How do you find someone when you think that's what you're missing?
December 17, 2006 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Helpful advice on breaking cycles of loneliness and relationships?

Hi gang.. after some amazing helpful answers to hard-answer questions in the past, I thought it might be worth putting something less tangible out there, and just hope someone understand what I'm trying to say:

I'm male in my late 20s. Lately I've been quite lonely for good women's company.. not sexual, just that pleasent smiley attention of someone who's happy to be near you... I'd take an afternoon of board games and hot chocolate over a night of sex right now, and that's almost scary to me.
I'm kind of afraid that this deficit in my life is subconcously apparent. I managed to get the number of a nice girl who works at a local of a coffee shop, and look forward to spending time with her. However, I'm afraid that overall loneliness this time of year, and desire for company might end up being interpreted by dates as desperateness, and scare people like her away before they get to know me. I could just relax until these feelings aren't on my mind, but I don't know that they will without that type of social contact.

Is this the human condition? Is burying my mind in hobbies and work a good way to change gears? Is it a bad idea to date when you feel a gap in your life where someone special could be? What types of behavior should I reel in to make sure I dont sabotage things with people I date?
posted by upc_head to Human Relations (9 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Is it a bad idea to date when you feel a gap in your life where someone special could be?

When other time would there be to date? If you felt that you didn't need that 'special someone' in your life, why would you date? I mean, dating is more or less the modernized and somewhat informalized version of courting, isn't it? Which means that you date because you want that special someone in your life.
posted by Phire at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2006

Phire - That is the obvious assumption, but I think there's a certain amount of wisdom in not dating when you're not happy.. you either end up not coming off as the best version of yourself, or you end up relying on the other person too much for your own wellbeing (and usually causing problems in the process).
Psychology 101 says deficit=motivation but dating 101 says desperate=run away! Therein lies a catch-22 of sorts that's bothering me.
posted by upc_head at 5:26 PM on December 17, 2006

burying my mind in hobbies and work a good way to change gears?

Somewhere I heard that just letting your hair down and not giving a shit is the quickest way to get relationships going, and for some reason that's exactly what happened to me. One pearl of wisdom I learned in my 20s is that women have a very astute "desperation radar" and that it can rarely be fooled. A desperation signal pretty much says "might get really difficult, stay away".

So yeah, load up your schedule with anything you can find to do outside the house. But at the same time your end goal should be to distract yourself and not bury yourself. Excessive work, drinking the night away at home, or in your case, male-dominated hobbies, are all bad because in the end it's just time squandered away, plus it yields nothing interesting to talk about later on when you're dating again.

Im my opinion the ideal thing is to find activities that attract a good gender mix... not necessarily clubbing but, say, weekend runs, martial arts, activism, the underground music scene, whatever... you'll probably have to look around. Just get involved in that for its own merits and don't rely on it to socialize... just let that shit fall into place on its own.

Anything you do in that area will dampen the loneliness and get you off the rollercoaster and maybe level it out completely... the good thing about that is when that happens, your desperation signals will fade out.
posted by rolypolyman at 5:28 PM on December 17, 2006 [7 favorites]

I think that if you keep the emphasis on, "I want someone's happy smiley company for an afternoon" and don't start thinking like, "I want this woman near me every second of every day for eternity" you'll be okay. Really, really wanting to spend an afternoon with someone is fine. Women start to get turned off when you want to monopolize their time or hurry the relationship too quickly.

If you really want to take the importance off of a dating relationship, then I second rolypolyman's advice. Work to cultivate your own interests, and someone will wander by eventually. Trite, but true.

It sounds like you have good insight into yourself and your motivations. I think you'll be fine.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 6:47 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

yes, insomuch as there is such a thing as the "human condition," I'd say this is it.

Pretty much every time a date happens anywhere in the world, both people are somewhat nervous and worried about how they are coming off to the other person. Granted, there are some women (and maybe men) out there who see it as a kind of sport or way to get a free meal, but generally she's going to be just as nervous as you.

The only thing I would caution you against is putting unfair expectations on her. I was in a similar situation last year. I was very depressed at the time and had just met this girl I thought was great. I got it into my head that if only if she was my girlfriend, all my problems would be over. I think she did like me, and if I had been in a better state of mind we could have started out casually and maybe it would've gone somewhere.

But I wanted way too much too quick and I think it freaked her out a bit. You never know what phase of life the other person may be in and you have to respect that it's not all about you. Sometimes two people go into a date or relationship wanting vastly different things. Respect that that may be the case and you'll be fine.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:23 PM on December 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

Try getting involved in activities that are co-ed, like joining a YMCA co-ed volleyball team, or a local hiking group, or a local board-game night, or ...whatever else is available to you that appeals to you.
Think of these activities NOT as new dating pools, but as opportunities to socialize with women in a non-dating atmosphere. Getting used to socializing with women without the high-stakes of dating will make you that much more comfortable with women when you DO date them. It also will make you less 'intense' about spending time with the women you date, because she won't be the only female you see all week.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:36 AM on December 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

When I was reading your post I felt like I was reading what I myself might have written in my earlier/mid twenties (and I'm in my late twenties now, so I remember the feeling rather accutely).

I came off a rough break-up around the end of my college days and one thing my dad pointed out has always stuck with me - all the boo-hoo, I-need-companionship feelings really aren't other-person-focused, but rather a sign of a focus on the self, and the self's needs. As mentioned above, girls have a radar for this kind of thing.

He recommended getting involved in volunteering activities that are about making other people's lives better. Not only will this keep you busy, it will put you out in the presence of other people who are focused on making other's lives better as well. That's the kind of person that your deepest longings are probably for, anyway, and hopefully that's the kind of person you want to be.

I actually spent most of my mid-twenties focused on work and activities of this kind (youth group at my church turned out to be my main activity), and looking back, there were times that the loneliness crept up, but I wouldn't trade those years for anything.

Now that I'm dating somewhat seriously again, I know I'm a different person, dating for different, better reasons (hopefully, for the most part). I can like a person not for how they can make me feel better about myself, but for who they really are, and how I can help them be that way even better.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:09 AM on December 18, 2006 [7 favorites]

A job is cool if you can meet people there. I don't see nuttin wrong with chatting or talking to someone online who might be feelin lonely too.. just gotta hope you find the right one.
posted by 0217174 at 11:24 PM on December 18, 2006

...I'd take an afternoon of board games and hot chocolate over a night of sex right now, and that's almost scary to me.

I know your question was 'how do I find someone...' not 'how do I fix my lonely...' but give me a chance to get where I'm going here... (apologies, this will be long).

although I'm certain someone else has probably covered this elsewhere / higher up, I personally think that what you're feeling is not necessarily a lack of female company, but more general social isolation. The social isolation thing doesn't have to be gender-companionship specific, however it may absolutely read as 'desperate for company' to anyone who interacts with you. And as I'm sure you know, confidence is sexy. Desperation... not so much.

Let me explain. I honestly think it's somewhat normal for most single adults to go through patches of feeling somewhat isolated and lonely - I've been through these myself throughout my singlehood (I'm female, not that it really matters). A couple things served to help for me.

First of all, I think the biggest improvement I made is that I no longer live by myself. Yes, I know, don't start. I'm absolutely aware that roommates can be a total pain in the ass and once you're past your mid twenties / college age, it's probably viewed as loser-ish to live with roommates. However, I (a woman in my late 30s) have found that for my own sanity (and yes, it could just be me), living with someone else is far, far better than living alone. I'm fortunate that I've got an awesome roommate, but even when my roommates weren't so great, I was a lot more sociable, less sad and isolated and generally more motivated to go do things overall when I was living with someone else regardless of our personal relationship level. It's been almost five years since I had a ten-year LTR implode. I've spent three + of those years with roommates, and lived by myself for a year. The year on my own was pretty lousy for me emotionally. Not only was I lonelier in general, but I also found myself slipping further and further into isolation - I'd call friends less often, found more and more excuses to skip out on social occasions, and in general spent long periods in the blahs. My sleep patterns suffered and I'd find myself awake surfing the web, downloading crap, or on IM until 2AM. It was harder to meet people, my work suffered, I had a shitty attitude in general and by all lights I was likely moderately depressed. Finding a roommate who shares some interests with me and is generally a cool person (we've become good friends as well as sharing a roof) has totally fixed all this for me, plus a side benefit it it's a lot cheaper on living expenses too! So... on that topic YMMV.

As far as the 'chatting online with lonely' people topic above... um. I found that doing this only isolated me MORE, as folks who do this tend to be exactly as isolated and antisocial as I am, besides which the last thing I need is more longdistance friends in NYC and Toronto. I honestly found that nothing beats turning off ALL the screens (this includes TV, Xbox, computer, etc...) and getting out into the big wide world.

The other thing I did, and yes it falls under the 'get a hobby' category, was that I renewed my cycling coaching licence and began taking on students again. And, to my surprise I discovered a couple of things.

Most of the riders I coach are in college. Most of them have an active social network, but there have been a few who are pretty socially isolated themselves.

However, in all cases, along with being a cycling coach, I find I am also fulfilling a minor gap in the lives of these people as a sort of ersatz 'life coach'. I'm not their shrink, nor am I their family, nor am I a friend within their circle of peers - and thus I think I fulfill a need for most of them as a completely objective viewpoint on some of the minor bullshit they have going on in their lives. It may help that I've got a few more trips around the sun than these people, plus I've been so many places in my life that I think I'm damn close to unshockable anymore. I've been cried on, dealt with major disasters, been there for the 'you really need to call your parents about this' sorts of crises, and offered simple perspectives on everyday college dramas like 'oh man my ______ prof is sooo hot, d'ya think should i ask her out?!'....

I got back into coaching mainly to give myself something to do in my spare time. However, I have discovered that being a mentor really helps both me and the people I mentor. Honestly I never have, nor would I date a client, as ethically that represents too big a breach of trust for me personally, so I'm truly not in it for the 'meetup' factor. However, I do find that (at least for me) having these sorts of platonic mentoring relationships (and I have clients of both genders) really helps me not be so isolated, and my clients have told me that it helps them as well - over and above the good they get out of being better bike racers, they find that they can trust and confide in me as a friend as well.

And, ironically enough, when I really immersed myself into coaching, and kind of forgot to look for a Dude to Date? A couple months ago one just dropped into my lap... likely because I was so busy dealing with students that I didn't have time to send off the creepily-desperate vibe I'm sure I did when I was so lonely a year ago.

So what I'm trying to get at with all of this is that you really should make an effort to increase your social-fu in ALL facets, not just 'how do I find a cool girl?'.

Volunteer. Mentor. Pick something you do very well and offer it to the public, either for pin money or for free. Seriously, share something of yourself with the world. If you play guitar, go busk in the park. If you've got mad l337 computer skilz, offer them as a Geek For Hire or see if you can get a part-time gig at the community college teaching seniors or GED students. If you're a math whiz, tutor high school students. If you love painting toy models, consider working with older military vets on model projects - I spent hours and hours as a kid working on WWII airplane models with a friend of the family who was THERE, and could tell the stories about it, an awesome experience that I'd not have missed for anything.

Giving of yourself, honestly, in any capacity you may be capable of, only increases awesomeness - both your personal awesomeness and that of your surrounding world.

I hope this helped and wasn't too long.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2006 [17 favorites]

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