The post that talks about being alone, not wanting children, asexuality and being generally a bit of an oddball when it comes to human feelings. It’s fine to be a relationship outlier.
For those that aren’t familiar with the concept, Saving Ninja sets bi-monthly “Thought Experiments” that pose various questions to fellow bloggers. Often these have a personal finance angle but for Thought Experiment 6 he’s thrown the doors open to a wide variety of responses:
What opinion do you have that most of your peers do not share?
This instantly posed a dilemma for me about what to write about and how open to be.
Should I stick to a personal finance theme? I enjoy retirement planning. Which is definitely not something that most of my peers enjoy. But anyone reading this blog (unless you’ve stumbled here through some weird mistake) probably enjoys retirement planning too.
What about political views? I read the Guardian, which sometimes gives me the impression that I’m some sort of right-wing tyrant. But in reality my politics are probably slightly left of centre with nothing particularly “out there” about my opinions at all.
Some of my views on relationships and human emotions are, however, a bit unusual. I debated how much to reveal in this post. Despite being anonymous, it feels odd to be revealing that kind of personal detail on a personal finance blog. Sharing income and savings details feels fine. Sharing details about relationship history? Not so much.
However, this Thought Experiment invites being more revealing than I usually would so here goes. Here is how I’m a relationship outlier.
So what exactly do I believe that is so unusual?
I wouldn’t exactly say the following are “beliefs” but my view on life and relationships is as follows:
Despite being in my early 30s I’ve never really had a relationship and it wouldn’t surprise me if I never have one.
If do end up in a relationship I don’t know that I would ever want to live with the other person.
Surprisingly, I’m not anti-marriage…
…but I am filled with cold dread at the prospect of a wedding.
Public displays of affection make me seethe with rage.
I don’t want children.
I don’t understand people’s obsession with sex. Maybe I’d even be ok if I never had it again.
Some of the above aren’t, in isolation, unusual (although I would argue they still put me in a minority). But together I think they do give me an outlook on life that is shared by very few people.
So let’s break this down…
Never had a relationship
Ok, this section is a long one, so let’s break it down even further…
Throughout my early and mid-20s I lamented the fact that I had never had a relationship that lasted more than a couple of months. I thought I was an unlovable reject.
And then around my mid-20s it just hit me that I didn’t actually care. The reason that I had never been in a relationship wasn’t because there was something wrong with me but because I had probably never wanted to be in a relationship, so hadn’t put much effort into being in one.
I always thought I did want a relationship because that’s what you’re supposed to feel. That’s what music, films and TV tell us. You should be torn up inside with love (whether requited or unrequited). In my case whenever I liked someone it was unrequited and society had led me to be angsty and miserable about that.
It was unbelievably freeing to realise that I actually just preferred being alone.
In reality it really wasn’t that unusual being in my early-20s and never having had a “proper” boyfriend. However, now I’m in my early 30s it does make me unusual to have never had a relationship. Fortunately this doesn’t bother me anymore (at least, not much – as to which see the “10% ache” below). There are some truly great things about being alone, including, surprisingly, some financial benefits.
I know this doesn’t mean I won’t find someone. I could meet them tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be one of those people that meets someone when I’m in my 50s. Or I might never meet the right person. When viewed in light of the rest of this post, it’s not unthinkable that I won’t find anyone on my wavelength.
How do I feel about this?
Most of the time I’m ok with my situation. I actually like being single. And not in that clichéd I-don’t-need-a-man-I’m-focussing-on myself-right-now kind of way. I’m so used to not being in a relationship the idea of being in one seems like such an imposition, most of the time I’d really rather not.
I can hear the patronising, sage words of advice already. “You just haven’t met the right person. Trust me, when you meet them you’ll want to spend all day every day with them”.
Firstly, I can assure you I won’t want to spend all day every day with them. The idea of not having time alone during the week makes me want to stab things. They’ll get allocated slots in my schedule and be grateful for it.
But obviously I do appreciate that if I meet the “right” person then my view on being single will change.
I’d say on the whole I’m 50% preferring being single, 40% happy to wait and see if something comes along and 10% actively wanting a relationship.
As you can imagine I’m certainly not minded to get out there on dating apps.
The 10% ache
Yes, despite what I say above I do have that 10% wavering where I want a relationship. Because I’m human. I’m the only one of my friends who is not in a long-term relationship. Many are married and are beginning to have children.
There’s a fear of being left behind as you are no longer anyone’s priority.
So I think the 10% desire for a relationship comes from fear of loneliness. If all my friends were single I don’t think I’d feel it.
I do think this 10% will continue to increase with age as the fear of dying alone increases. Maybe I’ll then have to compromise on some of the points below. Here’s hoping I meet someone organically before that point.
I don’t want to live with another person
Let’s assume that despite my reservations and my emotional quirks, I do manage to form a long-term relationship with someone.
The next natural step would be to move in together, right?
Well, not in my book. My ideal situation would be to live close by but separately. I really like living alone. I don’t think I’d want to give that up for anyone.
When I observe my coupled-up friends’ domestic lives I actually feel a little nauseous about falling into that sort of routine. Not that my own life is a rollercoaster. I have as much tedious routine in my own life. I just like that it isn’t governed by anyone else.
For some reason I feel this most strongly when it comes to dinner. Don’t ask me why but I hate the idea of what I have for dinner and when I eat it coordinated with another person every day (unless my partner loves to cook and is happy to do all the cooking, because I hate cooking so if I had someone to cook for me I’d shut up and be grateful for whatever they put in front of me).
In practice I can see that I might end up moving in with my (hypothetical) partner for financial reasons. I’m nothing if not rational when it comes to finances. Although I would also argue that it’s difficult to be financially independent in a couple.
I’m not anti-marriage
Given that I take the rather unusual view that I don’t want to live with someone, you might be forgiven for thinking I’m anti-marriage.
I’m not. I think it can be useful for tax purposes. I even think there’s something quite nice about it in a “showing your commitment” kind of way (see, I can have irrational human emotions too!).
On the whole I’d lean towards not getting married at the moment. For me I actually think I prefer the tax consequences of not being married. But I wouldn’t be 100% against it in the future.
Weddings are the worst
I don’t mind being an attendee at a wedding as long as I don’t have a role to play.
But my mind boggles at why people actually want a wedding. Absurd amounts of money for an event when people are looking at you all day!
It is truly my idea of a nightmare. Even a small wedding seems too much pressure.
I could actually rant for a long time about my intense dislike of weddings (or rather, the prospect of a wedding). It would probably offend literally everyone who has ever had a wedding (yes that includes you Mr and Mrs “we had a lovely rustic wedding in a converted barn because we’re so unconventional”).
As this post is already quite long I won’t go into it here. But if you feel like me offending the life choices of you and the people you love then let me know in the comments and I’ll consider writing a separate post.
Public displays of affection make me seethe with rage
I imagine I’m not alone in this. Lots of people don’t like PDAs.
For me it really is an annoyance with the “affection” side of things. I’m not that bothered by a couple pulling in a night club. It’s noisy and dark and you sort of expect it.
But a couple on the bus nuzzling each other, whilst he constantly kisses her forehead. Urgh, pass me the sick bucket!
In those moments I really wish I had the very specific superpower to make people projectile vomit on demand so I could make them vomit all over each other.
I always get the impression that those couples are putting on a display for other people rather than being genuinely unable to keep their hands off of each other (as they would have you believe).
Another completely different example of a PDA that irritates me is the need of some women (and I’m sorry but in the cases I’ve known it does seem to be the women) to have a “perfect” engagement story. I know couples who shopped for and purchased an engagement ring together, but he was still expected to take it away and “surprise” her with it at a later date.
You know he’s going to fucking ask and she’s going to say fucking yes, you bought the ring together. Why can you not just agree at that point that you are engaged.
The reason is the needy desire to be able to tell a romantic engagement story to the world.
I don’t want children
I won’t go into detail on this one as it’s another that could be a whole post in itself. There are plenty of people in the personal finance community that have blogged about this as it obviously has a pretty big impact on your finances.
There’s no great mystery to why I don’t want children. I just don’t.
Like a lot of people that don’t want or have children, I do fear being lonely and unsupported as I get old (and I’m going to be extra lonely if I never meet a partner). And there’s sure as hell a lot to dread about ageing. But wanting a future carer is not a good reason to have children.
I don’t understand people’s obsession with sex
I’ve saved the juicy one until last.
It’s not just that I don’t understand people’s obsession with sex. I also don’t understand why people are bothered by it at all.
My historical attitude to sex
As with my approach to relationships, in my 20s, my attitude to sex was that I should be wanting it. I would watch Friends episodes where one character or another was freaking out because they hadn’t had sex in months because this was seen as a bad thing. So during my early to mid-20s I tried to be a “normal” adult in this regard.
Around the same time that I decided I wasn’t bothered about pursuing a relationship (i.e. my mid-20s) I also acknowledged that I didn’t care enough about sex to have one night stands or “flings”. Accordingly, after that time I went for about three years without having sex. And after that until this point I’ve gone for about five years without it. And I don’t (usually) care.
Do I ever miss it or want it?
I’d say the “ache” in this case is even less than 10%. I’d say it’s about 5%. The other 95% of the time I feel so free that I have declared to myself that I am not bothered by sex and am not going to get hung up on it.
Mostly I find sex and the thought of having to have it to be a bit of a chore. There are many more things I’d rather be doing. Once again, cue lots of patronising/smug comments about me just not having had good enough lovers. Trust me, I’m old enough to know my own feelings and body.
Having said that, as I said at the outset of this post, I might be ok with never having sex again. I wouldn’t want to commit to that given that I do (on rare occasions) feel inclined towards it.
The media obsession
I find the obsession with sex and its relentless presence in the media to be utterly tedious. And I don’t just mean the stereotypical “male gaze” sexual obsession. I find the wave of media focus on women “taking control of their sexuality” to be equally tedious. An art installation of condoms from all the artist’s sexual experiences? Yawn.
I should point out the distinction between disinterestedness and prudishness. I don’t have any particular hang-ups about sex. If other people enjoy it and want to have lots of it then, as long as it’s safe and consensual, they should go for it. I just don’t understand it, the same way I don’t understand why people get obsessed with running marathons.
I’m not asexual. I have looked into this. The fact is, I do feel sexual attraction, it’s just rarely strong enough that I’d want to act on it. Like for a lot of people, alcohol can change this and the 5% urge goes upwards.
There are people who describe themselves as “grey” or “grey-A”, being somewhere on the asexual scale but not completely asexual. I guess I’d fit into that category although I’m not sure that isn’t just adding a label to a low sex drive.
I have been far more open in this blog than I intended, especially with regards to my sex life. I’m looking forward to what other bloggers write about for this Thought Experiment!
Check out the list of other participants, with links to their blogs over on Saving Ninja’s blog.