Updated: Aug 15
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
If you are a South Asian woman who is single, in your 20s, 30s, or beyond, and are feeling immense pressure from all angles regarding your marital status, then you may find this article relevant.
It can sometimes feel as though you are the only person going through this, but please know that you are not alone. There are many women out there who are dealing with the same struggle you are — you may find some comfort in knowing that you are supported by others who stand with you and support you in this journey called life. Hopefully, this article is at least a little bit helpful in articulating some of the difficulties you may be dealing with as well as providing some possible ideas that can help you cope.
As a disclaimer, this article may of course not apply to all single South Asian women out there and not everyone may feel that all of these points apply to them, and that is completely understandable. Generally speaking, the information outlined below is intended for those women who are feeling stuck regarding not being in a relationship and who may be dealing with the associated challenges of being single from gender, age, and cultural perspectives. For those who need to hear this: you are seen and understood.
1. Family pressure — being asked why you’re not married yet
This is a question you might get not only from your family but also from your extended family, family friends, spiritual community, and other personal networks. Essentially, you may find that most social gatherings may result in you being asked this question to the extent that you experience anxiety or stress about attending them due to feeling obligated to answer them for fear of appearing rude or disrespectful if you don’t.
This is a tricky situation as creating and establishing healthy boundaries and asserting oneself can be very difficult in South Asian families and culture as a whole. However, this is an important topic that needs to be dived into as no one should have to feel that they need to share information about their personal life that they don’t want to or feel forced into defensive mode on a constant basis.
It’s time to figure out how to delicately handle these questions in a way that relieves the burden on you. This may involve thanking others for their concern and saying that you don’t have any updates to share. If they persist with questions or comments, you could say that you are not comfortable discussing it further and then change the topic of the conversation or you can politely excuse yourself if it all feels like too much. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your love life, when you will get married, or if you will have kids.
From a cultural standpoint, you might feel that you are doing something wrong by not responding openly to someone else’s questions — especially if it is coming from an elder — but it’s important to remember that your well-being is just as important as anyone else’s and that you deserve to put yourself first. Sometimes, our well-being can be best protected by maintaining our privacy and shifting the conversation to something else that enables us to feel less like we are on display for others to comment on or critique.
2. Anxious thoughts — worrying that you might never meet someone
You might ask yourself often if you will ever meet someone or if you will be single forever. It can be hard to deal with uncertainty and the unknown. You might feel even more discouraged if you have never been in a relationship or if you have had a few bad experiences with blind dates, online dating, match-making attempts from people you know, or other types of experiences that you feel didn’t go well. These negative experiences could contribute to anxious thoughts and keep you stuck.
Maintaining hope may be difficult but is important to do as this may help you develop a perspective that not all dating experiences will be bad and that you deserve to meet someone who cares about you as much as you care about them. Similarly, trying to see your anxiety as a form of excitement may change your internal narrative to one that keeps you open-minded, curious, and flexible in future dating scenarios.
3. Self-esteem issues — believing you are unworthy, undesirable, and unloveable
You may notice that you think about yourself in a self-defeating way when it comes to your self-esteem, value, and worth. For example, you may think “no one will want to be with me”, “I’ll never be in a relationship”, “it won’t work out- why bother- I’ll just end up being disappointed”, “I’m unloveable”, etc.
These thoughts can tend to spiral over time and you may observe that you start assuming that, if you go on a date and it doesn’t work out or if you don’t get asked out on a date for some time, that it means something is wrong with you or that this says something about you. This may, in turn, lead you to stop making efforts to meet new people or decline dating requests and this can further confirm your negative beliefs about yourself when nothing changes. This perpetual cycle can further lead you to feel that you are stagnant and not moving forward.
Becoming aware of how your thoughts and beliefs impact your self-worth and also your behaviour is an important first step before trying to make change. Once you gain an understanding about how these negative views can be damaging to your sense of self, it’s important to try to change them to allow for more positive beliefs that keep your self-esteem intact.
For example, you can form alternative beliefs such as “just because I haven’t met someone yet doesn’t mean something is wrong with me”, “finding someone I connect well with takes time”, and “I deserve to be with someone who treats me well and it’s ok if that takes longer than I expect it to”, etc. Adopting a more positive mindset will help you see your intrinsic worth. It will also facilitate your readiness to date when the opportunity arises and allow you to feel more encouraged and interested in the process.
4. Internal pressure — thinking that you need to settle
You might not only be dealing with pressure from external forces regarding being single, but you might also feel a sense of internal pressure. This pressure could increase as you get older based on the perceived notion that it is harder to find a great partner as we age since they might already be spoken for.
You might feel as though time is running out — not only in terms of finding a suitable partner but also if you want to have children and are acutely aware of your ticking biological clock. As a result, you might come to the conclusion that you want to be in a relationship to start moving your life forward even if the person you’re with doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you.
However, deciding to “settle” means that you are not letting that little voice inside of you shine — the voice that tells you “it’s better to be single than to be in a relationship where I don’t feel happy or fulfilled”. Or, worse, you may stay in a toxic relationship where you are being treated badly just to avoid being single. Turn down the voices that are pushing you to settle and turn up the voice that puts your relationship needs and wants at the front and center.
Take a moment to reflect on the fact that you deserve the best — a relationship where you feel seen, heard, supported, appreciated, loved, cared for, and in which you are treated as an equal partner where your thoughts, feelings, and needs matter. Settling will not allow you to reach the quality of union you are seeking and so, as hard as it may be, remind yourself that a healthy relationship is worth waiting for no matter how long it takes — because you are worth it.
5. Achieving peace — learning to accept yourself regardless of your relationship status
While building up your self-esteem can be a work in progress, so can achieving peace. For many of us, our identity can often be wrapped up in who we believe we are, what we have, who we are with, and what we do.
But, what if we start to believe that those things don’t define us? What if we found a way to feel ok with ourselves regardless of what happened to us or around us? What if we made a stable foundation of our self-worth so that it wasn’t shaken as severely by rejection, negative comments, or being shunned or overlooked?
If your self-esteem can be maintained on solid ground, this can go a long way towards helping you feel more at peace in your life no matter your relationship status, environment, or circumstances you may find yourself in. This sense of calm can be beneficial for your outlook, how you approach difficult conversations, and the way you navigate your daily life.
The plight of single South Asian women can be felt strongly by those who are experiencing ongoing pressure from others — as well as internal pressure — which can impact their sense of self. This may lead them to worry that they might not meet anyone or that they need to move forward with the next person they date even if the quality and strength of the connection don’t feel quite right to them.
Even though you might feel overcome by the rising pressure, it can make a difference if you can reach a point of calm and clarity through the storm that allows you to let the little voice inside of yourself speak up. The one that says you are good enough and worthy enough regardless of your relationship status. The one that tells you that you deserve to be in a relationship where you feel valued, appreciated, supported, and understood. The one that whispers to you that your happiness is worth the wait.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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