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Worry about what others think

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Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 22:05:24

I know I shouldn’t worry what people think, but I have been single for years and I don’t know how to explain to people why. I am happy most of the time but don’t know how to explain my situation to people and they seem to expect me to. Maybe I’m overthinking.

I had several relationships in my teenage years. The first one was when I was 13 and it was a really nice relationship for about six months, but ended as we were so young.

The next one was 14-16. It was quite serious for our ages, he was the type of person to take life very seriously and wanted to get engaged at 16, but I felt way too young to make such a big decision. We drifted apart as we got older went to college and had different groups of friends.

Pre that relationship, just after and during a period where we were on a break there were several what I call 3 week wonders... people you hang out with for a few weeks and class each other as boyfriend and girlfriend but you are still really young so not really serious “adult” relationships if that makes any sense.

At 16 I went out with someone who very quickly became extremely possessive and it weirded me out and scared me, so I ended that one after a few weeks.

I dated a couple of people (both of which it fizzled) then got into another relationship at 16/17 for quite a few months. It was going really well at the beginning, but there were a few red flags. We got back together the following year but he made it obvious he just wanted a friends with benefits situation, which I didn’t want. I wanted a relationship.I really liked him. He really hurt me and said things like “why should it all be just about you? We’re not going to have sex just when you want to! If I want to see other girls I should be allowed to see other girls and not just you! If your sleeping with me it should be whenever I want, not just when you want it!” At the time I was a virgin, secretly pretty terrified of actually having sex (I know that’s weird, especially as I had had relationships ) ...we still hadn’t at this point. I was scared of being controlled sexually by a man. I was 18 by this time. For the next few weeks he kept trying to pressure me into a no strings relationship. I completely ended it and then went out with someone a good ten years older than me. My family were not keen on this relationship and saw him as a bit of a predator, which looking back, he probably was. I was shy and had difficulty standing up for myself.

At 18/19 I was single for about a year, after spending most of my teenage years in relationships of one sort or another. I had offers, but found I actually really enjoyed my freedom. I went out with friends and just enjoyed life, building my own self esteem. I was happy and had peace of mind.

At 19 I started to date again, the first two I found myself just letting things fizzle because I didn’t want to be tied down too young and then I met someone who it was turning into a relationship but we ended up being really good friends. I look back and always think of him as the one that got away. I still to this day don’t know why I didn’t stick with him. Maybe the attraction wasn’t there completely? I don’t know.

At 19 I realised that I was pushing guys away as I was scared of being trapped or controlled. I was scared to admit that at 19 I still hadn’t slept with anyone. At the time I thought that was really old. I now realise it isn’t. I’d had relationships where we had done everything but, but for some reason, actual sex, penetration, the possibility of becoming pregnant seemed like such a big deal. (Is it just me?). Partly due to my religious upbringing, maybe or the relationship where I’d felt trapped/controlled as a teenager? I don’t know what it was but if I’m honest, sex scared me a bit.

I had wanted it to be with someone I loved and planned to spend the rest of my life with, someone I felt really relaxed around. That was what I planned throughout my teenage years but by 18 or 19 I thought that maybe I was being unrealistic or old fashioned, and started to feel quite embarrassed that I was a virgin.

I went through this phase between 19 -23 where although I didn’t want to settle down just yet, I wanted to know what I was missing out on/overcome my fear I think. I slept with a male friend a few times. We weren’t in a relationship, and the sex was okay. Not fireworks or anything but a nice enough experience. After that I was seeing someone for a few months, it was a long distance relationship so didn’t work out in the long term, but it was a really nice, quite romantic relationship, we were both quite inexperienced sexually, but we communicated well about this and had quite a lovely sexual relationship. I then got back with my ex from when I was 17/18. We had a very intense sexual relationship, but I realised he was just using me and I ended up quite hurt in this relationship, he cheated on me and was really controlling. He was really not understanding when I had health issues, particularly as I had gynae problems that then caused problems with sex. “You might be in pain, but I have needs!”

I decided to take a break from relationships, by this time I was 23. I thought either the real thing or just be completely single, no casual sex or confusing, in between stuff. I wanted to find that person I could spend the rest of my life with. I was a bit of a serial dater during that year. I went out with people, but just didn’t find anyone I had the “this is it” feeling about or I didn’t fancy them , or I wasn’t the one for them so they didn’t contact me. I would just go out with guys and get to know them. I mainly had good experiences but one or two were quite pushy, including one who wouldn’t take no for an answer and tried to force me. That experience shook me up for quite a while, and put me off dating for a long time.

At 24 for about a year and a half I just swore off all men. I was battling physical and mental health problems, including gynae issues. I just wanted to just not be in the situation as I was dealing with enough. Certain members of my family gave me a really hard time about this, as they felt I was at the age where I should be settling down. My parents were very much of the mindset “in our day you got married at 20 and you stopped married and so and so so and so’s daughter is getting married! How can I hold my head up in the supermarket!” kind of attitude. I had moved back home for a while and they really piled the pressure on and said some really hurtful things. That put me off relationships even more. Looking back I’m quite angry that they made such a deal of the fact I way single at 24! That seems so young and I bet every other person is single at that age these days! This was 2007, not the dark ages.

Between 25 and 29 I then got into a relationship with someone. We were together for four years, started out as friends and developed into more. We got a house together, talked about possibly getting married and starting a family. As time went on I realised that for a long time my heart was never really in that relationship, I was going through the motions and then when my illness got really bad....sex became a HUGE problem, there had never been a strong attraction if I was honest. The whole relationship began to stress me out and in the end we split up.

I was single, physically unwell and really suffering with anxiety, depression and not knowing what I wanted. Due to gynae issues I knew I was off sex big time and felt that to get into a relationship while I felt like that wouldn’t be fair on the other person.

I then dated someone from work and even did online dating because I felt like I “should” as I was at the age where I “should” be getting married and having kids, but really I just needed to focus on getting well, do that’s what I did.

For the next year I stayed single, and concentrated on getting my health back (I won’t go into too much detail here about my illness as that’s a whole other story). I just had to ignore the people who seemed to think being “on my own” was my biggest problem and that I needed to “get out there and find myself someone” as it really did feel like the last thing I wanted. I was single on purpose FFS why don’t people understand that!

I got better and went into my 30’s completely single, but it felt like a brand new start. For the next few years I felt so much healthier, happier, more peaceful in my mind and more confident in myself than ever before! I went on the odd date here and there but I wasn’t actively looking. I was open to a relationship but just in a happy to be me, it will happen naturally if it’s meant to.

I have been single for most of my 30’s and swing between being happy and open to love or not wanting a relationship at all or periods of actively looking/dating and periods of not looking or being that bothered. I have questioned my sexuality as I had an intense (and I mean intense) crush on a much older female colleague at a previous job.

I tried OLD... not impressed to say the least!!!

I was 37 when we went into lockdown and although I enjoyed it to start with I will admit that I did panic a bit that I may not meet someone and I’m getting older! I’m 38 now and the chances of me having a family are now slim. I’m 50/50 as to whether I want kids if I’m honest. I’m aware I have left it late. If I did it would really have to be the right person, there is someone I talk to online and he seems nice and maybe we will meet up after the lockdown? Who knows.

I just don’t know what I want. Or what to say to people when they ask “so why are you single?” “How long have you been single for?” I fear being judged by people. I feel like most people’s story is “I met John when I was 17 and we’ve been together ever since” it at least “I was with someone for years and we split up last year” that’s the norm.... I just clam up when asked about my love life. I get pitied and single shamed so much and it’s the main thing I’m dreading when we come out of lockdown m. My love life/relationship history is so patch and complicated and I feel such shame about my situation. Don’t even know what I’m asking really. Just felt I wanted to make sense of it all and get it out really.

OP’s posts: |
ColdBrightClearMorning Tue 16-Feb-21 22:10:47

I can only speak for myself, but I have honestly never even thought to question someone on being single any more than I’d question them on being married. It’s not a defining feature or all there is to you, all of us have been single or coupled up at one time or another in our lives, relationships come and go. That’s their nature.

Practice being breezy ‘oh, I love my own space and being free for adventures’ or ‘I’m pretty choosy’ or ‘I like it this way’. Or you can respond with something that makes it clear how odd it is to ask someone that, maybe ‘so what made you decide to try find a relationship? How come you’re not single?’ To highlight how odd it is that being single is seen as something you need to explain or justify.

Happycat1212 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:14:26

Who is asking this? I’ve been single for 5 years because I have young children so can’t date. No one asks why I’m single or cares

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 22:31:32

Thank you. I think I just wish I’d had a more conventional life. I envy people who met their partner young and can’t explain a clear reason why my experience has been so different. Absolutely everyone asks me, every time I see them, friends, family members, people I know generally in life. It makes me want the ground to swallow me up. Yet I still feel my first instinct is to push potential partners away and I don’t know why I do it. I’m just a bit of a confused mess.

OP’s posts: |
Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 22:34:08

I know the key is being confident about it. If I didn’t worry what people think it wouldn’t be a problem. I just want to feel “normal” around people and my situation makes me feel “not normal”.

OP’s posts: |
Happycat1212 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:38:11

You know what it must just be certain circles then as I personally don’t know anyone who has been with someone they met when they were young. Most of my friends have had disastrous dating histories! But I know what you mean I do kind of envy people that didn’t have to go through all the struggles and just met someone young

Pluas Tue 16-Feb-21 22:39:19

I find it bizarre people keep quizzing you on this, or behaving as though being single is in any way unusual. Your relationship past seems absolutely normal to me, and it’s terrible that you feel it isn’t, and that you need to explain all your relationships from the age of 13 to justify yourself.

Bluntness100 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:41:20

Surely your friends and family know your history, I’m not sure why they keep asking. I don’t think there’s anything unconventional about your life, plenty of people are single. I’m sure you saw that on online dating. It’s perfectly normal. You’ve had many relationships, some of them long.

Just say happy and single and change the subject if asked?

Bluntness100 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:44:42

Op, do you spend a lot of time thinking about it? Detailing your relationships since you were thirteen like this is really quite unusual, as is your thought process your life isn’t in some way normal when it is.

Could the issue be your focus on it? Do you maybe need to get some help to come to terms with the fact it might not be what you wanted?

Happycat1212 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:45:15

And I think your dating history sounds normal, mines even worse I’m 32 and have only ever had one relationship and all the others were just causal! I didn’t even have a relationship till 21. Then I was with my ex now I’ve been single since 27!

firesidetartan Tue 16-Feb-21 22:46:33

I have been single for years and I don’t know how to explain to people why

This isn't something you need to do.

SleepingStandingUp Tue 16-Feb-21 22:53:05

My instinct reading what you've said about relationships is i wonder what your childhood was like, either the relationships you saw or yours with your parents. If any of that feels familiar then therapy might be useful.

However "how long have you been single?" "A while" . "Why are you single?". "because I want to be". Simple answer, change the subject

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 22:53:29

Thank you. I think it is the area I live in and the people I know, there is a real culture of settling down young and people can be quite judgy of anyone who hasn’t stayed with the same person. People were more like me when I went to uni and when I worked in the city. It’s when I see extended family or friends I haven’t seen for a while. Or there’s a particular old guy who lives local who always makes a beeline for me “found a bloke yet? Blooming heck how long have you been single now....??? You want to hurry up! Tick tick and all that!” I get a lot of this type of stuff. Again l think it’s the area and the circles I mix in. In my area pretty much everyone marries their childhood sweetheart. It’s also when people ask people on dating programs on TV, people ask each other that a lot, sometimes in quite a judgemental way. It’s like looking for a job. “Reason for leaving? References?” and a big gap between jobs seen as a red flag. That’s not how I see it but a lot of people seem to.

OP’s posts: |
Bluntness100 Tue 16-Feb-21 22:57:39

That’s very niche op. In fact the four closest friend couples i have three of them met in their thirties.

I don’t know what’s going on where you live or why people tend to marry people they went to school with and stay with them forever but it’s really not the norm

Your life is totally normal.

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 22:58:18

Thank you for all your replies. Maybe I am more normal than I think.

Bluntness100 I think you may have hit the nail on the head. I do overthink it and focus on it a lot. Maybe this is the problem. I think I just generally have a fear of being judged.

OP’s posts: |
Bluntness100 Tue 16-Feb-21 23:00:40

I think if you befriending those you went to uni with or worked in the city with you’d see it was normal. As said it seems a very odd situation that locally folks marry kids they went to school with. I don’t know anyone who did that

I think you’re over thinking it. To an extent it’s causing you some damage, just tell the old bloke you’re happily single and ignore him, same with family, then just change the subject.

Odd place to live though.😃

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 23:01:55

Sleepingstandingup, you may have a point, there is a lot in my childhood that still affects me now (as much as I try not to let it) and I think my almost obsession with not being judged and not being sure what I really want plus holding potential partners at arms length could be part of the bigger picture.

OP’s posts: |
Aquamarine1029 Tue 16-Feb-21 23:06:50

I just don’t know what I want. Or what to say to people when they ask “so why are you single?” “How long have you been single for?”

"None of your fucking business" springs to mind.

Honestly, never feel you need to explain or justify yourself to anyone, ever. Just because someone asks a question doesn't mean you are required to answer it.

passtheorange Tue 16-Feb-21 23:10:56

Ceriane

Thank you. I think it is the area I live in and the people I know, there is a real culture of settling down young and people can be quite judgy of anyone who hasn’t stayed with the same person. People were more like me when I went to uni and when I worked in the city. It’s when I see extended family or friends I haven’t seen for a while. Or there’s a particular old guy who lives local who always makes a beeline for me “found a bloke yet? Blooming heck how long have you been single now....??? You want to hurry up! Tick tick and all that!” I get a lot of this type of stuff. Again l think it’s the area and the circles I mix in. In my area pretty much everyone marries their childhood sweetheart. It’s also when people ask people on dating programs on TV, people ask each other that a lot, sometimes in quite a judgemental way. It’s like looking for a job. “Reason for leaving? References?” and a big gap between jobs seen as a red flag. That’s not how I see it but a lot of people seem to.

Yes well, the answer to that old bloke is to tell him to eff off and mind his own business the dirty old man, but you're probably not quite that blunt, are you?!

I dunno where you live, but it's certainly not usual for people to marry their childhood sweethearts round here. Not unless you dig deeper into the smaller villages and find they are all each other's cousins...

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 23:14:28

Firesidetartan you are absolutely right, I don’t need to explain it to people!

To me it has become so normal to be quizzed about my love life, maybe it doesn’t happen as much as I’ve blown it up into in my head and maybe I’ve focused on it. Or maybe I do know quite a few odd people (that’s likely it)!

It is very much the norm to settle down with the same person you have been with since teenage years around here...maybe not from school but before the age of 21. I was considered old not to be settled by my early twenties! It is odd compared to how life is everywhere else, it’s very village mentality around here.

OP’s posts: |
Pluas Tue 16-Feb-21 23:16:00

What everyone else said. Plus tell the guy who keeps commenting to fuck right off.

And move away! It sounds as if you live in some weird conformist alternative universe where not having a ring on your finger by 20 means you’re some kind of deviant.

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 23:18:31

Lol 😂 Thanks both. I’m not that blunt but I think I need to be (and yeh I think he is just a bit of a dirty old git...probably just wants to think about what I may or may not be getting up to and it drives him mad as I give absolutely nothing away!!!)

OP’s posts: |
hilariousnamehere Tue 16-Feb-21 23:23:12

OP, have a look online for Bella Dr Paulo and her work on single at heart. She's brilliant and she covers a lot of this ground in her various columns - and I've found "single at heart" a helpful way to explain to especially nosy people that I really do just like my life better on my own (I'm 35 and 7 years single so not far off you agewise).

hilariousnamehere Tue 16-Feb-21 23:23:50

Bella de Paulo, not Dr, stupid autocorrect - what I'd give for an edit button!

Ceriane Tue 16-Feb-21 23:27:20

Pluas. It is very much like that around here.

When I first moved back for a while it was like I’d gone back in time to 1956!

OP’s posts: |

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