Growing up there are incessant reminders telling us that being in a relationship should be a major goal and focus in life. Even as kids, this idea of living happily ever after with a "true love" pops up over and over again. Film and books tend to heavily portray relationships as the end goal and as something that can make everything better while portraying those that are out of relationships as broken or incomplete.
Movies definitely emphasize and overplay the concept of the main character struggling on their own until they find "the one" or are "saved" and find themselves in a relationship. Not only do these movies create unrealistic, high expectations about relationships and love in our heads, but they also create an immense amount of pressure on everyone because the set standard is to be in a relationship.
Although people always know and tell each other that these stories are fictional, there is still our human nature comparing them to our own situations, telling us what a relationship should look and be like (in both positive and negative portrayals). It's a flaw. No one should do it, but it happens. And it puts everyone in a bad position because it isn't real life and is always more complicated than portrayed. People become hopeless romantics or realists -- doomed to think too highly of love or doomed to be cynical about it.
Along with creating unrealistic, high expectations for relationships and love in general, society's portrayal of being single makes the situation worse. Being single is normally viewed as one of the worst things that could ever happen to somebody. Going through life feeling purposeless, eating tons of ice cream, feeling depressed, maybe making rash decisions, and sometimes even portrayed as undesirable people as if it is a flaw to who they are.
Of course, nowadays, there has been a shift in the narratives being told and changing perspectives on love and self-worth, but those negative attributions with being single continue to be thought of and affect how people view the single lifestyle. Hardly a major issue compared to others we are dealing with in the world right now, but prevalent enough to frequently have conversations about. As the outlook on the single life progresses, there are less negative views on it but haven't we all been encountered by the daunting feeling of being single?
Personally, being single my whole life, there has been a pressure to be in relationships through societal norms and seeing what others my age are involved in, but also through comments made by family or friends that I feel many have received as well.
Many times at family gatherings you get the questions: So do you have a boyfriend yet? Any cute boys at school? Met anyone special? Or they say something along the lines of "it's time to do more than look." For someone still in their teens, to be told that people think you're running out of time in your "prime" to find someone can be incredibly disheartening and reestablishes the negative feelings about being single that most people try extremely hard to be positive about. But you just have to reply with a sheepish smile and either plainly say no or explain that you aren't looking to date at the moment. But it can be frustrating when the fact that you're single is one of the first things they ask about or appears to be a top priority, and you can't help but feel their disappointment.
Luckily, dating has never been a top priority for me and it's rare that I feel "down-in-the-dumps" about being single, but these pressures to find someone implemented by society or friends or family still get brought up quite frequently.
The high school environment, especially, sparks a lot of unease about being single because that is usually the first time people start noticing who's dating and who's single, and whether that's working out well or not for them. Many times it's a hassle and not worthwhile to chase the high school crush due to the maturity level we're all at in high school and the motives behind those crushes. Like do you think that relationship will be worthwhile and healthy or are they just cute? And is it mutual?
Specifically, with dances throughout the years, there is a common idea that dates are inexplicitly required even though everyone says you can go solo. After going to every high school dance with just friends only, aside from Prom, it is easy for me to say that dates are not necessary for dances because you end up hanging out with your friends more anyway and there are no expectations hanging over your head going into the event about what "should" happen.
Already, within the first few weeks of life in college, it feels like the weight of dating has diminished and exploded all at the same time. There's not as much time to focus on dating or how single you are and not as many events that evoke that sense of the "inexplicitly required" dates. The lifestyle is very independent in nature, therefore, giving you more time to focus on yourself and growing as an individual rather than growing with someone else. Yet, the dating environment is still evident (whether that's hookup culture or serious dating) because social media allows us to easily see others putting themselves out there finding people which also influences some people to put themselves in relationships (possibly unhealthy ones) just to be in a relationship like others. And there are even instances where some people can't accept that you've embraced the single life and the timing isn't right for anything to happen which can create useless tension and ruin friendships.
Yes, there are moments when being single can be incredibly lonely and it is easy to find oneself listening to mood music or watching a million romantic comedies, but that's okay and normal. Since I have never been in a relationship before it can be daunting to think about dating for the first time in a college environment. I recognize my own inexperience and have always been at terms with it. But, lately, this fact can make everything seem even more intimidating than it normally is, and makes me feel at a disadvantage at times due to the anxiety it can create that prevents me from putting myself out there more.
Same for people that have had negative, painful experiences when they've put themselves out there in the past for the wrong person. Trying again can get more and more difficult with each defeat because of the wrong person or wrong experience. One comment, one action, one person can make the single life feel like the best option, the safest and healthiest option…
I'm thankful to know I am not alone in my thoughts about being single. Asking my friends to share their opinions about the single life can be quite empowering to realize others are on the same page as you:
"It's okay to take time to date yourself!"
"Don't need someone to be happy."
"Rely on your own happiness."
"At the end of the day, when all of that is gone, you have to be okay with being alone and being you."
"Okay with [the single life] overall, but sometimes feel somewhat unattractive than those who aren't single."
"Boys are a waste of time, but nice to have when they are good ones."
"I don't need a dude to live."
"Boys create unnecessary stress."
"I struggle to connect because I've been single all my life [and wonder] if I'll ever be able to find a lifelong partner."
"Personally don't like being single [because] I enjoy the close company."
"I have a strong sense of independence but sometimes feel lonely."
At the end of the day, you are your own happy ending...finding someone special to share it with is just the sprinkles on top. Personally, I can go without sprinkles sometimes and that's perfectly alright and I've accepted that.