Tanya Hayles can’t recall when she started stressing about finding love.
“I think as a girl, it’s always there in the background somewhere,” the 39-year-old from Toronto told Global News. “I will say, once I became a single mother, the push to provide a nuclear family for my son became that much more of a driver.”
Experts can’t pinpoint where the pressure to find a partner, get married or even have children comes from, but some can be linked to culture, religion and gender roles.
Toronto-based relationship therapist Natasha Sharma said if you are feeling these types of pressures, you need to get to the source of it.
“Is it coming from people around them, like parents or family or friends? Or is it coming from within themselves?” she told Global News. “Marriage or having a romantic partner is… not a must-do or must-have. ”
Often others, as well as ourselves, have a deep-rooted belief that marriage is a requirement to be happy.
“Our minds have been unwisely conditioned and set up this way… It’s simply not true,” she said. “Although many of us have a strong drive and desire for marriage or a romantic relationship, neither is a requirement for personal happiness or fulfillment.”
“As a ‘modern’ woman, you feel silly because we’re not supposed to want a man, right? It leaves me ebbing and flowing between two worlds where I’m not sure where I fit in and land.”
Pressure on women
Surveys have shown millennials were 177 per cent more likely to feel pressure to get married, compared to other generations. This was due to a range of reasons, including wanting family and kids to pleasing their parents.
Other times, this pressure is rooted in culture. In China, even though women in their 20s were outnumbered by men of the same age group, they still felt more pressure to find love, The New York Times reported. For women, a lot of this was due to gender roles and stereotypes, age still mattered when it came to reproduction.
Some even consider women over the age of 27 “leftover women” by relatives and friends — those who decided to be successful in their careers or didn’t get married at a specific age.
Sharma agreed with the sentiment that heterosexual women may feel more pressure. “The pressure tends to fall more on women throughout their adult lifespan, and for men, that pressure comes a little later on in life,” she explained, adding social pressures for example shift as men age. “It’s there because our mental faculties have been conditioned to believe we have to be in a relationship in order to be happy.”
But Hayles said it’s not so easy to always think this way. She said this pressure can form at a young age, when children are exposed to shows, movies and books that embrace the idea of falling in love.
For some cultures, marriage is still highly regarded as a symbol of social status, even though some polls suggests Canadians aren’t interested in getting married.
“Many cultures see marriage as the cornerstone to family life and raising children, and cultures that place a very high value on family and having children are bound to place more pressure on those around them to get married,” she continued.
This adds double the pressure to young people, which can cause them to get married for the wrong reasons.
“Despite the fact that many marriages may not be happy marriages, society still tends to place greater value on being married or with someone than not,” she said. “And in our efforts to please society and be met with social approval, we endeavour to get married.”
Marriage should be an equal union between two people in love, not something to fulfill one’s sense of identity or self-worth, or for validation, Sharma said.
Sharma said finding a partner truly comes down to re-evaluating your reasons for wanting love and how they relate to your own self-worth.
“If you are happy, independent and content on your own already, and you’re consciously making a choice to be open to finding someone in a similar spot to share life with, go for it,” she explained. “Be patient, be open-minded in meeting different kinds of people.”
She also suggested knowing what you want in a partner, but also focusing on your own self confidence.
For Hayles, she will continue to filter through the world of dating, something that isn’t getting any easier. “Dating is hard because men automatically assume (sometimes not incorrectly) that I want love and marriage,” she said.
“Dating is an elimination game, I don’t even know you as a person to make that leap.”