I spent my entire single early 20s resenting the value that our society places on being in a long term relationship and, ultimately, getting married. I come from a family of couples who met when they were teenagers and against all odds have stayed married for decades. Growing up I always felt, especially as a girl, that the greatest achievement in my family’s eyes would be getting married and having kids. This is through no fault of anyone in my family. Nobody has ever put pressure on me to have a partner, and my mother is also the single most career driven woman and person that I know. However, when you grow up surrounded by people that were with their ‘person’ by the time they were 20, it gives you the impression that this is how life should be.
I was single for nearly all of college and largely for the first half of my twenties. Like many other single, overdramatic twenty-something women, during this period I believed I’d be single forever and ultimately die alone. Would I be a failure because I never became a wife? I was convinced that despite achieving my dream of moving to London to work in finance at the age of 21, without a boyfriend no one viewed me as a success story. I felt myself resenting my friends and peers who were in long term relationships, and rejecting the idea that just because they’d made the (questionable) decision to snog the same person for the most free years of their life, that they were more successful or settled than me.
Then, as is always the case with life, I got thrown a curveball in the form of a goofy and gorgeous boy from Lincolnshire. As soon as I knew that things between us were serious and real, I felt an internal shift. For as much as I resented all the happy couples and their OTT anniversary posts on Instagram when I was single, once I was in a committed relationship myself I resented the people who (like single me) begrudged me the ability to celebrate the fact that I’d actually found a boy who wasn’t a complete shit-dick. Finding a boy who will even text you back in 2018 London was a massive feat, and I wanted to be able to celebrate us without feeling like I was placing more weight on my romantic achievements than my career and personal achievements.
This entire experience was extremely enlightening for me, and it gave me one massive, eye opening takeaway. We SHOULD celebrate our relationships. Finding love is extremely difficult and often heartbreaking, so if we are lucky enough to come across it, even temporarily, that is absolutely something to celebrate. Where society gets it wrong is putting so much emphasis on celebrating romantic love. I have known my best friend Zoë since the day she was born, and we have been inseparable for nearly 25 years since. I have maintained for years that Zoë is my life’s greatest love story and always will be. The odds of staying friends with someone for a quarter century in this day and age is about as likely as the odds of finding a boy in London who doesn’t ghost you after 3 dates, and yet there isn’t a day on the calendar dedicated to roses, chocolate, and female friendships (except for Galentine’s Day… but that is less a holiday and more a recent internet fad).
So, let’s stop judging each other for whatever form of love we choose to celebrate. Love, whether it is romantic love or friendship love or the kind you have for your sister when she surprises you with Starbucks, is fucking hard to come by and even harder to hold onto. Frankly, I think it is a good thing that society puts so much weight on it. At the end of the day, our careers will ebb and flow, but what will matter is how much we were able to love those around us. But if you are single and frustrated and resentful of all the loved up people around you, just remember that romantic love is not the only love worth celebrating… and if you want you can even celebrate it by snogging everyone in sight.