribe

At 30 and after almost a decade of being unable to click with anyone at a romantic level, I'm starting to consider the possibility of my having to live as a single for the rest of the journey. Not that I plan to quit trying in the near future, but given the poor results so far, I am trying to imagine and anticipate what perpetual singledom may be, especially as one grows older. My questions are related to the possibilities for happiness, fulfillment and emotional stability while chronically single. Are they real? Do you think a person can be alone all his/her life and have a meaningful and fulfilling life? I have a clear sense of what sort of contributions I want to try to make to my environment and society, but I wonder if this purpose will be enough to keep my life motivation burning as I get older supposing that I do stay alone.

Although I have never been in a relationship, singledom didn´t use to look as such a big deal till recently. But in the last few years nearly all of my friends have found partners and I have inevitably become more self-conscious about my condition. I have also come to notice a number of single or divorced opposite sex people at work in their 40s and 50s who seem very needy (which shows for instance in their approaching me to share long unrequested stories about their lives). These people have got me thinking on whether that sort of attention seeking is the almost inevitable fate of someone who has been alone for too long.
posted by Basque13 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you think a person can be alone all his/her life and have a meaningful and fulfilling life?

Alone, no. Single, yes.

For tens of thousands of years there have been single people: men and women who didn't marry for lack of financial resources, or interest, or beauty. Or because their families needed their support where they were; or because they had careers or projects that interfered. Or because they were asexual, homosexual (in a culture that forbid it), or for some other reason.

Do you think that none of those people could have lived meaningful and fulfilling lives?

I encourage you to question your assumptions. First, romantic partnership is not the only possible source of companionship available in life. Second, lack of romantic partnership does not make of life a barren and desolate wasteland. Third, are you sure you're not projecting when you describe your unattached coworkers as needy and desperate?
posted by suelac at 11:27 PM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If being in a relationship is extremely important to you, then you'll likely find it difficult to be without one. If it's at the base of your hierarchy of needs, then it's unlikely that you'll be able to live a happy life without one.

Loneliness is just an emotion, though. It's a few blips of electricity flowing through your brain. You won't die of loneliness in the same way that you'd die from the lack of fulfilment of an actual need like hunger or air. Life might be less pleasant if you're missing out on something you really want, but it's liveable. Those people who are buttonholing you really Want some human connection. That's OK, because that's how their brains are wired. You're not seeing the people who are happy on their own because they're not getting in your face, looking for your attention.

The Dalai Lama talks some about never having had a relationship in The Art of Happiness. Monks and nuns, for example, don't have sexual relationships but they seem happy enough. The author of the book asks him if he ever gets lonely, and the Dalai Lama replies "no". And it seems, based on his description, that he doesn't. He's alone, in one sense of the word, but he still manages to have a varied and fulfilling life.

Consider what it is you want from a relationship with someone, and then look for ways to get those wants met in other fashions. If you want to get laid, have a one night stand. If you want to get hugged, go to a cuddle party. If you want to live with someone, get a housemate.

Challenge your assumption that being alone means that your life will be unfulfilling. Why would that be the case? Are there cultural factors at play? Are you buying into the idea that Everyone Always Wants To Be In A Relationship that is often seen in films? Pressure from relatives/friends to couple up?

Being in a relationship can be a lot of fun, and you can get a lot of Wants met in one place. If you spend your life looking for someone to fill the emptiness inside you, you'll be constantly tied to finding something or someone to fill you up. Other people can easily trigger an Oxytocin release, which feels really nice. The human brain is wired to enjoy oxytocin releases, mainly to ensure the survival of the species. Certain types of meditation can stimulate oxytocin releases in the same way that hugging can, though.

There are many ways to be happy. Relief, gratitude, contentment, etc. Happiness isn't a single hormone in the brain. It's not just oxytocin or dopamine. It's several things, happening together in the brain that we don't fully understand yet.

You might want to look into the QuirkyAlone movement. Or even do some reading on on being "single at heart".

If it's any comfort, I'm someone who doesn't need to be in a relationship to be happy. You're not alone, if you'll pardon the pun.
posted by Solomon at 11:58 PM on September 29, 2013 [30 favorites]

You're not alone! I've been almost 10 years single now, and am happier than I've ever been, though singlehood is not the "why".

My questions are related to the possibilities for happiness, fulfillment and emotional stability while chronically single. Are they real? Do you think a person can be alone all his/her life and have a meaningful and fulfilling life? I have a clear sense of what sort of contributions I want to try to make to my environment and society, but I wonder if this purpose will be enough to keep my life motivation burning as I get older supposing that I do stay alone.

Absolutely yes, happiness, fulfillment and emotional stability are very real possibilities. It seems like it's only looking at other people that has made you doubt that? It's perfectly normal to look to others, especially older, more experienced people as role models. Just keep in mind though, they haven't had the same lives as you, and what you see now is only a stage in their own lives. They may well become more confident single, or they may be the sort who needs intimate companionship; everyone's different.

What I've found most helpful, as someone who would love intimate companionship, is to explore that in depth and come to an acceptance of it. It's not just one thing – needing companionship – that matters. Individuals are complex, balance is important, and it's finding that balance that will help ensure that your life motivation stays healthy and alive.

To that end, it is important to know what you want, and especially, don't take measures that would counter that. Relationships are diverse, and, for instance, part of what I love about meeting people is seeing how different facets of ourselves come out with different people. You can't get that with arbitrary rules imposed on yourself; it's much richer if you accept your quirks and work with them. Following rules does also work, if you actually want what the rules end up giving. If you know what you want, then it's easier to take different viewpoints and say, "that wouldn't work for me", or "maybe this would", for instance joining interest groups/clubs/etc, and it also helps better evaluate any wild ideas you might have. Every once in a while I wondered why I didn't just go around and sleep with more guys, for instance, then I would think, "uh, because that totally doesn't work for me, due to reasons X,Y,Z." Or why I don't move to a place with more single men: "because I love my friends here, what I've built here, and I remember how long it took to build something similar elsewhere, and would rather be single here than up there, because it's a place that doesn't have A,B,C."

Evaluate what you already love about your life, friends/job/pets/activities/surroundings/etc. Think about what you would like in a partner, and what you're doing/willing to do/not willing to do to find one. Work on accepting all that. In time it becomes second nature. You can also remind yourself that regrets are natural. I occasionally wonder, but then remind myself that I've remained true to values that came through the fire of hard evaluation, looked around as best I could for a partner, and simply haven't found one. Meanwhile I've built a happy, enriching life, filled with neat people, in a place I love, at a job I find fulfilling. There are days I get on my bike and have to slow down for a bit because the rush hits me that I am doing things I only dreamt of, and am really, really happy with. Were there someone to share it with, who was also happy in his life, that would be awesome too! Well, there's a quandary, isn't there? Should we be less happy because someone else would enrich existing happiness?! :)

If relationships are important to you, definitely build your friendships. Working through those things mentioned above will help there too. Focus on things that bring meaning to your life – if helping others is part of that, it's included! Look at life as holding potential, and you'll find it, often in the most surprising places.
posted by fraula at 12:54 AM on September 30, 2013 [10 favorites]

My twenties and early thirties were littered with corpses of mostly ill-advised relationships, because I was fucked in the head. Not saying you are fucked in the head, this is just my singleton story.

So, after I became disabled, a couple things happened. Men stopped seeing me the same way, alcohol causes nerve pain, so I don't do bars, and I've also become very cautious about relationships.

So here is my single life: Really full. Whereas before, my relationships would tend to blot out the importance of other things, now I have the head space to write every day (mostly) and practice the guitar every day (mostly). I give myself in my job (teaching), take care of my pets, and praise God, my head fuckery is not around. Mostly. I am truly, as a single person at 43, happier -- like solidly jolly in ways I never was when I was dating. I love my clothes (only intended to please me with a nod towards professionally) I love my apartment (a crap shack decorated with weird shit that please me), and I love my writing/books/guitar/job.

Now, I'm a little crazy, so definitely YMMV
posted by angrycat at 3:16 AM on September 30, 2013 [20 favorites]

I just finished reading Going Solo, which you might find interesting.
posted by quidividi at 3:52 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of my siblings in her late 40s is very much single and intends to remain single, after an early marriage and relationships, and is possibly one of the most interesting, independent and generally happy people I know. I would be thrilled if she found someone she wanted to live with, and just as thrilled if she never did because she lives life fully either way. There are many patterns to lives and marriages and relationships are one potential part, not the anchor.

You might find Marriage, a history interesting meat for thought in that it shows how marriage/relationships/romantic love are very much social and cultural constructs, and the enormous variety throughout history, as well as all those who didn't marry.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:25 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the trick to being happy alone is being happy BECAUSE you get to be alone. Reference: I was two years unhappily married, then spent a year sorting out my thoughts, now seven years contentedly single and doing what I like. This morning, I'm in the kitchen with all the lights on at 5 a.m., hair in chopsticks, clicking merrily away on my computer, dog at my feet. For me, this is domestic bliss. I think the solo preference runs in the family -- I have a wonderful uncle who never married and loves his freedom and a grandmother who has been widowed for over 40 years. She loved my grandfather with all her heart, never sought another husband, and found herself content living solo ever since.

People I know who seem unhappy at being single are the ones who actually wanted a relationship, yearned for that companionship, but never connected for whatever reason. I was just poking through your history and noticed your last AskMes about some dating circumstances you had that sound pretty frustrating and confusing.

Spend some time considering this. Are you running FROM frustration and confusion, or running TOWARD a life that you see for yourself?

Also, consider that you don't have to define yourself by your relationships and commit to something forever. It's ok to be in relationships sometimes and be alone sometimes. Just be you. Good luck.
posted by mochapickle at 4:35 AM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

Totally possible to be happy single. Less likely if you are fixated on this fact as some kind of personal failing to remedy, agonize over, be ashamed of, etc. There are numerous forks in the road of life. Each path precludes the others. Each contains sufficient material to live a fulfilling life. Each is also filled with people longing to be on "some other path", not doing anything about it, and missing what is in front of their face as a result. Be where you are, until you decide to be somewhere else.
posted by ead at 5:11 AM on September 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

I happy and single for 40 years.

I think it helps to have a great circle of friends. If you feel like you want some company, you have folks to call.

I really enjoyed being single. I had great adventures traveling and meeting new folks. I enjoyed reading books all day in bed on a Sunday, or binging on 1930's screwball comedies.

I got to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

When I finally did meet and marry Husbunny, it was great because he was the icing on the cake.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:22 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am single and most definitely not alone. I followed my friend network from college, where I was single and had the best time of my life, down to the DC Metro area where the good times look to continue.

I don't always meet with friends during the day, which is likely why I don't feel particularly into the whole dating thing. If I want to be a recluse and stay at home all night alone (assuming no prior, planned engagements) I can do that without disappointing someone or not meeting their expectations for interaction. If I want to hang out with friends and be social, there is a good chance that at least one of them will feel similarly (though that's not guaranteed and very occasionally leads to bumming around the house not knowing what to do).

So I wouldn't say that being single necessarily leads one to being alone.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:46 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Pope actually talked a little bit about this in his recent interview! The idea of being "fruitful" in singleness is something that monks and nuns and priests talk a lot about in their discernment and formation periods. It's easy for married people to be fruitful: Have babies. Children automatically give you a purpose and a legacy and you've done something good in the world. It's harder for couples who don't or can't have children, and harder still for singles, to have a "fruitful" life, but it can be done! And it's better, in all cases, if you're thoughtful about making your life fruitful.

From many years of listening to theologians talk about it, and watching friends go through formation for the priesthood, here's my key-points takeaway with the religious language stripped away. First, you must have a community of some sort. This is often family, or friends-as-family, but it can also be somewhere you volunteer or work, or a church, or a club ... somewhere that you have a role, you're wanted, and you'd be missed. Second, you need to have meaningful work, that has a purpose. You can have one big one or lots of small ones, it doesn't really matter. (If you have lots of small ones, you'll probably find that they all tie together into one overarching idea ... I do a lot of different things personally, but they all mostly tie in to "make my community a better place for the future.") But you need some idea if what you are doing in the world that the world needs from you, that you are improving the world by doing. Raising children is an easy, easy answer -- so easy that most people with children don't really even think about it with any intentionality. But you can also be fruitful by creating art or writing, or by devoting yourself to registering voters who otherwise might not have access to their right to vote, or by teaching nutrition to Girl Scouts, or ... you get the idea. Anything, really, that makes a little impact in the world. Which leads me to the third idea: a legacy. It doesn't have to be a big legacy that will go in history books or on plaques, just a little legacy where you know that you, through your meaningful work of choices, made some positive change do the world. Maybe you raised a couple children into healthy adults. Maybe you lobbied for years and got a dangerous intersection upgraded to make it safe. Maybe you just carried groceries up stairs for lots of older people. Any of those things is a legacy, a little mark that left the world a better place.

So you're going to have to think about it a little harder than someone following a "traditional" path, but it is very possible to live an extremely "fruitful" life as a single person, a life that is fulfilling and happy and meaningful. (I also think that pondering on these questions of how to make your life fruitful will make you not fall into that "needy" category. People who are needy don't know how to find fulfillment; you will know. It's okay to still think, "Oh, a relationship would be nice" or "I could use more friends," but you'll know deep in your soul that you're living this fruitful life, so those things are BONUSES. People who are needy aren't sure what to do to be fruitful, so they bounce around from person to person hoping to find out.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:14 AM on September 30, 2013 [96 favorites]

I suggest getting a dog if you want someone to hug or cuddle with. Also, this quote from Borges:

Out of indecision or carelessness, or for some other reason, I never married, and now I live alone. Loneliness does not worry me; life is difficult enough, putting up with yourself and with your own habits.
posted by thylacine at 6:53 AM on September 30, 2013 [7 favorites]

These people have got me thinking on whether that sort of attention seeking is the almost inevitable fate of someone who has been alone for too long.

No, that kind of attention seeking is what you get from people who are bitter about being single or just plain crappy at it. There is nothing "inevitable" about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:40 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Clicking with someone is no guarantee, many people who have been happily married find themselves living alone for years or decades after the death of a spouse, or find that their spouse was less happily married than they were.

You might find the blog Living Single of interest.

Those people at work who seem lonely? How to avoid that is to have friends. Some divorced people have come out of a relationship where they chose to have only "couple friends" -- if all your friends are couples who just want to hang out with other couples, and you get divorced, that doesn't leave you with many friends. People who seem needy and alone might have trouble making friends. Value your friendships, they get more difficult to maintain as one gets older, and stay in touch with old friends, even if they or you are busy with work or children.

I don't know where you live, but in the US there's a big regional variation in cultural expectations around whether you "should" be in a relationship. Friends of mine have moved and found that they were surrounded by people who were immersed in expectations that everyone get married and have children, compared to other places they had lived. If you are feeling like the last single standing, you might be more comfortable somewhere else.
posted by yohko at 10:35 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think not having a relationship means you are missing the main cornerstone that many happy single people have, which is the knowledge that a bad relationship is so much worse then no relationship. And when I look around at the couples I know, honestly most don't seem very happy. Lots of small type bickering. Power struggles. Strong wafts of contempt. Or the happy couple the falls apart and then starts talking about how it was all an elaborate façade and the relationship was bordering on abusive.

I think solid good mutually beneficial romantic relationships are actually exceedingly rare. I've decided not to hang all my life's happiness on the unlikely happening, though I do takes steps to be open for it on the off chance. Which basically means taking care of myself and being good and happy with who I am. So it's a win-win, if I don't meet someone I'm happy, if I do I'm happy. I'm not waiting for someone to "complete" my life, it is completed!
posted by Dynex at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2013 [7 favorites]

Being single and 30 is not a condition. A lot of happy marriages are forged after people settle into careers and themselves; it is also not clear that the majority of coupled people are actually happy and emotionally fulfilled. But in the meantime, you want the reassurance that if that does not happen everything will be fine.

You really have two concerns that seem obvious. The first is whether you can be motivated and fulfilled and alone, the second is whether you will become emotionally desperate. Really, you need to look at yourself carefully, which is going to be difficult because you have no comparator (i.e. Basque13 during non-single period).

The contributions you want to make to the world are more likely accomplished as a single person. The thing people don't tell you about being married or having a family? It often consumes the time and energy you used to direct towards accomplishments. Sure, having someone at home provides a reason to get up and push forward into life and can moderate the lows, but ultimately unless you end up with someone whose interests are completely aligned with yours (unlikely) you will probably make sacrifices to have a long-term relationship. As indicated by some answers above, people who are happy single often have gone through romantic relationships requiring sacrifices that outweighed the subjective benefits, or have carefully considered the option and at some point chose it (e.g. difficult to devote self to monk-stuff if busy with wife-stuff, therefore monk stuff wins).

There are a lot of attention-seeking unhappy people who are alone, and you are becoming aware of them, but be careful about the causation implied in your fatalistic musing. Think of it like an elementary school playground. There is a difference between the kids who were off on their own mission, examining bugs and reading books, and the kids who wanted to join in but were not overly tolerable for other children. The book kids might have friends, but they didn't need to share everything with friends. The kid on the sidelines might not have had friends due to a socialization issue and definitely did want friends but did not know how to go about it. If you can be on your own mission, or in looking at your singleness objectively recognize that it has partly resulted from taking your own road rather than not being allowed on the road, you will probably be happy.
posted by skermunkil at 5:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Many people are quite happy single, sometimes happier even than they ever could be in a relationship. Others the opposite.

I think it's fine to walk away from romance, if you'll really be happy that way. Lying to yourself won't make you happy in the long run though. I recognize your nick, and recall your previous questions where you were looking for a partner. In those questions you were, if anything, trying too hard.

Without knowing more, I would suggest, as an intermediate term plan, not trying to engineer any romance for some time, while still being open to friendly interactions that might have possibilities someday. Don't make any lifelong resolutions just yet.
posted by mattu at 5:48 PM on September 30, 2013

At 30 and after almost a decade of being unable to click with anyone at a romantic level, I'm starting to consider the possibility of my having to live as a single for the rest of the journey. ... Although I have never been in a relationship, singledom didn´t use to look as such a big deal till recently. But in the last few years nearly all of my friends have found partners and I have inevitably become more self-conscious about my condition.

At 28 I felt exactly as you do right now. I never really connected with anyone romantically and I was seriously starting to believe that I was just strange enough and unique enough that finding someone who I could love and who would love me back was pretty unlikely. And, like you, pretty much every person I knew was in a long term "forever" type relationship which made me all the more aware and self conscious of my single-ness. You know what I did? I stopped putting effort in to finding a partner. I stopped doing things that I thought would make me more datable or appealing or attractive. I stopped wondering if every new person I met could be the one I finally clicked with. Instead, I started just doing things that made me happy. I called it "selfish hedonism" but really it was just me living a more authentic, honest life. \
- I stopped going to bars because that wasn't really my scene.
- I put more effort in to my gym and healthy eating routine, not so that I would be more dateable but because I felt better physically and emotionally.
- I took up hobbies that I was always interested in but never did because I was worried it would make me seem nerdy or loserish. The big one was quilting. I started making my own quilts and then handquilting them. They were labours of love and extremely time consuming but very fulfilling.
- I volunteered with a local afterschool homework help/tutoring group.
- I started a book club, involving some of my existing friends and inviting some new people as well (who have since become some of the best friends I have ever had)
- I stopped watching TV. For me it is a toxic behaviour.
- I removed unhealthy, negative people from my life.
- I made my sleep a priority. I went to bed at the same time every day (including weekends) and didn't burn through my weekends by sleeping in.
- I became very familiar with the walking trails around my city and enjoyed them on a regular basis

All of these changes took my sad desperate boyfriend-less passing of time life and turned it in to an enjoyable, meaningful, fun, healthy life. I truly believe THAT is how you can be single long term but still have meaning and value in your life. You do it by doing those things you love and surrounding yourself with people of quality.

That said, you're 30! Dude, 30 is not an age where you should be thinking "Well, that's it. Times up. If I was going to find someone I would have by now.". 30 is young. I started dating my now husband when I was 29, and he is the first and only person I have ever clicked with and ever loved. He is that person I didn't think existed, and he came at a time when I least expected it. So I don't think you need to be writing yourself off just yet. Maybe you won't find a partner, but the odds are in your favour.

It is sad that you are asking "Can you be single for your whole life and still have a meaningful life?". I think you should be asking what you can do to get the most value and enjoyment out of your life, regardless if you have a partner. It is fine to want a partner, I know I wanted one, but it is also fine to not have that be a driving force in your life. I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to do as I suggest and just disengage from the pursuit of a relationship for a while and just focus on living an authentic, happy, honest life. Date yourself for a while, if you know what I mean.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:47 AM on October 1, 2013 [15 favorites]

I am recently single at 33, after ending a 13 year relationship, and am rediscovering the joys of singlehood.

I like the meta answers that get you to think about your legacy and impact in the world, and get you to look at impacting your community, but can offer some advice from a narrower perspective.

On a day to day basis, being single can be lots of fun, the only trick is cultivating lots of friendships that can fulfill many emotional roles. Obviously you get to have the pleasures of planning your own time, not having to check in with anyone and be completely spontaneous with your schedule. You can take yourself out for dinner, have great hobbies and whatever self-care habits that suit your personality.

I have lots of single friends of both genders that are partners in crime, so to speak. People that you can meet for lunch, have over for dinner, watch movies and cuddle with and so on. I have friends with benefits arrangements that fulfill sexual and intimacy needs. I have friends that just like having someone to go grocery shopping with, and someone to go to concerts with. To me, having lots of people to connect with is paramount to my emotional well being, especially since I'm still learning how not to be with a partner full time.

The people that come across as needy, I find are the ones that have not been able to surround themselves with a self cobbled community of friends that can fill those roles. They are lonelier than they need to be, so building a solid social pipeline was a large priority for me. I still have lots of couple friends, but as a typical weekday hangout I'm much more likely to be connecting with my single network as we're in the same free time boat than the people taking care of family needs.

Knowing me, I'm quite likely to be in another relationship someday. But in the meantime (or if it's not in the cards), I'm convinced that being single can be as pleasurable, fun and fulfilling as being a part of a couple.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:23 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Plenty of thoughtful and articulate commentaries up here, thanks for that.
Some people (I mean in the outside world, not necessarily in this thread) would urge their still-single friends to be more proactive in their searching for potential intimate connections.
As fraula hinted, there are a number of options for meeting more people that some single people would not a) feel comfortable with b) be interested in doing. E.g.: online dating, wild parties, choirs, trekking groups. These are just a few I've heard my friends use, sometimes apparently succesfully in getting them dates and in some cases, maybe even more lasting relationships.
For some reason I feel that if I am to find a partner, that has to come as a byproduct of my engagement in my life mission (i.e.: work in inclusive education and sustainable development). Some of the most pleasant (even if fleeting) encounters I have experienced have taken place during or as a consequence of voluntary, profession-related activities which probably few would consider as popular alternatives for meeting people socially.
Most of the folks I admire have spent their lives in time consuming, nearly all-encompassing missions to make valuable contributions to their communities and the world. There has been sacrifice and suffering involved. Maybe not surprisingly, many of them have remained single. Not being intimate with them, I can´t tell whether their not having a spouse in their later life is compensated for by their strong sense of life purpose. Partly, that was what prompted me to ask here.
I don´t think the human desire for romantic companionship should be underestimated. But hopefully, there's more to a meaningful life than just that. In the meantime, it seems reasonable to keep on what I feel is an important, necessary and rewarding task, remaining open and receptive to connecting but-let's hope-not too eager.
posted by Basque13 at 11:16 AM on October 1, 2013

Response by poster: And yes, having a network of solid friends also seems key.
posted by Basque13 at 11:24 AM on October 1, 2013

Does happy lifelong singledom exist? Yes. There are happy nuns and priests and others who don't subvert relationship & sex needs into abuse.
My questions are related to the possibilities for happiness, fulfillment and emotional stability while chronically single. Are they real? Do you think a person can be alone all his/her life and have a meaningful and fulfilling life? I have a clear sense of what sort of contributions I want to try to make to my environment and society, but I wonder if this purpose will be enough to keep my life motivation burning as I get older supposing that I do stay alone.
Happiness, fulfillment
There are many people who are happy and fulfilled in life circumstances that are not the norm, whether it's primary romantic/partner relationships, or whatever else.
emotional stability - A bad relationship can really make you emotionally unstable. A good one can help you be more stable.
motivation - You can choose your motivation.
single or divorced opposite sex people at work in their 40s and 50s who seem very needy - this may be confirmation bias. I know what seems to be legions of independent single women and men.
whether that sort of attention seeking is the almost inevitable fate of someone who has been alone for too long. I don't think so.

That said, assess your preferences and wants. Not finding someone at age 30 doesn''t mean you won't ever. If you want to be in a relationship, if you want a partner, get into therapy with someone who can do coaching, try to figure out your roadblocks, and go for what makes you happi-er.

I'm single, have been for longer than I'd prefer, but am working on finding someone I'd like to spend more time with. If it happens, wonderful. if it doesn't happen, I have a wonderful life, with friends, family, purpose, adventure, etc.
posted by Mom at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2013

"I have also come to notice a number of single or divorced opposite sex people at work in their 40s and 50s who seem very needy (which shows for instance in their approaching me to share long unrequested stories about their lives). These people have got me thinking on whether that sort of attention seeking is the almost inevitable fate of someone who has been alone for too long".

You bring up a good point. . .I've also wondered this same thing myself. .if somehow people, who are single for a long period of time, give off a "needy or desperate" vibe that other people can pick up on. Speaking as a 38 year old single woman who's currently single, (still on a long break after failed attempts at the dating scene, a string of short term relationships, breakups, etc) I would say maybe this is true of those who don't have enough activities/hobbies to fill up their spare time. I know exactly how you feel about worrying if you can be content with being single for the rest of your life. . all my friends are in relationships, and I rarely see them. Being an introvert by nature, it isn't easy to make friends. .so I try attending meetup events, volunteer events. But they're can't fill all stretches of time that I have free, and I have to say, holidays do bite sometimes, especially when it's hard to find someone to do things with. I'm still trying to be happy with being single (which is why I haven't ventured into the dating scene again). .

Guess the best advice anyone could offer would be to keep your life as busy,full, and interesting as you can. If anyone happens to come along that clicks with you, that's just a bonus.
posted by jeepwrnglrwmn at 6:32 PM on July 3, 2014

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