Life Out of Balance

Q: I'm 25 and have never been in a relationship. I think this is partly due to the strong family and cultural values with which I was raised, where I was expected to get an education and then to have an arranged marriage. After living in the US for 20 years, I'm disappointed that I didn't make time for someone in my life. I moved to a smaller city halfway across the country for a five-year job and neglected to socialize with coworkers over the past year. I bury myself in my work, which is very consuming, and I feel empty on weekends and nights. I find it hard to meet others in different fields. Those with whom I work are older and at different stages in life. I'm finding that those who are my age lack the goals/priorities that I have and expect in a potential date. How do I recover a sense of balance and fill this gaping void? -- Joe, 25

Dr. Susan: When you were preparing for your consuming job, did you find it easy? Probably not. I imagine you devoted enormous energy to learning what you needed to know because your career is important to you. Now you're discovering that a love life is important to you too. Begin prioritizing the search for a good partner, and realize that whenever you take on a major new task, something has to give. Time only stretches so far, so you may have to rethink your working hours just a bit. Break the process of pursuing relationships down into smaller parts and set yourself goals, such as attending one new event, preferably something with social possibilities, each weekend; reaching out to two new people of either gender every week (because the more friends you have, the more likely they'll introduce you to more friends and potential dates); and spending a few hours a week expanding your interests beyond the confines of your job. That will help you be a more interesting person when you do happen upon a potential date.

It's also possible, from what you say, that you're taking the dating world a little more seriously than many of your age-mates. Start small, start slow, and before long you'll find ways to apply your conscientiousness to getting that void filled. Don't neglect making contacts with organizations where there might be women who were raised similarly to you. Take heart: At 25, you already realize how important balance is, and that puts you ahead of many hard workers.

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