I have written about friendships, and being okay by yourself, but realise I have never touched being single and happy. Over the last year, I’ve thought a fair amount about being single. Something about moving to university with the pressure and expectation that I am meant to find the love of my life at this point in my life has me thinking a lot about relationships.
I like to think that society has moved on and the sexist expectations no longer exist on women. Unfortunately, whilst we have come a long way in what it used to be like beforehand, there is still quite a lot of pressure on women when it comes to dating and relationships. Being in a relationship is still seen as something that a woman should achieve and there is an expectation that when a woman is in her late 20s or early 30s that they are looking to settle down and start a family. This is really obvious to me now even though I am still young. If I said now that I don’t want kids, I know I would get so many questions on why- and the typical, but don’t you feel the maternal instinct? Because I do want kids, however, even though I am only 19, no one questions me any further as people just assume that this is what all women should want. All of these expectations on what my dating life should look like and when I should settle according to society has had me reflecting a lot on being single, what I did take away from the relationship I had and where I stand on it all.
What being in a relationship taught me:
I always want to be independent.
Independence is not necessarily something tied to being single. There’s definitely a whole idea of a ‘strong and independent single woman’ - whilst I think the empowerment behind it is great, independence doesn’t necessarily have to go hand in hand with being single. I found that even when in a relationship, independence was something I really wanted to keep and sometimes made me feel like I missed being single because of it. I associated being single with being free and I missed it. However, I’ve learnt you should have independence within a relationship and be free to live your own life. If you don’t feel like you can be independent in your relationship, then something isn’t right. You should feel free even within a relationship- being with someone should just feel like another choice you have made. You should be able to live your own life and it is not healthy not to have a life outside of one with your partner.
I don’t have commitment issues, it just wasn’t the right person.
I thought I maybe wasn’t ready for a relationship when after dating for 6 months, I couldn’t really see a future with the person. Now I realise that part of the reason I wanted to keep the relationship more casual was because I couldn’t see it working in the long term. I would say I did love the person once upon a time, but as we dated and I got to know them better, that they just were not the one for me. I started dating them casually - by casual I mean that whilst we were committed and exclusive, we didn’t necessarily see each other as regularly as other couples, didn’t really think seriously about our future together and spoke a lot virtually. I remember in the summer when we had been dating for 6 months, not wanting to change the nature of our relationship and move forward. I thought it was that I wasn’t ready to commit to a full relationship when I broke it off (which honestly is completely fine too). I think now in hindsight it just isn’t the right fit because I’ve never been a person that struggles with commitment generally - and thinking to other relationships like friendships or family, I’ve never been one that isn’t loyal and willing to stick by someone. I feel if the right person for me came along, I probably would be willing to go out with them and be in a relationship. I also believe that you will know when you meet the right person in the exact same way you know when you are falling for someone.
Adapting to each other.
Relationships are a lot about moulding to each other. I knew this before dating as I feel like this is also applicable to any kind of relationship such a friendship. There needs to be a degree of respect and adapting to each other. But, being in a relationship really enforced this more for me. There is no perfect partner out there for you - we are all flawed and you will not find a person that magically works for both of you without both of you putting in the effort to respect each other’s space, thoughts and feelings.
I have always believed in boundaries - it keeps you safe and makes sure that you don’t go above your own limits. Being in a relationship more than ever taught me of the importance of sticking to your boundaries and not giving in to any pressure. Someone who truly loves you and cares about you will respect your boundaries. You are your own person and everyone has different needs and is ready to do things at different times. It is a huge red flag when the person you are with does not take no for an answer and will not accept your decisions.
I have no idea what my future will look like, but for now, I am focussing on being happy and living my life to the fullest - getting involved with things that excite me. Admittedly, sometimes thinking into the future does scare me because I like to think I will find the right person for me. However, I am reminding myself that whatever needs to happen will happen. As women, we are complete the way we are. With or without a partner. Reality is usually different to what we may visualise, but that adds to the excitement of life.