Written by Billie Bhatia
Stylist’s columnist Billie Bhatia answers your questions.
Q: “I’m 30 with a good career and lots of friends. So why do I feel the pressure to get a boyfriend and settle down?”
A: There was a blissful stage in my life – from the age of 24 to 28 – where I wore my single status like a badge of honour. When people would ask whether I was in a relationship, I would bark back with pride, “Hell, no.” I loved the freedom of not being answerable to anyone (except my mum). I was the master of my time. I chose how I spent it, who I spent it with, and what we spent that time doing.
OK, if I’m honest, there was the odd occasion I’d experience a sharp pang of envy when I’d catch a particularly cute couple moment out and about, but more often than not, it would be quickly soothed by overhearing a row about something as trivial as the wrong kebab shop order, and I’d snap back to my happy single place quicker than you could say, “Chips with cheese, please.”
But then the pandemic happened, and everything changed. As we locked down to endure a potential end-of-the-world scenario, I fell from the dizzying heights of my single high ground down to rock-bottom loneliness. The comfort in my sadness was that I could retreat to my family home with my sister, who shared a similar relationship status to me. Or so I thought. Unbeknown to me (we are the kind of sisters who share everything but dating details), she had met someone just before we were thrown into this chaos (someone she went on to say ‘yes’ to with a diamond ring last October).
Unsurprisingly, when both your siblings (my younger brother proposed to his long-time girlfriend at the end of 2020) are engaged and you’re steadfastly single, there is more pressure than ever to settle down. It’s a chest-tightening feeling of rising panic that is only diffused when I focus on all the things I love about my life: my friends, my job, my freedom. BUT as soon as a distant relative makes a coaxing comment about when I’ll be bringing someone home, the suffocating pressure rapidly inches its way up again. I hate it.
The pressure has led me to make some very questionable life choices. Like over Christmas, when I drunkenly got into an argument with one of my best friends and told him we could never speak again because he didn’t want to marry me that evening. For the record, there is no part of me that wants to marry him, either, but relationship pressure mixed with a bucket of cheap sauvignon blanc will do that to a girl.
The fact of the matter is, I empathise with what you’re saying – the pressure to be in a relationship, like the majority of my friends and family, can feel all-consuming. Not only does it make me swipe right on people I am not attracted to in the slightest, but it also diminishes my own self-worth – even when, like you, I have so much greatness going on in my life.
There isn’t a clear-cut solution to the problem. I fear that even if I met someone that I wanted to share all of my great things with, I would still feel another kind of pressure – to get married, to have children, to buy a house. And so the pressure lives on, manifesting itself in different things. I can’t tell you to just disregard it, either, because as my own antics have proven, it can be impossible to ignore. I can only offer you this: some comfort that pressure – whether it’s about the way you look, live or behave – is felt in some way or form by almost everyone on this planet. Except for maybe the Queen, she’s over that shit.
Ask Billie anything on Instagram, @stylistmagazine
Photography: Sarah Brick
Hair and make-up: Patrizia Lio at S management using Kevin Murphy and Nars
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