I’ve always considered myself a fairly successful person. I have a good job, pay my own rent and travel frequently when restrictions permit. But, for some outdated reason, my relationship status has always impacted the overall perception of my successes.
Should it? Of course not. But if you’re single right now, or have been single in the past, you know the pity looks when you see them. Regardless of what life achievements you’ve ticked off, the same torturous nod is always given when telling someone, “No, not seeing anyone right now.”
I’m not just talking about the older generation’s opinion either (you know, the aunty who constantly lectures you about getting a wriggle on). The dismissal happens in our own generation and younger, in both inner and outer circles.
Regardless of how far we’ve come as a society, shifting away from gender inequality ideals and resetting expected family timelines, there’s still a lingering sense of commiseration if you’re not loved up.
From primitive instincts to being products of the generations that have come before us, there are many ways we can unpack equating relationships with success. But it’s the implications of this thinking that’s the real problem, and not just for the singles either. So how can we change it?
Crazy concept, but there are people out there who choose to be single and we need to respect that. It’s hard to fathom because the idea of getting married and living happily ever after has been hardwired from a young age, so it’s kind of this assumed goal for many.
But what if someone is able to differentiate between their actual desires and what they’ve accepted they ought to desire? They shouldn’t be criticised for that — in fact, owning a proud independence in a patriarchal, capitalist society deserves to be celebrated.
Then there’s the portion of us who are looking for companionship — which is completely understandable, plenty of us are — but are currently single. Assuming they are unhappy, unfulfilled or, worst of all, unsuccessful because of their relationship status is hugely detrimental and reinforces this idea that marriage and kids are the only end goal — a notion we’ve worked so hard as a society to deviate from.
The dating journey in and of itself is hugely insightful, learning more about who you are, what you want and what you like, so putting a timeline or a prize on something so valuable to personal development is redundant.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum — people in relationships. I’m actually one of them. We don’t necessarily enjoy the parallel (or the pedestal) either.
A partner isn’t the last piece of this puzzle that is life. There is a myriad of issues built within this thought process, of course, but perhaps most troubling is the way in which society can believe that a relationship somehow compensates for any other troubles. Partners don’t grant you a get out of jail free card — financial, family and housing problems don’t magically disappear because there’s a ring on your finger. People in relationships’ issues are just as serious as those who aren’t. A relativity spectrum needn’t apply.
I’m a strong believer that even if you don’t want to be in a relationship, there are certain people in this life that you can’t not be in a relationship with, in some way, shape or form. It’s important to remember that just because someone is in a loving and fulfilling relationship, that might not be a symbol of success for them, and more or less a sacrifice they were willing to make.
There’s also the mentality that, “You’ve got your whole life figured out” if you’re loved up. You’re suddenly “sorted” when you’ve found “the one”. Why? Because you’re well on your way to those traditional emblems of success with marriage and kids. It’s a narrative that needs to be rewritten.
You see, the problem isn’t relationships. The problem is the role the relationship plays in what has been an end goal for so many of us, for so long.
But once we strip away the importance of marriage, kids and happily ever after as dictators of success?
Then we can all shine brighter than any bloody engagement ring.