A year ago, a male friend asked me, “Have you ever been in love?” I have never been in love. It’s a strange thing to admit, since it feels like something so vital. It surprised him to hear and it was surprising for me to say. After years of therapy, things have gotten better. My PTSD has diminished, I’m learning to accept my accomplishments and be less hard on myself, and I can now recognize unhealthy relationships. Yet, occasionally, I still feel like “damaged goods.”
I don’t think anyone has ever been in love with me. Most of my friends have been in long-term relationships at this point. Their Facebook profile pictures that once featured them alone have but updated to them smiling with their partners. Not to mention, most men I’ve gone out with have at least one past significant relationship before dating me. When they bring up questions about my past relationships, I can’t share similar nostalgic, fond memories of previous partners. It makes me wonder if there’s something wrong about me that makes me incapable of experiencing something that seems like a second nature to everyone else.
I could easily be happy being my myself instead of finding someone to fall in love with. Most–if not all—of my passions are work-related, providing my energy and dedication to something that is an individual fulfillment without compromising someone else’s feelings. It’s impossible to escape from that concept, as you are seen as a failure if you haven’t found someone to be with. Women, in particular, deal with the stereotypes of being the spinster or “crazy cat lady” if they choose to be alone or are unable to find a suitable partner. We have Disney princesses (with the exception of Merida and Elsa) whose stories are only complete when they fall in love with a handsome prince, spending their lives waiting for them to come give their life meaning. Even characters I identified with during my teenage years—strong, independent female characters like Enid Coleslaw from Ghost World and Margot Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums experienced falling in love.
Once you’re in your 20s and have accomplished your basic personal goals, such as academic achievements and career paths, the next item on your list of accomplishments begs to be notched. The questions as to why you haven’t found someone to call yours barge in. Everyone, from my taxi driver to my family members, asks “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?,” as if it’s the one thing I need in other for my life to be complete.
As much as I would like to experience it someday, right now I value more my love for myself more than any romantic feelings for somebody else. I am in no position in my life to put my own desires and goals on hold for someone, nor do I want that to change. I may not have fallen in love yet, but I don’t need to. Focusing on myself has been healthier for me than trying to find someone to fill that void that society tells me exists in my life. I’m more than happy to not depend on anyone right now to determine my emotions or big life decisions. I don’t have to carry the burden of choosing to fulfill my dreams without considering the impact it may have on someone else—and it feels pretty damn great.