Apathy and Relationships [discussion]

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Post by Guest on Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:54 am

OK, so I have an actual question that doesn't involve me and my self-centered ways, for once.

Here's what just went down:

I was invited over to my friend's apartment to smoke hookah with him and a few other people, including my current roommate. I never smoked hookah before, I thought it was pretty dull.

Anyway, the topic of relationships comes up, and the roommate proceeds to say the following about her boyfriend: "I'm with him because I can't find anyone better."

And that struck me as the most profoundly sad thing I've ever heard. It hurts because it means she's not genuinely attracted to him, that she's literally with him out of apathy.

I'm very worried about being that to someone else, especially after the implosion of my last "relationship." So what does the forum think? How do you avoid this? Is it just a crapshoot hoping you connect with someone, and that someone will thank god every day you're in their life? Or is this the best anyone can do?

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Post by BasedBuzzed on Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:31 am

Attraction will always be unequal. One person will always love the other more. Sounds harsh when typed out, but how bad is it in practice? The world still keeps turning and people still keep going into relationships anyway.

That said, if you're at the point were you formulate it like "I can't get better" instead of "this is not a forever thing, but I like what we have", it's time to do a stage exit left for either party.

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Post by Enail on Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:04 pm

I disagree, BasedBuzzed. Not that there's any way to measure these things precisely, but it's hardly uncommon for both parties to be feeling "this is fun, they seem cool, let's see where this goes" or "I really like them, I hope things keep going this well," or "I think this might be love," or  "I love them and want to spend the rest of my life with them" at the same time.

In terms of avoiding "can't do any better," there's no 100% guarantees, but I think there are a few things you can keep an eye out for. Reciprocity and enthusiasm. A general preference for genuineness in relationships - listen to how they talk about their friends and their past boyfriends. A degree of independence and perspective about the role of relationships - if they know they can be happy being single, they're a lot less likely to choose to be in a mediocre relationship just for the sake of a relationship.
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Post by Caffeinated on Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:58 pm

I find this interesting because the phrase "I can't find anyone better" strikes me as kind of a glass is half empty/glass is half full kind of thing. Depending on the way it's said and meant, it could mean the negative interpretation you gave it, or it could mean something more like "this is the best person I've ever met in my life and that's why I want to be with them". Like saying you eat at the best restaurant in town because you can't find any better food. Well, of course not, because it's the best.

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Post by eselle28 on Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:46 pm

I don't think couples are necessarily slightly out of step, but I do think it's reasonably common, especially in the early stages of dating. It's not always unhealthy. There's a difference between one person being head over heels and the other being only reluctantly keeping up a pretense of dating, on one hand, and one person thinking it might be love while the other is still in liking a lot territory.

It seems more like we're talking about the huge differences here, and I agree with Enail's list of things to look for in determining whether the degree of interest is at least fairly mutual. I'd add that being very goal-oriented about relationships is sometimes worth watching for - someone who's expressed that their main focus is on finding a partner to have their first sexual encounter with, or who has a specific and hard to find lifestyle, or who's young enough to have children and interested in doing so within a few years. Sometimes people with very specific goals are happy to find someone who they can meet them with and are grateful and enthusiastic partners, and sometimes they had other qualities they would have also wanted and will feel like they've settled. It's worth keeping an eye on the enthusiasm and reciprocity parts of the equation in these cases.
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Post by readertorider on Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:54 pm

Glides wrote:Anyway, the topic of relationships comes up, and the roommate proceeds to say the following about her boyfriend: "I'm with him because I can't find anyone better."

Optimistically, if someone said this with a grin I could definitely see it as romantic --"I couldn't find a better person anywhere"/"there is no one else out there better for me"-- but you were there and it doesn't sound like your roommate's body language made you think she was happy in her relationship.

I think people do usually have a basic idea about how someone else feels about them, especially people who are voluntarily together as frequently as significant others. There's physical contact, laughter, eagerness to spend time together, smiles, tone of voice etc. Not that the signals will necessarily be consistent--someone could have a wonderful time playing mini golf with (general) you and still want to break up the next day because even though they love mini golf it bothers them that you and their friends don't get along--but I think they are there.

I think reboundstudent was addressing the "are people just in this relationship because it's convenient?" question when she made her post about waiting for guys to initiate. Other people have other strategies ("after plans have fallen through 3 times rescheduling is on you", "does person ask me questions about myself?", "have I met friends/family?" etc.).

estelle28 wrote:I'd add that being very goal-oriented about relationships is sometimes worth watching for - someone who's expressed that their main focus is on finding a partner to have their first sexual encounter with, or who has a specific and hard to find lifestyle, or who's young enough to have children and interested in doing so within a few years. Sometimes people with very specific goals are happy to find someone who they can meet them with and are grateful and enthusiastic partners, and sometimes they had other qualities they would have also wanted and will feel like they've settled. It's worth keeping an eye on the enthusiasm and reciprocity parts of the equation in these cases.

I've never thought about it in this way before but it makes sense. I don't like it much because it seems backwards to my way of thinking--you find someone you want to spend time (hours--lifetime) with then you figure out together how you'd like to spend that time--but I don't really have relationship goals at the moment, so maybe I'm being overly idealistic?
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Post by eselle28 on Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:14 pm

readertorider wrote:
estelle28 wrote:I'd add that being very goal-oriented about relationships is sometimes worth watching for - someone who's expressed that their main focus is on finding a partner to have their first sexual encounter with, or who has a specific and hard to find lifestyle, or who's young enough to have children and interested in doing so within a few years. Sometimes people with very specific goals are happy to find someone who they can meet them with and are grateful and enthusiastic partners, and sometimes they had other qualities they would have also wanted and will feel like they've settled. It's worth keeping an eye on the enthusiasm and reciprocity parts of the equation in these cases.

I've never thought about it in this way before but it makes sense. I don't like it much because it seems backwards to my way of thinking--you find someone you want to spend time (hours--lifetime) with then you figure out together how you'd like to spend that time--but I don't really have relationship goals at the moment, so maybe I'm being overly idealistic?

I'd say it's maybe a spectrum, and I'm probably not as far toward the "want to spend time with" end of things as you are. I want to find someone who I want to spend time with and who checks a couple of lifestyle boxes that I think are crucial in any sort of future committed partner. I think it's fine for people to have some relationship goals. It's only toward the end of the spectrum that's opposite from where you are where I'd say there might be some potential concerns about whether someone is so eager to have a particular role filled that they're willing to make a lot of compromises about who fills it.
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Post by Guest on Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:15 pm

Caffeinated wrote:I find this interesting because the phrase "I can't find anyone better" strikes me as kind of a glass is half empty/glass is half full kind of thing. Depending on the way it's said and meant, it could mean the negative interpretation you gave it, or it could mean something more like "this is the best person I've ever met in my life and that's why I want to be with them". Like saying you eat at the best restaurant in town because you can't find any better food. Well, of course not, because it's the best.


No, she did not sound happy when she said it. At all. And that made me really sad.

What's even more awkward is that this girl has openly suggested the idea of having sex to me (no I'm not going for it, yes I might be a hypocrite) on multiple occassions, so it was made even worse by the fact that I'm probably the guy she wants to replace her current man.

Honestly if a girl was tired of me, I'd want her to leave me. I don't ever want to be tolerated in a relationship, I really do prefer honesty, even if it hurts more.

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Post by reboundstudent on Mon Mar 16, 2015 1:54 pm

Caffeinated wrote:I find this interesting because the phrase "I can't find anyone better" strikes me as kind of a glass is half empty/glass is half full kind of thing. Depending on the way it's said and meant, it could mean the negative interpretation you gave it, or it could mean something more like "this is the best person I've ever met in my life and that's why I want to be with them". Like saying you eat at the best restaurant in town because you can't find any better food. Well, of course not, because it's the best.


Good point. I've said this about my current boyfriend to friends, and they've always interpreted it negatively, when I actually meant it positively. I literally meant I couldn't find anyone better-as in anyone who got me as well as he does, likes me the way he does, is funny and smart like he is, and accepts me as I am. He is, in other words, the Best I have found.

As someone who was Settled-For in the past, the things I watch are for are momentum. Is the person contributing to moving the relationship forward (if forward is your goal. Casual dating/sex is a whole other beast.) I've actually found the reciprocity is not always a useful measure, as people could be reciprocating out of politeness, social pressure, or internal pressure. For example, I've had boyfriends reciprocate because other people were telling them they should (first boyfriend was told to "stop stringing (me) along"), or they feel they should ("Even though I'm not attracted to her, I can't get what I'm attracted to, so I should go for it.") I think eagerness and enthusiasm is probably the biggest signs that settling is not occurring.

I go back and forth on whether it's sad to see someone settle or not. I've heard other people express that they don't mind it, that there "are no relationships without settling. Maybe it is unrealistic and idealistic to think that everyone can find a partner who wants to enthusiastically be with them for no other reason than themselves (as opposed to sex, financial stability, caregiver, etc.)

Sometimes I wonder if being "settled for" is just the price of admission to have a relationship for some people. I've always been settled for; maybe that's just how it is, for people like me. I always have the option to remain single if I don't want to be settled for. But maybe it doesn't have to always be an awful thing, if someone treats you well and you have a more or less good relationship.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:15 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Sometimes I wonder if being "settled for" is just the price of admission to have a relationship for some people. I've always been settled for; maybe that's just how it is, for people like me. I always have the option to remain single if I don't want to be settled for. But maybe it doesn't have to always be an awful thing, if someone treats you well and you have a more or less good relationship.
+1. I'd sign up in a heartbeat to be settled for and to be someone else's "eh, good enough I guess." Since it's something I would choose if I could, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me. Others would rather be single, and of course that is also fine.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:55 pm

I think even settling comes on a spectrum. When I think of settling, I think of someone who says, "Well, I don't really like this person, but being with them is better than being single." But there's also the case of, "I'd really like my partner to be XYZ, but I've decided that having a relationship is more important than having XYZ." Is that settling? I think so, but it's a drastically different attitude from my first example.

I like to tell the story of my ex, who decided shortly before breaking up with me that he could only be in a relationship with someone taller than him (he's 6'4"). Mathematically speaking, the person he's looking for (single openly gay/bi man 6'5" or taller who shares at least a couple of his interests, is sexually compatible, and either lives near him or would be willing to relocate there) might not exist. Would he be settling to date a guy shorter than him? Technically, yes. Should he? Well, only he can answer that question... but he sure complains about being single a lot.

I wouldn't want to be settled for, but maybe that's because I've generally been pretty successful in dating. If I didn't have that particular experience under my belt, I might feel different about the whole ting.

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Post by LadyIkaros on Tue Mar 17, 2015 7:27 am

nearly_takuan wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Sometimes I wonder if being "settled for" is just the price of admission to have a relationship for some people. I've always been settled for; maybe that's just how it is, for people like me. I always have the option to remain single if I don't want to be settled for. But maybe it doesn't have to always be an awful thing, if someone treats you well and you have a more or less good relationship.
+1. I'd sign up in a heartbeat to be settled for and to be someone else's "eh, good enough I guess." Since it's something I would choose if I could, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me. Others would rather be single, and of course that is also fine.

I guess the trouble here is somehow politely working out wether you're on the same page?
Because I agree; there are definitely relationships wherein the participants are not that enthused about each other but stay together for other reasons - and if they're happier that way than they would be apart, all good and well.
I would just hate to be the "meh, guess you're better than nothing" person for somebody else and would vastly prefer to be on my own. Also, purely from what I've personally observed, some dissatisfaction, contempt or at least... lack of generosity, tend to sneak into that type of relationships. I think it's harder to bear with someone else's flaws and the inevitable annoyances that come with havin someone close to you, if you don't have any deep affection for that person.
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