Michelle Elman on the dilemmas of modern-day dating

Our brand new columnist, author and life coach Michelle Elman, questions the social scrutiny and pressures put on singletons, and explores how we can reframe the dating game.

If you have been single long enough, odds are someone will have asked you ‘why’ you are still single. This question has always irked me, because it implies that being in a relationship is the default, when actually it’s the opposite. We come into this world alone and, one way or another, we leave this world alone, too. Not everyone wants a relationship, and during my eight years of being single, I hated being asked this question, but what I hated even more was when people would try to answer it for you. “Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there enough?” “You will meet someone when you least expect it.” “Maybe you’re too picky?”

So, whether you’re sick of hearing these same questions, or you want to understand why, even with the best intentions, they can be problematic, let’s unpick these common sentiments singles hear all too often:

“Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there enough?”

The implication here is that if you are single, it is your own fault, and you aren’t working hard enough to rectify the problem of ‘being single’. Just because you are single, it doesn’t mean you have to be dating. You are allowed to just want to be single. And even if you are dating, it is undeniable that dating consumes a lot of time and energy, so it’s understandable if it’s not always the top of your priority list. There will be times when your work comes first, and there will be times when you come first. Being single is not a fault that needs fixing.

“You will meet someone when you least expect it.”

First they blame you for not making enough effort, and then they blame you for making too much. After all, you don’t want to be desperate. Can you imagine if we said this about any other goal you wanted to achieve? Sending in your CV to a job you want would be seen as ‘desperate’. It makes no sense. This is a phrase often uttered by people in hindsight, but the truth is rarely close to it. There is no shame in actively pursuing a relationship.

“Maybe you are too picky?”

Well, if you are not desperate and you are putting yourself out there enough, then you must be too picky! You’d hope I would be picky! Think about how much time you spend with a person when you are in a relationship. Typically, it’s the person you spend the most time with. With our growing loss of community, we as a society now place more emphasis on our primary romantic relationship, so you better pick someone who you like being around. I am a big believer in the phrase ‘you become the five people you spend the most time with’ and so if a person is going to consume so much of your time and energy, damn right you need to choose wisely!

Ultimately, we need to reframe society’s view on what it means to be single. We need to stop seeing it as a sign of our unlovability, or that there is something wrong with us. You can actively choose to be single, and by doing so, the chance you will enjoy your single period will increase. It will also make dating infinitely easier! When we see being single as a conscious life choice, then we stop seeing it as a worst-case scenario. Conversely, if we aren’t OK with being alone, then we become vulnerable to picking anyone who will have us in order to avoid loneliness. You deserve better than that. You deserve someone you respect, and are proud to be introduced as your partner.

And before I end, I want to thank Happy for giving me my own column. It has always been such a life goal of mine to have a column, and to have achieved it in a magazine I have always loved so dearly, makes this column even more special. I truly believe that if we only give space and air to the negative events in the world, that’s what we focus on, and that’s why Happy is so important to making a difference to the media we absorb.

A huge thank you also to Grace Victory who has held this space for years, and has left some massive shoes to fill. It is such a privilege to know Grace personally, and to say she is one-of-a-kind is an understatement. She lifts people up and champions those around her like no other, and I’m thrilled that she’s now spending so much needed time with her two babies.

Love, Michelle x


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