I shall begin with some two-word horror stories.
Being single is just fine. Of course, we don’t need a partner to be happy. Often, it’s even a welcome relief from a bad relationship or a break-up that was a long time coming. Single life is just a temporary year or two of fun, frivolous dating until the love of our life shows up. That’s what happens for most people.
But how about when it doesn’t happen? You take your twenties as they come. You focus on friends, family, nights out, travelling and your career. Finding a partner is low on your priorities, it’s not important for now. Your mum tells you it will happen when you least expect. Then, suddenly, your single year becomes a single five years. Should we start to panic? Should we have put more eggs into our ‘find love of life’ basket before it was too late? Many of us envisaged we’d have a successful marriage with baby-number-two on the way by this point.
Despite knowing that comparing yourself to others is the path to self-sabotage, when you’re a single (almost) 30-year-old woman, you notice that most of your friends are in relationships. Not just any relationships. Living together, engagement ring, child bearing, real relationships. After all, when you’re nearing the big 3 – 0, is there really much point if it isn’t a long-term endeavour? The scary thing is that when you’re totally and utterly single, this life of marital bliss seems laughably unlikely and inconceivable for you.
This thinking, however, is part of the problem for us singletons. When you’re nearing an age where you may want to begin to consider possibly settling down, you’re very aware that the person you’re seeking has to be worthy of perhaps considering possibly settling down with. This results in us being pickier than our early-twenties selves ever were. This, combined with the smaller pool of bigger fish (bigger egos at least), means that the dating scene is all looking a little bleak.
On the subject of bleak dating scenes, online dating platforms are the most popular method of meeting potential partners in 2020. Both the best and worst things about them is that they bring random people to your attention. People who you would never normally mingle with or even meet in the real world. Though this presents you with more potential matches, it also presents you with more pointless, awkward encounters with people you have nothing in common with. This leads to a downward spiral of hopelessness.
Tinder, Bumble and other such delightful dating apps are robbing us of any hope we might have once had that there are decent partners out there to be had. Each swipe we see '39-years-young and looking for something casual’ or ‘28-years-old and 420 friendly’. No thanks.
Then, if you do manage to find somebody who looks even remotely your type, you enter into the game of: match, message, date and ‘you ignore them or they ignore you forever'. Sounds fun, right? (This is where the older generations point out that we could seek to communicate with real life people who we see in real life social situations but who knows how to do that anymore? Certainly not me! They’re probably choosing between five women from Tinder at the present moment, anyway.)
Instead of feeling like every year of single life is bringing us closer to finding the partner of our dreams, quite the opposite is true. We settle into our single ways more and we accommodate the prospect of a relationship less and less. Every year we are feeling more hopeless, less confident and more convinced that long-term-single will be our marital status forever. Let’s just buy some cats now.
On the flip side, the pressure we feel to eventually find romantic love robs us of the joy of what we already have in the present. Us single people have more time to spend investing in friendships, in hobbies and in learning more about ourselves. We simply cannot prioritise all aspects of our life at any one time. So, instead of being envious of our coupled-up counterparts, perhaps we should spend more time remembering that we are lucky to have the option to be independent. An option that our female ancestors most certainly didn’t have.
Repeat after me. Being single and self-sufficient is a success, not a failure.