Why These Young Adults Are Happy to Stay Single

Not too long ago, I found myself perplexed by the thought of entering my 30s unmarried, or worse – without having found someone to marry. And I, unsuccessfully, tried to address this by getting back with my ex-boyfriend, which understandably did not end up so well for either of us.

This was, however, followed by serendipitous encounters with several single women in their 30s and 40s, and an open dialogue with my mother on marriage, which left me questioning my own anxieties about ending up single.

In a nutshell, I realised how the need to be married by a certain age, or at all, wasn’t my own, but one that I had (quiet unhealthily) borrowed from society.

But soon I found another radical shift in my perception. Now, I was not just ‘okay’ being single forever, but was ready to embrace it with my full being. And this shift happened when I spoke to young Indians, who had chosen to lead single lives, for the purpose of this article.

In his book Happy Singlehood, author Elyakim Kislev claims that such individuals, in fact, are the fastest-growing demographic group in many countries.

Three such persons share their reasons and experiences of choosing singlehood.

“Won’t give up my independence for anything.”

Shubhra Mittal, 28

Shubra quit her stable job at a California-based startup one and a half year ago. Since then she has been working as a digital nomad, helping startups build their brands, along with indulging herself in a host of other activities and interests.

On choosing singlehood

My present life is very unpredictable and demanding as I have been engaging myself in diverse endeavours, all of this while being constantly on the move. I don’t expect anyone to adjust to this sort of a lifestyle, and I don’t want to live any other way, at least not for the next 4-5 years. And, I think I can make the most of this present life by being single.

In my last relationship, I became so accommodating in the name of love that I felt like a completely different person. I was losing who I really was. I am very adjusting when it comes to travel, but I don’t want to adjust my way into relationships anymore.

Reactions from society

My mother would be happiest getting me married off, but she has also – somewhere deep down – made peace with the fact that I might not, at least not anytime soon. But what’s interesting is that even distant relatives have ceased to bring rishtas (prospective matches) because they know I am far from an ideal submissive bahu (daughter-in-law) that most families in my hometown of Bhatinda or our community look for. That works very well for me, actually.

End word

I will be open to being in a relationship, some four to five years from now, but only if I find someone with whom I think I can spend the rest of my life. Fear of loneliness can never be a reason for me to get into marriage or even a relationship. Otherwise, I would be quite content spending my life with my dogs.

“I have even been asked if I was gay.”

Ramesh Bhutani, 30

Ramesh was born and brought up in the border town of Moreh in Manipur. A mechanical engineer by education, he, runs his own food processing unit in Kolkata.

On choosing singlehood

It was a couple of years ago that I decided against getting married and, focusing more on my work instead. I find the idea of relationships too stifling. One can hardly do what one wants to, and then you have to constantly report where you are and what you might be doing to your partner. Single life, on the other hand, is completely free, and that’s how I like it.

But my major inspiration comes from my own family, many of whom chose to lead single lives long back. Only three other, out of my mother’s eight siblings, are married. And the case is similar on my father’s side. In fact, two of my grandfather’s siblings, who are 81 and 86 now, didn’t marry either. And they have lived such complete lives. I look at them and I know there is another way to live too.

Reactions from society

My friends would often ask me why I was still single. I would just tell them that freedom of mind and action is more important to me than emotional security. I have also been asked if I was gay, for not wanting to marry.

And when some people say “what you will do when you grow old, you will be so lonely,” I tell them that all those who are married don’t always end up living with their partners or children forever, and then they are worse off, aren’t they? I am happy and content, leave me alone, is all I say to them.

 “Does one really need marriage to be happy?”

Riddhi K Shah, 29

Riddhi works as an independent education mentor to school headmasters and teachers in rural India.

On choosing singlehood

It was very early in life that I realised marriage might not be for me. I was in high school then, and I wasn’t just trying to be a rebel kid. I would look around and observe – the idea of marriage didn’t seem liberating to me. I was sure, even then, that I could very well live on my own, and didn’t need to be attached to a man to make the most of this life.

This perception of marriage only got reinforced as I grew up. Everywhere I look, I see unhappy people in unhappy marriages – the conflicts, falling out of love and yet sticking together because of society or their kids.

This does not mean I am against love or relationships. I have been in several very serious long-term relationships. And my idea of a happy relationship is that you stay together as long as it adds value to both your lives and be ready to let go when the time comes. Life time commitment to stay together, just for society’s sake makes little sense to me.

Reactions from society

I work largely in villages with rural schools and communities. And the first question that I always get asked is “Aapki shaadi nahi hui!? Kab karni hai? (How are you still not married? When do you plan to get married?)” And then, they are quick to assume that something must be wrong with me, given that I am still unmarried.

And then, I have even heard this: “But you seem [like] someone who is very affectionate.” I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. That those who are single and independent are incapable of giving love?

As far as my immediate family is concerned, I have a sister who is seven years elder to me, and she, too, is unmarried. Our mother is happy to let us walk our own paths, whether it means choosing to marry or stay single. And most relatives generally don’t mess with our family of three strong, empowered women who haven’t made marriage the goal of their lives.

(Responses are based on telephonic interviews of the four individuals and may have been paraphrased.)
Ritika recently retired as a development professional, after working in the industry for five years. Presently she is preparing herself for the next phase of her life and spends her time studying Psychology, writing and spending time with her family.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty