How do I conquer my longtime addiction to relationships?
August 15, 2014 10:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I conquer my longtime addiction to relationships, but... also date in Brooklyn?

I'm a male in my late 30s. Since I was young, I was shy but considered handsome so I found myself getting girlfriends without always know how to handle it. I've always been a very sensitive, very perfectionist person. In some cases I broke up with women, but in cases where they broke up with me, I would be devastated, even if I didn't like them that much. I would try for months, sometimes years to get them to reconsider. My eating and sleeping habits would suffer, thoughts consumed, my anxiety off the charts, thinking maybe I'd lost my last chance at The One. Even if we weren't a great match!

The only thing that's ever cured the pain of the previous breakup is a subsequent relationship. And once that begins, I'll look back on the woman whose departure tortured me so much and...shrug. Suddenly all the incompatibilities and/or lack of attraction will hit me like a baseball bat. And the cycles starts all over again.

This happened with my marriage in 2010. We were both unhappy, I wanted nothing more than to be free and see other people and as soon as that opportunity arose, I feel into a deep deep depression and guilt for the last couple years. The notion of being single again in my late 30s was like a death sentence. I stopped working much, stopped socializing, lost my sex drive.

I've been better this year, dated a little, regained some confidence. In a few months I will move to Brooklyn for work. I will be single and full of anxiety. I realize I don't know how to meet people. I will be working long hours and coming home to a one-bedroom apartment. I want to work on myself, but I also fear being deeply lonely.

Anyone who has an addiction to people and relationships, maybe you can give me tips? Books, strategies, anecdotes?

And anyone my age who's lived in Brooklyn and wanted to meet potential dates, not just in bars, any advice would be great.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're getting better with your addiction. For instance, with your marriage, you already know about the issues that drove the separation/divorce (whereas before it looks like you needed a new relationship to expose those issues). Of course, divorce is a bit different than a breakup.

My advice is that you should look at being alone for a while as a fantastic opportunity to explore the non-relationship landscape of achieving a New York state of mind (just had to, sorry). It doesn't sound like you've had that chance. Yes, you will feel lonely and you will feel frustrated. But those feelings aren't some declarations from an oracle. Usually, we take those feelings and say to ourselves that we need to stay away from the situations that stimulate them, but I think that we need to SOMETIMES take those feelings and say that they're just part of the uphill climb. For you, it's pretty obvious, even to you (not writing that condescendingly, but we're not usually self-aware of stuff like this) that you need to spend some time alone.

So, have fun getting to know you. He sounds like a cool guy.
posted by learnsome at 11:31 PM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I go to CoDA meetings. So much healing comes from being around others in a similar position.
posted by macinchik at 11:32 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

You live in a place with fabulous resources of human intellect. Surely there is a group, a class or organization where people learn about relationships and personal growth, about self esteem, attachment, empathy--all the things that we learn as we come into full maturity. As long as know we keep using a partner to sustain our ego, we know we cannot be in an honest relationship, maybe we don't even know how to love another person for themselves.

Mostly, I think, people don't learn this kind of thing until they enter their late thirties or their forties. Learn to be alone for a while. It is very beneficial to have this opportunity at your age. Find out all you can about your particular challenges for personal growth and seek out opportunities to develop your emotional maturity. It will pay off for you for the rest of your life. Good luck and kudos for your courage and knowing you need to work on this.
posted by Anitanola at 11:45 PM on August 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you should stop dating for a finite period of time. Decide on a day that you will be single, and if necessary, lonely, for a period of time and actually be that. After the time is over, you can date. See whats changes for you. Maybe.
posted by evil_esto at 2:26 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

And while you are following evil_esto's advice above, work through the panicky feelings with a therapist.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:21 AM on August 16, 2014

Worth getting "The Road Less Travelled" by M.Scott Peck... an important and sometimes tough read on what relationships can do and what they can't. Loneliness is part of the human condition to some extent... coupledom maybe 'shouldn't' be seen as the panacea to this.
posted by tanktop at 4:55 AM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Don't date. Instead socialize. Meet people of both sexes and instead of viewing them as possible relationship material, view them as people and perhaps friends. Find out what you like, take classes, go to lectures, see live music, join clubs, hang out at hip spots. Get a dog and walk it.

You have to embrace singledom, and solitude and really get your head on straight if you want to have good relationships in the future.

If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got. Try some therapy, see if it's helpful for you.

Dating should be far from your agenda right now. You're not ready.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on August 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

This book talks about relationship addiction. When I first read it a few years ago, I found it extremely helpful. I hope you find it useful too.
posted by foxjacket at 9:33 PM on August 16, 2014

I wonder whether framing this as an addiction might be part of the problem. I am not an addiction expert, but I understand addiction to be something that forms with rewarding (in some sense) behavior that is repeated regularly with pretty short intervals (chemical addiction possibly notwithstanding). You seem to have some kind of dependecy on relationships, but I find the addiction language confusing because I don't think of relationships as something that can constitute a true addiction. Could you possibly be trying to avoid responsibily for your problem by thinking of it as something you can't control? Just something to consider.

Also, you ask how you can overcome your addiction, and then you ask where to find dates. You don't treat an addiction with more of the addictive thing. Plus dating right now would be kind of unfair to your dates. I think you need to figure out what you'e running away from or what need you're trying to fulfill and go from there. Good luck.
posted by Comet Bug at 10:17 PM on August 16, 2014

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