Am I a loner or have I just not found the right person
November 10, 2021 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Were you a person who loved being single but is now happy in a relationship? Were you someone who had "meh" relationships until you started dating queer? Do you have Opinions about what it means to be aromantic vs. "hasn't met the right person"? I have a lot of conflicting feelings about dating and I'm trying to sort them out before I jump back into the pool again (if I should at all).

I really like the independence of being single. I like living by myself, I like being the total master of my own schedule, I like that I can make pretty much whatever life choices I want (get a new pet, go on an international trip, move across the country, become a hermit in the mountains) without being accountable to a partner. I have never been a person who dreamed of marriage or needs to be in a relationship or has had world-shaking crushes on anybody of any gender.

I have done a little bit of dating around, but all three of my actual relationships have been long term (years) and ended with me turning down marriage proposals. All of them followed the same formula of starting as a casual hook-up situation, we got along well enough that it organically migrated to becoming an exclusive relationship, I stayed in it because things were pleasant and there wasn't really a reason to leave, and meanwhile their feelings kept getting stronger and they held out hope that I would be interested in marrying them and then they went for it and it didn't turn out well. If this only happened once I'd consider it a bump but it's happened three times so now I'm wondering if I just don't romantically attach to people like you're supposed to.

I would assume I was just aromantic, except: they have all been heterosexual relationships, and I am decidedly pansexual. Maybe the lack of romantic attachment was not because I'm aromantic, maybe it's because I was in a relationship with the wrong gender? Also I like the idea of a good relationship, I like the idea that together you are more than the sum of your parts, I like the idea of there being a person who relies on you and who you can totally rely on. Maybe if I met the right person all the parts I like about being single wouldn't be as important any more because I'd be In Love.

OK, why not just try? Because dating takes time and effort and I'm lazy and like my free time, and more importantly when I've approached relationships with a "don't overthink it" attitude in the past it's resulted in me hurting people. I would like to avoid that. So I am reaching out to The Internet to see if any of my experiences and feelings resonate with anybody and what you did in that situation and what the outcome was.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
hmm, well, I'm sure I can't possibly know *the* answer.. but.. maybe, since you said recent relationships started with casual hookup situations, you could try to do the opposite, take things slowly.. and maybe try that with other gender(s).. of course folks could always get hurt, but maybe if you take things slow there's fewer chemicals that kick in all at once and the intensity of hurt would be mitigated a bit? just some late night thoughts.
posted by elgee at 10:30 PM on November 10

I relate really strongly with a lot of what you’ve written, and am rooting for you in all the ways.

It sounds like you’ve gained a lot of self-knowledge through these experiences. What is the reaction in your body when you think about, e.g., putting yourself on the market to date only non-het partners, and explicitly stating in your profile that you’re looking for someone who loves a partner with a strong independent streak, maybe up to and/or including the fact that you’re beginning to consider whether you’re aromantic? Maybe your perfect, queer, also-aromantic or deeply-demisexual beloved is out there just waiting for that swipe.

I spent about ten years mostly-single and less-involved after a very beautiful but conflicted hetero relationship in my twenties. After that relationship but before the decade of singledom, I also had a few partners who got to the point of wanting marriage, and the feeling of guilt I had in those moments was profound.

When I finally got myself to a place where I felt like dating again, I decided to be really honest with myself about what I was looking for, and to be much, much more honest with people I went on dates with about what that was. I was in my late thirties (F), and I had so much fear about saying, “I’m looking for my life partner, and want to be with someone who’s interested in making me a priority in their life.” But saying that meant I didn’t have to fuck around with people who weren’t looking for the same. My situation is quite different from yours in many ways, but the empowerment of articulating your wants and needs and then being honest with people about them can be radical. That was true for me even at the stage when I was just affirming to myself (which I did many times, in both happy and dark moments) that I was not interested in being with someone just to be partnered, and had a beautiful life even if I never found someone - that knowing my core values and desires for partnership reduced the field of potential lovers in the best way possible.

I found my partner a couple of years later, and I asked for (admittedly terrifying) conversations early on about whether he was interested in a serious, very long-term relationship, what our money situations and expectations are, sharing family baggage and asking about his childhood, what kind of lifestyle rhythms and day-to-say needs we each have. We have our tensions - e.g., we’re both a little bit genderqueer, but latent sexism still turns up in our dynamic - but those early conversations that felt so scary mean that we have practiced fearlessly talking about big shit. It is winning all around.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:26 PM on November 10 [12 favorites]

Something I have found productive to think is: "if romantic pairing-up wasn't the default, would you invent it?". I too sometimes daydream about the perfect person, the one whose company is actually better than being alone, but if there was no "right person yet" discourse, it'd never occur to me to question the aptness of an unpaired life.
posted by wattle at 3:00 AM on November 11 [12 favorites]

I spent ten years single (from around 22 to 32) with a little halfhearted internet dating in the middle, largely because I felt much like you - people were a lot of work and while I would have liked to get laid, I really wasn't up for slogging through the early parts of a relationship with someone who I wasn't super excited about. I had crushes, but none of them were mutual (or, in one case, available) and so I just... didn't.

Then I met someone I was super excited about. Who was super excited about me. And six month after meeting, I had moved cross-country to live with her, and two years after that, we were married. And are still married. And it's great.

So yeah, I think generally not trying to date if you don't feel like dating is a perfectly reasonable choice, and if you do meet someone you want to get more thoroughly involved with, then you'll know it when you see it. And if you don't, well, being single is great too.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:34 AM on November 11 [5 favorites]

Maybe if I met the right person all the parts I like about being single wouldn't be as important any more because I'd be In Love.

It's one of those frustrating questions because it cannot actually be answered in advance. You get the answer when the thing happens or doesn't happen. People hate those kinds of questions.

OK, why not just try? Because dating takes time and effort and I'm lazy and like my free time, and more importantly when I've approached relationships with a "don't overthink it" attitude in the past it's resulted in me hurting people. I would like to avoid that. know you also don't have to try? A lot of people have met their partners without some long slog of internet dates. I guess if all of your hobbies and your work and such are solo gigs you're not likely to stumble across someone, but it sounds like you've stumbled across many people already.

But there's no way of being in relationships with others that has zero risk of hurting or being hurt. You will have to be honest and authentic to avoid the kinds of relationships you had before--no more sitting there watching someone fall in love with you, feeling nothing, and just hanging around bc "things are fine" and breaking up is too hard. That's a dick move, friend, which I think you now realize. But you will still run the risk of having to hurt someone's feelings when you are authentic about your feelings and intentions.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:44 AM on November 11 [5 favorites]

So if you decide it's worth the time and effort, you can date while maintaining your autonomy, by being upfront about what you want to offer. Not every couple opts to climb the relationship escalator. Solo poly folks in particular may be positive additions to your life.
posted by metasarah at 9:44 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the relationships you've been in so far have been something that you just sort of let happen to you. You hooked up. It was nice so you let the hookups continue. You seemed compatible so you let it become a relationship. Nothing was terribly wrong so you let the relationship go on.

I think regardless of what you do, you should stop doing that. If the best thing you can say about someone is that there's no good reason to leave them, that's a good reason to leave them.

I get the worry about hurting people. But it is extremely reasonable and not cruel in and of itself to have short relationships, or to date someone for a little while and then end it if you don't find yourself getting excited. Doing that is much, much kinder than letting something continue despite your lack of excitement. And leaving as soon as you realize you're unexcited leaves more room in your life for meeting the rare person (if they exist) who you will be excited about, or (if they don't) for getting new pets and becoming a hermit and traveling the world.

So okay. Stop staying in meh relationships. Should you also start making a point of dating queers? I dunno. But you seem curious about the idea. Curiosity is a precursor to excitement. If you do things you're curious about, you're more likely to end up discovering that you're excited about them. So yeah, sure, follow that curiosity. It's better than doing stuff you feel totally neutral about.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:55 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]

I have pretty much the exact same feelings you describe about partnering. I recently came out of a 10-year marriage to a person who is very right for me in pretty much every way. So right, in fact, that I still consider him my life partner.

But we don't live together anymore, because I'm pretty sure that I don't want to live with someone ever again. This has zero to do with him (although, sure, I could tell you specific reasons that I don't want to live with him), and everything to do with how my brain/sanity/mental health/happiness work.

I'm not saying I'll never meet someone I want to live with...anything is possible, obviously. That said, I'm not thinking about it, not worrying about it, and am happy to ward off the few people who don't get the message that I'm not really lookin'. :)

Sorry, I know that's a personal statement, not an answer, but I don't think there's an answer for this. Except maybe don't date people because you feel like you should want to, date them because you actually want to. And if you never really, really want to date someone, keep enjoying life!
posted by nosila at 11:35 AM on November 11

I want to make the radical suggestion that you try to somehow find a living situation with people whose orientation is like your own or close to it. Even for three days of mutual conversation and safely making choices on a vacation somewhere in the world, will be much more valuable than seeking someone who is only attracted to you. Hopefully, you will meet people who have found long-term partners. You may also consider doing a short-term Q-and-A homestay with a couple where one or both identify, you may be able to find this in your own region when you give yourself permission to go forward and make contact. Be yourself, only connect.
posted by parmanparman at 12:05 PM on November 11

Were you a person who loved being single but is now happy in a relationship? Were you someone who had "meh" relationships until you started dating queer? Do you have Opinions about what it means to be aromantic vs. "hasn't met the right person"?

I was prepared to answer the question, "Are you a person who used to be in relationships but is now happier being single?" I have always felt nothing but relief about getting out of a relationship (or even getting over a crush), and am much happier on my own, focusing on my friends, work, family, and hobbies. I love all the things about being single that you do. I haven't made a declaration that I'm 100% committed to it forever--life happens and things change. But for the past few years, I don't even understand why people are interested in romance, and I haven't had the slightest bit of romantic interest in anyone. If it's possible to become aromantic after not being aromantic when you were younger, that seems to have happened to me.

And then I read your post more closely and realized that was not actually one of the questions you asked. So I suspect what you really want to hear is that even though you love being single and romantic relationships haven't clicked for you yet, that things could change and you could be happy in a relationship when you figure things out? Your question kind of reads like you do want this, but are not sure it's worth the effort if it's just not going to work again anyway, and want reassurance that it could work out.

Or maybe not--if you're reading my comment and thinking I'm totally wrong, that tells you something too.

But at any rate, if that's what you want, of course it's possible. You seem to have thought through all the potential reasons things could have been not working out so far very thoughtfully. You don't have to put in a miserable amount of effort and slog through dating apps and drive yourself crazy with dating if you decide you would like a relationship. You don't have to decide once and for all. You can try things out, take a break when you're sick of it, or not "date" but remain open to the possibilities.
posted by Squalor Victoria at 8:36 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]

I was hetero and monogamously partnered for nearly twenty years. After we separated I spent a year and a half being happily single. I looked at dating apps and just...nothing grabbed me. I have deep emotional relationships that are not 'normal' and the idea of seeking a partner who would be okay with that, and never living together, and not being a parent to my child, and dealing with my PTSD, and my introversion, just wasn't worth it.

But my family and my friends worried. I have a tendency toward hermitude and they were deeply concerned about that exacerbating when I lived alone. So I went on dating apps and that really didn't help.

However I complained about it to a friend who is polyamorous. He is also queer, and made it clear he would be happy to knock boots as it were, but also that I wasn't asking too much. So we hooked up. And now we have been dating for a few months. It's...really good.

I'm not dating another woman, but I am dating a queer man. I am friends with his wife, who is also queer. The radically different way I want to be in a relationship is not an issue - I still have my home and haven't had to give up 'too close' friendships. I don't have a step-parent but I do have someone who my kid can talk to about stuff. I have someone who looked after me while I was recovering from surgery and injuries, who I care for while he is recovering himself. We go on dates and sleep at each other's house when we can. It hasn't stopped aany of my plans to travel, or possibly work in other states, and quite frankly my kid is more the reason for those being far more difficult.

When what you want from a relationship looks very different to the usual relationship escalator or expected trajectory, it is often helpful to look at other ways of being in a relationship. I've found polyamory to be a good fit for me (it isn't for everyone) because I am much more deliberate about what I want and what it looks like.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:06 PM on November 12

You haven't said what you *want* in your post. Do you want to be single? Do you want to be partnered? Do you want to date around and meet different people?

I'm also curious about your three relationships - did you not talk with your partners about what you both wanted for your future and whether you wanted to get married? You say you like the idea of relationships - so how did your experience of your relationships measure up (or not) to your ideals? Instead of thinking of yourself not being able to romantically attach, maybe consider instead that your partners or the relationships weren't right for you (which is different from saying "haven't met the right person yet"). The fact that you turned down marriage proposals doesn't necessarily mean you can't romantically attach, or that you're aromantic - I think before jumping to that conclusion, ask yourself, is marriage something that you really want? And if you don't, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're aromantic either. If it sounds like I'm anti-using the aromantic label, I kinda am, because (and I'm projecting!) I'm not sure if applying that label to yourself *right now* is helpful and may be limiting to yourself - I think you need a bit more exploration (of the term, or through dating experiences). However, if the term aromantic really resonates with you and you feel freer by using it, then that's great!

I'm wondering if I just don't romantically attach to people like you're supposed to. This sounds a little like compulsory heterosexuality. Natalie Wynn of Contrapoints talks about it in her video called "Shame"; here's a transcript. Also google "amatonormativity."

So you like being independent, you like the idea of relationships, you've had relationships where there wasn't clear communication with your partners and you weren't on the same page, you're pansexual but have only been in hetero relationships; you're too lazy to date. Well, you gotta make a choice. You either keep enjoying your amazing single life, or you can start putting in the effort to dating and meeting only queer people. If you do decide to date (check out Lex and Her - two dating apps for queer women and trans people; I've never used them though), be clear about what you want. Maybe all you want is to meet more queer people. Maybe you want to casually date, instead of finding a serious relationship right now. This is a good post on how to have casual relationships. If you're worried about finding someone encroaching on your free time, then maybe go on a date once a month or something.

Also, you can be independent and have a relationship, see this post (note that all the examples are hetero relationships though)
posted by foxjacket at 9:32 AM on November 13

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