By Alicia Ouyang
I really enjoyed being single. Whenever I say that to my friends, they look at me like suddenly I’ve grown two heads, but I really did. I enjoy my own company, hanging out with friends and family fulfills my social needs, and I have my own dreams and goals to work on.
Still, I’m a hopeless romantic like the next person. Relationship, dating, romance—those words always formed the mental image of a portal in my head, a magical portal that would transform your life. Suddenly, your hand always had another hand to hold onto, you had places and experiences to explore as a part of a couple, and of course who could forget about cuddling? Not that I needed those to feel fulfilled as a person, but having someone to fully embrace you at your best and worst as your partner was a dream.
I got into my first relationship four months into my freshman year of college. The first day I was no longer single, I felt like I was dreaming, in the sense where what I had imagined was real, but everything was otherwise the same. I still had my classes to go to, homework to worry about and exams to study for. I still enjoyed the same things I enjoyed when I was single.
While being in a relationship has given me so many benefits that I was unable to enjoy as a single person, it also has given me more obstacles. When a friend jokingly gave me a nickname in an online chat where she attached my boyfriend’s last name to my name, I was furious. I felt like I was labeled as a completely new person that was dependent on him. People often ask if I’m going to join certain activities because my boyfriend is part of them or vice versa, as if we’ve suddenly become the same person and have the exact same interests. As his girlfriend, I’m not here to follow his path. I’m here to blaze my own path while being by his side.
What I have learned with my boyfriend is that while we both enjoy spending time with each other and we have this bond that we don’t share with other people right now, we are still very singular. The reason why he likes me is not because I’m his, but because of the person that I am. We’re not one of those couples attached to the hip, because we are two separate people with two different lives to take care of. Half the time when people ask me what he’s doing or where he is, I wouldn’t be able to tell them. We take days off where we want to reconnect with ourselves, or focus on our work, and we respect when the other person needs to do that. We want to keep our relationship rewarding and nurturing, not demanding and stressful. As a result, our often-unplanned encounters are more meaningful because we’re both choosing to see each other, not because it’s part of our routine and we feel obligated to.
So to my independent women, if you’re in a relationship and feel guilty when you see those couples that are always together 24/7, don’t be. Balance, happiness and success can be achieved in so many different ways. You just need to find the way that works best for you.
Remember who you are and to love yourself, because it’s easy to forget that when pledging commitment to loving someone else. It’s easy to forget that, as a person, you have the right to your dreams and interests and chasing after them, even if they’re different. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything about yourself. At the end of the day, the only person you have to be with 24/7 is you, and that’s the person whose relationship with you is the most important.