May 8, 2006 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Question for the married/attached mefi folk - What do you wish you would have done as a younger, single person to help you (emotionally, sexually, romantically, personally) with your relationship today? Help a reformed serial dater enjoy singledom while thinking about the future positively!

I'm a 25 year old heterosexual female. I think I'm an attractive, fun, smart, and interesting girl. Had a few long term relationships early on in life, which stunted my "fun dating" period. Basically, most of my experience has come during long periods of serious relations with just a few guys. No casual dating whatsoever. Eventually, I would like to settle down - but only with someone who absolutely knocks my socks off. So for now, it's the single life for me.

How can I

a) best take advantage of this time alone for my own personal growth?
b) deal with sexual attraction (basically - i just wanna make out! no sex!) and not end up looking like a tease?
c) not concentrate so much on dating, which to this point has taken up such a large part of my life?
d) anything else you might want to suggest to me?

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
b) Just be upfront about it and let guys know ahead of time that making out is all you're interested in. If a guy tries to give you a hard time about it, he's an asshole who isn't worth it. As a guy, personally I appreciate the honesty.

Still working on a) and c), I'll let you know when I figure that out myself.
posted by speicus at 3:36 AM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but what's the "fun dating period"?

a.) now is the time to learn or try new things. If you want to go to Russia and learn the language do it now before the kids keep you in one place.

b.) masturbate, buy sex toys and be up front, really up front, about just making out. I can think of many guys who won't "hear" you, thinking that you're just a challenge, so you'll need to be pretty vocal, blunt and upfront about this and repeatedly say it.

c.) see A. Develop your hobbies and your own set of friends.

d.) Few people come into a marriage all personally, sexually, emotionally mature or aware. Be prepared to grow or have the other person grow and you guys might do this at separate times in the marriage, which might (but doesn't have to, it could be fun!) put strain on the relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 AM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Good stuff to do now:
- Go on some long term travels while there is nobody to feel guilty about leaving behind. Work your way round the world, go and live in another place, etc.

- Take up some new passtimes: volunteer for something, take up a sport and get really good at it. Don't worry about the amount of time it is taking up because there is nobody to nag you about it.

- Work out what you would like to be good at and go and study for it. Be a student for a bit.

- Absolutely agree with the "Develop your friends" suggestion. You can hang out with whoever you want for as long as you want: male friends who you can flirt with, female friends who you can be wild with. Things are never so easy if you are in a long term relationship.
posted by rongorongo at 4:42 AM on May 8, 2006

I was married 24 years the first time, and my wife died of cancer in 1998. Now, I am on my second. (I tell everyone it's her first marriage and my last!) So by way of credentials, that is my vitae.

Discounting high school, I dated three people and married two of them! Jeez, that sounds bad, but it's not really.

What I wish I had done was to stick to my guns at 19 and do what I said I was going to... not marry until 30. Boys at least, are not fully cooked until 30, IMO. Judgement, patience, perspective, general maturity, self-image, economic stability, anger management and aggression, communication skills.... all of it is vastly better at 30 than at 20. Plus Darwinism either eliminates the weak or other factors serve to illustrate bad tendencies unambiguously (i.e., by 30, an alcoholic should be easily detectable).

I do suggest patience in mating, at the risk that it gets harder as you age to attract boys. That's one thing I regret a little. My poor late wife had to tolerate watching me complete the growing up process. The current one is the beneficiary.

The second thing that comes to mind is being selective. And not for frivolous, silly reason that some dork 'knocks your socks off'. That phase in a relationship is transient, and once you're good and barefooted, you'll wish you had been a tad more mercenary and done your 'due diligence'. Mate for love alone, and you'll marry the pretty yard man with a hot bod and drinking problems and no prospects. Marry for economics alone, and you'll wind up with an accountant that can't make you laugh. Marry someone with a genetic problem and look forward to a challenging job a parent, potentially.

Point is, use your brain in mate selection. Study WHY you choose who you choose. Make good decisions. Bad ones are costly. Study the topic. (I happen to like tomes on sociobiology. Try reading a little Helen Fisher.) That is prep work that you can do in your 20's.

You have an impressive start in that you are considering things other than looks and chemistry. They are the ruse whereby Nature gets you in bed with a mate, not the most important criteria for long term success.

Last thing.... relationships change. It's their only constant characteristic. You at 40 is not you at 30. Love evolves. Pieces get better, pieces get worse. Marriage as defined in North America right now is not very successful, so aiming at that as a goal might not be a good recipe for success. (Here's some math... 50% end in divorce. That's just the 50% that are bad enough to warrant divorce. Do you think that means the other 50% are perfect? Probably not. Probably 50% of those are unsatisfactory but tolerable. Why do folks want to get in to an institution with a 75% chance that they'll be either miserable or have to settle?)

Good luck and congratulations for thinking critically and having the strength of your convictions. IMO, you are a promising human and may wind up in the 25% bin.

In the unlikely event that you want even more details, feel free to email directly. I'll wear out the keys on relationships with just about anyone. It's my favorite topic besides mathematics!
posted by FauxScot at 4:52 AM on May 8, 2006 [3 favorites]

As I am sure you realize already, being single means making life decisions for which you don't have to compromise (unless you have other restrictions, like family). When i was single, I traveled, studied abroad, moved across the country for graduate school, took interships in europe, and went on road trips. Sure, you may find an S.O. who will do those things with you later on (I have been able to). But, being attached means that both of you will tend to do stuff that stabilizes you, e.g., a harder job with longer hours for more pay in exchange for a more stable set of finances. Or, you may stay in your geographic area to be near your S.O.'s family despite it not being ideal for other reasons. Or you may have kids which means all priorities change. So now's a good time to change your career or visit friends in far off places or throw sexy parties while singing the theme to benny hill (family guy reference).

And, my fun dating period was definitely fun and something I look back on fondly. You don't have to have sex with every or any person you meet. Not everyone will understand that, but don't compromise. Already your worried about being a tease. A tease is someone who promises one thing and delivers another. Set expectations correctly, don't put yourself in situations that impair your judgement (drugs, etc), and don't be afraid to walk away from guys that are pricks.
posted by about_time at 5:31 AM on May 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

This probably says loads about me and my issues, but I wish I had used the time to take better care of myself physcially (i.e. gotten in shape, lost weight). Having that foundation would have made it easier to just keep up with it after getting married instead of digging myself out of a hole.

I also agree with the friends thing.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:46 AM on May 8, 2006

How can I... deal with sexual attraction (basically - i just wanna make out! no sex!) and not end up looking like a tease?

No sex ever? (Until you find Mr. Right?) Or just no sex until you're sure there's some good chemistry and the guy might be a candidate for Mr. Right? When I was dating, I would have totally understood the second situation, but if you'd announced at the beginning that there was no possibility of sex unless we got married (which is what it sounds like), I don't think I'd have been interested, and I'm not the Casanova type. Let's face it, guys like sex, and I have it on good authority that gals do too, and it seems odd to foreclose the possibility in advance. Are you afraid that just having sex will suck you into one of those long-term relationships? Though it's a little comical to say you've had "a few long term relationships" when you're only 25! I realize you can't respond, but you should think about this stuff and decide whether avoiding sex totally is important enough to you to risk turning away otherwise good men who find that a little too daunting. (Being "just friends" with women is great... but not with women you're dating.)
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on May 8, 2006

[note: written by a hetero, 28, M]

25 is a good time to "sow your wild oats" or to just take time off from long term relationships for a while. Me and my (now) wife were dating through college, lived together after, but we broke up at 25 for a year.

Great year for both of us. We are now more in love than ever.

As a modern guy, I don't think it's weird at all to make out with a girl and not expect to get carried away. However, this is probably a short term thing (a few dates / a few weeks). If that went on for months, it would start to try my soul. So I guess it's fine to casually date and to casually hook up, but if you were to seriously date someone (exclusive, longer term, etc.) and were still not having sex, this would probably be bad. But you can kiss a guy goodnight on your porch for 20 minutes and think nothing of it. Sure, he'll call again, but hey you're single, so you don't have to return his calls. Or you can be "busy" a lot.

25 is also the time when you can juggle multiple love interests at the same time. This is a heady feeling -- some people like it and other people don't. But it's definitely worth trying when you're young... So I recommend that. I don't like the feeling much -- it's like butterfiles in the stomach raised to the 3rd power -- but everyone should see what it's like. Maybe you'll love it and become polyamorous.
posted by zpousman at 6:46 AM on May 8, 2006

I would encourage any young single person to go for VARIETY. Try a lot of fun (or at least, new and different) things, even if it's not something you would typically do or think you would enjoy. Be impulsive and flexible. Say yes to many invitations. If you think it might be fun to take an impromptu road trip, do it. Skydive. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or join the Peace Corps. Go to the symphony or see an opera. Try different sports or creative pursuits. Make friends with a senior citizen, and someone from another culture. Get out of your comfort zone. Not only will you enjoy yourself at the time, but you will have a wealth of funny stories to entertain your kids and your fellow soccer moms someday.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:59 AM on May 8, 2006

Serial dater. I love that term. It's great.

26, Married WF. As a former "serial dater" myself, this is what I'd say about "relationships" or lack thereof:

Do what you want. Do what makes you happy. For me, it was always too much trouble to be casually dating two or three guys at a time, so I had several boyfriends who were simply guys with whom I went to dinner, had intelligent conversataion, drank, and messed around. It was, for me, a perfectly workable situation during times of my life where I did not want to be tied down to someone, but still wanted to go out with nice guys and have some fun. Sex does not have to be commitment. Sex as a favor between friends can be awesome, but doesn't mean you're going to be dating seriously or getting married. It just means you have a really awesomely good friend.

Like languagehat, I can't tell if you mean "no sex because sex=commitment" or "no sex til marriage." If it's the first, well, I'd say you should re-examine that particular thought. Sex can mean a lot of things, but it doesn't have to mean commitment. Whether it means that to you for reasons that you are personally very attached to or not is something I don't know, so I'm just throwing this out there.

During this time, do exactly what is good for you. Do exactly what you want to do. But always be conscious of your choices and examine the impact those choices have on you as a person.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:07 AM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm 32, married 2 years ago.

I recommend living alone at least once - I learned loads of things about myself and my own preferences (when I wasn't trying to please anybody, even a roommate).

I also recommend living with roommates at least once, to get some sense of the kinds of compromises you have to make when co-habiting, without having those compromises get warped by sleeping with the person.

I also recommend travel. Everybody, married or not, benefits from living in a foreign country and/or travelling extensively. I backpacked across Canada for three months when I was 28 and loved it. It's harder to do these things once you're committed to somebody (whether married or not) simply because you have responsibilities to each other - but it can still happen since you can do it together or one of you can hold down the fort while the other travels.

Don't presuppose that you will lose all freedom once you're married, either. You have to take your partner into account, of course, and that limits you - but having somebody else to help out also frees you in some ways. I have travelled more with my husband than alone, for example, but because we have financial obligations to each other the trips have had to be shorter and more thoroughly planned. You can figure out what works for you and your eventual partner when the time comes.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:23 AM on May 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

I'm married, have had very little experience outside of one previous long relationship apart from a lot of first dates, and I have to say I have no regrets. I think in general most people accept their past as what it is, so I don't think you need to worry too much about what you "should" be doing in order not to feel that you have missed out later.

This site is not LectureMe but this is more of a BegMe - please, please don't play games with men that you don't think are good enough to be your boyfriend or have sex with you. When you're undecided, that's fine, take things as slow as you like, but when you're sure that he's not the one, it's really not fair to string the guy along on the basis that you like having some male company. I've seen this happen to friends and honestly it breaks my heart.
posted by teleskiving at 8:31 AM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is a response from our anonymous poster (a friend of mine):

Thank you everyone! This is really valuable to me.

On a second read through, I can see how I might have given the impression that I wasn’t going to have sex until marriage - hardly the case. I guess the way I phrased it (and your responses) do bring up some issues concerning how I'm far more comfortable with sex in the confines of a committed relationship, and until I have that more settled in my mind I feel like I should hold off.

Perhaps I should qualify what I mean by "fun dating" vs "serious relationship dating." If you figure I started dating at 15, I've got 10 years under my belt. About 8 of those 10 years were spent in 3 long term relationships. I'm pretty “educated” at serious dating now, but those relationships obviously haven’t served me in the long run since they all failed. They happened far too early in life to be successful.

I hope this clarifies things.

posted by booknerd at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2006

A relationship doesn't have to "fail" to end. And a successfully concluded relationship can serve you very well in the long run.
posted by tangerine at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Relationships are all about compromise. Not saying its good, not saying its bad, it just is.

This may be the one point in your life when you do not need to compromise with anyone but yourself.

Try new things. Try old things. Just try things -- and have fun doing them or find things that ARE fun for you.
posted by szg8 at 2:03 PM on May 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

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