How do I find a partner?
November 25, 2018 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I am a straight, single woman in my early thirties, and am looking for a partner. What can I do, most effectively, to find love? I have tried dating apps exhaustively, am very active in my community, and have asked friends to set me up. That has led to a lot of dates over the past seven months -- maybe fifty? -- but I still haven't found love. What habits can I cultivate and what venues should I look into that will make the odds as good as possible that I'll find it (and soon)?

For the past six months, I have been mostly meeting men through my social ties and through dating apps. My social life (both in terms of people I meet at events/activities and in terms of friends setting me up) hasn't led to me going on any real dates, though, mostly because I haven't been interested in the couple of guys in my social circles who have been interested in me. I have also been using Bumble, OK Cupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel -- pretty exhaustively. Bumble has led to dates with interesting guys who I didn't quite click with. OKC has led to some serious relationships for me in the past, but the guys I meet on there tend to be pretty introverted (and, to be frank, socially inept), and that has led to some major frustrations. Coffee Meets Bagel led to just a couple first dates that didn't go anywhere.

Recently, I bought a ticket to a huge singles event in December and am looking into speed dating. In terms of apps, I am trying Hinge, continuing with Bumble, and thinking about continuing with OKC (but no more Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, or due to disappointing attempts at each). I keep volunteering and playing sports with mixed groups to meet more people, which is very fun but has also not been productive at all in terms of meeting potential matches.

In the meantime, I have also been going to therapy and doing a lot of internal work, so that I don't inadvertently blow my shot at romantic happiness (if I DO find it). And romance -- not simply settling down with someone, but actually falling in love with him -- is very important to me. I have already put down roots on my own, and if I'm still single in a couple years, will have children on my own; I want a life partner for the emotional intimacy, understanding, and love that's part of a good romantic relationship, not primarily out of practicality.

Ideally, I would hit it off with a man who is interested in politics, art, and books/writing, who enjoys socializing, who is smart, creative, and kind, who has chemistry with me, and who wants marriage and children reasonably soon. Oh, and who isn't a closet conservative, which has happened a couple times now (!). For a while, I was worried that my expectations were unreasonable, but my therapist has literally come out and told me that they're not (haha).

The questions:

I'm wondering what else I can do? Do speed dating and singles events really work? Is there some other way I should try meeting people online? Are there certain kinds of volunteering or activities that you can really recommend? I can't bring myself to pick up guys in bars, the "meat market" aspect of it is too off-putting to me -- but is that something that I need to try doing anyway?

If you've ever been where I am now, what were your methods for finding love, and did those methods work?

More abstractly, I am struggling a lot with loneliness and the fear that being alone forever is my lot in life. How do I deal with those feelings without despairing and becoming too desperate to keep my head on straight? What kind of mindset do I need to cultivate?
posted by static sock to Human Relations (42 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
In terms of cultivating a healthy mindset while going through exhaustive dating, I highly recommend the book It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons Why You're Single.

As someone who took a very long time to find a partner I know how incredibly exhausting and demoralizing dating can be. It really is a numbers game (you have to go out on dates) combined with a little luck and good timing (which you can't control).

I think the most important thing you can do is be clear with yourself about what you want and only go out on dates with people who are in the same place you are at in terms of what you want in life.

Also be willing to give a potential match a few dates. If there is a little spark, try to tend that flame and don't write someone off too soon. It can take a bit of time for someone to get comfortable and relaxed.
posted by brookeb at 10:23 AM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

That has led to a lot of dates over the past seven months -- maybe fifty? -- but I still haven't found love. What habits can I cultivate and what venues should I look into that will make the odds as good as possible that I'll find it (and soon)?

The odds you've got going on here are pretty good; it is a numbers game, and the more first dates the more likely future dates.

Do speed dating and singles events really work?

There is no answer for this question. I mean, speed dating "works" for a percentage of people, it's not like it's guaranteed.

Ideally, I would hit it off with a man who is interested in politics, art, and books/writing, who enjoys socializing, who is smart, creative, and kind, who has chemistry with me, and who wants marriage and children reasonably soon. Oh, and who isn't a closet conservative, which has happened a couple times now (!)

Do you straight up explicitly state all of the above in your online dating profiles? Doing so will reduce the number of bad matches.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:42 AM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Does your volunteering involve politics, art or books? You might have better luck if it does. But then again, I know two happily married couples who met playing coed volleyball. Good luck!
posted by kate4914 at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2018

Where do you live, and what profession/social groups are you in? This can certainly have a non-zero impact if you live in an area with a relatively small population. Conversely, I have friends who live in NYC who say it is a really tough place for woment to meet men. Relocating would be a drastic decision, but you might explore people who live a bit farther away from you.

Also, and this one is hard, but it sounds like you may be experiencing a bit of dating fatigue. With the amount of dating that you've been doing, this makes sense and is totally natural. If you're able to, maybe put some limits on the amount of dates per week and give youreslf permission not to go out on dates with people if you're not excited about it?

Finally, and this is also hard - but do you think some of your sensation of urgency is communicating itself to potential relationship partners? I've met guys on first dates who seemed pretty intensely looking for a commitment and I found it off putting.

Good luck! This is tough! Please do not tell yourself that this is your lot i nlife. Find ways to experience yourself with friends in a solitary way. Come to L.A.! Let's do a MeFi meetup. That way when you finally do meet someone interesting, you'll have lots of great stories to tell them.
posted by arnicae at 10:49 AM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

You briefly mentioned tinder and I'll note that I've heard from a lot of mid 30s women that despite tinder having a reputation as a hookup app, that it is the dominate dating app where they live. And if you're upfront about your interest in something serious it might be worth staying on there.
posted by k8t at 10:50 AM on November 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

If the location in your profile is correct, anecdotal evidence (mostly collected from Ask, tbh) suggests that what you're looking for is significantly harder in your particular location than it would be in a less dense one. Is moving a worthwhile option for you?
posted by supercres at 10:50 AM on November 25, 2018

The first thing I would say is stop trying too hard. Take a break for a month or more on your Looking for a Partner Project and just really enjoy all the activities you're doing. Who knows, maybe the old adage of "love happens when you least expect it" will come true for you.

To contradict what I just said; have a look at this. I don't think you have to get all math-y as she does, but she's got some good ideas. I haven't read her book.

Also, I love Captain Awkward's approach to her OKC profile: outlined in her response to this OP (the OP doesn't really pertain to you so you can skip it)
posted by foxjacket at 10:54 AM on November 25, 2018 [11 favorites]

If you're willing to take volunteering to the next level, consider joining the Peace Corps--it's how a lot of people meet their spouses. Volunteers tend to be like-minded people and the stress of entering a new culture makes you unusually open to falling in love. But that's quite a commitment if it's not something you're already interested in!

I would also cultivate two habits: being picky about dealbreakers, and giving relationships a chance to grow. Don't go out with a guy if he obviously isn't right for you, but if the chemistry or soemthing else is just not solid, give it a little more time. Try going out somewhere a bit different to see if it brings out a new side of your potential relationship. I bet you're already doing this stuff, but just in case. Good luck!
posted by chaiminda at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2018

I would suggest that you continue online dating in order to look for someone who is smart, kind, creative, non-conservative and who enjoys socializing, but with no concern for the specifics of politics, art, and books. It doesn't actually matter if your partner likes experimental electronic music or painting or making pastry or political canvassing. A long life together involves some shared experiences, some separate ones, and lots and lots of communication. Plus, there's no guarantee that a person who likes art/books/politics now will still be interested in it in 10 years - maybe they'll become inspired by horticulture, or the animated movies that they watch with your kids.
posted by xo at 11:07 AM on November 25, 2018 [43 favorites]

I've told my story here before but here's a brief synopsis: I met my now-husband through work. I was early 40's and never married. We worked together on various projects for about a year and I got to know him. I started falling for him slowly, over time. It wasn't an immediate attraction for either of us. But we discovered we had an easy rapport and it just happened kind of suddenly, but actually not really suddenly since we'd known each other for awhile.

He's not at all someone I would have thought was the guy for me. We don't have that many common interests, which is fine .. our backgrounds are different. If I listed the things that were important to me in a partner, as you did, he didn't tick those boxes right away. But now that we've been married for a number of years, I've learned that he ticks the most important boxes. He's unfailingly kind to me and everyone else; he's intelligent and curious; he's endlessly patient with our special needs child and he's very funny. If I'd passed him by because he didn't tick my version of "interested in politics, art, and books/writing, who enjoys socializing,", I'd have missed out on him.

What I'm trying to say is, maybe slow down rather than intensifying your search. Sometimes the thing you're looking for is right in front of you but you're not ready to see it.
posted by Kangaroo at 11:09 AM on November 25, 2018 [55 favorites]

I can't bring myself to pick up guys in bars, the "meat market" aspect of it is too off-putting to me -- but is that something that I need to try doing anyway?

If you approach it like a meat market, then yeah, it’s a meat market. If it’s a night out with friends ... it’s a night out with friends. Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t do anything stupid. Have fun.

I suggested this to a friend once, and she met someone: Counter-programming. Do things you don’t normally do. You don’t exercise? Try CrossFit or a running club. Hate sports? Throw on a jersey and hit a sports bar. You can barely boil water? Go to a BBQ festival. Be open to new things. I guarantee you that there are great, great people out there. But you won’t find them going to the same places and doing the same things you always do. You like art, but your soul mate might be out there at an REI.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:34 AM on November 25, 2018 [11 favorites]

It sounds like you are doing a lot to "put yourself out there," which is the first step, and it is hard! The challenge is really about making a quality connection, which isn't something that I think you can do on one date.
People on first dates are usually trying to share the "best" or "most likable" version of themselves based on what they know about the other person. In my experience it takes a couple of dates for people to get comfortable and let their guard down. You seem to have a wealth of options which may also be leading you to move on to the next option when the one in front of you isn't exactly what you want. If the options feel endless it is easy to think in all or nothing terms. You might find that some of these mediocre first dates are better on second dates, or they may reveal a new interest, or you might "click" on your third date with them.
For myself, I find that I become bored more easily the more first dates I go on because the conversations follow a similar pattern and I feel like I'm repeating myself. I tend to go on 2-3 dates with someone before I make a decision about them unless there is a dealbreaker on the first date. I can't say I have found a lifelong partner, but I have met people that I dated for months or years who I enjoyed spending time with.
posted by arachnidette at 11:47 AM on November 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hi OP, I was you a few years ago: single for years and hating it no matter how much I tried to be okay with it. And I did everything that you did too in terms of the dating apps, speed dating, blind dates through friends, etc. (I even asked this question here on the Green.)

First off, before anything else, I also second the recommendation for It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons Why You're Single. In fact, I would be happy to send you my copy, because it really helped me understand that being single was just about luck.

What really got me through this seemingly hopeless period of trying to find love in my early 30s was to say yes to every date, even if there were obvious things that would have made us incompatible. I also literally project managed my dating life by creating a Trello board and having specific tasks to do: things like making tiny updates to my OKC profile so that the algorithm would show me as an active profile and therefore boost my profile up, responding and sending out a certain number of messages every day, etc.

The effect of all this project managing was that I took dating way less seriously and really upped the number of men that I met. I'd schedule dates with men a few hours apart so that if it didn't work out with one man in terms of chemistry, which was very likely to happen, then it wouldn't be a big deal, because I had another date or two lined up. I also had a "project manager" aka my relationship therapist, who would keep me honest and help me with my profile, as well as helping me do the work of understanding myself better and building confidence and communication skills during this time.

All of this is important because prior to this, I'm 100 percent certain that I came off as desperate. Every man I met then was a potential husband. Afterwards, instead of wondering, "IS THIS GUY THE ONE?" I was more focused on simply having fun and meeting men. It was fun! I had fun!

One insightful thing that MeFites mentioned in my previous question was the my photos came off as friendly rather than sexy, and that blew my mind. After that feedback, I found a professional photographer who specialized in dating photographs. And instead of choosing the photos for my dating profile myself, I had my friends vote on them, and that helped me find photos that I wouldn't have chosen myself. After I posted my new photos, I saw an immediate ROI in the number and quality of responses and messages that I received.

(If you're in the Bay Area, I'd be happy to share referrals for my therapist and photographer, who are both lovely people.)

Anyway, after all this, I met a wonderful man that I likely would have ruled out by being too picky, and we're getting married next year.
posted by so much modern time at 11:48 AM on November 25, 2018 [16 favorites]

Yes, to add to kangaroo and cool papa bell: consider separating the kinds of interests you can just enjoy and share with friends from the kind of traits you absolutely need in a life partner. For example you might decide that you can always share books and art with friends, but you must have kindness and sexual chemistry with a partner. It's a common dating mistake to put these different orders of personality on the same plane. Many people find the person they really love and trust has totally different interests, hobbies and areas of skill -- artists marry mechanics, scientists marry yoga instructors. One spouse likes museums while the other doesn't. That really doesn't matter in the end; having a shared interest doesn't predict loyalty, passion, etc. Look for a soulmate who seems to meet your needs in terms of character and chemistry and be more willing to overlook the more obvious commonalities.
posted by nantucket at 11:53 AM on November 25, 2018 [15 favorites]

I have been some gay male version of you and I feel like the not-wonderful answer is that a lot of it is luck. I didn't achieve some state of improved me-ness that led to meeting someone. I met someone as the same guy I was previously, with the same strengths and weaknesses. I seem to remember getting advice that once I was ready for a relationship, one would come along, and I think that's bullshit and leads to a frenzy of "so then how do I get to this perfect state of enlightenment where I'm deemed ready by the universe?"

I'll tell you, though, in retrospect I sometimes think one thing that would have helped would have been to get a roommate during the years when I was lonely a lot. (Pause for caveat: you can be in a good relationship and still find loneliness bothering you at times.) It would have taken a particular pressure off the search, because part of what I wanted was to skip ahead to having a person who was generally around.

Anyway sometimes I think it does boil down to a slightly more nuanced version of "kiss a lot of frogs" where the expectation isn't a prince but rather someone you feel you're in sync enough with to put in the effort to make a good relationship. (I always remember the line from a Deborah Eisenberg story: "I did go out now and again, of course, but in a perfunctory, frog-kissing sort of spirit, and a frog, in my experience, is a frog to the finish.") But meanwhile, as you've heard before, it's worth focusing on making your single life rich enough that the whole focus of things isn't finding a guy. Not because then he'll appear, but because you need to enjoy your life.
posted by Smearcase at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: but with no concern for the specifics of politics, art, and books

You like art, but your soul mate might be out there at an REI.

The thing is that I've dated quite a few kind, smart, ready-for-commitment men who are fascinated by science or tech or sports or some other subject that's certainly worthy but boring to me personally, and who don't share my interest in books or art or music or politics. I've always broken up with them. At the end of the day, we can't do or discuss the things that I actually find interesting (or if we do, it's just them humoring me), we have to spend what seems like tons of time doing and discussing things I don't care about because that's the stuff they're into, and I get bored as hell. Weeks or months (or with one specific guy, about a year) into dating, our conversations devolve into each of us just taking turns talking about what we each personally find interesting, without a lot of intellectual connection going on, and I basically check out of the relationship. These men are lovely people who I would be happy to be friends/acquaintances with, but as partners, it's just too suffocating and dull. That's actually the main reason I've broken up with maybe half my ex-boyfriends? It sounds terrible, but without a strong intellectual connection, I just get bored and move on.

On the flip side, I have a good friend with whom I have an amazing intellectual connection but no physical chemistry -- and just based on the intellectual chemistry, there's ALWAYS been a part of me that is perpetually crushing on him a little. So I guess it's just something that's very important to me.

If the location in your profile is correct

I'm not in NYC; I'm in another major East Coast city. Honestly, there seem to be lots of great, eligible men here. Not sure if any of those men are the right match for me, but I don't think that there's necessarily a better dating pool out there than this one.

You seem to have a wealth of options which may also be leading you to move on to the next option when the one in front of you isn't exactly what you want.

Very possible, and a major fear of mine. I don't want to get into a "shopping" kind of mindset, but it feels like I'm slipping into one, and that it's sabotaging me. It's hard to thread the needle between knowing yourself well enough to recognize incompatibility when you see it and not holding out for a perfect match who doesn't actually exist.
posted by static sock at 12:26 PM on November 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

This might just be anecdata, but when I think about when I started relationships, it was always when I was particularly open to the world. When I'm in my daily routine, I sleepwalk through my bus commute, but when I'm traveling, I look at all the scenery and every person on the bus feeling like the world is a magical, beautiful place -- that's the difference I mean when I talk about "being open." My relationships started at times like when I took my dream trip just after college (x 2 -- a penpal from that trip also became a boyfriend later), just after a breakup, while taking a year off from grad school to find my career path, etc. It's not guaranteed (I did one summer program that I was so passionate about, but there were just no suitable people there), but those times definitely correlate with my relationship history.

Maybe you could shift a little of your dating energy toward pursuing some dream that makes you feel particularly alive. I think it tends to work for two reasons: your state of mind, and the fact that people you meet while on that path tend to share values or interests that are important to you. These combine such that you (or me in my experience) feel like "I'm on the path to the life I truly want to live, and this person is on that path, too." Reading your follow-up about how important it is to you to have shared interests and an intellectual connection makes me think this might really be true for you. (I imagine you, like, preparing for a 6-month sabbatical in Rome to study the great painters or something and meeting someone in one of the prep classes you take locally.)

I don't mean to imply you're sleepwalking through life, failing to pursue your interests now, or anything else, but maybe taking it up a notch would be worth a try. Worst case, you do something really interesting.
posted by salvia at 12:50 PM on November 25, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'm favoriting xo and kangaroo, because I cannot really imagine how my husband and I might have hooked up via dating app, aside from mutual physical appearance attraction (which we definitely had). I mean we are actually ridiculously suited to each other, but if I had tried to numerate qualities / interests in a potential mate at the time, my digital net wouldn't have pulled him in. I didn't know what was perfect until I found him, and this is non-transferable – I couldn't now list all his qualities and find another true love just because they basically line up. He's perfect because he's him, as he is, and no one else can be that.

For us, pretty much everything on paper was wrong. So very wrong. We were BOTH STILL MARRIED when we had our first date (him separated a couple of years; me very newly separated. Very. Newly. Completely happy with the idea of unpartnered bliss for the rest of my life. Our first date wasn't even a first date. It was a chance encounter (we did know each other, though). We got drunk together talking for hours and made out. We did have a proper fancy date quite soon after that. We literally first met in a bar (but he was the friend of a friend). When we met, I thought he was a player. He had an unstable dramariffic model girlfriend, which made me write him off completely. And a fan club of besotted women (more off-writing). And other varied/interesting romantic history. He was not in any of my related professions / job areas / active in my areas of interest. Before our ZOMG encounter, I thought he was uncommunicative. Or maybe withholding, or acting superior. hahahahaha. Oh boy. No*.

AHCE (after historic chance encounter) we moved in together almost immediately (more "very, very bad on paper" shenanigans). In fact, from the very day of that HCE, we've hardly been apart (and that only for work travel), and we're now going on 30 years together.

Which is all to say that as much as I try not to be too "old person" about it, I do think that screens and data and digital efficiency can easily cut some wonder matches out, because you don't know what you don't know until you know it, and if someone doesn't have the right profile, they might slip right by ... so I don't know? Are there places where young people gather on the regular to hear music, hang out with pals, eat brunch, meet other people, laugh and talk, drink stupid drinks, keep up with the gossip, banter with the bartender or friendly waitperson, make merry a little bit? (I sound facetious, but I don't mean to be; it just doesn't seem like it from what I can tell), if so, do a little of that? Keep your eyes open to any singing in your veins that might occur, and see how it goes?

And just to be clear, I'm really not recommending doing all that is wrong on paper – because no, that's usually just actually wrong and leads to sorrow, but don't narrow things down into such a fine slice (and exactly the same slice everyone else thinks they are looking for, too) that your chances of the amatory planets aligning are teenytiny.

My husband and I have some interests in common and some that we've built together, and some that are entirely apart, which is totally natural, especially over a lifetime, but what if I or he had concentrated only on Potential Romantic Subject Who Likes [At-That-Time-Interest]. We would have likely failed the first winnowing and not even had the chance to travel the other straits and narrows to end up on each other's quickly-swipe-some-direction screen.

* He turned out to be the best, kindest, most loving person I've ever met, among the top smartest, and a total (sweet) chatterbox.
posted by taz at 1:17 PM on November 25, 2018 [14 favorites]

If you're willing to take volunteering to the next level, consider joining the Peace Corps

I'd say that's a few levels up because it's such a big life change. However, there are volunteer experiences you can do that involve a shorter-term travel commitment - and those can be great ways to meet people. There's something about being away from home, on an equal footing, for an extended period of time that can quickly move people beyond their shallow first presentation and into a level of intimacy that lets you see and know who they are - not what they like, but what they are like. Look into "volunteer vacations" for the things you're interested in. OR even just travel companies that draw people like yourself. Join a club (like the Appalachian Mountain Club, they're in the East) that brings together like-minded people for lengthier events like weekend-long activities. It's a good way to get beyond the surface.
posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on November 25, 2018

I know that the odds are rough out there for anyone in your shoes - you deserve major props for sticking with it .. I'm sorry it's been such a slog. How's it been in the past, what sorts of guys have you really fallen for/been in love with? What was going on in your life at the time yall met? I don't know .. if youre comfortable sharing any data points like that , if it's not too painful to go into, maybe it would give us some more info to base the brainstorm off of?
posted by elgee at 1:59 PM on November 25, 2018

The thing is that I've dated quite a few kind, smart, ready-for-commitment men who are fascinated by science or tech or sports or some other subject that's certainly worthy but boring to me personally, and who don't share my interest in books or art or music or politics. I've always broken up with them.

Then, respectfully, new habits, venues and strategies aren’t going to help you very much. You’ll be doing the same things, over and over again, just maybe 10 percent better.

You’re fishing in the same pond, finding bupkis, and not catching fish for dinner. You’re thinking, maybe if you move 10 feet to the left, you’ll have more luck. Sure. Maybe. Or maybe you could try the other side of the pond. Or a different pond. Or a seafood restaurant.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:06 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

I want to reiterate what k8t said, that Tinder really seems like the primary dating app these days. I wasn’t on OKC until the spring, but my understanding is that lots of folks left last fall after some changes. For me at least on the west coast, the number of men within a certain age range on Bumble is significantly smaller than the same-age men in Tinder. Many folks there aren’t just looking for hook-ups.

You’ve gone on a lot of dates, which is great! I think you have to keep on keeping on. For the nth time, dating is a numbers game.

You can maybe weed down dates by choosing a few must-haves, like education. And you can also say things in your profile to scare off the conservatives (I call myself a lefty feminist or somesuch in my profiles because I don’t want to go out with anyone who isn’t interested in that).

How often are you finding chemistry and interest? How often are you going on second dates? Is it possible you’re deciding no on folks too soon?

You’ve been single since May, right? It takes time. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:03 PM on November 25, 2018

In the bards' immortal words:

You can't hurry love
No you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy

These things either happen or they don't. By all means keep going out on dates, but do it because it's fun and you feel like doing it, not because you're looking for The One®.

Forget about finding a lifelong partner. Convince yourself it will never happen. If it does, good. If it doesn't, you won't be disappointed. Learn to be happy by yourself.
posted by signal at 4:28 PM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I met my boyfriend on tinder, after over 3 years of sort of consistently dating on dating sites and being in relationships that weren't "the one" until I met him. We are both mid-30's, I have a kid.

Get your best picture up there (agreed to let friends pick), put some feelers for arts/intellectual stuff that you like. Are there any graduate programs near where you live? I would try going somewhere you are likely to bump into academics given your interests - museum walks, talks, art openings, hipster bars, concerts. I think bars are a great place to go meet people, it's not a meat market necessarily, you can dress however you feel comfortable and see who catches your eye, how fun! I also like to see how people act when they're a bit tipsy or in that kind of environment, it can say a lot.

And FWIW I would have screened my boyfriend out on a dating site with controls (versus tinder) - he's the same height as me (gasp!), not highly educated (I have a phd), a smoker, was working as a bartender when we met (and I swore no more bartenders and assumed it meant he wouldn't be child-friendly), and he loves golf (a "sport" I think is dumb). We get along amazing despite him having little personal interest in my yoga studies and me not caring for his CNN-watching, we are both happy having alone time to do our own stuff, or hang with similar interest friends, and we have our own things we do together, which has grown with time - we got a dog, we take turns cooking and trying new restaurants, we take trips together, we take turns bitching about our work (and despite not being an "intellectual" he totally gets my niche gripes, and last but not least he loves being a step-dad to my kid, and my kid loves him. On paper we didn't make sense, in our life together I can't imagine being happier.
posted by lafemma at 4:36 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Have you tried joining meetups centered around your interests? I saw you mention the apps and friends setting you up and your social circle and stuff, but throwing in some volunteer political work or joining a book club centered around books that interest you or whatever may be another way to find people who are what you're looking for.

It's hard. Good luck.
posted by Amy93 at 4:45 PM on November 25, 2018

What sort of mindset do I need to cultivate?

Disinterest! It’s an irony of my life that I’ve actually found lasting partners at times when I was actively not looking, or actively disinterested in partnering up.

It’s perhaps not as mad as it sounds, as the stakes were low and I could just afford to let things ride and get to know them and see what happens within no expectations.
posted by Middlemarch at 5:30 PM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

The thing about things not working out with guys who have different interests, combined with your generally feeling lonely makes me think that you might benefit from having more intellectual outlets and sparring partners of both the platonic and romantic varieties. Even though it sounds like you have a healthy social life, it might be the case that you look almost exclusively to partners to fill your emotional/intellectual cup.

Honestly, I think you should set your standard for acceptability re: shared interests at someone respecting your intellect and giving you space for (and not being openly disdainful of) your interests. You don't necessarily need a partner to be into the exact same things that you are so long as they (and you!) are curious and the two of you can find enough overlap to spend enjoyable leisure time together.

This might mean dating people with slightly better social skills than the people you've dated in the past. In my experience, people who don't have great social or conversational skills sometimes have trouble reacting engagingly to people who aren't their clones, to the point of becoming resentful of them.
posted by blerghamot at 6:30 PM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

I'm curious if you've been in love and in serious relationships in the past...somehow your post makes me wonder if you're giving the people you meet enough of a chance. Are you going on second and third dates or deciding after each first date that you don't want to go on? I'm not in your city, but I've met a lot of guys who meet your criteria, I think. They are out there. In terms of meeting more people, have you tried going to events more tailored to your interests (book readings, art openings, etc) and approaching people there? I might also try broadening your search on the apps, if you have narrow criteria for age, for example. If I had known my last boyfriend was much younger than me when we met (at a party), I wouldn't have gone out with him. But we were a perfect match.
posted by pinochiette at 7:04 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm curious if you've been in love and in serious relationships in the past...somehow your post makes me wonder if you're giving the people you meet enough of a chance. Are you going on second and third dates or deciding after each first date that you don't want to go on?

Yes, I have been. I got out of my most recent relationship about six months ago (in May). That relationship was not especially long, only 7-8 months, but it was fairly serious (said "I love you" etc, and I had strong feelings). Previous to that, I've been in serious relationships, but have never been married.

In the last six months, there have been five guys who I've been on 4+ dates with, and have thought about getting exclusive with (or who have asked me to be exclusive). Actually, for most of October and November, I was only dating two men. Out of those five, one was similar to an ex in a way that felt unsettling/ominous, one pressured me for sex and then ghosted me after I finally made the mistake of saying yes, one got into an argument with me about the Kavanaugh confirmation and I broke it off after, one kept trying to create this very melodramatic kind of relationship dynamic that I hated and I not only broke things off but actually had to block him afterward, one always tried to tell me what I wanted to hear (and often guessed wrong) rather than the truth until finally that just became too weird and frustrating and I called things off.

Honestly, it is apparently not that hard for me to fall into relationships, but it is extremely hard for me to stay committed to them. In the past, I have gotten into serious, intense relationships when I've been about to graduate high school (1yr), about to graduate college (1.5yrs), the guy I started dating was about to move internationally for grad school (1.5yrs), I was preparing to move across country for grad school (9ish mo, but lived together for 6mo of that time), and then I've also had some shorter relationships -- 5-6 mo, 5-6 mo, 7-8 mo -- over the past two years. Other than one of the 5-6mo relationships a couple years ago, I've broken up with every one of those men (that one breakup was mutual). It's worrying, but I also have a lot of close, very long-term relationships with friends and family, and have a lot of long-term community ties, so I apparently can carry on intimate and long-term social relationships -- just not intimate and long-term romantic relationships, unfortunately.

I have asked my therapist about that, because it's likely some kind of intimacy issue on my part, but we haven't really gone there.

In the meantime, I mostly am not attracted to strangers in any real way (need to know somebody to like them, and need to like them to want to get physical with them), so I just go out with the men who ask me and keep going out until I'm feeling like, "no way, I don't want to spend any more time with this man," and then at that point, I break things off. Sometimes that's after one date or even one conversation, sometimes it's after a month, sometimes it's even longer.

It's frustrating when people say that you should enjoy being single, since the self-evident truth is that I'd already rather be single than date any of the men I've gone out with -- if I didn't prefer it, I would still be dating at least one of them. I hate being single, it's lonely and boring at best, but I hate being with any of these guys even more. I'd like to meet a man who I actually do enjoy being with more than I enjoy my life without him in it, but that hasn't really happened yet, or at least I haven't kept on feeling that way for more than 6-18 months at a stretch.

I'm not counting out that I'm the problem here, which is why I'm trying to broaden my scope, doing a lot of soul-searching, and talking to a therapist every week. I am also trying to give these guys a chance. But I can't help it if I just don't especially like someone.

I guess what I'm saying is that I am hoping to meet someone who I genuinely like, and that's been very hard. It seems like it wouldn't be, but it has been. It's been hard enough that at this point, I'm willing to look in other places or in other ways or to try a new perspective -- so advice on how to do that is what I'm asking for from all of you.
posted by static sock at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m in a relationship, but am new-again at it (after YEARS of being single) so I don’t think I’ve got a lot to say in terms of how/whether your criteria or MO could/should change.

What I can say, though, is, relaaax, you’ve got time, more than you know. I know you’ve got a fire under your butt because you’re in your 30s and want a kid/family. And sure, there are arguments to be made for getting that sorted soon, and for having the kid/s and partner happen in one piece.

But you can meet a partner at any age, truly. It’s true, there’s a period where it’s a little harder to meet single men if you’re looking for guys your age (early 30s, depending on location). But there are still *some* single guys (your age, older, younger), and in about 3-5 years there’ll be another crop close to your age (post-divorce; hopefully with some useful life experience and more wisdom and domestic skills than bitterness behind them). And there’s time in between and after that, too.

The kid part, I agree, good to do that sooner than later (am early 40s and just the idea of chasing after a toddler is tiring), but that doesn’t have to happen with the same person who’s going to be your life partner.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:40 PM on November 25, 2018

If you've ever been where I am now, what were your methods for finding love, and did those methods work?

I experienced a similar rut when I was 28 so I moved from San Francisco to Seattle in 2016. 7 months later after dates with 5 different guys went nowhere, I met someone through OKC. He didn’t tick the most important box on my list (I was looking for a devout Catholic; he didn’t believe in God) but on our first date there was physical attraction and intellectual chemistry. I liked how down-to-earth and unassuming he was, how refreshing our conversations felt. At the end of that first date I was upfront that I really enjoy his company and want to keep seeing him, but I could not see myself pursuing a romantic connection with someone who does not share my faith. He said that he was open to learning more about Catholicism so he signed up for RCIA weekly “classes” at a nearby church and we continued getting to know each other. After 9 months we got engaged, he was baptized Catholic this past Easter, and we got married in September, two years after our first date.

More abstractly, I am struggling a lot with loneliness and the fear that being alone forever is my lot in life. How do I deal with those feelings without despairing and becoming too desperate to keep my head on straight?

What worked for me: patience (believing that finding that right person will make all the disappointment worth it), humility (I should never compromise my standards but I shouldn’t be so nitpicky nor quick to judge others, because I myself have my many imperfections), and faith (life is full of possibilities).
posted by tackypink at 8:48 PM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

This might be horrible advice, but like you I am not that attracted to strangers: is that friend you have had a crush on for years single?

Re: mindset, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

You are already playing the numbers game, so presumably you are meeting and rejecting people who could make great life partners for you. Why?
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:59 PM on November 25, 2018

I don't have much advice, but I met my husband on Tinder and knew on our first date. I actually don't think it is a numbers game - I think you should only go out with people you really click with rather than wasting time on people you already know you're not really interested in.

Be open to totally falling in love, regardless of your partner's likes and dislikes. Look for similar politics and values and ignore the small things.
posted by thereader at 9:10 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

>we have to spend what seems like tons of time doing and discussing things I don't care about because that's the stuff they're into

Turns out I do have something to say. What’s going on with the above?

Possibilities: you’re drawn to domineering men with entitlement issues; or, you’re not particularly drawn to men like that, but you’re maybe a little passive in communicating how you’d like to spend time, or acquiesce too easily. Or a combination of both (or none, maybe it’s just the odds). I don’t know, but if it’s the first, consider men who are more giving; if it’s the second, work on assertiveness.

You also said communication devolves into turn-taking without mutual dialogue/engagement. I think this is more a problem of the other person being a self-absorbed, shitty listener than a question of having to have shared interests (although for sure it helps to be legit interested in at least some of the same things).

Based on this and some of your other questions, keywords for the ideal partner for you (imo): giving, considerate (does this by any chance conflict with “engaging/not boring” for you?), good listener AND entertaining conversationalist (may conflict, not always), emotionally stable and responsible wrt maintaining mental health (gross stereotype but *may* in some cases conflict with aesthetic-mindedness/creativity/intellectualism). TLDR I think blerghamot is right, you’re looking for a set of communicative skills in a particular balance that (imo/e) might be uncommon. If that’s right, patience is your friend.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:52 PM on November 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

OKcupid worked for me after 50+ dates. To improve my odds, this is what I started doing, and met someone pretty quickly after that (this was before the revamp though):
-do a search for people looking for casual sex. Sort by % match and block all of them (well, as many as you can be bothered clicking through.) Sorry to nice guys wanting a LTR but willing to say they are open to casual sex in the meantime, but this is a great hack to ONLY get messages guys who just want an LTR and stability.
-search by % match (but feel fine to go down to the 80%s or so) read profiles, and message first the guys who you think sound really lovely.
-be picky with who you start chatting to, don't give someone a go if there's big red flags in the message or profile I was being TOO open minded for a while when I had to focus a bit more on what I wanted
posted by hotcoroner at 12:30 AM on November 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

I mean, it sounds like you're doing a lot of the right things, but it's hard for the internet to say for sure without observing how you are on dates, or how you are selecting those who actually meet up with. Maybe it IS you?

I think though if you are having a hard time finding the right person despite apparently getting connected with lots and lots of people, maybe you need to loosen up on some of the things you previously thought of as dealbreakers. A couple of other people have touched on it above, but maybe you can fall in love with someone who is somewhat different than you, rather than seeking someone who shares all your same interests. Maybe you can find other outlets for those interests that you don't share - if you find someone who is into art, and books/writing, who enjoys socializing, who is smart, creative, and kind, who has chemistry with you, and who wants marriage and children reasonably soon, but ISN'T into politics, could you not make that work? Could you not get your politics itch scratched by friends, or the internet? Or the art part, etc? And so on... maybe it's time to start seeing what these other humans bring to your life that is different, rather than focusing on what they don't.
posted by modernnomad at 1:14 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've heard you have to meet more like 100 people, at least.

I've been on well over 100 dates and am still single, but I've also been very picky, easily scared of men, and generally content on my own.
posted by bunderful at 5:11 AM on November 26, 2018

So, I think you got your stats mixed up here. I think you are not being picky enough.

Prior to meeting my husband, I was single for five years in my mid-20s. Then I met him, and it was like... whoosh, everything fell into place. There was no melodramatic questioning. There was no anguish. Everything was right.

My group of friends (now mid 30s) have similar experiences. They were all single for significant periods of time (years), and then met their The One and got married quickly after that.

There is the statistic that a person meets a potential partner every seven years. That is a long time. If you have been in a string of unfulfilling short-term relationships in a short space of time, the problem is likely not to be you, but that you just haven't found the right person yet. My advice is to keep going out, being out there, being in the market. But also keep doing your thing, and recognise you are worthy of love, and don't settle for a bunch of Maybe relationships. Because it gets kinda boring and who wants to deal with some meh?
posted by moiraine at 9:43 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

There is so much here!

Here is one vote for getting tipsy and smooching that friend of yours you think you aren’t attracted to physically, but have a crush on. (Only you know whether you have the kind of friendship where that could be charmingly waved off in the morning.)

I don’t know what other advice to give you because I didn’t care quite as much about shared interests. It sounds like you are doing many of the right things!
posted by amaire at 10:20 AM on November 26, 2018

Ideally, I would hit it off with a man who is interested in politics, art, and books/writing, who enjoys socializing, who is smart, creative, and kind, who has chemistry with me, and who wants marriage and children reasonably soon.

This is what I want as well. I'm a straight man who turns 35 next week so not finding that in a new city has been particularly hard this past year. My advice would be to write what you said above you want in your dating profile.

I go out to basically every social event my friends invite me to with the express purpose to meet someone. (I also love their company, but I've been really honest with them that my number one priority is to find a loving partner. Full stop. They support this and all are married happily.)

I've tried speed dating and it was pretty disappointing. I had lots of matches, but I just felt overwhelmed and not excited afterward. I also don't pick people up in bars.

I haven't succeeded yet but my methods are going to places I love regularly (the library, a coffee shop, a trivia night with friends), doing some volunteering (need to do more), online dating (hard to motivate, honestly).

More abstractly, I am struggling a lot with loneliness and the fear that being alone forever is my lot in life. How do I deal with those feelings without despairing and becoming too desperate to keep my head on straight? What kind of mindset do I need to cultivate?

I don't know. It's very easy for people to say "You'll find someone!" and you know they mean it, they believe it and logically it is LIKELY since we are emotionally mature, kind, growing, fun as hell people... but what if it doesn't?

I haven't been able to make my peace with it and it's led me to depression, despondence, drinking too much... therapy is helpful, but also maybe just knowing that you're not alone? So if other people are also out there trying to be their best selves, searching and feeling this way that you will meet one someday. That's the hope, anyway.

Anyway, your question reads exactly like where I'm at and you seem like a kind, lovely person so I have faith in it working out for you (see, it's so easy for someone else to say! ha). If you'd like to talk more, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'm basically in the same boat as @OnTheLastCastle -- early 40s, straight, single. Tried all the apps, led to one date where I got ghosted in the middle of dinner. I've since canceled all my subscriptions, and I've basically given up. I think it's very easy to say "you'll find someone" when you've already met someone. I'm not content being single, but I'm resigned to it.

In any event: you seem like an outstanding person, and depending on where you're at, I'd be happy to introduce you to friends. I'm pulling for you. Like others have said, my inbox is open. I think you're doing all the right things, TBH.
posted by arkhangel at 11:58 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just go out with the men who ask me and keep going out until I'm feeling like, "no way, I don't want to spend any more time with this man,"

This seems really quite passive! Like you'll date anyone until they're actually somehow offensive? I would try to take a more active role in your dating. Do you ever message first? It does sound like you know what you want, which is good. But then it sounds like you are letting men take the lead most of the time in your dating, until you get sick of them.

So, about those intimacy issues: you said you do fall into relationships pretty easily, but you typically end them. You also said you tend to date people when the relationship has a clear expiration date, like the end of school or an upcoming move. It also sounds like in one case, you moved in with someone pretty quickly, after about three months. So you crave intimacy but maybe not the hard work of a relationship?

I think you might find some useful insight in the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment. I'm wondering if you have an avoidant attachment style and you are somehow keeping distant from the men who might be good partners for you in favor of relationships that are more likely to end.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:54 PM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

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