Was I born to be alone?
April 8, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Existential crisis: was I born to be alone?

I am a 28-year old South American girl, living in London for the past 3 years. I am a nice person and quite sociable, am reasonably good looking and have a bunch of lovely friends, great job, etc.

The problem is, I've had three long-term relationships for the past...seven years? And I never had any time to breathe in between boyfriends, it was always ending one relationship and starting another within a matter of weeks. Now I feel the need to split up with my boyfriend -- who really loves me -- mainly because of that fact, that I haven't had the time to be with myself...

I regret not being single for longer because I feel I am wasting my youth by living the life of a married person. I don't want to hurt my boyfriend as he is a great person and I love him a lot, but more as a best friend, not as a lover anymore.

Someone said recently that I am very picky with boyfriends and will end up alone if I keep choosing too much. I never thought too much about it until now and now I start to get concerned about the possibility that I was born to be alone...? On top of that, all my friends are getting married and having kids. Sometimes I feel like I failed on that front. I need to be on my own but am scared I will end up losing the opportunity of being with a very nice person who really likes me.

I know the above sounds weird, but I am scared of being alone. But I don't want to live life without vibrant, butterflies in the stomach love. I don't want to live without looking forward to see someone, the thrill of anticipation, and all those things that come with the package...

How do I make the jump?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It's not wrong to want to be in love, but it is wrong to measure yourself by others' standards. You need to develop your own idea of what and who you want to be, and how you want to be. "To thine own self be true".

Also, you've not really ever been alone - you've been with someone, and probably taking on some of their attributes in order to get along. this is also not good for your self-identity.

If you want to take your relationship from lover to friend, you need to do it sooner rather than later, and be prepared to be cut off, even if he does understand that it's "you and not him".

You might consider some career counseling to find your interests, and go from there.

As for "you'll never find a man" B.S.? I got that a lot, too, and I didn't let it stand in my way.

Don't keep score on your life by other people's rules.
posted by lysdexic at 7:49 PM on April 8, 2008

Born to be alone? You're never alone!

You're just coming up with a wacky justification for the fact that you don't spend any effort or time picking people to date--you just grab the first one that's available and so far the results haven't been great.

Stay with the same strategy, end up with the same result (dissatisfaction with romantic life) or change it up and get to know yourself well enough to choose a partner who will satisfy you.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:58 PM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

This is ridiculous.

By your own description, you are born to be in a monogamous couple, since that is your obvious tendency. Not having found the perfect person for the rest of your life by the time you're 28 is hardly an indicator of an inability to find that perfect person eventually.

Wanting to have some breathing room and some alone time for a little while before your next relationship gives absolutely no indication that you are meant to be alone.

Are you sure you don't simply want reassurance or validation for your decision to break up with your boyfriend?
posted by Kololo at 8:00 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most of us are scared to be alone if it is NOT OUR CHOICE.
Sounds like maybe you'd like to CHOOSE aloneness as an option, for a while.
Trust your gut.
I bet you'll enjoy yourself, learn a lot, and when you are ready, easily move back towards "togetherness" with a partner when you're ready.
posted by Dizzy at 8:02 PM on April 8, 2008

Are you certain you don't have unreasonable expectations about love? In my experience, a long-term relationship (past five years or so) stops being about this intense burning love and turns into a deep friendship--if you're lucky.

Frankly, I find your need for stomach butterflies to be immature at best. Generally speaking, that doesn't reliably last for more than a few years; that's how things are for some people. If you're one of them, do you want to spend the rest of your life chasing short-term relationships? I know a few people who are getting a lot of self-time lately, and none of them are happy about it. If they had a relationship to go back to, I think they'd be there.
posted by Phyltre at 8:05 PM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm a perpetual bachelor, but the "time to myself" thing is one of the few things I don't regret about being single. I don't think you're crazy at all -- I think time to yourself is essentially a basic human need.

Can you spend more time with your friends? I'm not sure whether it's what you're seeking, but it might be a good way to get more time to yourself without breaking your husband's heart.

On top of that, all my friends are getting married and having kids. Sometimes I feel like I failed on that front.

All you've failed to do is blindly do something your friend are doing that you don't want to do. That doesn't sound like failing to me!

I apologize if this is way off the mark, as it's hard to tell from a few short paragraphs if it's accurate: you sound like you're depressed. Not in the dark, suicidal way, but perhaps you're unhappier than you deserve to be.

Again, I apologize if I inadvertently offended you, it's just that these short posts don't give us a glimpse into your whole personality, just the little bit you tell us about.
posted by fogster at 8:09 PM on April 8, 2008

But I don't want to live life without vibrant, butterflies in the stomach love. I don't want to live without looking forward to see someone, the thrill of anticipation, and all those things that come with the package...

Did you feel this way in the beginning stages of your three relationships? Most of us do. The butterflies subside in most relationships. The romantic stage of a relationship cannot last forever. It's a fairytale. I've been married for nearly ten years and my heart still skips a beat now and then. Not every day, not every week, but it does happen. I wouldn't trade the close relationship I have with my husband for some temporary thrills a brand new relationship could provide. I still look forward to seeing my husband. Maybe you and your boyfriend need to spice things up. Maybe you're in a down-cycle as they say. I've had plenty. I've been lukewarm about my husband but two months later I'm hot for him again. That's real life and it's plenty vibrant.

If you're searching for constant butterflies I'm afraid you'll never be happy.

Sometimes when I've thought my boyfriend, now husband, was boring or more like a friend, I've often been unhappy with myself. This isn't to say that you shouldn't be free or that your boyfriend may not be the one for you, but I would do some soul searching and think carefully about leaving and whether it is the best decision.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:15 PM on April 8, 2008 [6 favorites]

Personally, I chose the get-married-young route (at age 20).

I don't feel as if I'm wasting my youth - but that's a choice I made, in full awareness as an adult, that I need that sort of closeness in my life. I also have a partner who understands that I need to be left alone, to be myself in my own space, quite often. He has similar needs. We chose to grow together, with a view to being together lifelong.

This doesn't sound like your situation at all. You don't sound like you've actively chosen to be in a relationship, more kind of did it because it was the thing to do. Drifting, sort of. So now you are feeling a desire to choose. And your current relationship isn't exciting and new. As someone who is in a relationship that is just about to turn 8 years, i can say that it's doesn't have the thrill of the unexpected anymore. But the love, and laughter, and friendship - the special smile, the feel of his arms around me - that hasn't changed from the day we first fell in love. There's a comfortableness, a security, which to me, is very appealing. But if you're the sort of person who needs that thrill - who wants to be suprised often by life - then I can see how it could be boring and unfufilling. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

So perhaps it is the time for you to choose to go your own way. And give the singleton thing a go, for, say, a year, which isn't that long in the grand scheme of things. As for the being alone thing - I have friends who found love in their teens, in their twenties, in their thirties, and in their forties - and the only reason I don't know anyone who found love later in life, is because most of my friends are under 50. So don't sweat that. If you choose to stay alone, awesome. If you find the love of your life, and get married, and whatnot, awesome. The key thing is - make the choice. For yourself.
posted by ysabet at 9:01 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Someone said recently that I am very picky with boyfriends and will end up alone if I keep choosing too much.

You will end up alone no matter what. But in the mean time, cherish those friends.
posted by rokusan at 9:48 PM on April 8, 2008

>I feel I am wasting my youth by living the life of a married person

this is a very, very common feeling out there; I've had this conversation with virtually all my friends, both male and female, once we got past the age of 25 and the prospect of marraige became increasingly a reality. It was a tough, tough switch to change mentality and accept it. It felt like a prison.

>But I don't want to live life without vibrant, butterflies in the stomach love

there are people who will tell you not to settle for anything less. Dont listen to them. What you want is a nice middle ground between unsustainable puppy love (unrealistic to think you can sustain it) and horrible debilitating loveless relationship (unrealistic to think you can sustain it). Luckily, that middle ground is very broad and easy to hit.
posted by jak68 at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I doubt this has anything to do with you wanting to be alone.

I think this is about being bored with a nice enough guy and a comfortable relationship. You don't want to lose the safe relationship you have now, but you also don't want to invest yourself in that relationship. You also don't want to hurt your boyfriend by ditching him.

You need to make a decision - in or out. If you really love your boyfriend, then either commit yourself in your relationship or set him free. He deserves to be in a relationship with someone who wants to be his partner. We all deserve that.
posted by 26.2 at 10:00 PM on April 8, 2008

Dump him. Your needs aren't being met and he deserves someone who actually wants to be with him for who he is instead of a guy who you dated because he was there.

I think all this philosophical handwringing in your question just means you're confused or that you want an out. I don't think you actually believe you were born to be alone, or that you honestly WANT to be alone or that you even really enjoy the emotional turmoil of breaking up and finding someone new. You just want it because it's different. And that's fine. But don't be surprised if you stumble upon this thread in three months and can't even remember why you felt the way you did.
posted by Happydaz at 10:12 PM on April 8, 2008

I'm a little confused as to what your question is, because there are at least two explicit ones, and a bunch of implicit questions.

Let's go one-by-one:

Q1. "Am I born to be alone?"

No. Not unless you believe in some sort of hardcoded destiny. I think your choices & actions override any such notion.

Q2. (implicit) "If I split up with my current partner, will I remain single forever after that?"

Not necessarily. You're still quite young, for a start. And plenty of people find love later in life.

Q3. (implicit) "Am I so choosy with my boyfriends that I'll remain single forever?"

Past evidence suggests the exact opposite. You've been a serial monogamist from 21 to 28, without a break. If anything, I'd suggest you're not choosy enough.

Q4. (implicit) "Should I be biting the bullet & settling down now, because all my friends are?"

No. Live your own life. Marrying to keep up with the Joneses is a silly idea.

Q5. "How do I make the jump?"

Just do it. Spend some time pursuing your own interests. There have been plenty of questions here on how to live an active & fulfilling life without a partner, which generally include the same kinds of advice. Here's a recent one which might be useful - just ignore the "I give up!" aspect, because it sounds like you just feel like a break, not opting out entirely.

If you find after six months or a year or two that the single life doesn't do it for you, hop back on the monogamy bandwagon. In the larger scheme of things, you won't have "wasted" much time, and you might find that you get quite a lot out of it. On the other hand, you might find that single life suits you so well, that you just can't be bothered dealing with all the hassle & melodrama of coupling up. But that's for you to find out for yourself.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:15 PM on April 8, 2008

i agree with 26.2, with the qualification that it is only an opinion (ymmv). i've had girlfriends who just weren't secure enough in themselves to be with someone else. they needed/expected too much from a mate. that's not to say we shouldn't expect much from our mates, but one should know what satisfaction is (that is, know the difference between a realistic and unrealistic expectation, and rely on realistic ones). i think that the above comments are helpful in advising which expectations are realistic and which aren't (e.g., 24/7 butterflies = unrealistic). from there, you just have to figure out what else really matters to you, and whether or not this particular mate qualifies.
posted by ncc1701d at 10:23 PM on April 8, 2008

I have pretty much the complete opposite problem. Hint: the grass ain't so green over here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:54 AM on April 9, 2008

I agree with a number of the comments above. My perspective on this is as a 23-year-old woman going on six years with my fiance. I have not been single for more than a month or so since I was 15; I dated one guy for the majority of high school before dating my fiance.

First, "butterflies" don't stick around, or at least not the kind I think you're talking about. Once you get to know someone better, it removes a source of excitement from the relationship. That's a given. You have to either find new aspects to be excited about, or learn to appreciate the non-exciting aspects. If you break off all your relationships because they don't match up to an unattainable idea of love you have in your head, then I would say you'll necessarily be alone forever.

However, it's a real option to have relationships and then end them once they're not exciting anymore, just don't delude yourself into thinking one day you'll find something that matches your unattainable ideal. Some people milk the sparks and then move on, and they enjoy that more than a lifelong relationship. If that's what would make you happiest, do it and don't care about what other people think as long as you're not misleading the people you're dating. Just make sure you think it through before you break up with your boyfriend.

Note that even if you start thinking about love more realistically, that doesn't mean your current boyfriend is the person you should spend your life with. You still have to struggle through that decision. If the idea of not spending your life with him doesn't give you serious pause, then you shouldn't string him along. If you're really torn up about it because you'd like to spend your life with him but feel things are more boring than you'd like right now, or because you need time for you, then you need to talk to him. You can work through that.

Second, the whole issue of you needing time for yourself... I don't understand why, to you, that means you need to break up with your boyfriend. Are you unable to talk to him about this? I feel like there must be other issues you didn't mention. When I want time to myself, I take it. If my fiance wants to spend time with me when I want time to myself, I just say so. It's never been an issue. I guess I wonder what you imagine would be so different if you were single, because I've never quite understood this frame of mind. What would you learn by "being with yourself" that you can't learn while you happen to be in a relationship? It seems to me it would only be a problem if your particular relationship is too stifling, controlling, or time-consuming that you can't do anything but be with him. If so, that's certainly a problem, but I don't think it's a problem with relationships in general, just the particular one you're in, or perhaps all the ones you've been in. Is your boyfriend too needy? Were your past boyfriends too needy? You can either talk about it with him or break up. If you can't do the former, then you ought to do the latter anyway.

You say you feel like you're "living the life of a married person." What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean that you do everything with your boyfriend and don't go out with your friends anymore? If so, why do you need to break up with your boyfriend to go out with your friends? Tell him you're going out with your friends. If you want to spend time alone, then spend time alone. Again, if he's too clingy or not giving you enough space, you should talk to him about it. Don't get it in your head that all relationships are like that, because they're not.

Or do you mean that you feel married because you're only dating one person? If that's what you mean, then why do you need to ask us whether you should break up with your boyfriend? The answer would be yes you should break up if you want to date other people; that's not fair to him, and there's no way around it.

You say that you feel like you've failed because you're not married with kids at 28. Society has stupid, arbitrary expectations of people. The proper response to those stupid, arbitrary expectations isn't to give in to them, or to feel bad if you don't. The proper response is to ignore the expectations. Getting married is a terrible idea if someone does it because society wants them to. Having kids is an even more terrible idea if someone does it because society wants them to. If someone gives you shit about it, they're an idiot.

You never have to get married. You never have to have kids. You can get married and not have kids, you can have kids and never get married. You should do whatever you truly want to do, and do not do anything you don't want to do.
posted by Nattie at 1:33 AM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

I know the above sounds weird, but I am scared of being alone. But I don't want to live life without vibrant, butterflies in the stomach love. I don't want to live without looking forward to see someone, the thrill of anticipation, and all those things that come with the package...

My wife and I have been married for 15 years. We have a great marriage. But I can tell you that you don't feel vibrant butterflies and thrills everyday, all the time, 24/7. Just like anything else new that becomes old, a marriage--even a good one--will feel pretty ordinary most of the time. That said, that doesn't mean you should grab the nearest guy and marry him. I do believe in finding someone special. I would also recommend a book called The Thrill of the Chaste.
posted by keith0718 at 2:25 AM on April 9, 2008

Nthing that your expectations are unreasonable if you think "vibrant, butterflies in the stomach love" lasts forever.

You don't seem to find anything at fault with your current boyfriend or the way he treats you. Finding a decent man whom you are compatible with and who will make a good husband/father to your children is difficult. If you've already found one, you're lucky, and you should keep him instead of tossing him away just because you don't feel like you've spent enough time single or you want to experience new relationship butterflies again.

Also, keep in mind that men are attracted to young, fertile women. You've already passed your peak and your value is declining in the dating market. You may not be able to attract as good of a man as this one again.

There are many, many, many women in their late 40's and older who are single, alone, mourning the children that they will never have, and regretting tossing away good men for stupid reasons when they were younger because they assumed that they could just find another one later.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:08 AM on April 9, 2008

Trust yourself, and continue to trust yourself.
posted by amtho at 6:03 AM on April 9, 2008

For every single one of Jacqueline's 40+ women who are "single, alone, mourning the children that they will never have, and regretting tossing away good men for stupid reasons" there are just as many women stuck in stilted, loveless, status relationships they settled for and are now trapped in by 3 kids, a mortgage and a country club membership.

Do not be either one of those women.

If you are no longer in love with your partner, then do both of you a favour and break up. Then stop acting as though you have no control over the direction your life will take and STOP DATING. You want to experience solitude, singleness and independence? Great. Do it. Date nobody for a year.

You will come out the other end knowing far more about yourself, who you are, and what you really want in a partner (if anything) than you do now. And that will add far more "value" to your potential in the dating market than whatever completely fucked up metric Jacqueline is using.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, keep in mind that men are attracted to young, fertile women. You've already passed your peak and your value is declining in the dating market. You may not be able to attract as good of a man as this one again.

As a guy, I disagree with that.

In fact, I'd been planning on posting an afterthought, and this gave me the perfect springboard.

I was going to add that at 28, anonymous is just at the beginning of the highest period of attractiveness for any guy with half a brain.

Younger women - say, early to mid 20s - might have a slight advantage in terms of physique & general looks (although this is variable, and debatable) but they tend to fall short in life experience, emotional stability, financial independence, career path & educational achievements, settled tastes & goals, not to mention sexual experience & comfort with their own bodies & sexuality.

I think that Jacqueline does a huge disservice towards anonymous, thinking guys, and mature women by saying that 28 is "past the peak". On the contrary, 28 is right near the beginning of when women really start to hit their stride & reach peak attractiveness, at least for me. Others' mileage may vary, of course.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:02 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

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