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The dilemma I am a single woman in my mid-20s. I value my independence and have never sought out romantic relationships. The lack of a serious relationship has never bothered me. I have good friends, a good life and a job I find rewarding, and I don’t feel anything is missing in my life. Actually, I enjoy the freedom of being single, especially as I like to travel and live abroad. I am, however, increasingly aware of friends settling down and marrying, and I wonder if in 10 years I’ll regret not having pursued a relationship. Should I be working harder to make space for someone else in my life?
Mariella replies Heavens no! I only wish I’d had half your self-confidence and functionality as a twentysomething. We need more young women to grow up enjoying your perfectly formed sense of self-containment.
Did I just say “young women”? It’s a historic moment, the first time I can recall voluntarily distancing myself from a social group I still find it hard to accept I no longer belong to! Pertinently, in your case, the only things that really change between youth and full maturity, apart from the wrinkles, are often matters of emotional fine-tuning, impacted by a form of behavioural evolution that we must hope for as the years pass by.
The unlucky become needier, sadder and unhappier; the blessed choose to benefit from their accrued experience by becoming more comfortable in their own skins, which is often half the battle to achieving contentment. Now here’s you, fast forwarding that process and making me question why I, too, couldn’t have saved myself decades of romantic turbulence before coming to the conclusions you’ve reached.
Far from being unsuitable for romantic engagement, you are ripe for the picking. Contrary to popular mythology, the best and most durable relationships are based not on vulnerability or passion but on a conjugation of positive attributes, a meeting of mind, body and soul that is all the more powerful as it is not weighed down with neediness and unreasonable expectation. It remains culturally credible for girls, brought up on a diet of princesses being rescued, to grow up waiting for someone to save them from the somnambulance of their single life. Far too many individuals are out there scrabbling for any tidbits of affection, terrified to be left with the life they’ve created for themselves.
What an unappealing responsibility that is to lumber any prospective lover with: the need to be a saviour, not simply an equal partner. In so many young women a lack of self-esteem and confidence in their independence and abilities remains puzzlingly in evidence despite nearly a century of emancipation. Far too many girls’ and women’s romantic relationships are formed around a negation of their own worth and attributes rather than a confirmation of them.
Meanwhile many men are understandably trying to dodge a curiously preserved expectation of a lifetime of support, emotional and financial, rather than a meeting of like minds and capable companions. It’s a quagmire of misunderstanding. Too often we forget that an ideal partner is someone who enhances an already full existence. Someone who complements, rather than is at odds with, your social and working life.
You display a clear eye for what is important to you, and that makes you perfectly prepared for a potential relationship. I’m confident that when you do meet the person who tempts you to proceed further than you have (which you undoubtedly will, no matter how much you are resistant now) their appeal to you will be for all the right reasons.
If we could only ensure that every young girl grew up with your independent spirit and confidence the world would change immeasurably for the better. You are the kind of woman our mothers dreamed would one day populate the world and, hey presto, here you are. My overwhelming desire is to one day see my mailbag overflowing with similar correspondents. Meanwhile, I’m not sure why you’ve written, as it’s the rest of us who have all the problems.