Finding contentment as a single person

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Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:00 pm

Mel recommended a thread like this a short while ago, and I think it's a good idea because this kind of thing has come up a few times before and probably will again. It's also been on my mind lately; to be honest, it's on my mind pretty often.

Say you're at some kind of gathering, and there's this colossal multi-layered cake on display. It seems like almost everyone's getting a piece of it, and most of them like it a lot. Some of the people you talk to say there's some kind of awful aftertaste but they don't regret the sweet parts. Others say the whole thing is ruined for them. A lucky few claim the piece they got was amazing and perfect. But pretty much everybody you talk to eventually brings up that cake, to the point that it's kind of hard to not want to try it. Except, you can't. It's not that there isn't any cake left, and nobody seems to be actively trying to prevent you from reaching it, but every time you start to walk that way something else interrupts you—somebody spills something by accident, or you trip on your own feet, or they move the cake, or extraterrestrial invaders drop a force field around you before flying off in search of whales. At some point this endeavor becomes so maddening that you just want to forget about the whole thing, but everyone else is still talking about the cake. So you go around asking other people if they know a safe path to the cake. Most agree that there isn't one; those who say there is have mistaken a lump of cheese on the ground for cake. Your friends and acquaintances tend to react to your question by going off to get some more cake for themselves, just to show you how easy it is. So you stop asking, but sooner or later somebody somewhere mentions The Cake. And you discover that there are actually some people who want you to have some cake more than you do. And none of this has made the ordeal any less tiresome. So you go home, but on the way home there are billboards about cake. Half the songs on the radio have something to do with cake. When you get home you realize every TV show, video game, or book you enjoy has cake, making cake, and eating cake as significant themes. Your mail is full of advertisements trying to get you to buy T-shirts and household appliances by comparing them to cake.


Swallowing marshmallows while looking at pictures of cake only makes it worse.

It can be hard to even follow the worst dating advice when your whole reason for following it is because it is dating advice. How do you switch reasons?

For a long time I've given up on the idea of being happy or satisfied or fulfilled. Contentment is technically a dictionary-synonym for these, too, but for want of a better word I've been using it in the sense of "not wishing for more" rather than "feeling like you've had enough", if you can see a difference. To me it seems like purging that one last irritating sticky grain of "hope" is the most I could still try to do, and the least I'll need to do. Finding a different thing entirely to have "hope" for may be a quest for another time. If it's not, I still don't really know what to look for, but then I haven't given that possibility much consideration before today.

That's all I've got right now. Feel free to discuss or ask for or volunteer advice or whatever.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by The Wisp on Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:39 pm

I really liked your cake analogy. I've heard another apt one: there's a dance club, a very well regarded club. Most people can gain admittance to the club some of the time. Yeah, some people think the music is too loud, and some are puking in the bathroom from food poisoning, but most of the people are happy to be there. But you, you can't seem to get the guy at the door to let you through, and you don't know why. I know you aren't sexual, but I am, and the analogy is apt for sexuality as well relationships.

Of course, all such analogies are imperfect because the object of desire is also a conscious subject with free will.

Maybe if the cake was sentient and refusing to let you eat a piece of it? Razz

It's hard, man. There's a lot of advice to find, if not happiness, then at least contentment in being single and/or sex-starved. Of course, it is often the same people who give this advice who also put a great deal of effort into their relationships and/or sex life. I don't think the people who do this are being disingenuous; I'm not even sure they're wrong. Also, it seems easier to be single/sexless if you've had some experience in relationships/sexuality. I recall Clarisse Thorn once wrote, in a comment, that she's observed that it is much easier for people to be laid back and have a rational and healthy outlook about sex and relationships after they've had a few people who were crazy in love with them and/or a few people who were crazy in lust for them (even if only for the night).

I still find it nearly impossible to believe that a woman (who I found attractive) would actually be attracted enough to me to want to date me/fuck me.

I think giving up hope is the wrong way to go about this, though. It just turns a sad desperation into a sad fatalism. I'd rather be desperate and disappointed than hopeless. I do think finding other things to care about is healthy, though. You shouldn't stake all your happiness on thing, no matter how important it is.

But yeah, great analogy, it really hit home for me.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:16 am

The Wisp wrote:Of course, all such analogies are imperfect because the object of desire is also a conscious subject with free will.

Maybe if the cake was sentient and refusing to let you eat a piece of it? Razz

I think part of the reason the analogy still feels mostly-right to me is that there is no specific other person involved. It's "I'd like to go on a date" instead of "I'd like to go on a date with that person." Yeah, there are probably definitely people I'd say no to, too. I'm still not spending a lot of time wishing certain people would say yes—the part where I get stuck is wishing the general world around me would contain such a person. (ETA: If I'm not mistaken, this is the part several of us would like to put a stop to; it both enables and is enabled by a certain kind of hatred for existence.)

The Wisp wrote:It's hard, man. There's a lot of advice to find, if not happiness, then at least contentment in being single and/or sex-starved. Of course, it is often the same people who give this advice who also put a great deal of effort into their relationships and/or sex life. I don't think the people who do this are being disingenuous; I'm not even sure they're wrong. Also, it seems easier to be single/sexless if you've had some experience in relationships/sexuality. I recall Clarisse Thorn once wrote, in a comment, that she's observed that it is much easier for people to be laid back and have a rational and healthy outlook about sex and relationships after they've had a few people who were crazy in love with them and/or a few people who were crazy in lust for them (even if only for the night).

Most such advice that I've seen seems to consist of "find something that brings you joy, and do that." This is awfully (but perhaps necessarily) vague. There are things I sort-of care about that I sort-of enjoy doing, but can I really center my whole life around them? (I am not quite good enough at writing to get paid to do it, for instance.) In the last several months they've just been momentary distractions from other ongoing vexations. Sure, maybe it's the other way around, and being dissatisfied with X is a distraction from enjoying Y, but the question is still how can I convince myself of that? How can I stoke the dying embers of barely-giving-a-shit and fuel the lasting flames of having-a-cause? Or else stamp them out and be done with it?
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by The Wisp on Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:33 am

can I really center my whole life around them?

Frankly, probably not. We're social creatures, so relationships with others are crucial if we are to feel satisfied. These relationships don't have to be romantic. It's harder to develop nourishing relationships that provide meaning that are merely platonic, but it is doable.

It sounds like you want to be more motivated to find a relationship, but you aren't at the moment, is that correct? There's no shame in feeling discouraged about this, you don't have to resign yourself to singledom forever just because you temporarily feel this way.


Last edited by The Wisp on Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by Lemminkainen on Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:39 am

When I was Wisp's age, I was a virgin, and until halfway through college, I was almost always single.  Both the cake and club analogies would have rung very true for me then.

I definitely wasn't happy about being single and/or celibate, and I always wanted to change those things.  (I don't think that it's reasonable to expect anybody whose orientation is at all romantic or sexual to stop wanting love or sex.)  I also actively felt sad about them a lot of the time.

But I wouldn't say that my condition was generally miserable.  I still took pride in my intellectual accomplishments and joy in my relationships with my friends and in simple things like enjoying books or films.  So, my strategy for staying sane with singleness and celibacy was less about trying to force myself to like the issue head-on and more about pursuing non-sexual, non-romantic things which satisfied my values to the fullest. (EDIT: the fact that it was a whole bunch of things which satisfied my needs for accomplishment, companionship, excitement, etc. was really important. Immersing myself in any single thing never did it, with the trivial exception of that time I took a grad-level math course as a college freshman, which left me too busy and tired for anything else).  I also generally tried to avoid media that thematized romantic stuff in ways that made me feel bad (except while I was in self-pity binges, which I would... not recommend to anyone).  I also found media dealing with characters who had issues like mine helpful and cathartic, especially when they weren't simply resolved.  When I was a teenager, I found watching Neon Genesis Evangelion strangely comforting, because I could identify a lot with Shinji and his problems, and it felt like a relief to see that somebody who wasn't me both understood the kind of suffering I was going through in adolescence but still saw value in a person with those problems.

Interestingly, though, I don't think that I've ever gotten significantly more comfortable with being single or with not being able to have sex regularly.  I tend to hop from the end of one relationship to the beginning of the next very quickly, and the prospect of having to go very long without getting laid sometimes gives me anxiety attacks.  So really, I've actually gotten worse at dealing with it emotionally.  I probably need to figure out some better coping mechanisms.

Since I've come out on the other side of this, I figured that I should also offer this caveat: having sex or being in relationships will not fix your psychology or even give you much in the way of comfort or confidence.  Wisp, I also used to believe that nobody I wanted to date or fuck would ever want to date or fuck me.  But I continued to hold this belief for quite some time after several men and women who I found attractive made it abundantly clear that they wanted to be with me in one way or the other.  I once even asked a woman why somebody like her was with somebody like me while we were making out.*  I also felt insecure or ashamed about performance during the first eight or nine times that I had sex (which were spread out over the course of a little over a year, with five partners), and didn't really find the experience all that much more satisfying than masturbation.  It took me a little time to get comfortable with everything.


*Protip: Don't do this.  It's kind of a mood-killer.

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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:33 am

The Wisp wrote:
can I really center my whole life around them?

Frankly, probably not. We're social creatures, so relationships with others are crucial if we are to feel satisfied. These relationships don't have to be romantic. It's harder to develop nourishing relationships that provide meaning that are merely platonic.

It sounds like you want to be more motivated to find a relationship, but you aren't at the moment, is that correct? There's no shame in feeling discouraged about this, you don't have to resign yourself to singledom forever just because you temporarily feel this way.

In my case? "More motivated" might do something, I don't know. This thread is mostly intended to talk about getting less motivated, though, or otherwise tackling the sentiment that leads some to say, "I wish I was asexual" and me to add, "that's not what you mean, but I know what you mean because I feel the same way."

DNL has occasionally mentioned that some people really will be alone for the duration of their existence. At this rate I figure that's probably me, so I'd better get used to it. I am not the first to arrive at this conclusion and won't be the last; maybe some of us are wrong about that, I don't know, but surely some of us are right. And if it is the case that no amount of time, effort, or encouragement can change that outcome for the better, then I seek a means to accept the outcome.

Lemminkainen wrote:When I was Wisp's age, I was a virgin, and until halfway through college, I was almost always single.  Both the cake and club analogies would have rung very true for me then.

I definitely wasn't happy about being single and/or celibate, and I always wanted to change those things.  (I don't think that it's reasonable to expect anybody whose orientation is at all romantic or sexual to stop wanting love or sex.)  I also actively felt sad about them a lot of the time.

But I wouldn't say that my condition was generally miserable.  I still took pride in my intellectual accomplishments and joy in my relationships with my friends and in simple things like enjoying books or films.  So, my strategy for staying sane with singleness and celibacy was less about trying to force myself to like the issue head-on and more about pursuing non-sexual, non-romantic things which satisfied my values to the fullest. (EDIT: the fact that it was a whole bunch of things which satisfied my needs for accomplishment, companionship, excitement, etc. was really important.  Immersing myself in any single thing never did it, with the trivial exception of that time I took a grad-level math course as a college freshman, which left me too busy and tired for anything else).

This is interesting, because I did find this state easier to deal with in college, and I barely noticed in high school. I've been assuming it was entirely a matter of a negative/bitter perspective growing worse with time, but I think you exactly hit the target when you said it was a bunch of things. In college, I did some software development and some mathematics and some sports and some video games (and a lot of other stuff on the side, but those were the pursuits I did best with). These days it's software development and looking for work in software development and occasional (sedentary) games and physical activity only for the sake of getting somewhere else—there's significantly less variety involved. Guess there's more than one reason I miss school.

Lemminkainen wrote:Interestingly, though, I don't think that I've ever gotten significantly more comfortable with being single or with not being able to have sex regularly.  I tend to hop from the end of one relationship to the beginning of the next very quickly, and the prospect of having to go very long without getting laid sometimes gives me anxiety attacks.  So really, I've actually gotten worse at dealing with it emotionally.  I probably need to figure out some better coping mechanisms.

Beginning a reply to this quote gave me a sense of déjà vu (that strange feeling we sometimes get, as if we've lived through something before). I don't think this is the first time you've casually happened upon the exact words I should have used in the thread title but didn't. Laughing
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by The Wisp on Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:58 am

Has anything in particular made you feel this fatalistic? I know you're asexual and that that is making dating harder, so have you considered joining an asexual group? That might help you find support.

I can't really provide much advice, as I've never been in the "I wish I didn't care" space for any long period. If dating/finding a partner is important to you, though, I'm not sure sinking into apathy is the right answer.

ETA: How's your social life otherwise? If you're feeling isolated that could explain a lot of your feelings.

ETA2: Lemmi, I appreciate your thoughts, and I may or may not respond to them tomorrow (it's getting late!).
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:25 am

The Wisp wrote:Has anything in particular made you feel this fatalistic?

Nothing I can really point to, other than that I've been following these forums for several months, the Doctor for a year, and other advice sites/books for a little longer, and I'm no closer to finding a romantic relationship than I was in high school kindergarten. (Not to mention I put up with the male "tradition" of asking a few people out before that.) You'd (I'd) think after all the folks I've chatted up and all the "adventures" I've been on (the joys of having lots of scattered friends to visit, and no driver's license) I might have at least had a bad date or two to "learn" from. I haven't even found anyone to hate, so how dare I hope there will be opportunities for love?

The Wisp wrote:I know you're asexual and that that is making dating harder, so have you considered joining an asexual group? That might help you find support.

I've thought about it, but you may have noticed from some of my other posts—once it turns into a thing about asexuality, that's almost all there is to talk about. Not all, but quite a few of AVEN's subforums (for example) rapidly devolve into "discussions" about how much none of us want to have sex with people. Well, that and how some of us apparently do want to try sex just to see what it's like or to experience being the person who gets to please their partner. Then there are encouraging success stories, most of which involve the other person also happening to be ace (even they admit it's an improbable event). The rest are women (at least superficially) (though the sample space of "everyone who posted in that AVEN thread" isn't significant enough to use as a valid statistic), and tend to have met their partner by being the one who is asked out. My hypothesis is that it's easier to find out if the person who asked you out is okay with you being asexual (they've already established some interest) than it is to determine whether the person you're interested in asking out will be okay with it. But, again, not enough data to make a reasoned conclusion—just enough to exacerbate an existing "self-limiting belief" or whatever you want to call it.

Offline, there isn't much in the way of infrastructure to meet other asexual people. There is no "ace bar" downtown, and since it's still a somewhat invisible orientation not many people openly identify as such (some don't know, or don't know for sure; others justifiably and correctly worry that some of the people they tell will react with disbelief).

The Wisp wrote:I can't really provide much advice, as I've never been in the "I wish I didn't care" space for any long period. If dating/finding a partner is important to you, though, I'm not sure sinking into apathy is the right answer.

Statement: Apathy is death.
Addendum: But there are worse things.

ETA: But the basic question isn't "should I resign to being single forever?"; it's more like "how do I cope with (stop hating) being alone, for however long that lasts?". Everything else is just fluff to talk up the significance of the problem.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:30 am

Here is one of the threads I remembered looking through very recently. tl;dr: a lot of woe is me and nobody has any real answers.
Here's another. Unfortunately, seeing all these people voice so many of the same exact thoughts I've had too is not actually very helpful.

OUaT is probably the most overt in recent memory, but there have been loads of stories where a character prepares to take some drastic action or other because they're pretty sure they'll never experience romantic love (or more usually never experience it again, 'cause having it not even happen once temporarily is plain unthinkable). Princess Buttercup even does it. Sometimes it's mundane, like attempted suicide. Sometimes it's some magic Forget-Everything potion or Become-Emotionless curse (which somehow makes you evil/bitchy instead of just ambivalent). Only rarely is it the case that they actually go through with it and it's not reversible. (Harold and Maude is the only one I can think of, and frankly Maude was just being stupid in that one.) The rest of the time, some hero or other rushes to their rescue or talks them down or otherwise convinces them it's totes gonna get better. And then, because it's fictional story-land, it does.

Well, I feel like one of those characters. Key difference: since there is no emotions-removing elixir (Zoloft is allegedly close and probably what at least some writers think they're making a metaphor for, but it's not totally equivalent) and since I still feel responsible/accountable to several people right now, I don't intend on taking any such drastic action. But there's no plot twist coming, either. There is a distinct lack of role-models for this sort of situation.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by Dan_Brodribb on Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:50 pm

nearly_takuan and The Wisp, I'm hoping you can help me.

As a roving moderator, one of my jobs is to keep an eye on the forums for people making sweeping generalizations on groups or personal attacks as set up on our Forum Guidelines.

I'm getting a weird vibe reading some of the posts on this thread, and I can't point my finger to why. The closest I can come up with is that it feels to me like the two of you are making massive generalizations and personal attacks aimed at YOURSELVES.

I could be wrong, and I'm not even sure it's my place to step in as a mod, but I would like you guys to give that some thought.

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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:30 pm

Dan_Brodribb wrote:I'm getting a weird vibe reading some of the posts on this thread, and I can't point my finger to why. The closest I can come up with is that it feels to me like the two of you are making massive generalizations and personal attacks aimed at YOURSELVES.

Maybe it's the other way around? I've been kind of unsure (and therefore unclear) whether I'm talking about a general problem that some vague set of people have or just myself. If I'm asking on behalf of some nebulous group, though, it's still the case that:

  • I don't speak for them
  • Pointing out specific people or "naming names" is rude
  • I only relate to the problem through my own experiences with it

So it's probably best if I just embrace that there's a significant personal angle to the nature of the thread.

I still would like to extend an open invitation to anyone else who might be (for any reason, fatalistic or otherwise) looking for coping strategies and ideas on how one might re-align one's goals/values/desires/ambitions so that energy may be spent more productively.

(Alas, corporations may legally be people in some countries, but people are not corporations; I cannot change who I am or what I want merely by reciting a mission statement!)
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by Guest on Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:41 pm

The Wisp wrote:
I think giving up hope is the wrong way to go about this, though. It just turns a sad desperation into a sad fatalism. I'd rather be desperate and disappointed than hopeless. I do think finding other things to care about is healthy, though. You shouldn't stake all your happiness on thing, no matter how important it is.

But yeah, great analogy, it really hit home for me.

I am gonna preface my response by saying that I will try my hardest not to slip into a "woe is me" rant like I tend to do. I really want to move past that.

At the same time, though, I really have basically given up hope. It's not really a conscious choice I made, one day I just sort of realized that the chances of me ever finding what I was looking for are next to none, and just basically stopped trying altogether. "You won't know if you don't try." Sure, but statistically speaking, if one is unattractive to women and one is unable to improve past a certain point, chances of some random woman finding said person attractive is just illogical. Women tend to look through me, not at me, and I'm used to that by now. I can't blame them.

nearly_takuan wrote:
Dan_Brodribb wrote:I'm getting a weird vibe reading some of the posts on this thread, and I can't point my finger to why. The closest I can come up with is that it feels to me like the two of you are making massive generalizations and personal attacks aimed at YOURSELVES.

Maybe it's the other way around? I've been kind of unsure (and therefore unclear) whether I'm talking about a general problem that some vague set of people have or just myself. If I'm asking on behalf of some nebulous group, though, it's still the case that:

  • I don't speak for them
  • Pointing out specific people or "naming names" is rude
  • I only relate to the problem through my own experiences with it

So it's probably best if I just embrace that there's a significant personal angle to the nature of the thread.

I still would like to extend an open invitation to anyone else who might be (for any reason, fatalistic or otherwise) looking for coping strategies and ideas on how one might re-align one's goals/values/desires/ambitions so that energy may be spent more productively.

Right here, buddy boy. I'm your target audience for that one.

I don't really see a single generalization you've made so far. I desperately need to find a way to not spend every waking moment beating myself up for being alone. I honestly have no idea how. All I've been doing recently is that whenever I've felt sexual desire towards someone, I've basically tried to weed out the emotion, to make myself stop feeling it. Might be wish fulfillment, but I think it's starting to work. Optimal results would be completely weaning myself of my need for sex and intimacy, to be voluntarily celibate instead of involuntarily.

But if anyone has any ideas, please tell me. I'm in desperate need of them.

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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by kleenestar on Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:04 pm

I can't speak about this from a dating perspective, what with the whole met-my-husband-super-young thing, but if you think it would be helpful I could talk about it from the point of view of trying to come to terms with a similar difficulty in other parts of my life.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by The Wisp on Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:39 pm

I'd love to hear you thoughts, kleenestar.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by reboot on Tue Oct 14, 2014 12:17 am

I can take a stab at this since as a woman over 40 with some significant dating challenges it is very likely that I am going to be single for the rest of my life and given my gene pool that is likely to be the next 50-60 years.

1. Uncoupling my self worth/self identity from my relationship status: This is actually very challenging to do because there is an element of our culture that equates being single with being defective, so I had to sit down and seriously break down my feelings about being single and cut away the societal expectations part. After I was done, I realized I did not actually tie any of my self worth to my relationship status. I had just sponged up societal norms.

2. Need for sex and intimacy: I am lucky in that I have a lot of close friends, so never lacked for emotional intimacy. I also fell into having a good friend as a roommate for the past few months, so he fills a lot of my day to day companionship and nonsexual touch needs. Sex with someone who is not me....well...this is just something I am going to have to do without for the most part unless I go the escort route (something I am not opposed to).

3. Dying alone: This is something I have come to realize over the years is that most women die after their partners anyway, so being single does not change that. And at there is something to be said for not making a loved one watch you die.

Not sure if this is what you were looking for? If you have any specific questions, ask away.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Oct 14, 2014 5:41 am

reboot wrote:2. Need for sex and intimacy: I am lucky in that I have a lot of close friends, so never lacked for emotional intimacy. I also fell into having a good friend as a roommate for the past few months, so he fills a lot of my day to day companionship and nonsexual touch needs.
Touch... might be worth looking into, yeah. The last complex organism who voluntarily touched me was that panhandler last Friday who wanted to blow me for spare change. Shoulder taps for attention, and then he made me shake his hand before he would go away. Before that it was goodbye hugs from parents and that was two weeks ago. Before that and not counting other encounters with parents was a friend's house cat, probably four-ish weeks ago.

But reboot, you also seem very passionate about the work you do. Was it always like that, or is there something that helps you to focus on things like that?

Also, did you discover whether there was anything you did tie your self worth to? Would you say the things you do measure it by are entirely internal, or are there still some other external sources of self-worth you depend on?
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by reboot on Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:27 am

I have been passionate about my work since college when I volunteered to work in Angola (today I shudder at the thought of untrained staff working in a camp!). Now did I focus on finding my professional interests earier because from a very young age I knew romantic options were going to be limited? Perhaps.

By now, I have managed to largely uncouple my self worth from external measures but a lot of that has to do with age and my experiences. I have been too many places with too many different measures to put much weight in any one set. Obviously the big ticket items (e.g. do not kill, do not steal, treat others equitably) still stick because I agree with them.

I also think being professionally where I want to be and having a large friend network that possesses a broadly similar value and ethics framework helps. It is easier to reject external measures of self worth if those close to you are not attempting to reimpose them on you. And being professionally where I want to be helps because I am happy doing what I spend big chunks of my day doing.

EDIT: I realized I missed the entire topic of touch. This can come about in friendships pretty easily if you are willing to initiate. Of course it depends on how touchy your friends are. If they touch other people, but not you, you can likely start initiating some physical contact.
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Re: Finding contentment as a single person

Post by kleenestar on Tue Oct 14, 2014 7:44 pm

My situation is a bit different. I had a highly successful romantic relationship, but in order to keep it I had to come to terms with losing the tight-knit religious community I'd been part of since birth. For a long time it looked like that would also mean losing contact with much of my family. Although it has a happy ending, there were many years when I felt hopeless, helpless, and miserable. I certainly expected my situation to be permanent. For people who didn't grow up in a tight community, it may be different, but for me the feeling of isolation and failure was profound.

There were two separate processes that helped me come to terms with it: one internal, one external.

Internally, I had to recognize that I could not control other people's behavior. I had people say and do some extraordinarily hurtful things, and I couldn't make them treat me with compassion or kindness instead. The relationship we were going to have wasn't the relationship I wanted to have; the only thing I could control was what I was willing to do and to tolerate within the context of that relationship. It took me several years and a lot of therapy to really accept this, and it's still hard for me sometimes. But realizing that I would rather no relationship than a hurtful relationship? That was profound and powerful, and helped me come to terms with it when it looked like those were the only two choices.

Practically, I built myself a lot of the things I was missing from other parts of my life. I built a strong community of friends, for example, using the lessons I'd learned from this community growing up. It wasn't the same, but it satisfied some of the same parts of my soul. I had to work out my own value system, because by the value system I'd grown up with I was both a horrible person and a complete failure - so I read a lot about philosophy and ethics and tried to find an alternate way of making meaning out of my life. I couldn't get all the things I was used to in one place, but I could get a lot of them in bits and pieces from elsewhere. My life might not look the way I always thought it would, but I've built something different instead, and I've learned to love the different thing for what it is - and ironically, that confidence has helped me have at least some of what I thought I'd totally lost.

No idea if that's helpful but there it is.
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