DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m almost 29 and a proud and out aro-ace guy. I like it, my friends know about it, my family mostly knows about it and everything is well in the world. Or so I thought. I was always a bit shy and introverted and had troubles making friends, but with the help of positivity and boundless awkwardness, managed to have a strong core of acquaintances. Thanks to the Internet, I have met people with the same interests as me and as we got older we transitioned from online fun and games to meeting IRL, having dinner parties and the like. Amidst all that, I was perfectly content with my situation, not needing any “special” relationships to meet my social needs. I had some platonic relationships, but my partners always evolved past my “I’m not interested in sex” line, and while I can perform, I’m not as uh… demanding as them and it ends up being a dealbreaker in the end. Well that’s too bad but once again, I’m not really “in” for that kind of relationships from the start.
So, my problem: I’m slowly getting close to my thirties, like most of my friends, but of course they aren’t all like me, they have partners, some are getting married (and I was best man for some of them), some start to have kids (and I’m a godparent to some wonderful kiddos) but as time goes by, we’re all kind of drifting apart. Sure I can call them, we have the occasional outing or the like, but I find myself being more and more of a third wheel, the guy stuck there during a double date or the nanny for the parents wine afternoon. And I while I can live with that for a time, after about two years of that, I’m kind of stumped.
I don’t really know what to do, I don’t want to look like I’m throwing a tantrum or ask for attention. But at the same time, I feel like I’m being left out, but I can see it’s not the intention. People grow and all that. I feel like the root of the problem is my aversion to relationships, my friends are either in couples or are dating with almost desperation.
What should I do? Should I try to make new friends? I like my current ones and I don’t want to lose them. Should I try to enter the dating pool? I’m not interested and I don’t see that endeavor going well for me. Should I accept this as my new reality and try to navigate this mid-life crisis ?
Thank you in advance.
Increasingly Tired Guy
DEAR INCREASINGLY TIRED GUY: As with so many cases, ITG, the problem you’re asking about isn’t the problem you have.
Let’s get this out of the way, first: no, dating isn’t going to solve your problems. Leaving aside that you’re asexual and aromantic, finding a partner isn’t going to be the solution to feeling left out of your friends’ lives. You aren’t being excluded because you’re not in a relationship, after all. There’s no wall of “only couples, throuples and multiples past this point” that’s keeping you out. It’s that your friends are older and have new and different responsibilities. This is just the march of time, and it comes for us all. With age comes responsibilities and obligations, and very few of us have the same free time (and energy) that we did when we were in our 20s.
That’s just life. It’s an annoying cliché that as you get older, you start having to make plans weeks or months in advance if you want to see your friends, but it’s a cliché for a reason, and it happens to pretty much everybody regardless of relationship status.
So, no, your aversion to romantic or sexual relationships isn’t the problem, nor is it the solution. At best, it’s going to be an intensely frustrating distraction. Now, if you just want to occupy your time and don’t mind that this is mostly just going to make you grind your teeth into dust… well, that’s certainly an option. But probably not one that’s going to actually help.
A lot is going to depend on whether or not the issue is you’re not able to see them very often because having kids and more responsibilities makes it more difficult, or these friendships are just reaching their natural conclusion. Not every friendship is going to last forever, just as not every romantic relationship will. Some friendships are of the moment, that window of time when you all are in the right place. As you grow and change, you may just grow apart. That doesn’t mean these are lesser friendships or that anything went wrong; it just means that some friendships are short stories instead of long novels or multi-book sagas. And that’s ok.
But if it’s a matter of needing to make time? Well, there’re a couple options.
What you’re going to need to do is two things. First: you’re going to have to be patient. This is, for all intents and purposes, a time-soluble problem. It’s just that the amount of time it will take is likely much longer than you’d prefer. As the kids get older and don’t require round-the-clock care and attention, your friends will have more time for things like “life”. If you all are tight and put in effort to keep the friendships alive, you’ll be able to get through this once the kids are older.
But the more immediate solution is that you’re going to have to change both your expectations and how you make plans.
One thing you can do is start seeing your coupled up friends separately, giving them some very much needed adult time while the other is on child care duty. You may be used to seeing them as a couple, but a little one-on-one time is going to be the order of the day for a while.
You may also consider inviting them along with the kid; that will limit some of your options, but entertaining at home means that they get time out of the house and to see friends, while not necessarily dealing with the expense of a babysitter or some other form of child care.
And while it’s not as satisfying, you can also have video hang-outs. Part of what helped me keep my sanity during the lockdown in 2020 was a weekly Zoom cocktail hour with my friends. Everyone who could make it that week did and, while it wasn’t the same as hanging out at some of our favorite bars, it had the same vibe.
But the other thing you’ll need to do is that you’re going to have to start planning your hanging out with your friends in advance – weeks or possibly months in advance. As much as it sucks that you can’t just have the same level of spontaneity that you did when you were all younger and more care-free, planning things out is going to become an increasingly important skill as you all get older and responsibilities accumulate like barnacles on a ship’s hull.
One thing that can help is having a regularly scheduled event. Having something on the books that happens every month (or bi-monthly or what-have-you) means that you (and your friends) will be incentivized to carve out the time to actually make it, rather than a last minute scramble of “well, next week doesn’t work, how about the Saturday after that?”
And yes, expanding your social circle isn’t the worst idea in the world. Making new friends is generally a positive. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that these new friends mean that you’re not also going to have to deal with the same accumulation of responsibilities and obligations that your current social circle has. That’s not just a matter of relationships and children, that’s a matter of time, and time come for us all in the end.
Yeah, it’d be great if we could have the same seemingly endless amount of free time and easy ability to hang out as we do when we’re younger. But time is a river that only flows one way, the universe is a hologram, life is just a dream and the door is a jar, and we all end up dealing with it as we go. The only real option is to learn to adapt and roll with it.��At least until the kids are in college and suddenly everyone’s free again.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com