I think I like my solitude.
March 14, 2019 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I (mid-30s single straight white male, USA) am finding myself disinterested in dating/romantic connection. How do I talk myself out of this? Should I talk myself out of this?

The calculus of "what would I have to give up" vs. "what would I gain" from dating seems to work out in favor of "stay single." I'm not sure what to think or feel about that. I'm mostly okay with it, I think, but, there's a lot of social pressure to couple up. I'm physically attracted to women, but desire for physical intimacy is pretty low-key for me right now, and I've almost always been the low-libido partner in my relationships. I've wondered if I'm somewhere on the asexual spectrum, although I'm not really sure if that's quite right, or if putting a label on it is useful to me even if it is.

I'm shy/introverted, non-religious, enjoy geeky hobbies that are pretty niche and male-skewed in demographic, don't really enjoy travel (or spending money on travel), spend a lot of time at work, and am pretty sure I don't want children. I have a reasonable friend circle -- couple of local friends, few people I keep up with from prior parts of my life, and people from my hobby circles online and in person.

I've been single for about a year, when my last relationship ended due to mismatches in energy level (I work long hours, was traveling frequently for work, and often just wanted solitude when I was home; she wanted to do Big Planned Activities With People And Parking And Expensive Tickets very frequently). I've gone on a few Bumble/OkCupid first dates since then, but even on the one or two that have gone to second/third dates, my overwhelming feeling is dread that "If I keep seeing this woman, I'm going to have to change a lot of things I do because she's going to want me to spend time with her doing stuff she wants to do, and.. meh? I already spend too much time at work doing things other people want me to do." I recently broke things off with someone after a few dates because she really wanted kids several years in the future, I really don't, and even though she was okay with "just dating," I did not want to be someone's regret about something that important, or live under a ticking clock until "ok KIDS everything changes!" Also, she was allergic to cats and.. no. Love my cat too much.

I will 100% own that it's a selfish attitude, but at the same time, why not be selfish, so long as I'm not imposing myself on anyone else? I read a lot of horror stories about women in awful relationships with men (and been in enough LTRs to be somebody's "oh my goodness why is he like this?"), and it seems like, as the WOPR said, the only winning move is not to play.

So do I just enjoy being whatever the career-and-hobbies version of a bachelor is? Do I seek out therapy to try and convince myself that it's worth sacrificing my interests and freedom for a relationship?
posted by Alterscape to Human Relations (27 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Yes you have internet permission not to pursue dating.
posted by bleep at 10:20 PM on March 14, 2019 [75 favorites]

It isn’t at all selfish. It sounds like you have an admirable clarity about what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Dating is kind of a lot of trouble so why do it if it doesn’t get you anywhere you want to go? I mean, honestly, who benefits from you forcibly convincing yourself to couple up?
posted by Smearcase at 10:21 PM on March 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

I wobbled on this for years! Once I realized that solo living might be a wonderful thing for me, the pressure was off and it was like a giant weight was lifted. Since then, I've had a lot more joy and peace in my life in just being. The people who know me best love to see me being happy so they never question it. I've discovered I'm really good at giving love by being supportive and present to my friends and loved ones & being friendly and kind to strangers, and that's enough.

And I do realize that for some people, this can be a fluid thing. I mean, I was a devoted vegetarian for ten years and fully identified as that, and then a decade passed and some rethinking was in order.

So go do your happy solo bachelor life, enjoy your solitude and hobbies and friends, and if you change your mind later, that's fine, too. The only one who can decide what best makes you happy is you.
posted by mochapickle at 10:37 PM on March 14, 2019 [39 favorites]

Do I seek out therapy to try and convince myself that it's worth sacrificing my interests and freedom for a relationship?

You know that's not what therapy is for, right? It's not brainwashing.

You sound like you know yourself very well. Good for you. The dishonest thing would be to keep dating, when you don't really want to be with anyone. Maybe someday you'll crave partnership, but since you don't now, don't pretend. Live your truth! It's fine.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:03 PM on March 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

It's not selfish to choose uncomplicated happiness.

Agree with mochapickle that it was such a relief to make the decision. Dating was soul crushing and I never much liked relationships either. I felt so good when I decided I no longer had to find someone just because society deemed it normal. I love my life.
posted by kitten magic at 11:09 PM on March 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

Okay, if you could have a relationship with another independent person where you could still maintain your interests and activities, would you want that? Do you want sex and physical and emotional intimacy on any scale? It does seem like you have this idea that any relationship must be on a relationship escalator, leading to living together, marriage, kids, etc. but there are women who might not want those things either. The more you know what you might want in a relationship, the more likely you are to find it.

Yes, it’s totally fine not to date! But it’s also okay to pursue a lower key, less traditional relationship. I think it was ethical to end things with the person who didn’t want kids. If you’re upfront about what you want, you may find someone looking for something similar.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:17 PM on March 14, 2019 [29 favorites]

I'm 64, and got divorced about a dozen years ago. I'm content to be single, and realize that for someone with specific interests being single might be the way to go. I do like talking and interacting with women, but don't want to devote energy to maintaining a relationship. I do tend to be a rural desert hermit, but many of my best friends are women who aren't looking to get hooked up emotionally.
posted by Agave at 11:53 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm a queer nonbinary person of color, and in all honesty, I crave fulfilling my creative potential over relationships. OKCupid/Tindr/etc all strike disgust and misery in me, which I am trying to minimize, and I'm not interested enough in the end outcome to want to spend time or energy on that. I firmly believe relationships are meant to add value to your life, and if you aren't feeling any aspect of it AND don't want to do the compromises that are necessary to participate, it's not important. I sometimes get a little bit self-conscious (but only a little) for not really wanting to pursue relationships, but I also don't feel really severe cravings for it romantically or sexually, to the point of not having much of a drive for it. Occasionally I meet someone that I have a crush on, but it's usually because they represent something I want in myself psychologically, so I work it out with my therapist and my friends and I find a new way to relieve a creative blockage.

I have other friends who are dating and finding new people and wanting to connect in that way - I have a friendship drive, but not a very active relationship drive. This will probably change someday and it'll be fun when it does, but currently, not really into the entire process. So yeah, go do your thing!
posted by yueliang at 2:13 AM on March 15, 2019 [15 favorites]

To add: it is both totally fine to feel this way now, and in a few months or years, or more than a few months or years, to feel differently and to go with that at that point. (And for what you need to change again, later on, taking into account others.) Biology around having children forces certain timelines but beyond that it really is your life to live how you want to.
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 2:35 AM on March 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

Dude, you're fine. I don't see why you think you're being selfish when you seem to have an admirable empathy and understanding for your previous partners' needs (highly social, wanting kids, being allergic to cats etc). 'Selfish' would be stringing them along while you prioritised your needs. But no one's getting strung along.

I think that our society nowadays is hung up on lifestyles and relationship structures that are 'one size fits all' and increasingly out of step with people's needs. Why should you worry about wanting to be single and enjoying your solitude? What's wrong with that? Nothing except that there is this weird societal side-eye at anyone who doesn't fit into this ideal lifestyle of dating around in their 20s and settling down in their 30s.
posted by unicorn chaser at 4:25 AM on March 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'm queer and have often found that while dating can be great, sometimes I need a prolonged break from it. You obviously want to do your own thing, at least right now. Do that. If, later, you find yourself wanting to meet people and go on dates, then you can do that. And if you decide you just like doing your own thing, that's 100% fine. It's not more selfish to want to do your own stuff than it is to want to date or have a partner - those are not selfless things to do.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:44 AM on March 15, 2019

I'm the female equivalent of you. Dating sucks and the odds of finding someone compatible seem to be very low and I don't think I'm going to be the lucky one if I keep searching for what I can't find. If you don't want kids, that makes it even worse for finding someone. Or better, since if you don't want kids you don't have to keep searching for someone to have them with ASAP.

Don't bother to talk yourself out of this. Folks like us are very rare, but we do exist once in a while. It does weird out the rest of society when you don't pair off, but it's not always under your control to do so anyway. If you get lucky someday, maybe you do, but you probably don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 AM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

What I wouldn't give to get back all the time and money I spent trying to date just because I thought that is what I should be doing. I could have my own island somewhere. To cop a cheesy line "you do you".
posted by jtexman1 at 6:02 AM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have come to the conclusion that as long as I'm not avoiding intimacy (emotional or otherwise) due to fear, but am instead making the decision not to date because I really just don't want to deal with a relationship, I'm ok not dating. It's a fine line, and I try to check in with myself about it occasionally.
posted by lazuli at 6:04 AM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Dating is not something one does for the good of humanity. You do not have to date at all, ever.

If you do want a relationship, just not the "couple that spends a lot of time together, travels, spends a lot of money, etc" model, it's okay to seek a partner who is frugal, work-oriented, independent - basically, someone who in general shares your values and wants similar things from a partner.

At this point I'm over 40 and accustomed to my own space and habits and not trying to date. If I *were* to enter into a relationship I'd want a boyfriend who maintains his own home and does not live with me. An ally, a cuddle-buddy, a friend, a sous-chef .... but not a roommate.
posted by bunderful at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

You don't have to date, of course. There are some significant cognitive distortions in the way you frame the situation. It's not necessarily true that you'd have to give up a ton in order to have a relationship. But I don't know what to do with that! Maybe it's okay to just sort of irrationally be turned off from dating. That seems fine to me.

I would suggest putting the energy you now spend on dating into building friendships and intentional community. As people couple up and have kids in their 30s it can get lonelier for people who are single. This effect can be countered by effort on the part of the single person to be a good, reliable, friend who puts a lot of energy into the friendship (sometimes a disproportionate amount, because people who have spouses and kids are often low on social energy).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:19 AM on March 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

Forcing myself to want relationships and friendships and just social interaction in general out of guilt or others telling me I should rather than trusting and prioritizing my own nature earned a very chronic codependency disorder that I am now just beginning to break out of. It's fine if you don't want one. It's fine if you do. Listen to your inner voice. It may not be 100% right about the world, it's not always right about other people, but it is 100% always right about you.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:21 AM on March 15, 2019

Just in case you are futurecasting here... my mom is like this, and hasn't dated in 20+ years. Pessimists would call her "set in her ways" but honestly she sounds a lot like how you describe yourself. She knows herself super well, has plenty of time to devote herself to hobbies, and lives life on her own terms. She's also twice divorced, and has told me that she never really liked the pair-bonding thing very much. I think she's been wired this way her whole life but let society tell her how important relationships were, to her detriment both times. She has wonderful warm relationships with her friends and family, she is not broken in any way.

Obviously I'm glad she had one of those relationships since I wouldn't be here otherwise, but for real, she's very happy on her own.
posted by juniperesque at 7:44 AM on March 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Often people who DO want relationships and aren't having much luck are told "just stop Trying To Date and pursue your interests and you will find people who share them." I think this is not always good advice for those people, but for someone who truly isn't interested in actively dating, it's perfect advice. You do you, and maybe you'll stay single and be perfectly content and maybe you'll meet someone on your exact same page - and it sounds like either outcome would suit you just fine. So don't waste your time on online dating if it doesn't make you happy!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:53 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Dating when you're not really into it doesn't do you or anyone else any favours. It's perfectly fine not to date. If you don't need to date, then don't. (I totally get the pressure -- the pressure and messaging comes from everywhere, in very subtle ways.)

Single person households are now 28% of the population (in Canada, anyway), and that's only going to grow. In being alone, you are not alone.

And that said, if you just need to get yourself out of the house and out of your regular circles, it's totally possible to go on Bumble/OKC and look for 'companionship', being clear about only wanting to do talking-dates or shared activities (or whatever). There are definitely people on those sites looking for only that.

Good luck. You don't need to do anything at all if you don't want. And that's OK.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

You got a lot of responses, and I'll defer to everyone else. But also, click here, in case you're unfamiliar with the term: aromantic.
posted by WCityMike at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is a great question and thanks for asking it. I think relationships are the only thing on earth where people pressure each other/feel pressured to do even when they know they don't want to. (Other than women who don't want to have a baby. Holy pressure there. And sure, people may not want to pay taxes or go to the doctor, but those are responsibilities that have certain penalties/consequences if you don't do them, which YOU have to live with in the end.)

One doesn't experience quite the same pressure as say, not wanting to go to college/university, to get a job, get a car, buy a house, invest money, or travel or see X movie or try X food or wear X clothes or try X drug or whatever. But god forbid you say "I don't want a relationship" - out comes the feelings/pressure of what's wrong with you. Yet no one can quite articulate what's right with people who do say "Yeah I want a partner/to date/have sex/have a relationship" other than to say, "That's totally natural, there's nothing wrong with that!" The pressure is real and it exists, and maybe it comes from a soup of patriarchy/capitalism/Disney movies/the biological imperative. I totally understand feeling weird about NOT wanting to be in a relationship when it seems like it's such a HUGE thing in society. Thankfully things are changing ever so slowly and maybe one day we can all just do whatever the fuck we want without hurting others, being judged, and still support each other.

In sum, you are not selfish. It would be far more selfish to try to do something you don't want to do, impose yourself on someone, just so that you don't feel weird about not being a relationship.
posted by foxjacket at 10:45 AM on March 15, 2019

Nthing that nobody HAS to date.

At the same time, the way you have framed this isn't, "my life is really great, dating is fairly uninspiring, do I have permission to go along being awesome?" Your framing is a little more down-beat, which -- given that you're here asking this instead of just feeling pretty good about the decision -- makes me wonder if there's a sort of dysthymic/depressed backdrop here.

I don't say this to at all deny or minimize what you say about maybe being on the asexual spectrum somewhere, or to minimize your self awareness! I just know from experience that when I am mildly depressed and not feeling great about my life, I also start to ruminate a lot about whether I'm "selfish" and whether I'm "wrong" and also, coincidentally, to start feeling like Other People With Their Things And Events and Attention are a real fuckin' drag.

Since you are worried and wondering, since you are already thinking maybe therapy, why not give it a go?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:59 PM on March 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

Introverts date when one of two things happen. 1. We get tired of our own company 2. We meet someone whose company is a marginal improvement over # 1.

For the most part I think this is a pretty good deal. Upside is that we don’t feel loneliness with nearly the same intensity as others. Downside is this can also mean the difference between a self-contained introvert and an isolated one. Most of us still need a few close intimates. So do keep in touch with your good friends. That’s worth forcing even when you don’t feel like it. Dating? Eh. Not so much.
posted by space_cookie at 5:40 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I suggest looking into asexual groups if you think there's any possibility at all you'd want to identify that way. It tends to be a very supportive group of people (even on sites like Reddit that are known for their hostility) who share experiences you can probably relate to, and the #1 experience people talk about is being unsure if they're asexual.
posted by shponglespore at 5:17 PM on March 18, 2019

Coming back here to add that I'm a demiromantic demisexual and that also makes my dating life reaaaaally hard. I think my annoyance made me literally forget that I'm not just queer, I'm on the ace spectrum and that makes it hella hard.
posted by yueliang at 12:24 AM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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