Scrolling through social media these days is like looking at an engagement and wedding album. If that’s not enough, you’re reminded by your friends, relatives and colleagues of that dreary question: When are you getting married? Or being told, “You simply haven’t met the one”.

These words make my heart race with annoyance. They’re the ones who describe love as a magical force that pulls people together – a lightning bolt that electrifies and brightens your life. They say you’ll know when you meet the love of your life. They are also fearmongers, perpetuating the idea that you have to be in a relationship – if not, happiness will elude you.

I’ve always enjoyed being alone, where nobody else is responsible for my happiness. And my current status, as Brit actress Emma Watson, puts it: self-partnered. Translated: being happy and complete as an individual. In short, a self-partnered person does not feel compelled to seek fulfilment by having another person as an attachment.

I once belonged to the herd mentality that I’d fall crazily in love with someone, apply for a flat or buy a condo, get married by my mid-20s, have children, and live blissfully. I believed that being in a relationship and getting married was the natural path for everyone.

But trying to stay in pursuit of “the one” only made me unhappier. I rushed into relationships and even gave an ex-boyfriend an ultimatum: pressuring him to commit by threatening to leave.

He pointed out then that I liked the idea of romantic relationships, but didn’t actually want to be in one. This resonates strongly with me today.

While I believe many enjoy fairytale-like weddings, they may not truly appreciate the concept of marriage or the hard work required to keep it alive.

I now view love as a fancy label for our physical imperatives and innate desire to mate. “The one” is objectified by romantics, a shopping list of things to fulfil, and finding this person is a project assigned by society. Some folks are resigned to this; others live in comfort to conform by societal standard.

Now, being self-partnered doesn’t mean one won’t date or ever fall in love and walk down the aisle someday. Since my last breakup, I share a stronger relationship with myself, and – free of the social burden of “needing” to find a partner – happiness visits often. Maybe I’ll meet somebody new, but until that day, I’ll continue to smile politely at anybody selling me love.

I share a stronger relationship with myself, and – free of the social burden of ‘needing’ to find a partner – happiness visits often.

– Tan Lixin

Lixin is a poet, author and three-time winner of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. She has published two books, Keeping Skeletons and Before We Are Ghosts, with Math Paper Press.

This article was first published in our magazine’s February issue.