Some of us aren't far from yet another birthday; another milestone in our lives. We are getting older and wiser, but not necessarily any closer to the next chapter in life.
For some of us, this means getting married, having children, and building a family of our own. Now, I'm not implying that the next chapter in your particular life must be marriage, children, and starting a family. I'm aware we all have our own goal posts, and you may want to pursue ambitions other than getting married, but for those of you who are focused on building a family at this moment in your life, it may seem like, as time passes and the search gets harder and more tedious, we find ourselves wondering whether it's time to give up the search and think of a plan B (one that doesn't involve getting hitched).
So, when should you throw in the towel and give up?
Why is it that in our younger years it always seemed so easy to meet people? Back then, you tended to be more social and perhaps more active. You had the time, energy, and (for some reason) patience to meet people, actually have fun, and give them a fair chance without taking life too seriously. Many men and women found their perfect match during this time and have an army of children by now.
Throughout these years, you were exposed to what seemed like herds of people, all conveniently in your age range, with similar (and some different) interests and life ambitions. They were accessible, available and with very few hang-ups. You easily socialised with many different types of people, and it was almost effortless to get a date.
Oh, the wonder years of life! It was a great time to search for a partner, because as you get older, boy, oh boy, do things change!
Back then, I was so focused on studying that I didn’t have the time to do anything else. My eyes would hurt from all the reading, and my hands would bleed from all the writing. Okay, I am lying and exaggerating! I was actually focused on a mix between having lots and lots of fun and being too scared to tell my Mum I’ve failed that I crammed major studying in (with major socialising). In between all the studying and socialising, I actually managed to meet a few interesting and decent people along the way (who now, in hindsight, may have been great partners for me), but unfortunately, nothing came to fruition, as I simply wasn’t thinking ahead.
During this time, I didn’t think about finding (or staying) in a long-term relationship. I decided that I had plenty of time to do this, and I was far more focused on planning my future career and studying. I figured that I could deal with the man issue later. So, what happened many years later?
Many years later, I got the career. I still have the friends (carefully sifted over the years), but I forgot about the man. The man became less and less important as time went on, and my success in other ventures became paramount.
Finding a partner never really was at the top of my priority list (as it was with some girls), and it still isn’t (as it is with some women today). I can be a bit of a loner at times, and I actually enjoy my own company, so the need wasn't so urgent. Occasionally, I wonder about the many girls who put finding a partner at the top of their priority list; the ones who dreamt of being nothing but a bride and had every detail of their wedding planned out before even finding a man. Did they end up in a parallel universe to mine? Married with a husband, children, in-laws, the whole shebang? Are they happy?
Often, when I see married couples arguing or just generally being a boring married couple, doing married couple things, such as dealing with in-laws and screaming children, I actually secretly feel happy that I am single and don’t have to worry about all of that. All I need to worry about is myself (as selfish as it sounds), and how to meet my own needs. I make my own rules and I pretty much do as I please.
However, other times, when I see an old and content couple, or a couple cooing over their child and holding hands, or when my nieces and nephews have to leave me and go back home with their parents after I've had the most amazing day with them, something inside of me tugs at my heartstrings and tells me that’s what I want (the thought is always short-lived, but it is there, nonetheless).
I don’t regret anything that I have done, and I refuse to be in a relationship just for the sake of "being in a relationship". I need to be in the right relationship with the right person. I need to know that the man I have chosen to be with is bringing something to my life that I couldn't give to myself, and is enhancing my life, not hindering it in any way, otherwise, what is the point? I get that we have to make sacrifices, but I think they need to be healthy ones.
A while ago, I met a woman on an airplane. The woman was older than me, newly wed, and Asian! I was surprised to hear that she was a newlywed, as most people in her community would view her as being too old to get married. In a community that severely frowns upon women who marry at a later stage in life, there she was - old, married, and happy.
We struck up a rapport immediately. She was returning to her hometown to visit family, and she told me her story. She told me about how she spent her life back in her country raising her younger brothers and sisters, how her mother gave birth to many children, and how, from a young age, she was expected to co-mother her siblings. She spent her days working hard, fulfilling her duties as a co-mother, and then raising funds so that she could pay for dowries and weddings. She raised money by doing menial, low-paid work (as her mother was widowed and unable), and because of this huge commitment, she had overlooked herself. She always thought there would be time, but before she knew it, she was in her forties with no prospects, and despite all her hard work and achievements, she was labelled as an old and useless woman by her community.
It seems that we really are made in pairs.
Soon after, society’s judgements began to tear her down, and just as she was losing hope, she met her husband. She married her husband shortly after meeting him, and she had no doubt in her mind that he was the right man for her. She told me how good he is to her, and how she could never have imagined a man like him would ever exist. He overlooked all of his community’s judgements and stuck by her side through thick and thin, with no judgements of his own. He was a real gentleman, and the man she now admired and loved so dearly.
She told me about all the low points in her life, when she wanted to throw in the towel and just give up. She prepared herself to be alone forever. She even prepared for it financially, saving enough to be able to provide herself with the basics. At the time, she felt that it really was too late for her. Thoughts would cross her mind regularly, such as, "Who would look at me now, anyway? My best years have passed; can I even still have children? Am I too stuck in my ways to even consider accommodating a man in my life and having to adjust to him?” However, for some reason, she decided to ignore her thoughts, and did not give up. Here she was today, a million miles in the clouds, relaying her story to me, happy, newly wed, and completely content with her life.
Some of us may have already decided that we simply do not want a relationship or kids, and that’s fine. You have to do whatever works for you, and what feels right in your heart and soul, but for those of you who are still on the search for love, the answer to my question: "When should we give up?” is NEVER.
Never give up!