It’s OK to be single

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I was watching a talk show yesterday where the topic of conversation was the “new middle age crisis”, the one you hit when you hit 30 and realise you’ve not achieved as much in life as you’d have liked to.

There was a bit of a discussion where this guy who’d written a book about the subject was explaining how this works. He talked about issues with feeling the need to find and realise your purpose in life and being faced with so many options and obstacles.

One of the other guests (or maybe he was one of the hosts) turned around and started going on about how the only true purpose is marrying and having children as that is what ensures the continuation of the human race. He said everything else was “this generation’s fault” for looking up to “unrealistic goals” instead of just pairing up and raising children.

Now, I am pretty sure the guy was playing devil’s advocate, because the author guest was pretty dull, making for pretty dull TV. On the other hand, this view, to a various degree, is shared by many. If you’re single, then you’re probably not a stranger to the pressure society exerts on you to find someone, settle down and have kids.

You might expect me to be all for it as an online dating professional, because I make my living because people want to find love. Let me tell you, though, I find this sort of view on relationships and families really annoying.

There is no need for it. It’s perfectly OK to be single in this day and age. It’s OK to be single and looking and it’s also OK to be happily single. Basically, wherever you are in your life right now – it’s OK. People should just accept that and let you be.

Firstly, the belief that you can only fulfil yourself as part of a couple is really really damaging. It doesn’t even make sense. It takes the power over your own life out of your hands and places it, at least partially, in the hands of someone you may have never even met yet. And as for having kids, this view makes personal fulfilment (usually women’s) depend on a biological function that is simply not an option for some. It also, in my eyes, belittles the contribution women can make to this world. The vast majority of women can become mothers. It doesn’t require any education or skill apart from those skills required for parenting. An illiterate mother can be just as good a mother to her child as a woman with a PhD. Once again, we go back to the post-feminist view that women shouldn’t have careers and education — or at least not place so much importance on them — as their role is really to stay at home and care for kids. Women who are unable to have children are made to feel inferior, as if they would never be a “real” woman without becoming a mother. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

Now, I’m not against having kids, of course, but I often wonder why, in a world that is bursting at the seams with people already, society is still leaning on everyone to have children with such great force. I also wonder how in a world where there is a shortage of single men or women in the population of certain countries (i.e. China), people still uphold the notion that single = bad and relationships, practically at all cost = good. Sometimes, it’s simply not an option for people to pair up. At other times, it’s not the way some people wish to live their lives.

Shouldn’t we just learn to let people be?

If you’re single but you want to meet someone, that’s great. You should definitely keep looking. But do you really need people pressuring you while you search and making you feel like less of a person? Wouldn’t it be nicer to just enjoy your single days without feeling like you’re failing as a person every day you’re not sharing your bed with someone your family and friends think should be right for you?

Ultimately, the only person whose life you can control completely is you. Many people have achieved great things in the world that were nothing to do with their personal lives whatsoever. Some people did it while having familes and some without.

I’m not saying you should abandon the search for a relationship if this is what you want. The fact is, most people in this world who are single dream of finding love and raising a family. It’s not all about being pressured by society. It’s something that comes from deep within.

I am, however, saying that you are within your rights to live your life the way you see fit and tell all those well-wishers around you to back off, at least in your own mind. It’s OK to be where you are in your life without feeling like a failure even if you didn’t tick all the boxes your family, your friends or society as a whole think you should have ticked by now.

So if you’re single, relax. Do something nice for yourself. Try to think a little bit about how you can make your life more enjoyable in the place you’re in right now. Dedicate some time to finding someone to love if that’s what you want, but for god’s sake, don’t become obsessed with it. Being single doesn’t make you any less of a person.

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