“Lately I’ve been feeling a bit hopeless about finding love,” writes Ask MetaFilter user seraph9, in a post called “Alternatives to Love”. “What are your most rewarding, fulfilling, amazing non-romantic experiences or undertakings?” Respondents listed enriching activities that illustrate how much more there is to life than work and romance.
Photo by Andrea Booher
Volunteering is the most popular suggestion. “Contributing to something greater and outside of yourself is incredibly rewarding,” says user Capt Renault. Look for roles that let you form deep relationships with others. Many people lack the support network of reliable loved ones, so your emotional availability is just what they need.
User fairlynearlyready suggests writing to prisoners through Lifelines to Solitary. User Wilder recommends working in a hospice or other end-of-life care. “Many people are alone, or estranged from their families and have no one to help them pass away with dignity.” For more ideas, user janey47 recommends the book How Can I Help? by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman.
Friendships might feel obvious, but it takes conscious effort to prioritise them as much as people prioritise finding “the one”. Building a close group of friends gets tougher as you get older, especially as other friends start pairing off, then having kids. But approach that as just having more friends. Many couples love having single friends – they’re a nice break from other couples – and being a “friend of the family” can be a lifelong fulfilling role. But be clear with them about whether or not you want to be “set up” with dates or other friends. Without guidance, couples will inevitably try to assimilate single people.
Also, seek out friendships with fellow long-term single people. You need to have friends who, like you, can think outside the relationship bubble. There’s always the risk that some day you’ll “lose them” to a romantic partner, but they’re taking that risk with you too. Try to form some close friend groups larger than two people; that’s a huge advantage you have over long-term couples, who necessarily have to centre their lives on one other person.
Bring as much friend activity as you can into your home or theirs. Another joy of relationships is carving out time in private spaces, but this isn’t only a romantic activity. Get out of bars and cafes and feel the intimacy of talking to friends in your own space.
Group activities such as a dance class, a band, choir, church, book club, or even playing Dungeons & Dragons make it easier to meet friends, as they give an immediate purpose to the shared activity. When you go to an event such as a book reading, comedy show or concert, see what more long-term options the venue or organisation provides.
Find a group that meets regularly. Part of the joy of a long-term relationship, especially once you live together, is that it’s “on” by default. That removes so much stress from scheduling and uncertainty. A standing group commitment works similarly; you don’t have to worry about finding time for friendships if you’ve all made it a regular priority.
For years, my weekly D&D group worked like cruise control for our friendships. User wwax especially recommends leading a game as the dungeon master: “The feeling of telling a story with a group of other people is amazing.”
Meditation builds a foundation to make all of life more fulfilling, says user Quisp Lover. It can flip the search for non-romantic fulfilment upside-down: “Spiritual joy is not sublimated sexuality; sexuality is repressed spiritual joy.”
Owning a pet can’t substitute for human love, but it has a lot of advantages. An animal will give you unconditional love that most humans can’t. “I had never felt that kind of love coming at me before I had my baby kitty and she gave me that,” says fairlynearlyready. A pet relies on you completely, but its needs are less complicated than those of a child or partner.
Don’t write off dating around, says user late afternoon dreaming hotel. As long as you’re honest and open about it, there’s nothing inherently wrong about fulfilling more short-term needs (you know, like sex) through your dating life, while finding your long-term needs elsewhere. “Love can come second to sorting out its component pieces and, instead of looking for the end goal first, looking to meet those needs up front.”
Alternatives to Love [Metafilter]