Alternatives to Love
October 17, 2017 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing everything I can to "find someone", but started thinking that perhaps there are some other great experiences that would be more attainable that I could work towards.

Lately I've been feeling a bit hopeless about finding love and ever getting to experience having an intimate romantic relationship with another person. I have a pretty good life otherwise and I think a large part of the problem for me is just that feeling of missing out on something great.

I realize this is subjective, but I would like to hear your suggestions - what are your most rewarding, fulfilling, amazing non-romantic experiences or undertakings?

posted by seraph9 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I've found pet ownership to be an incredibly fulfilling, life-changing experience.

In the category of experiences that don't last for years:

* Solo travel (highly underrated, in my opinion - nothing beats a week-long solo trip to a foreign country)
* Hiking, especially at dawn
* Fishing, if you aren't opposed to getting a little messy
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:11 AM on October 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Volunteering. Contributing to something greater and outside of yourself is incredibly rewarding. It gives you a purpose which your ordinary life may lack, or which you are too involved in to see.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:15 AM on October 17, 2017 [16 favorites]

I could have written this question, so I definitely don't have all the answers! But I'd agree with pet ownership, for one- having a cat is a great comfort to me and has been an awesome experience.

Solo travel is wonderful as well, especially for an introvert.

How are your friendships? I am working on cultivating more regular gatherings with friends in hopes of developing closer ties. I can't say it's been easy, but I did invite a few people over to my place a few weeks ago and had a great time. I plan to have regular board game nights at my apartment. There's something really cozy and intimate about having people over.

I'll be watching this thread too. Good luck.
posted by bearette at 8:22 AM on October 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Volunteering, particularly in a relationship role
Friendships with other people who have time and energy to devote to it
Leaning new things - language classes, arts, Toastmasters, music, coding, woodworking, yoga ...
Strength training
posted by bunderful at 8:23 AM on October 17, 2017

Best answer: Yep, volunteer. Find what makes you come alive and do it. Maybe at an animal shekter, maybe a community garden, maybe at a local school. I do hospice volunteer caregiving and it is the center of my week.

And I guarantee you that, when you find the service that is right for you, you will receive far more than you can ever give. For me, the fragile vulnerability of the people I encounter and their willingness to let me sit with them in such an intimate time fills me with gratitude and fills my heart in a way that nothing else can compare to.

I heartily recommend the book How Can I Help? by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman for insight into service and its rewards.
posted by janey47 at 8:33 AM on October 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Your question reminds me of a number of wonderful people I know.

The most fulfilled among them seem to have these things in common:

An unreserved passion for at least one hobby or pastime, and little regard for whether someone else might find it silly;

A love of learning, and a willingness to try new things that make them nervous;

A community (or three) that gives them a sense of belonging -- faith, art, sport, political, academic, or whatever suits them.
posted by armeowda at 8:34 AM on October 17, 2017 [31 favorites]

Best answer: Volunteering & travel were my big life changing experiences.

But a small one, that sound strange as hell when I write it down, is learning to play D&D. I have made great friends playing over the years (going to the wedding of a couple we met playing this weekend in fact). I also took up DMing and the feeling of telling a story with a group of other people is an amazing one & hard to explain. I imagine it's a lot like singing in a choir (something else you might like to try), that feeling of making something amazing but temporary because everyone worked together. Oh and you end up with all these "adventures" you feel like you've been on. My weekly game is the highlight of my week. Like I said I know it's silly, but its worked for me a the people we play with for the past 4 years or so.
posted by wwax at 8:53 AM on October 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Easy one.

Meditation. Any practice is good, but fwiw this is the most stripped-down, non-joiny, non-mythologized do-it-yourself method I've ever found (I'd avoid the forum and, generally, the greater "program" only need meditation plus, perhaps, pranayama).

Meditation not only brings the fulfillment/joy/love (eventually; first comes stress relief, focus, and clarity). It also eventually immerses you in the source material behind all specific experiences of love, including romantic. I realize that's a bit crunchy, conceptually, but it's an experience rather than a concept, and a great many people over the centuries report that experience. The open, earnest, warm tone of your posting makes me suspect you're well-suited for it.

Many people would say you're hoping to sublimate your sexuality. If you take up knitting or mountain biking as a substitute, I'd agree (though they're fine things to do, so why not do lots of fun things?). But, to paraphrase a famous quote, "Spiritual joy is not sublimated sexuality; sexuality is repressed spiritual joy."

And here's the thing. In so doing, you may also find that you complete the circle. By opening yourself, via meditation (or service to others, or just a really heartfelt attitude to whatever you do) to love as a greater, more general thing, you may find it much easier to, almost accidentally, slip into specific romantic love. See this.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

Off road motorcycle riding and racing. Obviously not for everyone, but it's the most fulfilling thing I've ever done.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:29 AM on October 17, 2017

Best answer: Train to become an End of Life Care Doula and volunteer at a hospice.

No matter what your belief system, humans deserve to die comfortably, at peace and not in pain. Many people are alone, or estranged from their families and have no one to help them pass away with dignity. The healthcare professionals take care of the actual physical care, & IF THEY HAVE TIME will be compassionate and caring but someone to hold the hand of a dying person is one of the most humbling and rewarding things I've ever done.

one person who was so alone had been a beauty in her youth, amazing skin. You could still see that fine, poreless skin in her beautiful wrinkled face. I will never forget the beam of joy as she was dying when I spoke to her about how beautiful her skin still was and held tight to her hand... it is not for everyone but feels like such a transcendental privilege just to be there.

while it may sound huge, and I know in the US you're not as close to the dying as we are in Ireland so there's a big eeehhk! factor, it will so refocus what is important in your own life and be so personally enriching and rewarding, I have no doubt you will grow amazingly as a person.
posted by Wilder at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2017 [13 favorites]

I have a good friend who's super involved in her community - activism and development, etc. She often says that some people find "the one" in a person, she's found it in her city. She's really in love with her city and does a lot to show the love - and is really appreciated for the good things she helps make happen.
posted by Miko at 9:45 AM on October 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: - Creative expression
- Political activism
- Community work
- Travel
- Personal development
- Spirituality
- Meditation
- Quality time in nature

and yes, Pet Ownership!
posted by Gray Skies at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Finding some kind of cool project to work on.
Occupying your time--taking classes, volunteering, going to interesting activities on weekends.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:12 AM on October 17, 2017

what are your most rewarding, fulfilling, amazing non-romantic experiences or undertakings?

I love this question. I recommend finding something you like to make. What that is, is up to you. Could be cooking, knitting, woodwork, silver-smithery. For me, I write - and don't get me wrong, it's not exactly Booker Prize-winning stuff but it gives me a lot of joy.

I think what's nice about writing is that you don't need a community to do it. It's just you and a pen and a notebook, or a computer screen. I mean, you can find a community, and there are benefits to having a community, but the writing itself takes place in solitude. I recommend taking up a project that will allow you to lose yourself in the making of it and not get involved in the community around it. Community is a great thing, but it's important to have something of your very own, to escape to, and feel safe in.
posted by Ziggy500 at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Swing dancing, contra dancing and especially Argentine tango can fill that "I want a warm touch" bug, and they aren't expensive like massage.
Participating or being in the crew of musicals is lots of fun too.
Swimming in a lake where the water's so still and cold that it lifts you up.
Or find a cause that seems crucial to you and pour yourself into it.
posted by serena15221 at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with others who have said that caring for a pet is life-changing. For me, the relationship that I had with my sweet little kitty (who passed away almost a year ago! ah time!) was the relationship in my life that taught me about unconditional love and how that feels different than the love we sometimes get from other humans. I had never felt that kind of love coming at me before I had my baby kitty and she gave me that.

I also find a great deal of power in my hobby of correspondence - I hand write letters, cards, postcards, to many different people in my life solely for the power of connection, and even when folks don't write back, or don't write back immediately, I find it so fulfilling to reach out to them to remind them how much I care about them and think about them and want to share with them. I also write to someone who is in solitary confinement that I found through Voices from Solitary and that has been rich and rewarding in a totally new way for me.

This weekend when I did the most difficult hike I've done (not that difficult objectively but for me it was) I felt a giddy powerful triumph that was not quite like anything I've experienced before. I felt like I was standing in my own power.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Having a child. For me, raising my daughter (as a single mother) is:

- Creative expression
- Political activism
- Community work
- Travel
- Personal development
- Spirituality
- Meditation
- Quality time in nature

and yes, Pet Ownership!

(Thanks, Gray Skies)
posted by Capri at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have a high-minded suggestion that adds much to what people have already written here, but I do think there's something to be said for seeking to fulfill the baser desires that romantic relationships accommodate even absent the promise of romance. Put another way, the path to a loving relationship by no means begins exclusively through the platonic side of a relationship.

I'm a gay man. I was pushing 30 and had never had a boyfriend. I'd been sexually active, but "dating" never sat well with me. It felt performative, like going through steps and motions established before my time before I could allow myself to very simply experience the romantic and sexual comforts I'd desired for most of my life. I took what felt like a socially extreme step and sought to cultivate romantic fulfillment outside the bounds of courtship. It was wonderful. I met people, laid out my desires, and had them fulfilled. It was liberating in that I found that my romantic needs were best met by people I otherwise wasn't seeking intentionally through dating and all the norms that process carries: I found that I was much more attracted to and comfortable with men a bit older than my age group, for instance, and with minds and bodies I otherwise wouldn't have access to through the usual channels of meeting, dating, and so on.

Your definition of love might not lean as heavily on sexual attraction as mine does, but I hope what I'm saying makes sense. Everyone puts primacy on different needs and desires when it comes to defining love. What needs and desires do you put first when you think of a loving relationship? Can you quantify those needs and desires? Love can come second to sorting out its component pieces and, instead of looking for the end goal first, looking to meet those needs up front.

My partner and I have been together for a decade. We also have kids now. We talk quite a bit about this with our kids. We hear them recite the narrative that they're growing up with and it can sound like it's from another planet, but it was the same narrative we grew up with: meet a nice person, go on some dates, find love, then some magical steps happen and everyone is fulfilled and then things are wrapped up in a happily ever after bow. That approach set my husband and me back from finding what we want by years. Decades. What do you want in a loving relationship? Can you find its components first, and then look for love once you know what materials you'd like to build your loving relationship out of?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:35 PM on October 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

It has done a lot of good for me to have found a hobby I'm passionate about and dedicate time to regularly. I go to my local climbing gym at least three nights a week, and within a year and a half, I've gotten significantly stronger and have made new friends at the gym. Climbing may or may not work for you, but I would highly recommend finding a hobby that you can devote time to regularly that also has a social aspect to it.
posted by monologish at 8:44 PM on October 17, 2017

Best answer: You searched for The One. Is that because you're lonely, want kids, want somebody to do stuff with, etc? Now you're searching for something else to help you feel fulfilled. One thing to consider is to make your project You. Get in better shape. Improve your education. Learn to bake. Not at home by yourself; go to a gym, take university classes or adult ed. This is not about making yourself more attractive to others; it's about being the best version of you. That might mean volunteering, learning to ski, writing poetry, or getting that Library Science degree you've wanted. If you don't know what direction to go, try a bunch of different things. In the process of being the best you. I think you'll have more fun and make friends and feel a deeper sense of purpose.
posted by theora55 at 6:09 PM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. All of the answers were great, I just marked the ones that resonated most with me personally. I'm glad to see that so many others are finding them helpful as well!
posted by seraph9 at 6:35 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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