Once, I went on a date with someone who asked me where I saw myself in the next five years. I was then twenty-three and recently ended a long-term relationship that demanded four turbulent years of time, money, and stress. I told myself I would refrain from seeing other people, but at the same time, I cared too much about what other people thought.
Where I’m from, being twenty-five and single is seen as a bad thing. When the answer to my date’s question didn’t include marriage or children, his response struck me:
“I’ll be honest with you. When I meet a girl in her mid-twenties to early-thirties who hasn’t had many relationships, or dated a good handful of people, I can’t help but think that something’s wrong up there. You know what I mean? If she’s not at least in a serious relationship by the time she’s thirty, I think that person’s someone to worry about.”
I think I knew what he meant. Singleness is deviance, deviance is neuroticism, and neuroticism indicates a lack of human decency. I don’t think this is true, though I know that human imperfection is real, no matter how well one presents himself during a relationship’s beginnings. Sometimes, our flaws illuminate our strengths. Perfectionism in appropriate settings—examples including healthcare, aviation, and computer programming—is a valuable asset. However, it can debilitate someone in situations where imperfection is inevitable.
Again, I remind myself that no one is perfect. I have also acknowledged that romantic relationships, either casual or serious, are not for me. However, this does not mean that I’m any less of a person compared to someone my age who has found herself in a happy marriage with a child on the way. I am confident I’m not the only person who came to this realization. Here are nine signs that indicate romantic relationships aren’t for you, and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up over being “aromantic.”
1. You are rigid.
You have a goal in mind. You know what you want. You know that your goal demands a great deal of attention. Relationships also demand a great deal of attention, and relationships may derail you from objectives you’ve outlined and are working so hard to actualize. You know where you see yourself in the next five years, but you don’t see how a relationship fits or helps to paint this bigger picture you’ve envisioned. Even if you find yourself genuinely caring for someone, that person’s goals may deviate from yours. Because you may have given a considerable amount of effort into this relationship, you compromise your goal in an attempt to vindicate time, energy, and emotions between the both of you. You don’t like compromise. No one wins, your picture is marred, and you eventually grow resentful.
2. You tend to be overly critical.
Again, you know what you want. You know what you like. Even if you meet someone with whom you seem compatible with, like you, that person is imperfect. If you find yourself in repeated situations where you’re overly bothered by something a boyfriend has revealed to you about his past, or you cannot get along with his family for irreconcilable differences (for instance, religion or absence of religion) that will eventually pressure the relationship into ending, perhaps you shouldn’t be so judgmental. Or perhaps you should accept that you have a firm idea of what you would like out of life. The things you take issue with don’t mean that the person is bad, or you are bad. It’s likely you are incompatible with him. If this is a problem that presents itself episodically, perhaps you are incompatible with the interpersonal demands and countless implications that human relationships carry.
3. You are a malignant perfectionist.
You want to be the absolute best in everything you involve yourself with, to the extent that you’ve fallen ill on the job and your performance, in the long run, was subpar. In relationships, perfectionism will destroy you, and possibly your partner. Your perfectionism often rests on comparisons with others. While it may be embarrassing to admit, you compare yourself to everyone in your partner’s life, including his colleagues, exes, and relatives. Eventually, you crack or drive the person away in your crusade to become that perfect person you only assume he wants. Your perfectionism threatens your convictions in things you stand for and want for yourself. Sometimes, you’re left unsure of what you really want. Your zealous investment in the relationship has uprooted your sense of self.
4. You “give in” to cynicism.
You’ve had awful experiences, in friendships and in love. Not only do you accept that life isn’t perfect, but you also believe that people aren’t inherently good and that altruism is something only seen in children’s books. Again, you’re overly critical. How do you even respond when someone approaches you in a coffee shop, says you look nice, and gives you his number? If you end up on an outing with him and he insists on paying for dinner, should you accept the gift, or take offense? You’ve never questioned these gestures before your unfortunate experiences. Is it fair to project others’ wrongs onto every new person who walks into your life, or are you only trying to protect yourself? If these questions overwhelm you, and you find yourself unsatisfied with even the most thorough of answers, a relationship may do little to nothing in helping you heal from the past.
5. In general, you are very anxious.
He asks you to come to his work party. It’s not that you don’t want to go. You just don’t like meeting new people. You fret over how you’ll be perceived, though this is his work party and you’re unlikely to see all these people again for another year or so, if the relationship continues. You’ve never liked the holidays and family get-togethers, and November and December looms drearily near and you try to find some kind of excuse to not meet his family. You’re afraid of the unknown and things and people you may not like. Given these external threats that often accompany relationships, you reminisce over that stretch of time before you met your significant other and realize that you were less stressed and much happier.
6. You keep to yourself.
Maybe you’re not anxious. Simply, you stray away from groups and other people because you enjoy the quiet of your own company. You like taking walks in old neighborhoods on your own and you explore local restaurants, seating yourself at tiny tables without sensing any awkwardness in dining alone. You don’t say much at work, though you mention that you also saw that one particular movie that your coworkers kept at arm’s length won’t stop talking about. You have a Netflix account, and after work, you chill in your studio apartment, your cats sleeping nearby. You are content in this silence. A relationship only adds unwanted tension your living space can’t accommodate.
7. When you do “develop feelings” for someone, it consumes you like a Venus flytrap.
Not only do you obsess over how to perfect yourself for the object of your affections, but you also obsess over him. No one compares, in spite of those ulterior motives you only think are hiding behind every text, phone call, Facebook message, email, and kiss on the cheek. You’re fairly inexperienced in relationships and admittedly ignorant concerning casual relationships. You stumble in making your intentions clear and in rare circumstances, you still find yourself intrigued, invested, and infatuated in someone who wasn’t too clear either. You used to fly freely most days, exploring your interests and refining your craft. Now you are thrashing about in the confines of the hormonal mess that you’ve become. You don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, and your friends are smirking as you giggle like you’re five. Again, you grow resentful after coming to your senses.
8. Generally, you can be merciless.
The relationship usually doesn’t end well and while you want to practice maturity by maintaining a friendship, wrongs were committed and you struggle to forgive and forget. You weren’t always this cold, though previous experiences convince you that nice girls finish last and you must somehow learn to play on both offense and defense. Sometimes, there seems to be no logical reason for the relationship to sour, but ultimately, your bitterness deems you ill-suited for this arrangement that ultimately disintegrates and repeats itself, albeit infrequently.
9. Your baggage still sits at your front door.
Our attitudes, behaviors, and interpersonal reactions are often shaped by past experiences, both beneficial and detrimental. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, others have wronged you and you are left feeling confused, angry, and insecure. In your rigidity, you may seek to establish a life you didn’t grow up having. Through perfectionism, you may overcompensate for deficiencies you perceive in yourself. In cynicism, you seek explanations for acts of kindness and cruelty, though the answers you find may be blurred, leaving you increasingly baffled and possibly terrified of anyone you meet, no matter the circumstance. Your past traumas weigh you down, and until you can find contentment with yourself, a relationship would only burden you and the partner involved.
Whether you’re twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five, and beyond and still have yet to heal, it’s best to approach relationships in a way that you and others aren’t left hurting. In some cases, this entails questioning and harsh criticism, but remember that no one is perfect, your life is your own, and you shouldn’t have to stress over justifying decisions made to take care of you.