A common worry I’ve heard from many women is whether it’s normal to get to a certain age without ever having had a serious relationship and whether it would affect their chance of getting into one. They’re also afraid that being single for a long time reflects poorly on their value in the dating market.
There was a time I felt that same way. I asked myself why I couldn’t have the thing I wanted the most — being loved. I wondered what it was like to have a long-term partner and not feel anxious all the time about the possibility of being rejected or abandoned.
It was tough. But, in hindsight, I was too hard on myself. I was nowhere as powerless or “messed up” as I thought I was. One of my good friends used to remind me back then, “You’re not in a relationship because, deep down, you don’t want to be in one,” and he was right.
Plus, never having had a serious relationship in itself causes zero problems when I actually got into one.
If anything, it was a great thing because I had no set expectations for living together or any related baggage. It’s like sometimes it’s better to hire someone without any experience than someone who’s been doing the job for a long time elsewhere as they’re likely to be stuck in their way.
After all, being in a relationship says nothing about the quality of that relationship and of the people in it. Just like not being in one doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t happy or there’s something inherently lacking in them.
Here’s my perspective of why I personally had never been in a serious relationship before accepting my partner’s proposal.
1. I was too young
I got engaged when I was 26.
I spent the end of my 24 and most of my 25 attending therapy and working on myself (while getting to know my fiance.) So, technically, I had only been dating for about 4 years as an adult — that’s not very long at all.
Also, I live in London as an Asian woman. Finding the right partner who shares the same values, lifestyle, and worldviews, among other things, is like playing the lottery. Too many random people, too little time.
2. I was focused on finding myself
I wasn’t in a serious relationship during my early twenties simply because I wasn’t looking for one. I even wrote an article titled “What you want when you’re not looking for a serious relationship” to express the way I felt during that stage of life.
I dated people but I didn’t choose someone to be my husband; I chased after “growth opportunities” instead. I exposed myself to people who were very different from me to find my weak spots and expand myself. I also looked for people who resembled my father to heal from my childhood wounds, which obviously didn’t work but explained why nothing lasted.
Simply put, I wasn’t ready; I was too busy discovering and defining myself to find a serious partner.
3. I didn’t know what I wanted from a serious partner
I only knew for sure what I wanted from a serious partner after I had gone through a couple of traumatising break-ups and a few good months of therapy.
So, even if I had met my fiance in my early twenties, I would probably not have been able to appreciate him. Back then, I was drawn towards all the wrong people because 1) I didn’t know they were wrong for me, or 2) I didn’t even know what “right” looked like. It took all those years of being single to figure out the rest of my life.
4. I was too self-aware to be with someone with whom I wasn’t fully compatible
I was always the one who knew quickly there was a problem with my relationship while the guys I dated were often oblivious. They only pulled away because I acted anxiously, not because they could intelligently articulate why we weren’t right for each other.
See, I thought I was cursed by my anxiety, but it was actually a gift. I just couldn’t help it.
It never left me alone to stay in a mediocre relationship that didn’t meet my needs or go through the motion with someone who I felt meh about.
Even when I desperately wanted to be with someone (who was wrong for me), some part of me fought back inexplicably hard and never failed to get me back to the peaceful state of being single.
Being completely single is your peace of mind.
5. I didn’t feel the way I feel about my fiance with anyone before him
I met my fiance when I was still attending therapy. I literally told my therapist that “I wanted every person I met before him to be him. And then, I met him.”
It meant that before meeting my fiance, I expected the men I dated to act a certain way and they always ended up disappointing me, which made me doubt myself (though, I later figured out that we just weren’t compatible.)
But, like magic, my fiance met all my expectations and more. It confirmed to me that my needs were valid and I deserved what I wanted.
It felt blissfully right to say yes when he asked me to go on the second date with him, then to be his girlfriend, move in with him and, well, marry him. I had never felt so harmonious in my heart and soul.
Now that I’m in a happy and loving relationship with the most wonderful man for me, I’m glad that my early twenties have happened the way they did.
All the experiences, mistakes, and lessons have led me to where I am, blessing me with a deep sense of meaning and gratitude. I know exactly why I am with my partner and how valuable what we have is. It’s my inspiration to keep showing up and being my best self.
If you’re where I was, know that it’s okay to be single and never have had a serious relationship. It’s not a competition. Live life at your own pace; date with intention, and never lose sight of your “why.”
Write your own narrative. Claim your power.