Rhea is an independent woman, living in Bangalore (currently at her native Kolkata due to the pandemic), working in an MNC, living the life any girl could dream of. Or maybe not. Her only weakness is that she has always been a hopeless romantic person, though she advises her friends not to be one, and never lived a life without a partner until now.
Being raised in a middle-class Bengali family, from the suburbs of Kolkata, I have always been made to believe in the “normal” life. School, undergraduate, post-graduate, job, get married, have children, enjoy! Being an introvert, I have always been the one suppressing my feelings to my parents, unlike my sister who is a confirmed extrovert.
Since I didn’t have any social life back in my school days, I used to study in my free time which made my parents believe that I might crack WBJEE and become a doctor or engineer with flying colors. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for me, I didn’t crack any of those. I couldn’t even make it to the list!
There were boys from my class who I liked but never spoke to because I have always had this self-esteem issue of how people would accept me. Then I met this man, Man#1, (yes, man and not any boy) who happened to be my brother’s friend and 6 years elder to me. And my life entered into a different time zone. The best part about being with him is that he validated me and accepted me, he liked me as much as I did and yes, he was my first love, my first relationship.
However, my parents were not happy with the relationship and they wanted me to focus on my career. We had an on and off relationship for 5 years, before we parted our ways and I left for Bangalore. Within the next 1.5 years, he got married and I continued living my life in Bangalore as a postgraduate candidate.
I was never the one who was not seeking validation. I used to compare myself with my friends who’d have more attention from a guy. I used to feel insecure if someone didn’t appreciate my work or my look or my appearance. During my post-grad days in Bangalore, I ended up having quite a few flings that resulted in nothing but nonsense. Then came into my life this another person, Man#2, whom I met over Orkut (yes, you read that right, Orkut) years back. One sudden evening I found him on Facebook and immediately sent him a friend request. He accepted it.
We were already friends, now we were good friends and then one fine day we were in a relationship! Everything was going great and I was very happy having a “boyfriend” to hang out with and to seek validation and acceptance as well. Since I was already 24-25 years of age by then, my parents accepted my relationship with him. But my fate had some other plans.
I always had more male friends compared to female friends and that’s what ignited the flame. My then potential boyfriend became excruciatingly possessive and started monitoring my every move and calls. Though we were in a long-distance relationship, it became really hard for me to cope up with his demands. There were days when I had 52 missed calls of his while I was on a call with my mother! Those 52 missed calls used to end up in endless arguments which were tiresome for both of us. There was another instance where he traveled 1 hour to be with me just because I was hanging out with my friends and there was a guy in our group!
Anyways, things turned ugly and I started hurting myself as well. Before we both lose ourselves, we parted our ways, not so amicably though. Emotionally, we both were badly hurt. And when I was trying to recover from everything that has happened, I met Man#3, the third man I was in a romantic relationship with.
By now, you must be wondering how can I jump from one relationship to another. Trust me, I wonder the same to myself now. I was never alone with myself, never. Since I was already hurt from my previous relationship with man#2, it seemed like that this new guy (man#3) came as a rescue to my life. Little did I know, I was preparing myself for another throwback. Things were initially going great, I was hurt and vulnerable and he was the bandaid for my open wounds.
Back with him, the weird thing I realized was that I used to enjoy his company only when we were with his friends or with my friends. We used to laugh and joke among others, but not when we were alone. I became insecure about his female friends (what I faced in my previous relationship) and he started lying to me about visiting them.
I was already 28 by then and so my parents wanted us to tie the knot as soon as possible. So we both met each other’s parents and it was fixed that we’d get married in the next year. Then the pandemic hit and things took a backseat. The only communication we had was through the rectangular device on our hands. Frustration and tension started building in our relationship and we started questioning whether getting married to each other would be the right decision.
He started questioning my views and opinions and insecurity towards his friends. And to utter dismay, I never had the urge of seeing him or meeting him in person. I never had that excitement either when I used to get his calls! I didn’t have any sort of physical attraction towards him either! And that’s when I started realizing maybe I do not love him at all, neither do I hate him. I just don’t feel anything for him!
After a huge fight and argument over a Facebook post, I decided to end the relationship. He tried once or twice to fix it but I was determined not to give in. Honestly, I was very happy from within that he didn’t try to fix it either. Hence, we ended our 1.5 years relationship. So, here I was, single at 30!
Due to my over-friendly father, my extended families were aware of my potential wedding that never took place. So the pressure of shame, guilt, anger, “what would people say“, started pouring in. Initially, my parents were supportive but then the burden of “the daughter at 30 and still not married” started hovering over. They wanted me to get married anyhow before I hit my next birthday. They started searching for potential grooms from matrimony ads, I made my profile on one of the matrimony websites as well (not knowing what I want), they posted my ad in the newspaper as well but due to one reason or another, I disliked all the profiles that showed interest.
I was so scared and insecure about my self-worth that I didn’t dare to speak up for myself. I couldn’t even say to my parents that I DON’T WANT TO GET MARRIED NOW, I NEED TIME TO HEAL MYSELF FROM WITHIN. I was so absorbed in society’s norms of getting married before 30 that I lost my voice. The only thing I was good at doing was crying to myself when alone, when in the bathroom, or when no one’s looking. I was anything but a strong independent woman.
More fights with parents over not selecting any groom, more crying, more anxiety attacks, more hatred towards myself, and it didn’t seem to stop. I started cursing myself for being a failure in my relationships, started comparing myself with the other “happy” couples over social media, started contemplating my life. Adding to that, I started disliking my job as well. I was just like a robot doing everyday stuff without the mere purpose, not knowing what do I want out of my life.
My sister is the only one who has always had supported me in every step of my life, be it academic or personal. She helped me in getting rid of the shit that I installed in my head! I have always been a reader of self-help books but never practiced any of them until now. I started analyzing my thoughts about likes and dislikes. I started seeking counseling, buying and reading a lot of self-help books (Jay Shetty, Vex King, Sadhguru, Robin Sharma, to name a few), meditating, watched a lot of motivational videos, and kept saying to myself, “I will heal from within, I’m worthy, I need time for myself“.
My parents were still upset about the fact that I didn’t give in to the idea of getting married anytime sooner. But I was determined not to let in any other man in my life until and unless I’m fully healed from within. I thought detachment from parents for some time might help them as well to get accustomed to the fact that it’s okay not to get your daughter married by 30. So I went on a mini-vacation for 15 days to my cousin’s place (due to the pandemic, couldn’t go far). And things started to normalize since then, like the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind“.
It’s been almost a year now since my last breakup and I am still figuring out my life, without the negative self-talk. When I read and watch other’s life stories and how they emerged better and stronger than before, I don’t see myself as a sufferer or a failure or anything. Because ending a relationship with someone does not equate to the pain and sufferings others face due to the pandemic, malnutrition, gender, and sexuality, caste, religious barriers, child rights, education, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, and the list go on.
Ending a relationship and not getting married by 30 does not make me any less worthy of love. It does not make me any less of a woman or demean my value. My self-worth does NOT depend on any external validation or opinion, it does not shout anymore to be accepted by others, not even by my parents. I love and respect my family, but at the same time, I am learning to love myself more every single day. I will turn 31 soon, still single and I am not an inch scared about the fact “how will I find a suitable groom/partner?”. My age does not define me or my worth. My age, my job, my family, my relationships are NOT me. I, as a being, can never be defined by these factors.
I am learning to raise my words, not my voice. I clearly stated that I’d get married when I am ready, mentally and emotionally, not when society wants me to. I’m continuing my counseling session, enrolled in a new course, reading more, journaling more, meditating, exercising, and not at all running in search of another romantic relationship. The reason why I failed in my last relationship is very much clear to me now. Instead of healing myself, I expected another person to heal me. As a result, I was bleeding on him for the cut not even made by him. I didn’t give myself enough time to know what I need, not what I want. I didn’t love or respect myself enough to be loved by someone else. I never completely accepted myself for who I was, and I was expecting the other person to accept me! How foolish of me!
Feature image is for representational purposes only.