Actor Emma Watson recently opened up to British Vogue about being happily single.
The 29-year-old acknowledged the social pressure to be partnered up by her age, but told the outlet she’s come to a place of self-acceptance.
“I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is totally spiel.’ It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single].
“I call it being self-partnered.”
In the piece, writer Hazel Cills argues the term “self-partnered” stigmatizes the idea “that a woman could be alone forever and be okay with it.”
Others applauded Watson for her comments and said they, too, will co-opt the term.
When being single is a choice
But for some Canadians, being happily single is not only a mindset — it’s a deliberate choice.
“I’m 100 per cent honestly not dating because I don’t want to at all,” said Vanessa Vakharia, founder of the Toronto-based tutoring service The Math Guru.
“I have no interest in being in a relationship whatsoever.”
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Vakharia, who is in her 30s, says she is happy focusing on her career and genuinely enjoys spending time doing things that matter to her most. Between work, hosting a podcast and being in a band, Vakharia carefully considers what she puts her energy into.
Dating is not high on her priority list.
“Any time I evaluate whether I want to take on a new project or not, one of the main questions I ask is, ‘Do I have time?’” she said.
“I have made the decision not to take on a relationship because I know that to be a good partner, that means diverting the time I spend on the current projects that fill my schedule to that relationship.”
While Vakharia is happy with her lifestyle, she says others often have a hard time believing she is OK with her single status. Whenever people ask her about her love life, she often feels pressure to justify her situation.
“People make you feel like you should be on the defensive, like you’re supposed to be like, ‘Oh, I’m not dating, but I’m fine!’ or, ‘I’m not dating but I just met this [person],’” she said.
“We act like our goal [in society] is to meet this dream person and have this fairy-tale ending and settle down — especially at my age.”
These reasons can include people wanting to spend time on themselves, focus on their careers or because they feel exhausted from a previous break-up.
The current landscape of online dating isn’t always appealing, either.
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“In the online dating world, so many people play games and that gets really annoying and frustrating,” Bilotta said.
“And eventually you just take a break and say, ‘You know what? I’m better off being single right now.’”
Twenty-nine-year-old Sasha Ruddock says women are also often raised to believe that happiness is directly linked to marriage and kids.
The Toronto-based body-positivity activist believes this can cause people to spend less time on themselves, and more time looking for a relationship.
“I believe it’s normal to want companionship, but we have to question our need for it,” Ruddock said.
“Do you know yourself? Do you like yourself? What are your heart’s desires? We weren’t taught self-love.”
Despite all the valid reasons for staying single, the societal expectation that people should be in relationships by a certain age still harms single folks, Bilotta said.
One of the first questions people ask is, “Why are you single?” Bilotta said, which can make people feel like they should date, even if they don’t want to.
Carolyn Van, 34, has experienced this first-hand.
The Toronto-based educator and business consultant says she loves her lifestyle and happily chooses to be single. She is grateful for her life and feels no void.
Like Vakharia, others have a harder time accepting her situation.
“People have a tough time believing that I’m happy — and then I’m treated like a lab subject,” Van said.
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“I get a lot of questions. A lot of skepticism. A lot of assumptions about my life experiences. If anything, I think this reveals much more about those who ask these questions, so I mostly observe and take it as an opportunity to learn about people.”
Sometimes Van says she will challenge people and ask them questions back about their decisions to be in a relationship. Some folks get the hint.
“I say cheeky things like, ‘Maybe one day, you learn that you don’t want to be a partner or parent anymore. You should just keep your options open!’” she said.
“They aren’t used to getting these questions and comments. It’s my way of putting a mirror in front of them.”
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