Dating Failure
July 20, 2021 4:33 PM   Subscribe

I need to find a way to come to terms with never finding a life partner in the face of all my contacts being married, having kids, and enjoying having someone to share life with.

I'm 33 (female, straight) and have only had one serious relationship (probably 8-10 years ago. Also he's dead so nothing to do about that).

I've tried dating apps in the past but get depressed and de-activate them quickly. This summer I decided to put forth more effort, really dedicate some time to it, and stick with it longer. I mostly use OK Cupid because it's used more in my area than match or coffee and bagel (also tried Hinge but literally couldn't find anyone from my locale and tinder is pretty rough for me since I would not have casual sex under any circumstances). I've only had 3 matches, none of which have ever lead to dates. I try to be very liberal with the likes, and spend time on it every day.

I put a lot of effort into actually using good pictures, writing a decent profile (which honestly feels like a waste of time since 90% of profiles I get have a single sentence or less), but I'm black, overweight, slightly weird, introverted and ugly so it just is not going well for me. Which is the whole reason why I have struggled to use dating apps in the past because it's very difficult to directly confront the fact that no one is ever going to be attracted to you.

Other things I've tried that I'm sure people will suggest:
-meet up (not really used here, I can only find hiking and cycling groups)
-volunteering (I'm looking into it but transportation makes this harder since I need it to align with bus schedules)
-work my network (I'm an introvert with very few friends)
-just don't care (I try but pretty hard)
-meet people at mutual activities (I'm not athletic at all, and most of my hobbies are more do-by-yourself but I'm still exploring local options here)
-meet people at work (I have work friends but don't know of any men who are single there)
-pets (I have those. Not the same as human companionship)
-moving (I have a great, fulfilling jobs and otherwise enjoy my community)

It's really hard seeing everyone get married, have kids, go on family vacations, have a life with someone. Every time I see "post a picture of your first date with your partner" or something, I just want to cry (and sometimes do) that I can't have these things that all other human beings do.

I need to find a way to not let this stuff bother me so much, and the traditional path of it'll happen when you least expect it has never panned out for me, so I can't keep living assuming it'll happen. I need to reframe it, and I'm not sure how to do that when I'm not a spring chicken anymore.
posted by Aranquis to Human Relations (51 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I need to reframe it, and I'm not sure how to do that when I'm not a spring chicken anymore.

You are thirty-three. I don't at all want to discount your struggles and your frustrations, but you have loads of time. Honest! People in the dating pool who diverge meaningfully from local societal norms need to have either luck or patience, but the odds that, if you continue to remain open to romance, you won't meet anyone, at all, for even a solid medium-term relationship in the next forty to fifty years are really quite slim!

it's very difficult to directly confront the fact that no one is ever going to be attracted to you.

This kind of catastrophic thinking sounds like depression talking to me, honestly. I know it's hard. Internet dating can do a real number on your head. But today is not every day of the rest of your life.
posted by praemunire at 5:00 PM on July 20, 2021 [39 favorites]

I think therapy would be a great place to start. You have some ideas that seem pretty limiting and I sense you could use some coaching about reframing some of these contexts. But also therapy is a great way to work through something that's bothering you, so you can use it as a two-pronged approach.

It does seem like it's possible that you have a cultural or environmental background that makes you think you're old and washed up at 33, but you and your same-age peers are likely in for a surprising few years that will see a number of them back on the market with you. You may very well end up being glad you skipped that first round and waited for the second wave when everyone's a little older and wiser.

Also this is a terrible year to date! There's a lot of stuff going on. And you're only about 10 years into adulthood with probably 40+ to go, so don't be so hard on yourself. Find someone to help you think through this stuff more, I think it will put you in a better place mentally and philosophically.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:09 PM on July 20, 2021 [13 favorites]

>tinder is pretty rough for me since I would not have casual sex under any circumstances

I've used Tinder off and on and Tinder's like everything in life... the best and the worst. But A LOT of people (both male and female) use Tinder for dating, not one-night stand hookups. It's not just casual sex, so you might want to give it a try.

Also, respectfully (as an old bird) you are most definitely still a spring chicken. NB: I am *all about* about being at peace with where you are. But none of us can (or should try to) predict the future. Be well!
posted by cyndigo at 5:09 PM on July 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

Side note about OKCupid's interface--I know they've moved towards being more of a Tinder-esque swipe app that emphasizes getting matches via swiping, but you *can* just write to people you see that you really like and then you'll show up in their recommended queue. (Doing that also meshes with some dating wisdom about focusing less on whether someone might like you and more on whether you like them/whether they have the qualities you're looking for.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Maybe one way to think about it is this. You sound pretty down on yourself so your self-assessment probably isn't super accurate, but just for the sake of argument, say it is. You're an ugly weirdo. So what? Unless you're literally the ugliest, weirdest person on the planet, there's probably at least one other ugly weirdo out there who would be psyched to go on a date with you.

Now, your job is to track down and find this person: the one person on the planet who is as ugly and weird as you. You could look on dating apps, but the thing is, ugly weirdos hate dating apps, because they're shitty for your self esteem, and you have to swipe through at least 500 boring basics before you get to the handful of weirdos on there, so if you burned out on it, it's likely that other ugly weirdo did too. Don't look there. Should you go hiking? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Well, maybe, but if you hate hiking and volunteering at soup kitchens, but are just forcing yourself to do it so you can meet that other weirdo, what do you think the odds are that you're both going to be dragging your butts to the soup kitchen to complete this grueling ordeal on the exact same day? You could keep forcing yourselves different meetup groups and volunteering events for years, and just keep missing each other! It might happen, but it's very ineffective.

Now, instead, pause. Ask yourself: if I were an ugly weirdo, where would I be? Well, you know one where one ugly weirdo is right now - posting long soul-searching questions on an obscure outdated text-based website. Hmmmm, interesting. Metafilter doesn't have a dating branch, but you're already in an area with a higher density of ugly weirdos (heyyyyyy) than freakin' coffee meets bagel, or whatever. Maybe there's a Metafilter meetup you could go to. Or maybe not! There might not be single men at work - but if you generally get along with people at work, and have a lot in common with them, then there are probably some weirdos among them, and their friend circles have a higher likelihood of having single ugly weirdos in them! If you're feeling energetic, invite some people over to play board games. Or just ask one of them if they know any other ugly weirdos you might get along with. It never hurts to try!

I hope I didn't make you feel bad by using the term "ugly weirdo" but I hope you get what I'm saying: swap in, INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL PERSON and everything applies just the same. That thing that makes you feel depressed, how most people you know manage to couple up eventually? That includes ugly weirdos. Most people are ugly weirdos! It's not a numbers game, and it's not a beauty contest. That's something capitalism sells you to make you feel bad about yourself. There's someone out there for whom you are absolutely perfect, and that's the only person you should be bothering to try and find.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 5:15 PM on July 20, 2021 [72 favorites]

Female friend of mine got married at 48, met the guy about 18 months prior. They’re very happy. She’d never had a serious relationship before then. You have time. You have time.
posted by kerf at 5:16 PM on July 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

I just want to second Merricat Blackwood. Their answer is really well put and matches up with my experience of life as an INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL PERSON. It took a long time of striking out at dating to find my wife (we met at about your age). We're both interesting and unusual people who thought we were not date-able until we met each other and realized we are compatibly unusual.

Agree that therapy might help, if you have access. The good news is that everyone's doing teletherapy so it's easier to try out therapists without lots of commuting around.
posted by Alterscape at 5:25 PM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

So, you're very young still and there is literally So Much Time to meet a life partner. Quite honestly, being older when you do so is an advantage in many ways, because people tend to get less stupid and also know themselves and what they want better. Many of your peers that are posting family pics on Facebook or whatever will likely be divorced in 15 years, so that's something to keep in mind also....

I can empathize with being on a life path that diverges from your peers. That can be really challenging and it's difficult to see other people achieving "milestones" that you also want to achieve. My advice would be to work on re-framing your perspective but also being open to meeting people, in your day to day life and hobbies/activities (and sure on apps if you want though I concur they are a hellscape).

For re-framing your perspective, I would sit down and think about what value you think a partner would bring to your life- and then think of other ways to add that value. Some of the things you mention in your post don't really require a life partner to do. If you want to do a fun vacation, why not with friends? Or other family members? For many people, close friends fill as many (or even more) needs as their romantic partner does. Maybe focusing on cultivating other relationships more would be good. Maybe you already have strong relationships but have a person or two that you want to get even closer with, where you sometimes cook dinners together, travel together, etc.

Regarding kids.... do you actually want kids? Like actually know what parenting is like and really want them, for Reasons, not just expect to have them because it's what people are doing? If you do want kids, that doesn't require a life partner either although it can be easier with one. If this is your goal, you can work towards it by looking at your options and what you'd need (financially and career-wise, e.g.) to make it work.

I guess my last piece of advice would be to broaden your horizons and appreciate the freedom that you have right now, without a partner or kids. You are possibly the most free right now you will ever be to travel, experience new things, start a new career, pursue your hobbies, decorate your place however you want, eat whatever and whenever you want, etc. Enjoy this freedom! Work on building your life without focusing on finding a partner as a goal. Focus on what makes you happy/brings you challenge and growth and fulfillment, not what you think you should have. Then regardless of whether someone comes along who you want to share that with, you have a life you are happy with.
posted by DTMFA at 5:36 PM on July 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

I never thought that anyone would find me attractive or interesting. But it happened! And I was over fifty when it finally happened. I was an old, shaggy dog at that point.

Most of my friends had all been long married. Or divorced. Had kids or even grandchildren. And, yeah. Seeing them go through all of the milestones expected by social expectations was tough.

But I just stayed true to myself. And now I'm happier than most of my friends who married/joined earlier.

We're not having kids, but my partner had some already. I wasn't looking for that. But I might be a grandfather come December!

I have zero experience with dating apps and have no advice for you there.

Always forward. Never backwards.

There's so much time for things to happen!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:37 PM on July 20, 2021 [22 favorites]

Apart from anything else, you don't, and can't, know how all the people you're describing feel about their relationships---it's a natural fallacy to see other people partnered and equate that with their happiness. What you're seeing is their presentation of themselves to the world, and that might reflect their interior feelings or it might not. For everyone like you there's someone in a relationship wondering, would I be happier single?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:40 PM on July 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Instead of being liberal with the dating app likes, what if you were picky? Only like the ones that have something specific to you going on with them. You will probably have to sort through a bunch of pleasant but meh profiles to find a fellow weirdo you can vibe with. If you are in a less populous area, that will take even longer.

I met my parter on tinder because that was the most commonly used dating app in my city, so that's what I went with. It can be a hook up app if you want, but it doesn't have to be (see above re: being picky).

It absolutely fucking sucks that when dating apps analyze their data, black women are consistently neglected. I'm sorry you have to deal with that.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:44 PM on July 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

I'm not going to go into the "you have time!" and "you'll meet someone thing" or tell you about people who fell in love at 87 because while all of that is definitely true, it doesn't always feel great.

What I will say is: Ride your horse in the direction it's going. That doesn't mean stop looking for love, if that's what you want. But it does mean that this is where your path is going right now, and one path is not inherently better than the other, no matter what both western and eastern societies have shoved down women's throats for millennia.

The fact is, there are so many single, childless human beings out there living such fantastic lives--whether that means traveling like crazy, or learning to ski at 50, or living in a cottage with beloved animals and staying in reading most nights. We don't talk about these people--especially the women--because the world is terrified of women who might want or might do things that we aren't expecting, and they also don't know what to do with women who got a crappy deal with the whole marriage/kids things but just kept trucking long, finding joy in other places in their lives because HOW DARE THEY??

So, do you have to stop looking for love? No. And I truly hope you find it because it sounds like it's something you want. But I also hope you allow yourself to take a break and, with the same effort you've put toward finding love, explore where your angst is coming from (and, just so you know, it's through no fault of your own) and also start to explore what incredible freedom and power you actually have right now, and what your life could look like.

Last thing I'll say: those childless and unpartnered human beings who likely went through/are going through some amount of mourning and pain that their lives don't currently look like what society told them it should, but who continue on, pursue their interests, seek joy, remain curious about the world, are good friends/children/siblings/aunt-uncles/colleagues/pet owners/neighbors/members of their community? I think they're brave as shit.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 6:00 PM on July 20, 2021 [77 favorites]

From a previous Ask, I see that you have a dog. A friendly and happy looking dog makes it a lot easier to talk to strangers in addition to other dog owners. Do you have a friend that would drive you all to a nearby dog park?

Do you feel safe when you walk in your neighborhood? If you have friendly looking neighbors, they may start saying hi to you when you walk your dog. This may help you expand your network and they may mention a friend of a friend that is single and looking.

If your dog doesn't get along with other dogs, the dog park suggestion won't work but the dog-wingman approach could still be successful (if you feel safe walking in your neighborhood.)

For the meetup groups and volunteering, a friend with a car could help you get around those restrictions. Or nth the suggestions about taking Lyft/Uber.
posted by mundo at 6:01 PM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm gonna take a different tack from a lot of the answers so far. I'm a bit older than you, but in a similar situation. Frankly, hearing things like "you're so young! You'll meet someone!" is pretty unhelpful, even if it's true, because it reinforces a cultural norm that the only worthwhile existence, especially for women, is a partnered one. (And especially if you come from a culture where women tend to marry by 25 and have three babies by 35. It's hard not to feel like the odd one out.)

To be clear : it's ok to want to be partnered; but there is also a lot of joy in not having to deal with someone else's shit.

Over the last few years, I've really had to come to terms with the possibility that I'm going to be single forever. And you know what, that's been so freeing. No arguing over what to watch on netflix. No dealing with someone else's bathroom grossness. My fridge is full of the stuff I like. I just bought tickets for a weekend in san antonio and didn't have to check with anyone. My married friends are constantly juggling multiple schedules (esp the wives) and very few seem to have/make time for solo activities or friends. Whereas I intend to become Diane Keaton, not... that lady in "A Jury of her Peers."

Biggest downside is that I hate mowing the lawn, so now I pay a lawn service. I feel kinda bougie about that, but it's cheaper than getting married. I don't want kids, and it's also a lot easier not to be married than to be married and have to explain to all the aunties why you are childfree.

Like you, I had little success with dating apps and haven't used them for over a decade. I found them really depressing and harmful to my self esteem. There are times I really still miss my ex, whom I met in college, but not enough to want to go through all that again. It did take some conscious effort reframing my goals (the Diane Keaton role model helped) and stepping off the degree-marriage-babies treadmill that most of my peers are on.
posted by basalganglia at 6:02 PM on July 20, 2021 [45 favorites]

That is rough and especially so this past year. I would agree that you have a lot of time still. I met my husband when I was 35 and he was 46. He had actually used a matchmaker and had gone on 50 or so dates before we met.We were set up by a mutual friend who had known him for 15 years or so and knew me from work and our neighborhood.She had seen me walking my dog and called me up to ask me if I wanted to be set up on a blind date. Reader, I married him 8 years ago.Best thing I've ever done. All that to say, you are not done! It sucks to see your peers doing all that milestone crap, but really what does that all mean? There are a lot of INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL PEOPLE (can we get T shirts please?) doing all kinds of cool stuff that doesn't fit in a standard size box. What do you like to do? Not what people say you should do to meet people- stuff you really like to do. Your weirdo is out there.
posted by bookrach at 6:06 PM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

After I left a marriage I shouldn't have entered, and my children were grown, I felt much of what you did (tho of course, I had had children). I was over 40, fat and ugly (I saw some people on a dating site saying that people with lazy eyes should admit that before putting people through the horror of meeting them). Finally, I decided to be my own partner. I can't drive but I could travel. I hated gyms but I learned to love walking and taking pictures of things. I had my living space just perfect for me. I still yearned for the security and affection of a partner, but I didn't need it. I went to restaurants by myself, and galleries and museums and I appreciated not having to wait for anyone, or clean up their mess or socialise with friends. I took on projects that made me better at my job and resulted in better pay. I went on tour trips with strangers and gave them as little or as much attention as I felt like. I went to music festivals alone. It ended the my feeling of being invisible was also a sort of super-power - I could walk through the world observing (there are a lot of unhappy couples out there, and there's a lot of imbalance or inequity in relationships, and they stay for the fear of being alone, when being alone can be so freeing).

I'm not saying you should give up, but I think you should make yourself first priority. Grab some self help books from the library about embracing you as you are, and building a satisfying life for one.

I think I asked a similar question some years ago. I'll go look for it and post it here if I find it.
posted by b33j at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2021 [23 favorites]

Here it is: Reconcile me to singledom
posted by b33j at 6:26 PM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I agree that life is long but I think you're right to work on getting comfortable with being single. A lot of finding someone is just straight-up random luck - you can do everything right and still not find your person.

I'm a long-term single woman a few years older than you, and I find it most helpful to find things I want and go after them - being accountable to no one is awesome a lot of the time. Go ahead and get yourself a decent set of dishes, if you haven't! Also put some time into figuring out social supports to serve some of the functions of a partner - friends to go on vacations with, who have an extra key if you get locked out, who are good at things you aren't - and of course share your skills and talents with them as well. Financial planning so that you can afford to buy your way out of things like lawn-mowing or airport rides or home nursing is a good thing to consider, too. Do the things that you would do if you would be single forever - most of this stuff you'll still be happy to have in place even if you do get boo-ed up at some point.

I also find it helpful to know couples well enough to know that being married is difficult. Most couples have been through a period where they thought they might break up / get divorced, even if they stuck it out, and a lot of folks at least go through periods of being ambivalent about sticking it out. Being coupled isn't another country where everything is wonderful, it's another lifestyle with its own challenges and limits. Avoid social media if you're struggling with seeing happy couples - you're seeing their outsides and comparing them to your insides.
posted by momus_window at 6:29 PM on July 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

I also find Tinder incredibly demoralizing. You're definitely not alone in feeling that way. The people on all the Apps can vary from city to city, but in the new city I moved to, it felt like that people on Tinder rarely wrote anything in their profiles, or if they did write something, it was a brief mention about their love of the local NFL team. I'm incredibly nerdy and I live for goofy humor. One sentence about the local football team is simply not going to cut it for me.

It's okay to take breaks from Online Dating or ditch the Apps entirely. I've been single forever and I regularly delete the Apps and take long breaks. I think the mindset of happily accepting my singledom has been freeing. Meeting people in real life or online is just an opportunity for me to meet cool people. Doesn't have to be more than that. If for some reason I find someone, that would be a bonus.
posted by mundo at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2021


I'm going to say that I think you're actually a large part of the way to your goal. You've said out loud (well, in pixels) that this could well be how things play out. I hear you; I've been telling myself the same thing for a few years now.

I think that is acceptance, the lion's share of it at least.

What's next, and I'm pretty close to where you are with respect to it (despite being quite a few years older than you), is figuring out the answer to "What now?"

May take a while. We'll get there, though.
posted by humbug at 7:02 PM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

When I was newly single in my mid-30s, and not sure I ever wanted to be or would be married or have children, I started strengthening and seeking out friendships with older, firmly single women. Do you have women like that in your circle now? I drew so so much inspiration and strength and hope from them, and I still do today, years later. I saw what an unpartnered life would look like, how to help keep the loneliness at bay, how to have a full life and be sophisticated and loving and wise. It reshaped what a single life as a woman would look like. I also stopped using social media, as the pictures of couples and reminders of more traditional lives could be painful. Instead I sought books of women living alone and being brave and wonderful. I was retraining my brain to consider other options, teaching myself that I could be okay on my own, and learning from the most wonderful mentors. One day I may even be such a mentor myself.

Where do such women exist? A lot of them are at animal shelters and rescues, volunteering; or taking classes in art; or in bookstores and libraries. Some are in academia, I’ve met a few at botanic gardens, I think yarn and fabric stores are another natural habitat. You might know some such women already, and they probably know others, too. Soon you might get a sort of sense of it when you meet other kindred spirits - women who have forged other paths and found happiness and light.
posted by umwhat at 7:04 PM on July 20, 2021 [25 favorites]

Frankly, hearing things like "you're so young! You'll meet someone!" is pretty unhelpful, even if it's true, because it reinforces a cultural norm that the only worthwhile existence, especially for women, is a partnered one.

I'm not partnered and I certainly don't believe that, but I also believe that some people are happier with a good partner than they would be alone, and we have to defer to their judgment on that. I'm quite happy on my own at this point, but it's not for everyone and I'm not going to tell someone who's grieving what they perceive as their failure at finding a partner that that's not really what they want, anyway. Either that truth comes to you in your own time or it doesn't.
posted by praemunire at 7:04 PM on July 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

I met my partner at a MeFi meetup when I was 39, but I agree, it's a pain and I am not trying to diminish your feelings. I will say that early 30s can be a hard time specifically for cishet people (I can't speak to people with other backgrounds) because people are many times in their first marriages and there hasn't been the initial shakeouts where people become single again which seems like a late-30s early 40s time as Lyn Never says. And a lot of those people may stay single so there is just more company, if not also maybe dating prospects.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on July 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don’t know if children are something you want, but just know that you can be a single mother by choice, there are lots of options. Many amazing, unique women I know went that route and many went on to have more than one kid. Lack of a partner does not necessarily mean you can’t build a family.
posted by asimplemouse at 7:08 PM on July 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, I feel you. I started therapy at age 34 because I wanted to be cool with dating or not dating... and my (awesome, younger than me, sassy black therapist) immediately saw through my "I just want to be cool with being single" line, because she was right that I, like most of us, wanted to be loved.

Therapy didn't find me my person, although it did help me get to a better place where I was more sure I deserved good love, a good job, a good life. And I'm Very sure you deserve those things, too (I am fat and not conventionally pretty, and know those things will mess with your self-confidence, for sure!). The right therapist can help you be more cool with who you are - which turned out to be a huge step in helping me get out of my own way.
posted by ldthomps at 7:27 PM on July 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

There are some demographic and contextual elements to dating as a cishet Black woman that are, at least within the United States and North America, somewhat unique to Black women. I'm hesitant to answer this question without a nod to this, OP, without making too many assumptions about your background.

Depending on social location and what part of the diaspora one's from, we also get slightly different normative influences about partnering up and single parenting than what might be more common among middle-class folks of other backgrounds. Even some of the prevailing life-course assumptions about one's dating pool opening back up in the late 30s-early 40s is complicated by racial differences in marriage patterns as well as who the OP tends to date. I'm not anyone's magical...annotated bibliographer, but suffice it to say that this goes far beyond the dating app issue, and I'm not sure that those can be fully ignored here. None of this is to say that Black women have a more difficult time than anyone else, but we do have a different one.

While a lot of the answers here are really great, you may find it helpful to seek out WOC-centric spaces where certain aspects of our experience are discussed more candidly, as well as finding a therapist who is also a WOC.
posted by blerghamot at 8:11 PM on July 20, 2021 [20 favorites]

This is genuinely hard! Dating is a kick in the sternum, it gets harder as you get older, and it gets MUCH harder as you get further from norms of conventional beauty or local habit (sounds like you're an indoorsy person in a sporty/outdoorsy area, on top of coping with the narrow, fatphobic, racist beauty standards imposed on all women in the U.S. where I think you are). I think the chances are very good that "I'll never find a partner" and especially "no one will ever find me attractive again" are overstatements—as others have said, you're pretty young and there are more weirdos out there than you think who are looking for exactly the weirdo you are. But also, maybe they're not! Us weirdos do have a slightly smaller pool to choose from, and all love has a heavy dose of luck, and there's certainly the chance that you'll be unlucky. So I think you're asking the right question: not "what do I do differently to find a partner," but "what do I do differently to feel okay about not having one?" I don't think it's the question you're really asking in your heart, but I think it's a good one! If you're stuck envisioning one possible acceptable version of a "good life"—a partnered life—and that one hasn't come about and you can't figure out a way to make it come about, then of course you're going to feel perpetually disappointed and let down. But there are lots of good lives. You're not failing, you just haven't achieved this ONE thing.

Therapy has been covered so let me put in a good word for really spending some time contemplating the worst-case scenario. Here's the picture I get of your single life: you have a community you value, the number of friends you want, a home life with your pets, work you enjoy with people you like, hobbies you enjoy on your own. What if that were the picture of your life going forward? Would that be so bad? Are there connections you could strengthen or new things you could learn to keep building this, frankly, very rich-sounding life? Go further: What does the version of you who's a weird old single lady look like? What does she love about having her space and her solitude? How many pets does she have? How does she dress and decorate her home? What does she do with her time? Is there a way to envision her as someone you're proud of being, someone you enjoy being?

On your way to becoming her, I think it's very likely you'll meet someone. The world is full of people. (All those partners of your friends: do they have friends?) But in terms of relieving your current pain and avoiding bitterness, it might be worth thinking about all the ways that being an introverted weirdo (with a strong community, who is not actually alone) can in fact be deeply rewarding.
posted by babelfish at 8:14 PM on July 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

As a likely-to-be-forever-single woman in her 50s, who was having the same thoughts as you at your age, I have three things to tell you.

THING ONE: You never know when or how you might meet someone.

At 34 I had just been unglamorously dumped by a jackass whom I'd met on a dating app. I bumbled along for a while, then moved to a new neighborhood in my city - and on a night when I decided to just "what the hell, lemme go check out that bar and have a cider" a random dude who lived two blocks over from me picked me up. I only mention that because THAT dude is the one who just as unexpectedly introduced me to T about 9 months later - and T is the guy who was very likely the love of my life.

THING TWO: Even if you do meet someone, you never know what might happen.

I am 100% certain T was the love of my life - and you will notice that the operative word there is "was". Because he also had some internal shit going on with himself that kept him from really digging in with being a good long-term partner - and instead of doing that, he dumped me and started over again with someone else, because he didn't have the strength to fix himself. (I saw in later retrospect that it was a habit of his.)

Fortunately, that relationship had such a powerful impact on me that I was forever stronger as a result. Getting over him still SUCKED, but I was forever changed for the better.

THING THREE: You never know the reason why you were supposed to meet someone.

After the Love Of My Life dumped me, I went on to meet two other lovely guys - one of whom was just going to be a fling but is now a good friend (we went on a couple dates and then realized "you know what, I think we're supposed to be doing something else"), and the friendship has been the bigger boon. BEFORE I even moved to Brooklyn, I had another short-but-intense dating relationship with a guy who dumped me - and then literally the next day asked if I wanted to join his theater company, and I said yes and we then spent 10 years working together and that went SO much better, and he now feels so much like a brother that thinking about the fact that we ever even kissed feels super weird.

Go on. Live your life. You will meet the people you're supposed to meet, and they may impact your life in one way and they may impact it in another, but HOW they impact your life is not as important as the fact THAT they do. Embrace all of it, because it - and they - are all part of your coming life.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 PM on July 20, 2021 [18 favorites]

I personally think "all my friends have partnered up and so should I" is a horrible FOMO reason to find a life partner. I also sense a slight bit of self-deprecation by calling yourself "ugly" and in your thirties and says things like "no one will ever be attracted to [me]you". You're just a bit of a non-conformist. You have to remember, Beyonce is 39 (and Jay-Z is 51), Nicki Minaj is 38, and J-Lo is 51! Age is not a factor in finding love (this is as of July 2021).

There is also a bit of defining what you're looking for. I seriously doubt there's NO ONE for you. HOWEVER, if you date with a defeatist attitude, it's very likely your words will somehow reflect your own attitude toward dating.

I also think the psychological state you're in is coming across in your profile somehow. But as I haven't read it, and now I already knew your story, it'd be a bit hard for me to keep the two separate.

I would recommend you pause all your dating activities for a while, and just ENJOY yourself. Get something from your local Good Vibrations Store and learn some self-care. Do things you enjoy alone and turn off all that couples-talk for a few weeks, so you stop feeling all that FOMO. In the meanwhile, keep an open mind. Sometimes, love can hit from the most unusual angle, and instead of telling yourself "no way he likes me", think more like "what do I have to lose?" Just be receptive to the idea when it happens.

And good luck.
posted by kschang at 8:58 PM on July 20, 2021

I'm not going to tell someone who's grieving what they perceive as their failure at finding a partner that that's not really what they want, anyway.

That's not what I said.

What I said:
To be clear : it's ok to want to be partnered; but there is also a lot of joy in not having to deal with someone else's shit.

That last part doesn't get acknowledged enough, in my experience. And when you are single (whether you actively want to be, actively don't want to be, or reconciled to it, as b33j put it), hearing over and over from married people that you too can be partnered if you just want it enough/put yourself out there more/be less picky is ... frustrating, to put it mildly. I mean, Helen Fielding got a highly successful book deal and three Hollywood movies because 25 years ago, she was able to articulate that frustration in the voice of an obsessional -- and very funny -- "singleton." And even that series ends with Bridget married with a baby. When there are no other counter-narratives about being happy and fulfilled as a single woman, that's what makes the perceived failure.

The first several answers to a question about how to come to terms and reframe and be happy with the cards you're playing -- not a question about improving dating prospects -- are "you're so young! you will meet someone!" Which is just a hop-skip-jump from "someday my prince will come." Eighty-four fucking years (longer, actually) and we're telling women the same damn thing. Whereas a big part of being human turns out to be coming to terms with the fact that #lifegoals, and its obnoxious cousin #relationshipgoals, are actually a very narrow way to live happily.

I think what really did it for me, in terms of dealing with the exact struggle the OP is dealing with, was moving from a larger city where I was sort of anonymously single, to a smaller town where it's conspicuous. Well-intentioned pity from my coworkers, which turned to outright envy during pandemic lockdown. This also coincided with several of my closest friends who are married started oversharing some details of their marriage, I think out of desperation, which made me realize that happy family vacations are like 1/100000th of the lives of these women. At which point I decided I had no more fucks to give about people who get lovey-dovey on social media.
posted by basalganglia at 4:38 AM on July 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

I'm not quite in your shoes because I got married and divorced young, but I've been single since I was 27, and I'm now 62. In addition to being unattractive, I have cancer that's considered incurable, so I'm feeling pretty sure I'm not going to find a partner (though it's true that you never know). So while I agree that you're still young and may find someone, it's also possible that it just won't happen, and I'm here to tell you it's possible to make peace with that.

I wish I could find this book that helped me - maybe someone else can. It was written by a woman who was appearing in the media as sort of a singles activist. It was about how US culture is tough on single people. It brought up the phrase "dying alone" and pointed out that, since partnered people don't die at the exact same time, many people will be single when they die. It also pointed out that people who have children, family, and friends are still said to "die alone," which is ridiculous. This book was also the reason I dropped my membership in a local art house theater. They have discounted memberships for couples - as if people already sharing expenses and who might both be neurosurgeons need a break. After that, every time they called me, I explained why I wouldn't be renewing. So assuming you're in the US, you live in a culture that expects people to be partnered and acts as if something is wrong with you if you're not - and that's just ridiculous and wrong.

It's been ages since I've done any online dating - but the last time I did, someone I really liked broke up with me, and I remember thinking that dating online makes finding a person seem like shopping, where instead of considering people in all their humanness, you might have a kind of checklist and expect to find someone who ticks all your boxes. It turned out to be good that this guy broke up with me – I'd been ignoring red flags – but basically, I wasn't his dream woman. And the sad truth is that men dating online are almost always looking for younger women, so it gets tougher as you get older, and right now, you'd probably be hearing from men in their 40s and 50s.

You don't mention church as a place to meet people, so I'm guessing you're not religious, but on the off chance that you are, I know a few people who have had better luck with online dating geared to people of specific religions.

But I'm now trying to figure out what kind of crazy old lady I get to be without a partner in the picture. I won't lie and say I wouldn't prefer to have someone, but I have made a good life for myself, and as several people have pointed out, I don't have to deal with someone else's shit or embarrassing jokes or thinking popcorn isn't a perfectly legitimate dinner.
posted by FencingGal at 5:20 AM on July 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

I don’t know what word there is in normal lexicon for folks like us, but folks like us exist. They try to brush it under the carpet by there not being a word, but we exist. People call us losers, as one example of a pejorative. Many of us are autistic women. We exist. All of the advice isn’t necessarily geared for us. The advice given is good, but the thing that helped me get over the despair was acknowledging WE FUCKING EXIST. Alongside misogyny and white supremacy and everything else, we get discriminated against because we are socially different. This is a THING, it is STRUCTURAL, it is EVIL, and it is NOT YOUR FAULT! Some people just get treated like shit because we are Ineffably Different. Take the time to properly feel and mourn this! Your character is not flawed, you’re being abused by bigots. That might open up a wellspring of motivation to do all the good suggestions in this thread.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 5:30 AM on July 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

Statistically, meeting someone you're compatible with on dating sites is difficult when you're not like everybody else. The lack of matches doesn't mean you're doomed, it means you're an INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL PERSON. You're not the only one in the world so if you want to meet someone, you eventually will, but it won't be under the usual and uninteresting circumstances that apply to people in the middle of the bell curve. Trying to make yourself into someone who is usual and uninteresting is a bad idea because you'll end up marrying someone only to find out you have little in common. The only 'fate' you have to reconcile your self to is that it will take longer for you to find someone than the average people you are surrounded by.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:14 AM on July 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I did eventually meet someone on OKCupid at about your age after having been single for a long time, so I'm not sure that I'm qualified to give advice. But based on my own experience and that of many other women I think the best way to adapt to a single life is to make friends, including local friends, and to pursue the things you really want to do without waiting for a partner.

I honestly think that a good circle of friends is more likely to give you a good life than a partner, even if that partner is amazing. You and one other against the world, is a lot less fulfilling than you and your gang together. And being less dependent on a single relationship and having multiple people to turn to, gives you more options when life is bad or sad as it inevitably will be.

I think one of the biggest risks in your position is putting off the things that you really want to do, because you're waiting to do them with that special someone. You miss out on living, that way. There might be some things that you're not that interested in doing alone, but for the most important things which you want all for yourself then you can find ways of doing them that don't depend on having a partner. And the right partner for you, which is the only one you want, won't be unhappy that you've done those things without them. That might mean pursuing a hobby, or buying a house, or travelling the world, or having kids or any number of things that you'd prefer to do with a partner but fundamentally want to have in your life regardless.

Learning to be happy single when you want to be partnered is difficult, and I never really managed it. But, I have found that the friends I made then and since are really important to my happiness anyway, and that for other reasons, if I hadn't pursued some experiences when I was single I wouldn't be able to do them now so I'm grateful that I did.
posted by plonkee at 6:16 AM on July 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

Oh, this is an unorthodox and somewhat silly idea that may also help - at least, it helped me, so who knows, maybe give it a whirl?

At some point, when I was still doing the online dating thing, I was having really bad luck - I'd send out messages no one ever responded to, I'd only get messages from dudes who had nothing I wanted (and it's not like I expected them to have a certain height and income, I thought basic respect and the ability to hold a conversation were low enough bars and VERY few guys were meeting them). The few dates I got were washouts. It was feeling bleak.

I don't know why I had this thought one day back then - but at one point the thought popped into my head that "that's it. When it comes to dating, I am just MASSIVELY, MASSIVELY CURSED." And when I had that thought, what I felt was.....relief. Relief that none of this was my own fault - I wasn't doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, I wasn't too tall or too fat or too brainy or too anything - I was just massively cursed. Nothing I did or didn't do would make the slightest bit of difference anyway.

And after I had that thought, the next thought was, "well, then screw it, I'mma do whatever I want because it doesn't matter anyway, so I may as well make myself happy." And that freed me up to do a whole lot of things - and, more importantly, it gave me permission to not do some things that society was subtly encouraging me to do to Find A Man. I mean, my day-to-day habits didn't change that much - I still went to museums on occasion, or out to cafes or to a kayak club or to a book club or traveling - but before I was doing all those things and keeping one eye on the crowd around me checking guys out, and now I was doing all those things because I just wanted to do them. And it was such a damn relief, and it's still the way I do things.

I will still flirt with a guy I meet along the way if an opportunity presents itself, and sometimes that's lead to adventure (there's a dude I met during a trip to Paris about whom I have some rather delightful memories), and sometimes it hasn't (I was nurturing a crush on a guy in my book club until I met his girlfriend of 9 years), but making myself happy is the focus this time, instead of "trying to meet guys". Guys are the bonus rather than the purpose. And I am way happier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on July 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

How to come to terms with possibly being alone forever: (at least how I did)

1. Think about what that might actually look like. Not like, "oh, I will be terribly lonely and depressed every moment" but like, if I had a good, fulfilling life by myself, what would it be like? Where would you live if you didnt have a partner or family to accommodate? What kinds of friendships would you create for yourself? What hobbies might you have? Imagine a full life, with ups and downs and what that might look and feel like. What are the elements of this life that seem appealing? For me, it was freedom to travel, the ability to spend lots of time with friends and on my hobbies, not having the expense of children or a large house for them, not dealing with the marital issues that seem so prevalent across the board.

2. Recognize the positive aspects of being older and on your own. It may seem like society would see that as a failure. But actually, society sees older single women as incredibly powerful, a bit scary, and deserving of respect. Those folk tales about witches didnt come out of nowhere. Think about the stories of the priestess /oracle/wise woman of the woods that people were uneasy with but nevertheless sought out in times of need. There is a lot of power in the archetype of the crone.

3. Find some role models. If you dont know any confident, older, single women personally, turn to books or movies and find a few that spark that 'I want to be her when I grow up' kind of feelings. Think about how they got to that point of confidence and happiness, how they spend their time, what kinds of relationships that have in their lives. My personal role model for this is Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. She is definitely goals for me. When you feel stuck or sad or need inspiration, think about what your role model might do or think, or how they might perceive the situation differently.

4. Start taking steps towards that life you imagined, even if it's just in little ways. Give a bit more to your friendships. Research that place you might like to live.

5.Remember that having a partner is not a magical cure-all to ones problems, and can often be the source of additional issues. So rescript your thoughts: When your heart twinges at cute coupley-stuff, remind yourself 'I'm glad I dont have to deal with the often uncomfortable couple dynamics most people do" (bc let's be honest, most relationships are um...not all that awesome once you take the pretty decorated lid off. And also fyi people in the shittiest marriages tend to talk online about how great theirs is a lot, as a coping mechanism). Remind yourself that you enjoy your freedom, or not needing to do emotional labor or housekeeping for a husband and kids. Whatever brings you out of that space of self-pity and heartache and fantasy and back to practical reality, and then to gratitude (if you can manage it, sometimes gratitude can take a while to get to).

6. (Optional) I really leaned in to the crone archetype. I started wearing long, loose dark clothing, weird statement jewelry, and a very witchy looking hat. I watched how it changed how people reacted to me. Lots more respect and deference, lots less being catcalled or told to smile. Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror or shop window, I would remind myself that being on ones own is powerful, and that I can harness that power to create a beautiful life for myself. I allowed myself to feel hopeful about it, to look forward to it. It took me about a year to really sink into all this and relax like one would into a hot pool, but I got there in the end and let me tell you, the water is fine :)
posted by ananci at 7:40 AM on July 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

Would a "sour grapes" method maybe work for you?

Right now, you probably have a very rosy mental image of your potential relationship. Imagining just the perfect moments, never the arguments, the name calling, financial hardship, health problems, annoying in-laws, etc. Or trying to extricate yourself from a relationship that slowly turned abusive. Or having to deal with a messy divorce. Or finding out about cheating. Etc, etc. Can you try to intentially imagine a not-ideal relationship scenario for you? Would that make you feel better?

You can probably imagine scenarios like these yourself, but maybe it would help to read relationship advice forums (like r/relationships or this, maybe this, or maybe even this).

Those couples you're seeing might be having a lot of issues and conflict, but still smile for the camera. And just having a partner doesn't mean everything would be great - you could go through an emotional rollercoaster and still end up in the same place you're now, only some years later.
posted by gakiko at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've lived through this, it is so hard. It did help me to question whether partnership was truly better and happier, or just different. I remember this story re-framing singlehood just destroying me: "A paired life is not an aspirational state, but a compromised one. Loneliness is not the terror we escape; it is instead the reward we give up when we believe something else to be worth the sacrifice." I started doing all the things I imagined I would do if I were partnered, but on my own or with friends. I really loved my life when I met my current (only) long-term partner at 41 and I still mourn many aspects of my long singlehood.

I also found a lot of comfort in various Ask Polly columns and Heather's book, How to be a Person in this World.
posted by mcgsa at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

I've resigned myself to never having a life partner, and have been focusing on building deeper friendships to fulfill some of the things I would like a life partner to do. It's not the SAME, but I've developed some really lovely platonic friendships that I hope to continue to grow. (I also found a casual friend-with-benefits, because that's something else that's important to me.) And while this isn't my first choice, I do look on the bright side: so much more freedom and less compromise.

Another friend of mine went the route of being willing to relocate for a partner. She searched online NATIONALLY for someone who was a good fit, and it worked, although she did have to move 1000 miles. This was easier in the days when dating sites were more search-focused rather than swipe-focused, but it may be something to consider.
posted by metasarah at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2021

Ten years ago, when I was around your age I think I said, out loud, just to myself, "I would rather be alone forever than go on ONE MORE SHITTY OKCupid date." I definitely thought it, and it was literally the truth, and I haven't been on an OKCupid date (or any internet date) since.

Now, part of this is because I did actually end up finding a partner (someone I met in person - in fact, someone who I had actually seen and dismissed on OKCupid). I fell madly in love with this guy, and a few years later we got married, and then last year he died. We were together for around 7 of the last 11 years.

I love him so much, and I miss him so much. Today something funny happened at work that I DESPERATELY want to joke about with him, to the point where I have been crying off and on all afternoon thinking about it.

But as of right now I would still rather be alone for the rest of my life than go on one more shitty OKCupid date. I loved my husband, and being partnered was nice in some ways, but it was also very constraining (I think this is probably especially true for cishet women - even though my husband was a good feminist and tried his best, we both fell into gross patterns sometimes). Being single is also really great, and I missed it while I was partnered.

That said: for both "potentially finding a partner" and "coming to terms with not having a partner" purposes I think you should give more thought to moving. Moving to some place more aligned with you and your lifestyle, where you can meet a more diverse group of people, would give you more opportunities to meet partners AND ALSO more opportunities to build a network of awesome people who never, ever post "post a picture of your first date with your partner!" memes, people who you can go on vacation with WITHOUT a bunch of kids who melt down at dinner because they went too hard at the beach all day. WE TOO EXIST!
posted by mskyle at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

A couple of thoughts, from a 36-year-old single dude who also struggles with dating:

There are upsides to being single and childless. Finding a relationship is no guarantee of lasting happiness. I've watched some of my friends get divorced in the past couple years, and it looks like a nightmare. One divorced a person who was legitimately a bad person, and had to deal with threats and lies to the people around them. Another is ending a sixteen year relationship with a decent person, and it looks like it just hurts a lot.

When you are single, you have a lot more degrees of freedom. You don't have to check in with someone about what you want to do. You can make spontaneous plans. You don't have to deal with someone messing with your stuff. I know for me, I've been living by myself for more than ten years and I really like having a place that's totally my own.

And holy shit, multiply that all times 100 for having a child around. Have you been around new parents? They are exhausted and kind of miserable all the time, even under the best of circumstances. It would be literal decades before you'd be able to just go do something without arranging for child care.

My other thought: you are probably not as ugly as your depression is telling you you are. (I know, I'm overweight and I really struggle to believe the few people who have told me I'm attractive) You live in a society _designed_ to tell you you're ugly so that they can sell you the products to "fix" you. I don't really have a solution for that, but I think it's important to at point out.

And in particular, dating apps are especially cruel to black women. If your thought is "I must be ugly because I am not getting many matches" that data is a bad sample.
posted by JDHarper at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

There is some tremendously good advice in this thread! Here are my thoughts, some of which echo/build on what's already here. (Also, similar disclaimer to blerghamot; I cannot address the additional cultural issues of being a Black woman.)

- I would absolutely recommend talking to a therapist about this. You do come off as a bit depressed, or at least suffering from very low self-esteem, and it would be valuable to work with someone to develop a more realistic and loving self-perception. But beyond that, you might need to grieve the fact that life isn't working out as you planned. This isn't to say that you won't meet someone and have kids (you have tons of time!), but maybe in your head, you'd be married with 3 kids by the age of 35, and that's not going to happen, and it SUCKS, and you should honor that feeling and truly grieve your loss. It's also really, really hard and sad to see everyone around you living the life you thought you'd have, and that's another loss to process with a professional.

- If you primarily operate in a circle of cishet, coupled people who are hitting all of society's milestones "on time," try to expand that circle. I'm 41 and have come to the conclusion that I don't particularly want a partner or kids, but I felt JUST LIKE YOU when I was in my 30s, and those feelings were really ratcheted up when I spent time with, say, high school friends who lived in the suburbs with their hubbies and 2.5 kiddos. When I spent time with more eclectic folks who were older, single, and and/or living an amazing child-free life, I didn't think about it at all. Nowadays, several of my closest friends are married with kids, but they're the non-judgmental, open-minded types who don't think it's at ALL weird that I prefer singledom, and are often actively jealous when I leave at the end of the night and they have kids to put to bed. ("I'm off to enjoy my cats and empty apartment, enjoy bedtime, suckers!") I also have a large group of friends who are mostly single and child-free. It's AWESOME -- we travel domestically and internationally, spend hours playing board games over Zoom whenever we feel like it, etc.

- My therapist always points out that if I desperately wanted to be in a relationship, I could. I would just have to massively lower my standards and settle on someone who is a bad match, which I am not willing to do. She also points out that dating is a numbers game. I completely agree that online dating is TERRIBLE, but if you are truly set on partnering up with someone who you don't actively despise, you may need to just jump in with both feet and go for sheer volume. Reply to every message, go on every date you're asked on, etc. Personally, I was not willing to go this route -- I'd rather be single than have to deal with loads of uncomfortable messages and dates. But if this is your ultimate goal, it's something to think about. (Obviously, use your best judgment when responding to/dating people who might be dangerous or unstable!)

In the last 10 years, I've transformed from someone who was OBSESSED with finding a partner to someone who is truly, genuinely content with being single. I live a very full and happy life. I'm always happy to chat with you about this topic if you'd like.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Fuck. I just wrote a long heartfelt response and something somehow happened with my phone and looks like my text was entirely eaten.

Bottom line, I share many of your dating disadvantages, and I felt this post deeply. I don't feel that the assurances that you will definitely find someone are either true or helpful. If you want to memail either to commiserate or to exchange ideas, I'd welcome it.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2021

A few commenters have mentioned how Black women have it particularly tough in online dating. I wonder if Bim Adewunmi's article on The Guardian on Black women's experiences in online dating would speak to any of your experiences.

As for how to cope with the possibility of being single forever: as a 35 years old woman, I was single with a majority of my friends married or having children, and had been feeling my worst at that time because all the social media updates of friends being coupled up made me feel isolated and less valued. While I've attended Meetups (not really much of an online dating person myself) in order to broaden my horizons and perhaps meet my significant other there, I also made meaningful friendships in friend groups filled with single people and made lots of friends in hobby groups with a majority-female (many of whom are also feminists) membership. Not only did these friend groups and hobby groups bring me joy, it also really helped me break the saturation of weddings and engagements on my social radar.

Hope my two cents helps you out!
posted by Tsukushi at 3:07 PM on July 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Online dating is notoriously tough for Black women, though if you're interested perhaps Black-specific sites might help. Meetup was a complete bust for me, dating-wise, though it was nice to do a few activities in a group.

I have done almost no traveling or even social activities with a romantic partner; I instead developed a comfort with traveling by myself and/or with the small handful friends that I thought would be fun to travel with. I also became less shy (but still with reasonable precautions!) about, say, traveling alone and meeting up with online friends who would show me around or even host me. In other words, I worked on embracing the reality that not having a family/partner didn't have to be a barrier for travel and even joy. I even did a MeFi meetup abroad once! But I think what's important is that you don't necessarily need a ton of friends, but if you can cultivate a few--like I'm talking 2 or 3--people to share things with, it can help.

I'm sorry if this seems like crappy advice, OP, but I personally found it helpful to reframe the idea about what "sharing my life" meant. It meant finding more people who shared my interests (several good friends came from online spaces) and also just getting more comfortable being by myself. When I was in my 20s, the thought of, saying, going to a restaurant alone would have made me sad an anxious. Now I love it (or I did before the pandemic).

Good luck, OP. I see you and I'm rooting for you.
posted by TwoStride at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Three of my extended family members found love in their mid-to-late 50s so I still have a chance.

I bought this book recently: It's Not You, 29 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single. I haven't been brave enough to read it, but the TOC looks like it covers all the bases.
posted by bendy at 9:56 PM on July 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Possibly antithetical to any of the suggestions upthread for getting out and meeting more men, but I've been reading about domestic abuse recently, and this has generally made me feel relieved that I am single. See What You Made Me Do was what I was reading.
posted by Vortisaur at 4:49 AM on July 22, 2021

A friend of mine is gorgeous and brilliant and wonderful but lives, as it seems you might, in an area where there just are not a lot of compatible partners for her. She has various family and financial obligations that keep her there, though, so she has had to find ways of coping with being single when she'd rather not be, and also confront the possibility of Never having a partner, and Never having kids (we're about 10 years older than you are, so the kids thing is very much front of mind).

One thing she does is absolutely gush about her life on Instagram every bit as much as the new brides and new babies. It is her way of saying "look, my life is FABULOUS. It's worthy. It's here, and I am building it, and start clicking that heart button, motherfuckers."

I know she still has some dark nights of the soul; it's not easy to strike the balance of trying to meet someone and somehow not caring if you do. But if peoples' shiny happy social media lives are starting to make you feel erased, maybe go on in there and start drawing yourself back into the picture.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Here are some resources that I have found helpful:

Sara Eckel's It's Not You: 27 Wrong Reasons You're Single (The author is married, but it's still a good book.)

Bella de Paulo's Singled Out

Shani Silver's essays and her podcast, A Single Serving

Shani Silver and Bella de Paulo also have Facebook groups for single people, which may also be worth checking out.
posted by Lycaste at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2021

I don’t think I can add to the advice about making peace with (nay, even finding joy in) being permanently single. But I can contribute a gentle suggestion that you can ask your friends to help set you up with guys they know who you might be compatible with. This used to be commonplace in life before online dating, and now it’s all but vanished as a cultural practice. You don’t have to talk yourself down as you ask, just tell them that you feel like you’ve hit a dead end with online dating and would appreciate if they’d shake the tree on your behalf.
posted by Sublimity at 8:47 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! I am really flabbergasted by all of these wonderful responses!

Thank you to those who suggested I give Tinder another shot - my experience has actually been so far superior to ok cupid that I barely have logged in there at all since I wrote this. Not that I have a million dates, but I found some people like me - nerdy types who are a little weird but not totally out there either, and that a small population of those people were actually interested in me, too. I actually have my first date tonight!

But also thank you to all the responses on reframing this. I've definitely been spending a lot of time thinking about what my "worst case" situation is. I know for me, my job brings a lot of joy and purpose to my life. For me, I'd rather stay here then chance it in my nearby hometown, which is much larger. At least for now. I know that for other people work is just where they spend most of their day, but it's pretty meaningful and significant for me.

I don't use a lot of social media even, but I've also decided to step back from it even more. I still enjoy the Facebook groups I'm in, but avoiding the main feed. It will take me some time to think over everything, but really helpful suggestions, thanks everybody!
posted by Aranquis at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2021 [10 favorites]

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