Feeling lonely how to meet my needs
January 7, 2020 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Lately I have been feeling really lonely because I am single but ready to meet someone, but it is just not happening for me. The kind of connection I want with someone is: someone I can trust, who I can confide in, who will support me emotionally and help me cope when things go wrong, someone who is interested in me, and someone to be intimate with.

I want to know how to get these needs met given I don’t have a partner and assuming I will not find one soon. I have tried confiding in friends and family but they did not react the way I wanted so I will not do that again. I will keep them as ‘fun times friends’ only. I also tried therapy, I have been through five therapists so far but am yet to find someone appropriate, though I do have two more appointments lined up.

I am not interested in casual sex or friends with benefits, because it is the emotional connection I want not the physical one and I don’t think getting a pet or volunteering would be for me because I am not an animal person and because I don’t see how volunteering would foster a close emotional connection, especially as I am there to help someone else, not to get my needs met.

Any ideas what I can do to foster a close emotional connection with someone instead?
posted by EatMyHat to Human Relations (27 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

Unfortunately, intimate friends don't pop out of nowhere, you get them by starting with non-intimate friends, and spending time with them. Probably only a small proportion of the people you spend time with will end up being intimate friends - it's like a pyramid, it's harder to get that small peak of really good friends if you don't start with a wider base. Yes, many of them will end up being 'fun times friends' only. But you need to meet enough, and persist long enough in the 'fun times' category for the intimate friends to emerge. It doesn't happen overnight. If the people you're meeting genuinely don't seem like good prospects, try doing some different leisure activities, particularly things that'll introduce you to people of different ages or backgrounds.

I don’t see how volunteering would foster a close emotional connection, especially as I am there to help someone else, not to get my needs met.

I can't tell you how wrong you are on this. Helping other people is an incredible way to foster close emotional connections with your fellow volunteers, for starters. If you're both working for a common cause, and/or in a situation that makes - even modest - emotional demands on you, it's can really accelerate that process of getting closer to people. That and being committed to going somewhere every week (for example), knowing you'll see the same people, being in a context where expectations and routines are established, can make the whole process of getting to know people much easier.

You're right that in most cases it's probably not appropriate for you to seek emotional support from people you're helping as a volunteer, but that depends what you mean by emotional support. Pouring out your deepest worries to them, no. But there are many kinds of intimacy. Spending time with people, in a situation where at least one of you is somewhat vulnerable, and the other is looking inside themselves to see how they can use their personal resources to help, builds a kind of closeness and intimacy that can be very fulfilling as a human being, even if it doesn't take the form of sitting down to talk through your inner-most thoughts, which can easily be mistaken for the only form of intimacy.

(As an aside, thank you for asking this question, because writing that last paragraph has helped me to articulate something to myself that is really important to me, that I've experienced, but never quite managed to express before).

As a kind of synthesis of the thoughts above, apropros your statement that helping people can't result in you being helped - helping your friends can also be a good way to build stronger bonds. Lending a listening ear to a friend having a hard time, going round with groceries when someone's sick, going out of your way to offer a ride to someone when it's raining, all those things help strengthen friendships and move them along the scale towards greater intimacy.
posted by penguin pie at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2020 [36 favorites]

If you shut off various avenues for connection, you'll never find it. Volunteering is a way to build friendships and relationships because of the bond you form with the other volunteers and not so much the work itself. What did you want from your friends and family? Did you try expressing those needs instead of shutting yourself off to ever confiding in them again?

A partner cannot meet all of your needs. A partner cannot be the only person you confide in or the only avenue through which you socialize. Expecting a partner to be everything--your closest confidant, your coping mechanism for difficult situations, your main source of intimacy, the person who is "interested" in you--is a great way to set a relationship on a fast track toward failure. It is simply too much to put on one person. Ask me how I know.

Open yourself up to everything you have closed off in this question and closeness will come. Volunteer. Join meetups. Join a gym and take classes, if possible. Try a new hobby. Get a dating app and meet people, so many people. Meet them for the sake of enjoying another person's company without necessarily looking at them as a potential Life Partner. Get Bumble BFF. Take a trip alone and try talking to strangers. Go for walks and smile at everyone you see.

It can really, really hard to find a partner, but there is no reason to be socially isolated just because you are single. I am less isolated now that I am single than I was when I had a partner. Being single can open you up to a world of new people and new places. It can be lonely but it can also be totally, entirely free, within limits. But if you are not willingly to explore that freedom, you will never find the connection you crave.

Good luck.
posted by Amy93 at 1:38 PM on January 7, 2020 [34 favorites]

Check your MeFi Mail.
posted by RainyJay at 1:39 PM on January 7, 2020

From your past questions, you sound like someone who's worked hard to cultivate different interests, bolster your career, and learn new things.

That said, I remember some of your past questions, and something stands out to me, especially since you just said this: I also tried therapy, I have been through five therapists so far but am yet to find someone appropriate, though I do have two more appointments lined up.

I do think that you do need to find a therapist and work on the way you seem to interpret interactions with other people as generally negative towards you, rather than examining how your own expectations and perspectives color those interactions you've alluded to in previous questions. Even saying this: I don’t see how volunteering would foster a close emotional connection, especially as I am there to help someone else, not to get my needs met is terribly off-putting, and if these are the sort of thoughts you have, it's possible that you are closing yourself off to anyone who doesn't "meet your needs" the way you want them to. By no means am I saying that volunteering as a way to build emotional connections works for everyone, but it seems like the way you approach things might benefit from consistent therapy. This applies to both platonic and romantic relationships, so to answer your question: find a therapist you like, stick with them (five therapists is a lot to go through, so I am wondering if you're actually giving any of them time to get to know you and vice versa, rather than writing them off because they're not seeing eye to eye with you), and really work on how and why you see other people the way you do.
posted by Everydayville at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2020 [27 favorites]

I'd just like to say that framing a relationship as about getting your own needs met is not super great. I mean.... yes, that should happen.... but a relationship isn't just about you. The goal should be to cultivate interactions which are mutually beneficial, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically. Not just for you. But for everyone involved.

Just reframe your search in that way. Work on finding people who you naturally want to do things together with.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:52 PM on January 7, 2020 [25 favorites]

Response by poster: Everydayville I am trying my best to find a therapist who works for me. I gave the first therapist about 6 sessions and the most recent therapist has had two sessions, so yes, they are getting time to get to know me, however I cannot keep going back to someone who keeps making basic mistakes like not talking about issues I want to address in therapy, taking offence at a passing comment I made or overstepping boundaries. I am very clear about what I need but I cannot do anything more than what I am already doing. Please believe me when I say I am trying my best.

Amy93, apologies, the tone of your answer suggests I hit a nerve with you. That was not my intention.
posted by EatMyHat at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2020

You didn't hit a nerve! Don't worry! You don't need to apologize. I was writing based on my own experience, but I wasn't upset.

I would like to suggest, gently, that perhaps, if you're typically hypersensitive to people's tone, that may be something to work on if you want to have an easier time forming intimate connections. I say this as someone who can be very sensitive tone. It's really hard sometimes, but I've had to learn to manage my reactions or else my interpersonal relationships wouldn't survive.
posted by Amy93 at 2:04 PM on January 7, 2020 [27 favorites]

I would suggest relaxing your standards for what counts as a successful interaction with others, and work at meeting some of your own needs. This question and the way you describe your therapy make it sound as if you hold others to some rigid checklists: if they fail, they aren’t worth interacting with anymore. That might make sense for someone like a therapist, whom you pay—although you should consider they know more about the “right” topics to discuss with you than you might think—these people are experts. It doesn’t make sense for personal relationships, which are often “three steps forwards, two steps back.” No one relationship of mine meets all, or even most, of my needs: my needs are met because I work hard to be there for myself and I’ve assembled (over three decades) friends and family who have varied abilities. Sure, if it’s an emergency, I can call one of these people and they will listen. But even a very thoughtful friend might not have time for me on one particular day when I want to talk about the annoyance of online dating—she might be busy, she might have other things to worry about, she might be like “god, I’m tired of hearing you whine!” Even great friends are flawed, because they’re people too! And the more time I spend expecting them to be there for me, without me caring about them, the more our connection will degrade.

How focused are you on your own thoughts, worries, concerns, versus others’? All relationships are a two-way street. All of them take lots of work over time.
posted by sallybrown at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2020 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: Stoneweaver I talked about some small frustrations I was having, nothing huge though it was bothering me quite a lot, and the responses I got were: solutions, suck it up princess and a criticism that I did not use a solution which I had imposed on me by a member of the group much earlier in the year (he installed an app on my phone which I did not ask for and which I deleted when I got home). What I wanted was: them to ask questions so I could talk and get the problem off my chest, sympathy and maybe if they had had a similar experience, to tell me about that. This is what I offer as support when someone needs it, though I have to admit that all of my friends are coupled so they don’t usually come to me for support because they have their spouses.
posted by EatMyHat at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2020

Fostering emotional closeness in my experience is largely about ongoing investment of time, and a slow increase in that closeness. Some of your fun friends, or new people you may meet through hobbies or volunteering, might become closer friends over time.

As an example, one of my closest friends now is someone I knew casually through a shared interest, who invited me to join her for a weekly lunch date. Over time as we were in regular touch and shared details about our lives, did small favors for each other, etc., we’ve grown closer. I would feel absolutely comfortable sharing difficult things with her now in a way I wouldn’t have at first, because we grew that closeness together over time and gestures of trust and friendship in both directions. I don’t think anything could have done that but the passage of time and slow building of that trust.

I don’t know any quick fix way to do it. I can only suggest that you pick one or two of your current friends who you think might have potential to develop into a deeper friendship, and also seek out new acquaintances vis hobbies or volunteering or classes, and take the scary first step of extending invitations to them and trying to see them more regularly, or taking *small* steps to deepen the time you already spend together.

Keeping an open mind and granting second chances (within reason, about things that are not dealbreakers) can also be helpful. That friend I mentioned has a couple of personal boundaries that sit a little differently than mine, and I unknowingly crossed one at one point. She kindly let me know that she needed her friends to do X and not Y because of Z, and now I know and have never screwed that up again. If she had relegated me immediately to a Never Trust Again, Fun Only pile, we would have both missed out on a friendship that I believe has become good and sustaining for both of us. So maybe it’s time, incremental steps, and an assumption of good faith in the face of human mistakes and differing expectations that I’m recommending.
posted by Stacey at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

Shasta Nelson and her Girlfriend Circles are what you want to read when it comes to deepening relationships.

Also, what Stacey said. It takes time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:12 PM on January 7, 2020

Here is a thought experiment that might help you more clearly understand the problem with how you are seeing things. You complain your needs aren't being met in relationships, but how are you fulfilling other peoples needs for the very same things you are searching for? What do you bring to the relationship that would make the other person feel like they can trust you or confide in you? Relationships flow in two directions not one. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. As others have said, it is also a numbers game you don't go from Hello to intimate friends over night. You need to develop a group of casual acquaintances, then from that develop friends & from that more can develop. Volunteering offers a chance for people that like that sort of thing, to find other people that like that sort of thing and help others. If it's not your cup of tea there are as many other ways to meet people. Start with listing things you really enjoy doing, now find ways they can that be done in a group setting with other people that like doing it? People doing things they enjoying doing together is a great basis for a way to make friends. Be it anything from playing D&D to playing football. Playing & having fun is a great bonding activity, people that volunteer enjoy helping others in the way they are so they bond over the activity.

Anecdotal story about therapy/counselling for your consideration, make of it what you will. I went to a marriage counselor when my relationship with my husband was having issues & got very angry with her because she kept talking bout my parents not my husband and I, and I felt like I had to keep pushing back against that to get her to talk about what I wanted to talk about. It was only when she'd helped me work through my guilt & issues about my parents that I could then work on my marriage issues successfully. I was furious at her for weeks for not shutting up & listening to me about what I wanted to talk about, but as she put it I was worried about why I couldn't walk but I wouldn't stop to notice my leg was broken.
posted by wwax at 2:13 PM on January 7, 2020 [22 favorites]

I wanted to chime in just on the solutions/suck it up vs questions/validation part of your question and comments...

I'm one of those people who, when confronted with a problem, especially someone else's problem (like a family member or a friend), immediately starts troubleshooting. For me, this means supporting them. There's something deep in my brain that goes "Friend has problem? Me good friend! Me fix problem!" And then I focus solely on looking for a solution. (This attitude turns into "suck it up" if said friend never tries any of the solutions offered and always complains about the same thing.)

But, after living a good long while on this wonderful planet, I've come to realize that not all people want that. Some are like you and want to be heard and have their feelings validated instead of getting some kind of an answer to their problems (and the answer might not even work for them anyway).

So nowadays, with people dear to me, I usually ask if they need me to troubleshoot or to just listen before I offer any kind of response for the actual issue they're talking about.

This might not be of any help to you, but I just wanted to give you another perspective - maybe those friends are like me but haven't realized yet that there's another way to show support.
posted by gakiko at 2:32 PM on January 7, 2020 [8 favorites]

I agree with others that you can't just go out into the world and expect to easily find great, intimate friends -- those kinds of intimate friendships are sifted from a larger group of friends and developed over a long period of mutual support.

But there are ways to shortcut a certain amount of intimacy and support using the Internet. AskMe isn't the best channel for this, because as you've seen in the past, people here are going to give you opinions you don't want to hear, and you're not really allowed to argue with them. But there are other communities out there, ones that are much more focused on providing the kind of emotional support you're looking for or at least better at it, even if it's not their focus.

One option would be a site like 7cups.com which is specifically about volunteers providing support to other volunteers. You might find both sides of that -- acting as a listener and contacting listeners -- to be helpful in forming connections.

Another option is more interest based groups that happen to be supportive communities. They often aren't called support communities so they can be a bit hard to tease out, but they are out there. I get a lot of emotional support from a knitting community I'm involved in, for example. It's not the one-on-one relationship you might be seeking, but community involvement can stand in for that real world connection if you're active about how you participate. Look for chat rooms or old school forums that are focused around things you are interested in or where you are in your life/career/etc. Read archives and past history to see if the focus is *just* on the particular thing the forum is nominally about or if they have a wider-ranging chat. Involve yourself in the discussions of the thing, and in responding to other people's more personal posts. Once you have a feeling for the community and whether you feel safe with the kind of feedback you might get, you can try starting your own more personal discussions.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:36 PM on January 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

however I cannot keep going back to someone who keeps making basic mistakes like not talking about issues I want to address in therapy, taking offence at a passing comment I made or overstepping boundaries.

You probably feel everyone here seems to be piling on. Perhaps it's something that we all see from the outside in, which is that you aren't willing to accede that you may be wrong, rather than the wronged party, in some cases. If a therapist doesn't want to immediately address an issue in therapy, that may not be a "basic mistake" and shouldn't be categorically deemed as such, your calibration of them taking offence at something might be off, etc. I believe you when you say you are doing your best. It seems that in your extreme defensiveness that you're holding others accountable for your own emotions and perspectives instead of holding yourself accountable for those things.
posted by Everydayville at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2020 [23 favorites]

Mod note: Several comments deleted. EatMyHat, I'm truly sorry things are tough for you right now. But you've run into this pattern in AskMe a number of times, and been told this before, so I will be blunt: please don't keep posting these threads and then arguing with the people who answer. This isn't how AskMe works; if you need a different kind of site, that's a fair thing to recognize and seek out.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

It may help to think about what expectations you have of friends that are kind of subconscious: how often does your interaction with a particular friend have to meet a certain need of yours for you to feel like that friend is “a keeper”? If you have an overall feeling that a certain friend isn’t there for you properly, it may because they’re failing your expectation. But have you thought through whether this expectation is realistic?

For example, I want ~80% of my interactions with a friend to demonstrate that they care about / have at least some interest in me. That can be as small as a quick but genuine “how are you?” at a larger party, or as big as a phone call to check up on me because I felt sad. But I really only need like ~.5% of my interactions with a friend to be a meaningful, huge effort: them picking up the phone in the middle of the night if I’m going through a crisis and coming over to my house to sit with me. Those kinds of interactions are very few and far between and my expectations of those are really low. Even a very good friend not doing that for me wouldn’t really ding my view of our relationship, just because my expectation is that that’s unusual.

From your question you’re looking for something in between that: a sympathetic ear, where a friend listens to some problems and makes you feel better and less lonely (even if by refraining from telling you to “suck it up”). If one of your friends only does this in 1 out of every 10 times you see or talk to them, does that flunk your expectation of what a good friend is? Is your expectation that a good friend does this 50% of the time? 100%?

Clarifying that for yourself, and then spending some time considering whether your expectation makes sense in reality (given that all people have their own problems, their families’ problems, their work problems, their other friends’ problems, etc) might help address whether some of your unhappiness is coming from a mismatch of expectations.
posted by sallybrown at 2:52 PM on January 7, 2020 [8 favorites]

I am wondering if what you experience here in this question flow, and what you experience trying to date, and what you experience trying to find a therapist isn't all related.

It's common to deeply crave intimacy but simultaneously block it because if we risk letting it in, then.... (Fill in the blank).

You want connection, but aren't really opening up to allow connection to happen. You want things to be different but immediately have reasons that solutions cannot work for you.

So I guess you are SOL? I mean if common solutions cannot help then there's no alternative but to accept being lonely and miserable and feeling chronically misunderstood, eh? Is that what you want? Probably not, right?

What do you get by saying "no" and saying "yes, but"? What would have to change for you to be able to say "yes, and"?

I would recommend that you maybe journal a bit about intimacy. There's probably some great journal prompts floating around since emotional intimacy is so commonly craved and sabotaged by so many humans.

I've been where you are, by the way. I'm not judging it. It took a lot of personal work to recognize how I was sabotaging the thing that I wanted so badly with very subtle distancing behaviors. I still do it. But now I am also trying to center the hunger within me, and the feeding within me, rather than trying to bring that emotional hunger outside of myself. Nobody can really feed that part of me. I have to do it.

Good luck.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:15 PM on January 7, 2020 [29 favorites]

Group therapy could work for you.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:27 PM on January 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Crunchy potato what does SOL mean?
posted by EatMyHat at 3:30 PM on January 7, 2020

Shit outta luck.
posted by Alterscape at 3:32 PM on January 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some of this conversation above reminds me of a New York Times article I read and bookmarked a few weeks ago about how to turn casual friendships into stronger friendships. Some of the topics in there: what does it actually mean for a friendship to be "intimate". how to get closer by allowing yourself to be more vulnerable and real, how to gradually introduce a give-and-take dynamic of opening up more. Some of the books linked in the article might be helpful too.
* Friending by Gina Handley Schmitt
* Scary Close by Donald Miller
* Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller (a frequent MeFi recommendation)

I do get the same vibe as some of the commenters above, that you may be pushing away some of this intimacy by demanding your idea of what you think intimacy looks like, instead of making it a give and take where you allow yourself to be vulnerable and see people as they are. The third book, Attached, might give you some ideas about that. You could also look for a therapist that specializes in Attachment Theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).
posted by matildaben at 4:28 PM on January 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

I recently learned the name of something I hadn't really heard articulated before, when reading Sue Johnson's book Hold Me Tight. She talks about how when couples fight, sometimes they get into a pattern where they each want to find the bad guy, and that bad guy is the other person. In order to protect ourselves and not be truly accountable for our own weaknesses and mistakes, we sometimes paint the other person as the bad guy. If they're bad, that means we're good. This struck a nerve because I've had a tendency to do this in some interpersonal relationships, and it can be a poor coping mechanism that doesn't help me get closer to the person. It can be quite destructive.

In this post, your existing friends and five therapists are the bad guys who aren't giving you what you want and need. You also called out Amy93 (who gave a thoughtful, reasonable, insightful reply drawing from her own experiences and did not seem to have a nerve pushed on my read). In a past post, your supervisor was the bad guy for going to a conference in a few months. Your boss before that was a jerk and your supervisors didn't recognize your contributions. Your mom was a bad guy for asking about your nose, and your dad for not shutting her down.

I'm not saying that these people are always good, and that you are the bad guy. But there may be some cognitive distortions at play here, with black and white thinking.

This is something that can be worked on in therapy... but the therapist can't be the bad guy all the time either. I think it's time to start working hard on being less sensitive to and more open to constructive criticism because so many of these issues seem related to challenges are you having in interpersonal interactions. I think the very best thing you can do is work with an excellent therapist and stick it out.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2020 [37 favorites]

Does "intimate" mean "physically intimate"? If not: Unitarian churches have small groups that meet weekly for a set period of time (e.g. several months). They can be based on reading certain books, or discussing certain topics, or for companionship. You don't have to be religious to go to them. You'd probably meet older, whiter people there, and I don't know if that floats your boat, but when I tried it I liked the people I met and had an interesting time, met a variety of people, and I remain casual friends with some of the people from them years later.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2020

I'm on deadline here, so I can't write as concisely as I'd like, but:

A saying that might be really helpful to consider is that people are only as needy as their unmet needs. I bring this up because I believe that you are doing the best you can, but that it might be far from the best you'd like to do in large part because you don't have a lot of the resources you need to get a rather reasonable set of socioemotional needs met.

I've commented in some people's Asks that it can be extremely difficult and unrewarding to date when your support network is otherwise very far from meeting your needs. I don't really believe that people can or should aim for perfection before they put themselves out there, but I think it's important to be at a place where you have outlets other than Brand New Sexy Person to address your unmet socioemotional needs. An exception to this might be if you're just looking for an FWB and are sure you won't catch feelings. You said that's not your goal, so instead let's talk about other ways to be less lonely!

You mentioned that people don't really come to you for support much because they have their spouses to go to. That is challenging, because a big part of feeling secure in our relationships comes from being able to do things for others. That said, what are you giving back in those relationships?

This is challenging, but something I found really helpful has been to rethink what sorts of needs I need to get met through my relationships (platonic or otherwise). Long story short, I was mostly seeking sounding boards for minor frustrations and heavier stuff rather than looking to get my need for fun with other people met. Fun might seem like a strange thing for a 30-something to prioritize, but people want to feel good about spending time with each other, and a relationship that's mostly built on mutual venting isn't sustainable even if it helps both parties feel heard. I've learned the hard way that fun, rather than trauma or mere proximity, is a really good foundation for building friendships that become deeper.

An answer upthread talks about learning to enjoy your own company, but something that's equally important is getting into situations where other people can enjoy your company. Having positive social interactions with people who seek out your company feels good, even if you don't get the opportunity to pour your heart out. Making friends with yourself is important but doesn't necessarily teach or help you to be a good friend to others if you don't have a well-calibrated sense of social give-and-take.

Now I'm just going to be a lot more blunt: it's difficult to get past the acquaintance/sort-of-friend stage if you haven't demonstrated that you can be with people without requiring too much emotional labour of them out of nowhere. Healthy emotional intimacy is a thing you might get to with someone after you've built up some goodwill and shared experiences together. And building that goodwill is where interpersonal skills come into play.

This does mean, though, that while trying to become less lonely you're still going to feel plenty lonely for a while, because you may not have people who are (yet?) appropriate or available outlets for you. In the meanwhile, this is where journalling comes in, if you don't want to do therapy. That said, therapy can be really helpful if a component of your problems is struggling with socially appropriate ways to maintain your boundaries when you do open up to others.
posted by blerghamot at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2020 [15 favorites]

You mention that you’re not an animal person - that said, would you be open to fostering a small dog? I’m naturally pretty friendly and outgoing, but getting a dog brought my social game to a whole new level. My sweet (giant) doggo has provided me with emotional support I didn’t even know I needed. He needs walks, which makes me exercise. He gives me a hilarious topic of conversation (friends, family, and my students always ask about him). I’m now part of a monthly neighborhood group because someone stopped in their car to ask about him and she and I struck up a friendship. I have “dog park mom friends” that I get together with so our pup kids can play (I know, it’s truly wild).

If you would have asked me two years ago if I would be a person with just as many photos on my phone of my dog as my child, I would not have believed you. The thing is: my pup is just a way to connect ... conversation about him allows me to engage with others about their past/current pets - we begin to learn about each other in simple ways that slowly build to something deeper. Or not! Maybe we are just two people who talk about our dogs, that’s okay too!

I bring up the idea of a pet only because I know what it is to want someone to care for you deeply. The deep irony is that we often only find this kind of relationship when we know how to care deeply for ourselves and others first. A pet can be a really lovely way to start this journey.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 4:31 PM on January 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

I hesitate to answer your questions because I don't feel that you take the answers in, and because you've asked so many that boil down to "someone has said something to me that made me feel bad for a few minutes, how do I make that stop" or "I want something to work out for me but don't give me any advice on being patient or paying my dues."

Still, this stayed on my mind so here's what I think of reading your question.

First, it's harder to make a great, best, intimate friend than to find a partner, because a) there isn't an entire society support structure like dating set up for it as a road map and b) most people have kind of X time/energy for developing friendships, and they have multiple friends, so unlike dating where if you both fall in love you might see each other every day or two, most people can't invest that in a single friend, and since intimacy is developed over time through shared experience/thoughts/etc., it just plain takes longer. So I would set a 1-3 year timeframe in your mind to develop this kind of relationship.

I also think it's very human to have needs and to make relationships in that context, for sure. But friends are not a consolation prize for a lack of a relationship. Make friends to make friends. Date to date. Sometimes there are friends that become chosen family, for sure, but again this takes years, generally.

Second though, the idea that any relationship is going to meet the needs - most of your list isn't anything like a need by the way, it's an expected behaviour from someone else - you listed is wrong. A great intimate relationship is where someone both supports you and tells you when you're full of shit. And regardless of the strength of your relationships, at the end of the day you need to have coping skills.

People do sometimes help us cope with stuff...but they always, always introduce things we need to cope with, as well.

I think one central theme in your questions might relate to Theory of Mind. I think this would be useful to explore if your goal is better relationships.

If your goal is just to have someone in your life that does what you want and picks up the phone when you feel bad, I honestly think this is probably something you can pay for. You could look for a life coach whose approach is in line with this, or there might be a kind of personal assistant role that would work.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:14 AM on January 9, 2020 [13 favorites]

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