When you are single there is a pressure that is spoken and unspoken about how you are supposed to be ‘normal’ or like everyone else and be in a relationship with someone. – Anonymous
Two years ago my sisters got married five weeks apart. It sounds crazy, but it was actually a great, albeit sometimes stressful time. I spent the whole year helping them and listening to all the amazing things they had planned for their special days. Since our whole family was scattered across the globe at the time, it was a great way to bring us all together. I loved it…until the first wedding hit. I should have guessed that when two out of three daughters were getting married so close together that the jokes and questions about my own love life were bound to happen. I think my favorite was “Are you next?” Well I’m their only daughter left so I guess I am. There was also the “Are we going to be back here in another five weeks for you?” Well sure if mail order grooms are a thing I supposed we could be. A lot of people seemed extremely fixated on my love life (or lack thereof) and it bothered me. I understand when you’re at a wedding these things come up, it’s like the ultimate event for love, but over the years I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter where I am, everyone seems to have an opinion about my relationship status.
We live in an age full of social media and people giving their opinions left, right and center about everything and honestly it gets to me sometimes. It’s really hard to be able to figure things out when so many people have different perspectives on what you’re doing in your own life. The worst I find are people who you haven’t, and most likely would never solicit advice from in the first place. I have a sphere of people in my life such as my family, my roommate, and some close friends whose opinions I highly value, and who I give every right to comment on my life if they think something’s amiss or to challenge me. However, I began to realize that there were a lot of people outside of this sphere who were lining up to give me advice as well. It wasn’t always pointed directly at me, often times it referred to single women in general, but since I’m one of the few single women in a lot of my social groups I felt it was directed at me.
I will admit that I get very passionate about this topic. My roommate is often afraid to bring it up because it’ll more than likely cause me to fly into 30 minute (or more) rant on how much I hate the dating culture around me. It’s something I’m trying to work on, because I know that every person is different and every relationship is different. I realize that I’m no better than those people who frustrate me in regards to commenting on my relationship status if I start attributing generalizations onto others.
The reason I decided to write this particular blog post is because, as many of you know by now, my roommate began dating. Before this happened we both had each other to turn to when we felt lonely or like we were the anomaly among our peers. Now it’s just me. And I have become extremely frustrated with how our culture (or the culture I find myself surrounded in) treats dating and being single.
I distinctly remember a couple months ago a friend of mine wanting to set me up with someone. It wasn’t someone I knew super well, but I knew them enough to know that it wasn’t someone I was interested in. When I told them this they seemed confused. “Why not?” They asked. “Don’t you want to find someone? Do you want to be alone forever?” In that moment it felt like I had only two options: date this guy or be destined to spinsterhood. There was no other option. I shrugged it off however and moved on. However a couple weeks later somebody else asked me if I was looking for someone to date. I honestly told them that I wasn’t actively seeking someone. That I was happy being single, enjoying it even and if the right guy came along I would happily make room for him, but that I wasn’t interested in chasing down every guy that walked by in case they might be the “one.” I was content. They looked flabbergasted. “Why? Why are you happy being single?”
These are just two example of encounters I’ve had in regards to me being single in the last few years. But it finally got to me. I started feeling guilty for being happy with my life. I started second guessing myself and wondering why am I single? Am I broken? Is there something wrong with me? Am I less of a person because I can’t seem to find someone to be with or won’t go out with just any guy?
I know that no one around me was intentionally trying to make me feel this way. Their offers to set me up with someone weren’t because they felt sorry for me, they just wanted me to be as happy as they were in their relationships.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of marriage and kids. My parents never really talked about me getting married or settling down. They focused on encouraging me to follow my dreams and do what I loved. If that had been to get married young they would’ve been all for it, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I just assumed eventually it would either happen or it wouldn’t, but there was no use sitting around waiting for it when there was so much more I wanted to accomplish in life such as school and traveling. Those were my dreams for a long time. Slowly they’re beginning to change to include new dreams and ideas, and one of those is to get married at some point.
I’m not disregarding being in relationships at a young age, or getting married, or having kids. Please don’t take that away from this entry. Instead I’m just saying we all do it our own way, and that’s ok.
When I was 21 and in my first relationship, I thought exclusively dating someone just meant that you were getting to know them and learning more about them one on one in order to see if this was someone you could seriously commit to. I’m all for going on a coffee date or two with a guy and then realizing that you’re not interested in them and leaving it at that. How else are you supposed to discover someone to be with? I don’t condone dating for the sake of dating, I do believe there’s a difference between the two. However, when I agreed to be in a relationship with my ex, it was like I had committed the rest of my life to him. After a month everyone around me began asking me when we would be getting married and if we were in love etc. And my boyfriend was doing the same. I became incredibly overwhelmed. There was so much pressure and so many decisions I was supposed to make based on the opinions of others. The minute I entered into that relationship I felt like everyone around me was expecting things of me, including my boyfriend. I felt like I owed him myself. I owed him marriage and the rest of my life. But that was a lie. I didn’t owe him any of that. Not at that point in our relationship, and I honestly think there’s no point in a relationship prior to being married where you would actually owe that to someone.
If I said I wasn’t sure people assumed I wasn’t serious about my relationship, but to say anything else would’ve been a lie. For me personally, there was no way I would be able to know after a month whether or not I was ready to spend the rest of my life with someone? I’m a logical person, it is incredibly hard for me to allow my feelings to guide me or for me to express them to others. I need to wrestle through things in order to get to the other side and feel confident about my decisions. This is exactly why it’s so hard for me to be the “Woo” girl my roommate so desperately wishes I was at times.
I spent the majority of my first relationship shrouded in anxiety and having panic attacks in my room because I felt like I wasn’t living up to the expectations everyone had for me. Everyone had an opinion and everyone wanted me to act a certain way that I didn’t have time to really understand how I felt or what I wanted. I felt like I had been swept up by wave and dragged out to sea.
When I broke up with my boyfriend I felt like a complete failure. Dating was supposed to be a serious thing, and why would you enter into a relationship that doesn’t end in marriage? These are a lot of the vibes I got from people before and after dating my ex. The worst thing about everyone having an opinion about things?
I already felt it. I was perfectly capable of making myself feel discouraged about being single, just as I was perfectly capable about making myself feel guilty and anxious about my failed relationships. I didn’t need people, even though I knew it wasn’t intentional, telling me things I already knew or felt. What I needed was for people to come around me and let me know it was ok. That these things happen. That some relationships fail. That being single isn’t a bad thing. In fact I’ve learned a lot about myself while being single that will benefit me immensely in my next relationship.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that everyone process differently. Everyone experiences things differently. It’s ok to be single your whole life. It’s also ok to be married. It’s ok to have more than one relationship. It’s ok to make mistakes. You’re writing your own story and it’s not going to look like anyone else’s. Just because your best friend found someone their first time out or your colleague got married after 6 months doesn’t mean you have to. You are not them. This is something that I am still wrestling with: the idea that I am no one else. I am me. And I’m not sure I even know what that means yet. I’m still struggling everyday with how I should feel, how I should act, how a relationship should look like. Relationships are already incredibly scary without the added outside expectations or pressures. So next time you make a joke or flippant comment about someone’s relationship status or compare them to you or anyone else, remember it’s not your story. It’s theirs. And there is no opinion necessary…unless asked.