Some people spend all year talking about how much they love being single, how amazing they’re doing on their own… and then Valentine’s Day comes along and that once-confident person slides into a temporary pit of regret and self-doubt.
Why? Well, partially because people in the 14th Century read Chaucer’s poem The Parliament of the Fowls and decided that romantic love should be celebrated above all else.
Which is a pretty weak reason, to be honest. People in the 14th Century were still putting animals on trial in a court of law (FYI, pigs were the worst offenders). Clearly certain ideas are better left in the past.
It’s natural to feel a bit left out when everyone is pairing off like they’re about to board Noah’s Ark but that doesn’t mean you have to bow to peer pressure.
Flinging yourself into a relationship just to avoid your relatives’ remarks about how you’re “still single” probably isn’t going to end well for anyone. You know they’re just going to start asking you when you’re getting married, right? The only escape is to stop caring about their thoughtless comments and live your life in the most genuine way you can.
Many people still have this strange notion that there’s only one linear way to progress in life: grow up, date people, get married, buy a house, have children. But that’s no longer considered the norm.
Marriage is an institution and an opportunity afforded to some; others live happily without ever choosing to marry their partner. In many ways, couples in de facto relationships and civil partnerships enjoy the same benefits as a married couple.
Partnering with Deakin University, The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index released a report entitled What Makes Us Happy? The most recent version of the report, published in 2015, outlines a concept called the “golden triangle of happiness”, which is comprised of three core elements: strong personal relationships, financial control and a sense of purpose. But the report stresses that life is not just about romance and riches.
According to findings in What Makes Us Happy?, “The relationship doesn’t have to be a romantic one, but closeness and support is the key.” That support could come from one person, or it could come from multiple friends and family members. At the end of the day, all anyone really needs is to be reminded that they “are loved and valued”.
What Makes Us Happy? also establishes that “people can achieve normal levels of wellbeing even with low income, so long as they feel in control of how they spend it.” Earning six figures won’t necessarily make you happy, however much that notion has been ingrained in us. You just need to be comfortable with your financial situation.
And like being in a relationship, buying a house won’t make you an adult. It won’t make your life a success and it may not even make you happy. If renting is a better option for your lifestyle, why change? Entering into arrangements that aren’t financially feasible just to tick off some arbitrary box is ridiculous.
And then there’s the question of whether you want children. Some people are not emotionally, financially or psychologically ready to be responsible for a child, but they decide to start a family because it seems like the next logical step in life.
Think about what you want.
Not just from your love life; think about your career and personal goals, and what would make you feel fulfilled.
According to What Makes Us Happy?, women’s wellbeing is much the same whether or not they have children, as “women seem able to more successfully maintain social connections in other areas of their lives beyond the family unit”.
If you honestly do not feel the drive to spend your life with someone, that’s OK. If you definitely don’t want to raise a child, that’s OK too. Better than OK – you don’t need anyone else to give your life a stamp of approval.
Society is accustomed to labels; being able to ascribe a name to something makes people feel comfortable, and they’ll probably try to do the same to you. Asexual. Aromantic. Crazy cat lady. You might be any of those things, and you might not.
Just because someone else needs a label for you doesn’t mean you have to adopt it for yourself or immediately conform to that category because it’s easier for everyone you talk to.
Some people prefer to cultivate platonic friendships rather than romantic interests.
Some people prefer to be alone because they are so genuinely happy with their own company that they don’t need someone else in their life every day of the week.
Self-love isn’t selfish. It’s an incredible achievement. And instead of shaming people who prefer to be alone, we should be learning from them. They truly know themselves and what they want in life.
So stop worrying about whether or not you’ll have plans for Valentine’s Day. That’s not the only day of the year that you can show someone that you love and appreciate them (romantically or otherwise).
Screw your courage to the sticking place and ignore the people who say, “Oh, that’s OK. You’ll find someone” when they discover you don’t have a partner.
You’re not a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing, or one half of a whole, or any other metaphor people use when they decide to settle down.
If you love yourself, you’re never going to be alone. Through all the bad dates, breakups and terrible Tinder matches, you’ve always been there for you.
Now buy yourself chocolate and flowers on February 14 (if you want) and ride off into the sunset like the champion you are.