If anyone knows about the pressure to hit certain relationship milestones by a certain age, it’s me.
I wanted to have had my first relationship done and dusted before I started university, so I was left reeling when the guy I was seeing went off with someone else. I wanted to be married by 25, so I spent most of my early to mid-twenties frantically churning through bad dates. However, I was the shy and awkward kid in school so I didn’t manage to find a boyfriend until I was 20, and since that one bit the dust I’ve had a huge dry spell. In case you didn’t’ know (let’s be real, if you’ve been following me for a while you probably do), I’m also best known for not having had sex. While my friends breeze in and out of relationships, I’m left looking at my metaphorical watch wondering “WHY HASN’T THIS HAPPENED YET?”
So when Amy walked into the Love Island villa this year and announced that at 26, she’d never been in a proper relationship before, it was a bit of a lightbulb moment.
Relationship milestones are emerging as a theme in this year’s show. Yewande has been open about the fact she has never been in love before. And in her introductory video, fellow Islander Anna mentioned that at 28, her parents have been on her case telling her she needs to hurry up and find someone as she only has a couple of “good years” left. But to their credit, the girls have taken it in their stride. Anna clapped back that Meghan Markle didn’t meet Prince Harry until she was 36. And far from developing a huge complex over being The Girl Who’s Never Had A Boyfriend, Amy has gone into the villa ready to enjoy the experience for what it is, whether or not she meets The One.
It’s hard not to take it as a reflection on yourself when your love life isn’t going the way you want it to go. I’d always taken it personally when things didn’t work out my way. I’d over-analyse and critique all the ways I didn’t measure up. I’d look at the girls who effortlessly sleepwalked through back-to-back relationships and endlessly try and figure out what they had that I didn’t. If I got passed over for someone else, my self-esteem took a beating as I agonised over why it was her and not me. It was bloody exhausting.
And despite there being huge social changes in our society, there is still a certain pressure to hit certain milestones by a certain age. Back in school, having a boyfriend or girlfriend gave you a certain level of street cred that at least one person found you desirable enough to go out with. Being a virgin came with a social stigma- it meant no one was interested in you. If you’re a straight man, there’s pressure to have a certain level of dating success to prove your masculinity. If you’re a woman, you get side-eye if you say you want to settle down at 20, but if it hasn’t happened by 30, society tells you you’re undesirable. But the changes in our society have meant that love has become much harder to find. It’s more common to settle down much later than our grandparents did. Teen sex rates have plummeted, and the number of adult “relationship-virgins” and actual virgins has risen.
Sadly, relationships aren’t handed out based on merit. Who can forget last year, when the boys in Casa Amor opted for “I don’t have girl friends” Megan over the beautiful, talented Samira, or the girls fought over love rat Adam while ignoring highly eligible Dr. Alex. The game of love isn’t always fair, and perhaps there isn’t actually anything wrong with you, you just weren’t their type.
I’ve been looking into the Law of Attraction recently, and it has some possible answers as to why dating has been an uphill struggle for me. The Universe gives us what matches the vibration we give out – not necessarily what we want. By focusing on it and worrying about it so much, perhaps I inadvertently ended up pushing love further away. I look back on all the nights I stayed up wondering “why not me?” and all the dull dates I forced myself to go on, and a part of me wishes I’d just accepted it just wasn’t my time yet.
Of course, it’s natural to want a relationship. It’s normal to want to fall in love and be loved in return, to want to find someone to settle down with, or to start a family with. But putting a time limit on love is not the answer. You can’t always control who you meet, and finding someone you are truly compatible with is more important than doing X by X age.
I know I need to be confident in myself if I’m going to allow the right person to enter my life. The people who have no trouble finding relationships aren’t always the most beautiful or with the best personalities, but those who believe in themselves. But moreover, it’s important to enjoy your life whether or not you’re loved up, and not let someone else’s opinion of you determine your self-worth.
So this year, I’ve been making some changes. I’ve mixed up the content on my blog so my online life isn’t completely focused on finding a partner. I’d been toying with the idea of doing stand-up comedy for a while, so I finally bit the bullet and took a course. Performing at the beginners’ showcase gave me a huge adrenaline rush, and it’s something I want to continue with to improve my confidence. I have no idea if I’ll ever earn money from it, but sometimes I think it’s OK to do something purely because you love it.
I also want to follow my own unique path and not let my relationship status define me. I’ve spent way too long feeling down about being single, so now it’s time to start living.
After all, it is what it is.