.Advice Goddess: Is It OK to Be Done with Dating?

I’m a 57-year-old twice-divorced man. Though I never wanted to get to a point where romance wouldn’t be in my big picture, I’m feeling done with it. I’ve replaced dating and getting married again with gourmet cooking for one. I’m really enjoying it, but it worries me. Is it okay to be done?—Single And Culinary

Well, according to some research, married people do live longer. However, that’s sometimes just because they were unsuccessful at killing each other.

There’s this notion that your life is pretty much a black chasm of nothingness if you’re without a “significant other.” Psychologist Bella DePaulo blames this thinking on what she calls “the cult of the couple.” DePaulo, who researches the elements of being satisfyingly single, marvels at “the strange implication that people without a stable sexual relationship are wandering adrift with open wounds and shivering in their sleep.”

Though we humans evolved to be interdependent, we don’t have to be sleeping with those people on the reg for them to count. In fact, having good friends you can rely on is associated with a whole bunch of physical and mental health benefits.

Interestingly, research increasingly suggests that providing social support may be even better for you than getting it, both psychologically and physically. A study co-authored by psychiatrist Randolph Nesse on elderly people who regularly did generous acts for others is one of a number that find an association between being a “giver” and increased life expectancy. Conversely, Nesse theorizes that the rising tide of depression in our society has roots in how disconnected many of us are, leading to a deficit in the kindness we evolved to give and receive.

Well, you’re set up perfectly to extend yourself for others—by handing them a plate of your gourmet chow. Consider using your newfound love of cooking to bring a social circle together around your dining room table. Invite friends over every Friday or so to dine or even help you make dinner. The cool thing is, before they arrive, nothing’s stopping you from whispering the same seductive thing you would to a woman: “So…what are you wearing?” The turkey: “The same little paper socks you put on me an hour ago, stupid.”

I’m a 42-year-old woman, and I’ve been dating the guy in the townhouse next door for two years. I love him and I’d like to get married, but he has always taken me for granted. My friends say I’m too available. Yes, I’m always there for him, always picking up the phone or texting back right away, etc. Why is this a bad thing? I’m loyal and caring. Also, I’m not sure how I could be less “available” when he lives next door.—Undervalued

Being neighbors is so convenient: “Could I just borrow your step ladder until tomorrow and your vagina for, like, an hour?” Unfortunately, being ready, willing, available and conveniently located is not exactly the launchpad to romantic longing. Consider that the restaurant everybody wants to go to is the one where getting a table requires Hollywood connections plus selling two-thirds of your soul to bribe the maitre d’. The food there might not be substantially better than that of the bistro up the street, but exclusivity elevates the apparent value of a place.

There’s a related concept in relationships: “the principle of least interest.” The term was coined in the 1930s by sociologist Willard Waller, and it describes how the person who has the least interest in continuing a relationship has the most power over it.

Sadly, your boyfriend most likely has a set opinion of your value, so your chances of getting more appreciation from him are probably blown. Still, it’s important to note that in a relationship, you don’t have to keep up the “least interest” gambit forever; you should just hold off on being full-on loyal and caring till you have somebody who’s inspired to do that for you, too.

Ultimately, it’s important to work on yourself so you’ll be “hard to get.” But before you get to that point, you can act “as if”—say, by setting an alarm for four hours and returning texts then instead of 8.6 seconds after they hit your phone. It’s sure to be difficult at first. But you could probably get into a balanced, loving relationship if you’d just adhere to Waller’s principle: We pine for what’s slightly out of reach, not what’s all over us like an oil spill.

Pacific Sun
The Pacific Sun publishes every Wednesday, delivering 21,000 copies to 520 locations throughout Marin County.

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