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When I tell people that I’ve never been in a relationship, the question they consistently ask me is, “How old are you again?”

I used to take this as an offense and would mumble bitterly about some long-ago love interest. The truth is not that I’ve never been asked (although if I’m being honest, the offers have been few and far between); it’s simply that I didn’t know if I really wanted to “date” any of the interested parties, and what does that really mean anyway?

Instead of feeling bad for or about myself due to my lack of “girlfriend” experience, I’ve chosen to see things a different way. I’ve chosen to appreciate what I’ve learned about myself despite a lack of someone else.

I used to think that dating was a form of courtship of the old-fashioned Anne of Green Gables variety. I was waiting for the teasing immature boys I knew to blossom into dreamy Gilbert Blythes who would give up their futures for mine. Not so.

My freshman year of college dealt an unexpected blow to my romantic ideals. I had been waiting expectantly (maybe a bit naively) to meet some “mature” college guys. I moved into my dorm and immediately ventured out with my new roommates to look for our future husbands. I was surprised and very disappointed to find out, after several interactions with these supposedly grown-up college boys, that they, like me, had just finished high school and had not gained any impressive insight or maturity during the three months between graduation and the beginning of college. Weird.

My ideas of being swept off my feet in true Elizabeth Bennet fashion took another hit when I traveled to Europe—because who doesn’t fantasize about falling in love abroad? I was walking down a chilly London street with a British guy I had known for a while, waiting for that fateful moment in which he would ask me to be his girlfriend, we would kiss, and our happily ever after would begin. Again, my hopes did not become reality. He did ask me to “go out,” but what the bloody hell does that look like when you live six thousand miles apart?

So now I’m a 23-year-old college graduate with no real dating history.

What I've realized is that I didn't date because I actually didn’t know what I was looking for. The idea of what love should look like motivated me in the pursuit, but in the end it always came down to the fact that I didn't really want to be in a relationship—despite how romantically ideal it seemed.

Let’s revisit my study abroad experience. I wanted so badly to create a story that would last a lifetime, but in the end I realized that “forever” with him and six thousand miles was too daunting a prospect for me. Since then I have begun to imagine my love life in more realistic terms.

There have been times since then where I have been pulled into one date and then another and then another by that ever-persistent story book ideal. But when it came time to make a commitment, I would stop, listen, and breathe. Is this what I wanted? I knew that if I couldn’t stride over this line with confidence, this wasn’t the relationship for me.

After many misadventures in love, I have learned that rushing toward a relationship the moment my heart is pulled isn’t the best route for long-term romance—look how long it took Elizabeth and Darcy! Romance needs to unfold in its own time; that’s part of what makes it a beautiful thing to behold. Having the time to be single has taught me how to be honest with myself and what I am willing to offer someone I want a relationship with.

I know all too well the feeling of being taken less seriously simply because I’ve never been in love, as though I’m not a complete person. I don’t contest that love and heartbreak teach a person some very important lessons, but I don’t think not having that experience precludes me from learning about myself and what I want from a relationship. 

I know, I know, you’re all probably wondering, so is she still single? Yes. I. Am.

But I am not discouraged by my singleness nor my sparse romantic history. I still cry when I watch Anne of Green Gables, I champion Lizzy Bennet, and I cherish my own unique story. My hopeful romantic spirit is alive and well.

Photo Credit: Cathrine Taylor