I’ve Never Been in a Relationship, and I’m Learning to Be OK With It
As 2020 comes to a close, I’ve had plenty of time, more than enough time to reflect. Socially distant, with a plethora of quiet moments alone, I’ve had to be one with my thoughts…those of the past, present, and future. Prior to January 1st, I had my own set of resolutions. Like everyone else, I had things I wanted to do, places I wanted to travel, and had a clear depiction of who I wanted to be. 2020 was meant to be the year of “putting myself out there” in every sense of the word, especially in the dating sense.
In my 27th year, I had never been in a relationship. Not once. While I didn’t expect to find the love of my life, I had intentions to go out in the world and “put myself out there” so to speak.
At first, my singledom was completely intentional. I came from a religious background, and I had little interest in dating. Later on, though, I was less involved in religion…yet still hadn’t gotten around to dating. There were numerous reasons. First, I was deeply invested in my education and professional goals. Second, I moved constantly. Due to the mixture of both, I never quite seemed to let my guard down, afraid that emotionally attaching myself to someone would hamper my progress. To me, the most frightening thing was underachieving, and being stuck in a place I didn’t want to be. On top of that, there was never someone out there who just seemed to like me back.
However, as the years rolled by, I began to feel the weight of my inexperience. As I watched numerous friends get engaged, married, and start families of their own, I felt left behind. As my comrades talked about their various relationship and sexual experiences, I couldn’t chime in. There were always the questions, “Are you seeing somebody?” Of course, the answer was always “No.”
While I had exceeded professionally, I couldn’t say I had the experience of truly loving someone romantically, and being loved in return. There were days I felt as if something was wrong with me. There were days I wondered if I was desirable or if I could ever be desirable. Day in, day out, it seemed as if I was bombarded with media of oversexed youngsters. They’d tell me, if you haven’t dated or had sex by the geriatric age of 16, there must be something wrong with you! Tired of being an “old maid,” I wanted to change my situation.
2020 started out promising, with so many outings, events, and professional accomplishments. Additionally, usually stoic and shy, I made a decision to be more outgoing, and perhaps a bit more vulnerable. For the most part, things seemed to be working out in my favor. However, the unexpected happened. In early March, Coronavirus started its warpath. And practically overnight, my plans were ripped from under me.
With events canceling, and opportunities vanishing into thin air, I was back at square one. Relegated to social isolation, and a life in front of my laptop, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. For once, I had tried to be in control of my romantic life, and almost immediately, the control was taken away. I was unhappy in my situation, yet I decided to take action! Now those actions didn’t seem to be yielding results. I attempted online dating on and off, and couldn’t seem to find someone of which the interest was mutual.
As one month of social distancing turned into two, then three, and now almost 10, I’ve been forced to look inside myself.
I began to ask, “Am I too picky? Are my standards too high? Even if I am not that into someone, should I give them a chance?”
As 2020 progressed, I also learned some major lessons. Self-love, healthy boundaries,(an often overlooked aspect of self-love) and not allowing society and peers force my timeline were all reoccurring themes. In my growth, I noticed that while I knew how to be alone, I didn’t necessarily learn to enjoy my own company, or really love myself.
I’d battled with body image and low self-esteem almost my entire life, and it was the fuel behind many of my relationships. As much I wanted the best version of someone else, I also wanted to become the best version of myself. I had to remind myself that I didn’t need someone else’s affection to feel loved and validated.
Over the years, the last one especially, I’d felt the pressure to be just like “everyone else.” I was tempted to settle with guys who weren’t that into me, or those who displayed numerous red flags, and to give into men who charmed with me with even a little sliver of kindness and attention. Trying to get a date became like a chore. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, I decided to step away from dating, at least for a little bit.
For a very long time, I treated my relationship status (or lack thereof) as a terrible dark secret to hide away. It was a huge source of embarrassment for me. However, it only became a massive deal because I made it that way. More recently, I decided to open up about it. Contrary to what I thought would happen, no one seemed to really care, and they were often reassuring that there is nothing wrong with it.
After a while, I decided to think about my extended singledom more positively.
For nearly two years, I scoured the depths of the internet for advice on manifesting love. I’m a pretty spiritual person, so I was wondering if there was something else going on with me. There was, but my mind was so set on obtaining a partner, I couldn’t see straight. When my perfect dream man didn’t fall out of the sky, I thought I wasn’t “in alignment” or that I was being punished for something else I’d done. I could never seem to figure it out. After a while, I decided to let go.
Being single allowed me the space to grow and build a sense of self. While I do believe that you can learn from romantic relationships, my path was different. In being alone, I was able to to learn how to love myself more, work on my own betterment, and find fulfillment elsewhere. It also allowed me to take leaps of faith I wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
In all my years of being the “forever alone” friend, I noticed how many people get into relationships that don’t serve them. There are people who get into relationships before they know who they are or what they want. There are people who allow the hurt and disappointment from past loves to linger, impacting their current relationships. There are people who settle because they feel they don’t deserve or can’t do any better. The list goes on. Like I mentioned, you can learn from past experiences, but I’m glad having space for myself prevented that. Despite my lack of partners, I’ve had my own healing to do. I am still a work in progress.
Additionally, I made a decision to (continue to) be patient and follow my own timeline. One aspect of having been single for so long is that I realized I don’t have to lower my expectations in order to “get it over with.” While my first relationship may not be “The One,” why not wait a bit longer for someone who’s actually worth the wait? I think I’ll just make the most of life in the mean time.
There’s the quote from Moulin Rouge that I think about constantly:
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is to love, and be loved in return.
While it’s not entirely wrong, the greatest thing you can ever learn is to truly love yourself. Then maybe, the right love from someone will follow.