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Under Pressure

Rachel LeBeane

Breeze-Courier Writer

I dislike Valentine’s Day.

It’s not the gratuitous exploitation of romantic partnerships by businesses and companies that makes me angry, nor is it the emphasis on chocolates and flowers over connections and conversations.

What makes me mad on Valentine’s Day is that I’m single — and somehow, people think that’s wrong.

The things I hear people say to me, well meant unsolicited advice, teasing, or just lip service, infuriates me.

“When are you going to get yourself a boyfriend? You’re not getting any younger!” – I’m well aware of how old I am, thank you very much. What I want to know is, why is my relationship status or my age any of your business? I am perfectly happy and content on my own right now.

“You’re such a pretty girl, why don’t you have someone?” – Thank you very much for making me feel like my only admirable trait is being a ‘pretty girl!’ I already have issues with my body image, and statements like this hurt. They make it seem like I am somehow at fault for my singlehood. I am single by choice, and it has nothing to do with my looks.

Statements like these, and many more I am too tired of to bother writing down, make me feel like I am constantly under pressure to get into a relationship by those around me. I know many of those saying these things feel like they have my best interests at heart, that they are looking out for me. People worry I will be lonely, or that I won’t have a social life. My friends constantly try to set me up with friends of their husbands or partners, and do not listen when I adamantly insist that I am not interested right now. I know they are only trying to help me. But it’s stress and anxiety I do not need in my life. I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this.

In 2021, PRNewswire wrote an article about singles in America being on the rise. They list many reasons for this, ranging from a greater desire for social and economic stability to a decline in casual dating and flings. People are searching for someone to trust and communicate openly with, someone to build a life with, and not just dating to be with someone anymore. And in a huge shift, singles are putting themselves first. According to the study, 73% of singles prioritized important things in their lives over the past year, things like mental health, relaxing, self-confidence, and family. Focusing on themselves took them away from the dating scene.

There is also a decline in people wanting to have children. While interest in getting married rose to 76% in 2021, only 56% of women say they want a relationship that includes children. Many Millennials worry about bringing children into a world that faces financial uncertainty and global climate issues. When we struggle to make ends meet on our own, it seems irresponsible to bring a child into the mix.

But the push for younger people to have babies – especially women – is yet another reason people expect me to be in a relationship. “Who will take care of you when you get old if you don’t have children now?” They ask me. I just wince at that. Having children just to ensure my own comfort later in life seems like a supremely selfish reason to have kids. As does being in a relationship just to make certain I had children before I am too old. Shouldn’t I make the choice on my own, when I am mentally and emotionally prepared for the investment that children require?

There are also people who have been single after the passing of their beloved partners. Do I really need to tell you to not push them back into the dating scene? They have reasons for still being single. Respect them, please. Just because you found love again afterwards does not mean everyone will.

I am not trying to say celebrating relationships is a bad thing. If you are in one, a committed relationship with a partner who supports you and your dreams, I salute you. Enjoy your chocolates and flowers, go out on a fancy date to commemorate all the work you do to make your relationship stable and fun. But please, do not feel the need to try and hook up your single friends. Just because you are happy in a relationship does not mean they will be. Some of us do enjoy being single.

I do not think I am being selfish by devoting myself to, well, myself. Before I look into a serious relationship, I want to be emotionally and financially stable. I want to have my own home. I want to be able to afford my utilities without praying that my car doesn’t break down – because I can’t afford to fix it right now. I want to be able to have a cushion built up in case something happens medically, or my family has an emergency that I need to respond to. Being secure is the most important part of my life right now. I feel like I’m not alone in wanting that.

So, this Valentine’s Day, maybe think before questioning your single friends on their relationship status. We are already under enough pressure as it is. Just give us the chocolate and leave us alone.

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