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Wellness Wednesday for November 29, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

My flight to New Zealand is tomorrow. It's a monster, two 12 hour flights with a 7hour layover in China between. Any advice for getting through it?

Also, have a video of me deadlifting somewhat poorly.

I don't know if it's a deficiency with my form or what, but several times this year I've thrown my back out from deadlifting. It's annoying because I usually only notice the day afterwards. Do you find that wearing the belt reduces the likelihood of that happening? If so, can you recommend a belt for a relative novice? (The first time I ever deadlifted was January.)

Almost certainly a form issue. It's possible your anthropometry isn't great for deadlifits, but the vast majority of people should be able to perform the lift safely. Wearing a belt can help, but I don't recommend relying on it to save you if you are pulling from a less-safe position.

For a novice I would recommend only owning one belt for everything. If you are not planing on competing any time soon, I would prioritize adjustability and comfort. A uniform width is generally considered better for the type of bracing you should be using for deadlifts. That is, I would personally avoid the bodybuilding style belts that have the wide part "for you back". A good intra-abdominal pressure based brace is far superior to the proprioceptive benefit of a tapered style belt.

IMO the best overall pick for a training belt is a single or double ply, 3" or 4", leather single prong belt. Something like this can be nice because of the extra adjustment. Go for the 3" if you have a short torso, or if you have a hard time getting into deadlifit position with a belt on. Single ply can be more comfy but is less supportive if you get really strong. For sure single prong for ease of use. Lever belts can be nice, but entry level models are usually too annoying to adjust to be nice training belts. Having the extra holes can be nice, as most people can get a slightly better position deadlifting with a belt ~1" larger setting than their squat setup.

For general training, or if you plan on doing Olympic style lifts, a nylon velcro belt (never tried that brand, just an illustrative link) can be good. Cheaper and easier to deal with than a leather belt, but not quite a stiff or durable as a leather belt.

Thanks for the detailed response. By any chance would you have any resources for proper deadlifting form? I really have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

For general introduction maybe "set your back stiff like a board, not flat like a board."

If you're experiencing frequent back tweaks maybe this series. Much more advanced. For an intermidate level reference, I guess maybe this video.

Thanks a million, I just watched that first video and there's a lot of good advice in there.

When I first started deadlifting I never used a belt. However after the COVID hiatus my form always felt quite off and I started to get lower back pain when deadlifting even with a belt, perhaps as a result of squatting. I can deadlift without pain now if I use a belt. I wouldn't necessarily recommend them, but it's worth trying.

Was that 220 pounds or kg?

It's 200kg, so a pr for me. I used to do conventional deadlift, and I think I'm actually weaker with sumo, but I switched a bit over a year ago because I got really bad back pain with heavy weights. My old conventional DL pr was 195kg.

I fly international a lot. My strategies work for me and I have my typical routes mastered. Timing your sleep/wake cycle on arrival is most important.

Melatonin is great on paper, doesn't seem to do much for me. I time caffeine, cardio, and sleep so I'll be most tired at the local bedtime on the first few nights. (Example: NYC to Switzerland takes off 6pm, so I get up at 3 am in NYC, binge coffee, work, take off 6PM, and I can sleep a few hours on the plane. Arrive 8am, caffeine around 10am and I'm fresh for the whole afternoon. I make sure to to push through to at least 8pm and then pass out for the night.)

Never stay up too late. Plan everything so you're tired as hell for bedtime the first few nights. Try to avoid caffeine after 12pmish the first few days after arrival so you can sleep well later. If you absolutely have to nap, do some math to calculate if you'll be tired that night, and set SEVERAL timers. Otherwise, just push through. Get on a regular schedule. Cardio/loooooong walks are great if you have too much energy and its getting late. You need pass out and sleep well at the normal bedtime for the first few nights!!!

As for the planes themselves, noise cancelling headphones if you got them. I drink at least 1L water every 2 hours minimum. I go to the back and have them refill my airport plastic bottle. Nobody else does this and its crazy. Planes are so dry. A good book or magazine is the best to pass the time. I have a kindle with 100's of books to read or re-read, and I'll put boring ones down in search of something that is great for long trips. Download any potentially interesting podcasts before takeoff. Series are great to binge. (I recommend alphabet boys, especially season 2). I've never had a 7 hour layover. The lounge might be worth it. Going into town might be worth it just to have a mini adventure, but you have to like random stuff like that (ie not find it stressful).

Nice deadlift! At ~23sec I saw your hips come up first. I don't use a belt, but I think I take a deeper breath and expand my stomach more to fill out my leverages, then brace. Perhaps something to play around with. You may want to mix in straps just to put more attention elsewhere (hips, leverages, whatever). Just some ideas.

Thanks for the advice, I have the lord of the rings movies on a laptop, my phone and headphones, plus books, hopefully that keeps me entertained. I'm pretty good I adjusting my sleep schedule, and I will arrive at my hostel early evening, so I reckon I'm good to sleep Sunday night.

I can see my hips shooting up. I think it's me not pulling the slack out of the bar. I never really felt much of a need for straps, I use chalk and it's enough for me to rep out 160kg. Only issue there is that on my right hand my thumb ends up colliding with my thighs at the top.

I think it's me not pulling the slack out of the bar.

I was thinking something like that too, but I'm no expert. The straps are only to theoretically free up concentration on other body parts, and dial those in.

I usually "sit back" just before initiating the movement. My final cues are "big chest, chin neutral, sit back (this takes the slack out too), drive through the heeeeeeeeels". This keeps my hips low, makes for a better hip hinge for me, while accentuating leg drive. For practice I found that breaking up a set of 5ish into a set of "consecutive singles" to near failure (ie quickly re-set and fully re-cue after each rep) really helped me dial in my form and approach failure. My toes are mostly parallel, but I've been told this can come down to personal preference. Enjoy the trip!

I personally started doing longer sets of touch and go deadlifts recently, but that sounds like a good way to dial in technique.

I find getting any sleep at all on the flights helps enormously on the other end. If I were unable to sleep on the first flight I would probably use a over the counter sleep aid like diphenhydramine for the second. If the meal service is right after takeoff I might eat, but I would brush teeth and try to sleep right after that. If the meal service is latter I wouldn't bother. To avoid being woken up for mid-flight service, try to make it as clear as possible you intend to sleep. Earplugs, blanket, eye-mask, etc. Assuming you are flying economy a neck pillow worn "backwards" can help with your head falling forward and snapping you back awake.

Pretty reasonable deadlift. Seems like a pretty elaborate setup if you pull like that every time. If you don't set up the same way every time, being more consistent with the setup for every set can help a bit.

I don't usually take that long, but then I rarely do 1rms on deadlifts. Normally I do need to take a few deep breaths.

I am flying economy, so thanks for the advice.

I have a tenant renting a single room from me. He's been doing gig work but says with the economy getting worse- AKA declining disposable income for things like uber- he finally has to get a real job(I suspect student loan payment resumptions are a bigger factor than declining disposable income). He has a BA in parent's basement studies, somewhat adjacent to a classics degree but not actually classics, and says that he had a nervous breakdown working for the public school system(which will hire any degree holder not on a sex offender registry). His people skills are not good and he is unwilling to learn Spanish or do hard blue collar work. He's previously done some online tutoring in English as a second language for wealthy foreigners, but for some reason that's not an option anymore- I think the PRC changed its laws and work got harder to come by or something like that.

What can I advise him to do that will pay his bills at least well enough that it stands little chance of becoming my problem as his landlord? I took him in as a favor to his brother and can't kick him out without either a much stronger reason than he's already generated or sacrificing that relationship as well.

Wait, the public school system is that easy to get in to? I have a degree and aren't on any registries that I know of.

Mine is, although there's a lot of extra paperwork and it comes with a salary cut to not have a masters degree or a teaching certificate. YMMV on yours, though.

Sounds like he might want to send his resume to a few temp agencies.

He sounds like he would do well in a government job. The public school experience will help him stand out from other candidates. Many government jobs do not require specialized skills or much in the way of people skills.

Once you have a government job it is easy to advance in the government because the hiring process favors people with government specific experience. There are many types of government jobs so he should be able to find something that appeals to him (clerk, bus driver, parks maintenance, etc.). If there is a lot of competition for government jobs in his area there is always to option to start with a less competitive limited term employment opportunity and transfer to full time position later.

Many entry-level government jobs pay significantly higher than minimum wage and are easier and more flexible than minimum wage jobs. Additionally, many governments have pensions, longevity programs, and fringe benefits so people can do quite well through sheer diligence.

I have a series of virtual on-site interviews tomorrow for a software engineer position with a major tech company. I have only ever worked for startups before, as most of my applications to bigger companies have been met with automated rejections.

I’ve done my best to prepare by solving LeetCode problems and reading up on system design in the short amount of time since the first contact with the recruiter, but still feel woefully inadequate. Prior to this, I had one technical assessment stage with an employee at the company where I received “great feedback” and was quickly slotted into having this followup series of interviews (3 hours back-to-back), which I delayed by a week to prepare a bit more, the maximum possible due to their hiring season ending this week.

I am stone cold terrified. I was terrified during the first technical, having some of the worst physical anxiety symptoms I’ve had since my teenage years, but I was able to calm down when I saw that the problem was approachable. I was able to find a solution, and the follow up questions just had to be discussed and not solved. I was also lucky that my interviewer was incredibly friendly and put me at ease. I fear that the next stages will not go as smoothly.

I think the terror is partially due to what’s at stake. My current company often feels it is on the brink of failure. My job seems more stressful than that of all of the other devs in my circle, unless they’re downplaying their own, but perhaps that could be attributed to my company being an understaffed startup that feels like it’s on the brink of failure. I also live in a VHCOL area, and support my unemployed spouse, so it feels like we’re always on the verge of going negative financially. This job I’m interviewing for would effectively double my compensation. A world of difference in terms of how much I could save, not just towards our financial security, but towards my goals.

I had been feeling a bit grim and depressed prior to this opportunity presenting itself. I think it’s one part burnout and another part about comparing my employment situation to my peers, and feeling like I’m stuck, like I’m not growing and like nothing is changing for the better. I would bounce out of it slightly, but then things would happen, and I’d slide back into it. I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for it not working out, telling myself that if I’ve made it this far now, I could do it again with a different company. I hope I can stay optimistic if I’m rejected tomorrow.

I don’t know what I wanted from writing all of this. Maybe just a place to vent, maybe some words of encouragement or advice, maybe some stories of your own trials and tribulations as they relate to mine. I feel slightly better having gotten it all out there.

Good luck. I saw some good advice on the subreddit. See also the followup comments. The original comment is below.

My ideal interview goes like this:

I paste problem in to doc

TC ("the candidate") reads it

TC generates and solves a trivial example to confirm understanding. E.g. for two sum: so f([2, 3, 4], 5) is True, but f([2, 3, 4], 12) is False, right? No discussion of algorithm yet

TC asks 1-2 needless pedantic questions. Can we assume f is called with appropriate types? Do we need to check if nums fits in RAM? If there is actual ambiguity, ask about that instead.

TC says OK I think I see a way to solve this using $DATASTRUCTURE, in worst case O(n2) time, where n = ..., which should be optimal theoretically because ....

TC verbally, with a little writing but not pseudocode, describes the algorithm, and checks it against their earlier examples.

TC says I think that sounds reasonable, should I start coding it up?

TC codes it up, using at least one helper function, and at least one piece of language-specific style/syntax. Functional programming is always nice.

TC comments at least once that there are two ways to write a thing, and pros and cons stylistically are...

At each step if possible, or when done if not, TC steps through their code with the same examples as before.

My biggest pet peeve is when TC is confused, asks broadly for "a hint", rather than putting in any effort: "I could almost X, but that fails because Y; do you think there's a way to remedy that, or maybe I should consider other options". Bonus pet peeve points if, given the hint, TC has no idea what to do, but confidently says "ah yes of course, thanks"

Hey, good luck!

If they were nice on the first technical, and you’ve already cleared that bar, you can expect them to be similarly nice in subsequent rounds. Brutal interviews are for weeding out a glut of applicants, not punishing those who already seem to be a good fit.

That’s not to say you should be completely relaxed. It’s good that you are taking it seriously and have prepared. Ultimately, even if you don’t end up with this position, that policy serve you well.

All I can tell you is that every time I've felt like this in my career, it turns out to have been a minor speed bump in retrospect. There will be another job opp like this even if you don't pass the interviews this time. Just keep your LinkedIn up to date and keep chatting with recruiters.

Some of your anxiety might also stem from a flavor of imposter syndrome where you feel as though the company you're interviewing for is deigning to offer you a bunch of extra money you don't deserve. This is incorrect. They saw your skillset and made a cold, rational business calculation that you were such a valuable to the team that it would be a good deal for them to spend yourCurrentSalary * 2 each year. That means that your skills.are valued at that amoubt among at least some companies. Don't feel intimidated and nervous, feel confident due to the vote-of-confidence you've received.

Once more into Wednesday Wellness with some commentary on running that I think is mildly interesting and somewhat counterintuitive for those that aren't into endurance sports. Last month, another user successfully knocked out their marathon goal and I mentioned that as my miles were ramping up this fall, I was thinking about a full marathon prior to winter, and someone mentioned that I should have the underlying fitness to complete a marathon. They're correct, but I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding, and it's something I've bumped into with a few people that run a bit, but not really at great length, and not at race efforts, and it's a perception that running a marathon will tend to be at a slower pace than usual running, dropping down to accommodate the longer distances. While I'm not particularly good, I do run a fair bit and like to push my race times as close to optimal as possible, and this is quite far from true for me - my easy days are roughly an 8 minute/mile pace while my marathon pace is faster than 7 minutes/mile and my half marathon pace is ~6:15-6:20/mile. The challenge is not in running 26.2 miles, that's something I can roll out of bed and do at an 8-minute pace without any real trouble, it's in maintaining the faster, full-effort pace for the entire race. As you scale up through elite runners, these effects become more pronounced, with easy efforts remaining fairly slow and marathon efforts getting faster and faster.

So, anyway, despite the fact that I'm feeling pretty well, I won't be running a full marathon in 2023 because I don't feel that I've done the relevant training to put in a legitimate effort at the distance. Instead, I'll settle for a small half marathon to close out the year, try for one more personal best, and see what happens.

The challenge is not in running 26.2 miles, that's something I can roll out of bed and do at an 8-minute pace without any real trouble, it's in maintaining the faster, full-effort pace for the entire race.

Okay, we're operating on different levels here.

  • According to the conversion chart, an 8-minute pace is 12 km/h, which is the speed at which I can run for five minutes, give or take.
  • With asthma medication, this improved a bit to 12.6 km/h, which is like 7:45.
  • My easy pace, which is something I could run fifteen minutes at, is 10 km/h, or 9:40.
  • Sub-7 minutes/mile is 14kph, which is my "run for a few minutes and collapse out of breath with my heart beating at 180 bpm" speed, not "run a marathon" speed.

I am not a natural athlete by any means, but I am not overweight and do fine with resistance training and mild aerobic exercises like kettlebell swings. Is there a trick to running they forgot to teach me? Because I feel like an incel who's told to just be himself and talk to girls more.

Genes..they matter a ton, as much for g-loaded tasks as they do for physical fitness, whether it's endurance sports or strength sports. Even in high school, from what I can recall, about half the boys in my class could not run a mile without stopping. It was not because they were obese , but for whatever reason lacked the stamina to do it. Some ran it easily, and it was not like the faster-milers had put in '10,000 hours'. Practice does help, but there is still huge individual variance that cannot be accounted for by practice.

As with so many things, the first couple things to do are (1) be fast and (2) don't be slow, just like the trick of talking to girls while being handsome!

Seriously though, one of the things I enjoy about the sport is that the individual variability is so high that you really have to just compare yourself to yourself without getting too carried away with what others are doing. When you go all the way up to the top levels, you're looking at Kelvin Kiptum running a marathon at a 2:51/km average pace, which is just otherworldly to me. I can maybe hold that pace for 800 meters. Even local elites are so much faster than me that nothing I can do is going to make me remotely competitive with them. The underlying physiology for that is a combination of muscular power, oxygen utilization, running economy, and neuromuscular coordination. Such is life!

That said, if you want to get faster, the biggest thing to do is just running a lot of miles at an easy pace. While initially counterintuitive, the bulk of endurance adaptation that is plastic is from aerobic fitness, with the relevant adaptations triggering from slow, aerobic activity. For me, that means roughly 100K/week of running when a training cycle is going well and more like 65K/week when recovering and maintaining general fitness. If I could handle it without injury risk, I'd do a lot more, but I have trouble going above that without things getting dicey. I also run track intervals and tempo workouts, but the majority of my improvement is just from a decade of running consistently. When I started, my easy pace was something like ~6:00/km, and it just gradually got faster at the same intensity level, both by subjective feeling and heart rate.

Even local elites are so much faster than me that nothing I can do is going to make me remotely competitive with them.

Have you considered a car? /s

God made some shank's ponies faster than the others, Henry Ford ran them off the road.

I have repeatedly been informed by People of Wheels that even a bike is substantially faster than failing to have any form of conveyance other than my own feet.

I am somewhat confident that the average American couldn't keep up with Kiptum even riding a bike, especially not for two hours. On the other hand, breaking an hour in the 40km time trial is a common status hurdle for competitive cyclists, and is not even twice as fast.

So, anyway, despite the fact that I'm feeling pretty well, I won't be running a full marathon in 2023 because I don't feel that I've done the relevant training to put in a legitimate effort at the distance. Instead, I'll settle for a small half marathon to close out the year, try for one more personal best, and see what happens.

I ran at a D1 university. after getting out of college, I took a break from running, then planned to get back into it and really train for a full marathon. Any time an opportunity came up, I passed on it because I wasn't prepared to run my best possible marathon. A wife and kids later, I'm in my mid 30s and have never run a full marathon, and will never run my best marathon.

One of my running buddies was a 4:08 miler in college and ran with his D1 team up through 10K cross-country and doesn't have any real interest in local races for exactly that reason - he's older, chunkier, and slower, so those college times are never coming back and he has no impulse to post slower times with a tradeoff of increased injury risk. Instead, he's just a pretty fast dude that cruises with whatever pace group before we all get a beer.

I don't know whether I'm unfortunate to lack that experience or lucky that I get to keep getting faster, but I didn't start running until my late 20s, so I don't have these problems! I have enough experience to treat marathons very differently than every shorter distance though, so I don't have any real impulse to run another when I'm not up to going hard (I've run 5 at actual race effort, a couple more that weather/injuries didn't cooperate and scrapped that plan, and a couple more after that as a pacer). At some point, I won't be able to get any faster and I'll have to think about whether I want longer distances, age-graded goals, or something else, but for now I'll keep working on it.

I did not run at a D1 University, but was fit in college, and got my Marathon done right before graduating to check off the box haha. Knew it was only going to get harder from there.

will never run my best marathon.

If you ever run a marathon, you will have run your best marathon.

I recently watched a film regarding male loneliness and aging. Specifically, the main character was a middle-aged janitor that did not appear to ever pursue, or have any successful, romantic relationships. The premise of the movie is that he was often in a state of fantasy and delusion. He was shy and never approached women. In his fantasy he was intelligent and younger and he met a girlfriend at a trivia event.

The movie was mostly told from the perspective of his fictional girlfriend. In the fantasy/delusion many things initially seemed like reality, yet the movie seemed very eerie. As the movie progressed details kept shifting in a way that wasn’t consistent with reality (the fictional girlfriend had different careers, the parents weren’t a consistent age). The fictional girlfriend would sometimes verbalize that she was confused about details of the relationship or the events that were occurring. At the end of the movie the main character realizes it is all a delusion and commits suicide.

My interpretation of the movie was that it was trying to show the pain of male loneliness and how the mind can cope through maladaptive interpretations of reality and how the mind eventually starts to unravel when reconciling fantasy to reality.

I have some autistic traits which cause me to struggle with romantic relationships and I can see how in my past this caused me to have a maladaptive interpretation of reality. I would often place far too much blame on women for being shallow, etc. instead of looking inwards. SSC helped me get a better grip on reality and made me realize that I needed to improve myself. I have made a lot of progress on social anxiety and I’m much better at talking to people.

While my self-improvement journey led to a significant reduction of social anxiety when talking to new people (including attractive women) some new thoughts came to light. I’m now starting to question whether these new thoughts are just delusion cope:

  • I never really cared about getting a girlfriend, I just wanted social approval from my peers.

  • My sex drive has been especially low since I reduced my social anxiety. I haven’t really cared much about sex since then.

  • I don’t have a desire to try pursing a romantic relationship again because I enjoy alone time too much.

  • Most relationships require a draining amount of social performance (autistic masking) and it just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort anymore.

  • My occasional social interactions are enough to satiate my social needs so I don’t need to seek deeper relationships.

  • I have self-diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and that is why I struggle with social connections.

How do I tell if any of these thoughts are just lies that I’m telling myself? My original strategy was to externalize my failures by blaming women and society, etc. Maybe now I have internalized my failures in ways that aren’t true.

I have some autistic traits which cause me to struggle with romantic relationships

Care to elaborate?

  • I avoid eye contact, and I get very uncomfortable if I force myself to hold eye contact
  • Trouble understanding non-verbal social cues, especially in real-time
  • Flat affect (showing very little emotion even if other people are). I also don't feel emotions much at all.
  • Disinterest/frustration with social interactions especially in large group or with people I don't know well
  • Disinterest in small talk, sports, etc.
  • Very logical/rational thinking and wanting to do things efficiently without regard for emotions.
  • Sticking to routines (eating similar food each week, doing similar things on a weekly basis, etc.)

Most relationships require a draining amount of social performance (autistic masking) and it just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort anymore.

If you want to socialize but not with people who expect autistic masking, perhaps try to find some friends who don't expect autistic masking. i.e., other autistic people or people who socialize with them regularly.

Is this really how it works? My model of autists is that they might often be autistic in distinct ways such that if you put two random autists together you are more likely to get an unstoppable force meets immovable object situation as opposed to smooth social interaction.

Sometimes at least. I definitely know some people vaguely on the periphery of my friends group that talk a lot about being autistic and at least one of them mentions an autistic partner who doesn't really socialize with anyone else because they don't have to mask around their partner.

Is the film I'm Thinking of Ending Things?

Yes, that is the film that I'm talking about in my post.

I'm glad it got you thinking about your life, but for me I thought it was a bit shallow and gimmicky.

On the other hand, Anomalisa by the same director, I couldn't stop thinking about for ages.

This sounds like a film I would watch and recommend and my wife would see as infuriatingly typical of what she sees as my depressing, dark taste in movies. In other words I now plan to watch it.

The funny thing is, it was written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. He previously wrote and directed Anomalisa, a movie I loved and which I related to more than literally any other film (maybe any other work of fiction) I've ever seen in my life. He also wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which I've watched several times and loved every time, and Adaptation which, while not as powerful or thematically rich as the previous two, is just as clever, and absolutely hilarious.

So I was going into I'm Thinking of Ending Things with high expectations, which it utterly failed to meet. The weird parts of the three aforementioned films always had an in-story justification or were funny enough that you didn't care: here they seem like weird for the sake of weird. It's aiming for some kind of middle ground between surreal absurdist comedy (like Beckett) and straightforward psychological thriller (like Identity or Secret Window): it isn't funny enough for the former or unnerving enough for the latter. The man who once teased our brains with nested stories, obscure literary allusions and anachronic narrative now settles for the im14andthisisdeep territory of a title in which you initially think "ending things" means "dumping my boyfriend" but later realise it means "killing myself". Major disappointment from a man capable of far, far better. Cannot recommend.

That's disappointing. This is apparently adapted from a novel and not CK's original, if that explains anything. Edit: wrong letter

I mean, are you satisfied with where you are?

I’m satisfied for now, but I think there is room for improvement. I don’t know exactly what these improvements would be, but two thoughts that come to mind are spiritual growth and being able to retire sooner.

Being single seems optimal for now. In the future as I age I could see how that version of me would prefer some type of romantic relationship if it was low maintenance and with a woman who had a very low interest in sex.

If you're happy without companionship and don't want kids, then there's no reason to pursue a romantic relationship. "Low maintenance" is not a generally applicable descriptor thereof, after all. For spiritual growth you probably want to meet with a priest, not ask an internet forum for relationship advice. Likewise a financial planner is the person to talk to about your retirement account.

For spiritual growth you probably want to meet with a priest, not ask an internet forum for relationship advice. Likewise a financial planner is the person to talk to about your retirement account.

Indeed, and I am pursuing non-internet advice on those things. I was mostly bringing them up to make the point that they seemed more salient than romantic relationships in terms of life satisfaction.

I will add though that someone here mentioned John Vervaeke's Awakening from the Meaning Crisis and that has been really helpful on my spiritual journey. It gives me grammar and knowledge that I can use in other places of spiritual exploration.

Sounds like a stated preferences versus revealed preferences problem. You can't know which is true until you've had a genuine opportunity to choose.

That makes sense.

I’ve had some short-term romantic relationships and they always ended up feeling like the effort I was putting in wasn’t worth it. I felt like I was in a constant audition for her attention and that I had to remain vigilant about everything I did around her so she wouldn’t lose interest and leave me for another man with more relationship experience. I felt there were a lot of things I couldn’t open up about because it would be perceived as a sign of weakness.

My mental model of romantic relationships is probably heavily influenced by those experiences. If all future relationships are going to be like the past ones then I would be happier by remaining single. However, maybe not all relationships would turn out like that. Maybe I could find my 99% match that is unlike the other women I have been in romantic relationships with. I have a hard time envisioning that a new relationship would be different from previous ones based on my observations when interacting with new women.

Most relationships are like that in the beginning. People test each other, both for competence and interest.

That kind of testing doesn't persist indefinitely (unless they have something like bpd).

Do you think any of these dates developed an emotional attachment to you? I call them dates because this is not what deeper relationship are like at all. While dating as a man you usually need to adjust to female expectations but after a good connection is established it’s often the opposite and it’s the female who adapts to the guy’s personality and worldview.

I don't think any of these dates developed emotional attachments to me. The pattern seemed to be that she would view me as a nice/pleasant/reliable person but there wasn't enough beyond to generate a deeper emotional attachment.

I never really cared about getting a girlfriend, I just wanted social approval from my peers.

Back when I was single and lonely I could have been at risk of tell myself something exactly backwards from that:

I never really cared about social approval from my peers, I just wanted a girlfriend

That is to say, the desire for female companionship was far stronger and deeper and more substantial than any possibility that it was invented. On the other hand, the longing for social approval, while it objectively was also very real, was somewhat ephimeral and certainly displacable (and especially displacable by romantic approval of a single woman), to the point that I can kind of imagine that if I was slightly different, I could have falsely convinced myself that I didn't really care about social approval at all, it was just a dimension of my romantic loneliness. (and to be fair, once in a serious relationship, non-romantic social contexts do change tremendously and diminish in importance. )

So, what's my point? N=1, but if you can convince yourself that maybe you don't even really want a girlfriend, you're certainly outside of what my experience with normal romantic longing was. Far enough that it's true that you never really cared? I can't tell you that. But if you're looking for an outside measurement check - the ability to hold that thought doesn't resonate with my experience of authentically wanting a romantic partner.

Far enough that it's true that you never really cared?

Maybe a better way to express my thought is: I had an idealized version of what having a girlfriend would look like and how it would change my life. That is what I cared about and wanted.

After getting a girlfriend and many subsequent post-breakup dating interactions I realized that girlfriends and romantic relationships look a lot different than what I had idealized. I no longer cared much about them after replacing my idealized version of these ideas with versions based on my experiences.

Another potential component of this is I sometimes want something (such as a job) because I think it will be greatly beneficial. If I can’t get it then I will fixate on how much better my life would be if I just had this one thing. Then once I finally get it I quickly stop caring very much about it because it didn’t have the benefit I was expecting.

I can certainly identify with the 'having an idealize girl' feeling, and the 'adjusting to an actual girl not meeting those ideals', and that led in my dating life to a lot of introspection about whether I needed to adjust my perception or find a better girl. But never anything like

I no longer cared much about them after replacing my idealized version of these ideas with versions based on my experiences.

Any grappling with comparisons to idealized fantasy girls was part of a deep desire to find real girls that fit the bill, never anything like disillusionment with dating girls generally.

All that to say, I can't really help ya. I hope you work through what you need to and decide what is best for you.

Yeah. Evolution really really wants you to have kids (and you probably should!), so you'll have a strong drive for a romantic relationship independent from anything else.

Make that an N=2. When I've been single, I've had a healthy, happy, and normal social life with good long-term friends and a deep longing for romantic companionship (or at least sexual companionship that serves as a decent enough simulacrum for romance, even if it's not the real deal). In contrast, while romantically partnered, I have only very rarely felt that I didn't have enough of a social life outside of my relationship; the only time I can even think of was the government-imposed isolation of Covid. When considering romantic isolation, no amount of self-talk about objective material and platonic success even slightly moved the needle against being in dire need of a woman.

I know several of these feels.

Do you drink? I can't find a full-text source online, but see

I don't drink often (~twice a month, never more than once a week) and only at bars. I aim for about .06-.08 BAC when I drink. On days I drink I also take Phenibut in the morning, which potentiates the alcohol in the evening. I become very confident and charismatic when I'm in this state (as long as I'm interacting with non-sober people). It feels amazing and euphoric. It is also like exposure therapy because some of the confidence remains when I sober up.

I intentionally only drink at bars so that I do not become dependent on needing alcohol in everyday situations.

What has your experience with alcohol been? Do you think I should drink or more or less than I do?

Well, it certainly sounds like you'd know if it helped. I barely drink, haven't really a/b tested for myself, but it does seem like I enjoy being around people more when I drink, and when I saw that excerpt it occurred to me that maybe the author was on to something.

What movie is this?

Yes, that is the movie that I was referring to.