I Don't Need a Relationship - I Just Want One

As the persona of the 'strong independent woman' rises in popular culture, with figures like Hillary Clinton and Beyoncé leading the pack, at what point do we separate someone's strength from a basic emotional desire for a relationship? Sophie Kingston-Carter discusses why we need to start differentiating someone's identity from their relationship status, and accept that the independent person may still wish for a date and a kiss. 

Let me tell you a secret: I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve never had sex, and I’ve only kissed one guy (and it really wasn’t the romantic first kiss of fairy tales). No, I am about as traditionally virtuous as they come. An eighteenth century matriarch would be incredibly pleased to have me as her daughter, for I would not cause a scandal at the ball, nor give her sleepless nights over my questionable actions. However, I am not living in the eighteenth century, and our present day calls for a little more sexual awareness. 

I was raised a Catholic and my mother was pretty hopeless when it came to discussing sex, especially sex in a modern cultural context. However, I was savvy enough to piece together information and give myself a basic level of knowledge. At school I was pretty much undateable as my parents both taught there, and who wants to have their girlfriend’s parents as their teacher? I would hear the stories of who had hooked up with whom and it really did not matter back then. I was fine being single; I didn’t want some messy, hair-raising, public teenage relationship anyway.

All that changed when I arrived at university, though, and I was surrounded by a new sexual culture. My religious views had changed and all of a sudden, sex before marriage no longer bothered me. In fact, I wanted it. I came to realise that I was a woman, with womanly passions and needs. Yet, I have spent two years at university and apart from one drunken night making out with a near stranger and running away from a guy who was far too forward, I remain as single and as much a virgin as I was the day I arrived. 

While I have matured in sexual desires I have also matured as a person. ‘Elegant’, ‘put-together’, and ‘strong independent woman’, people say over and over again to me. While I do identify as a feminist and find these labels flattering, I also say that there is no such thing as the strong, independent woman who needs no one else. I have fought my battles, I have gained my strength, I have begun to carve my own way in this vast world. There is no need for me, or any other woman in my position, to have a man beside her. A man cannot strengthen us, or make us complete. Only we can do that for ourselves and it takes every ounce of determination to do so. 

However, as I sit night after night bidding my flatmates goodnight as they disappear with their respective partners, I do feel as if I am missing something. As I walk along the street and see couples walking hand in hand, I admit that I am jealous. I want to feel what they feel when they look into someone else’s eyes and see the loving glance of their partner. I want to have someone else’s arms around me as I fall asleep on a cold night. I want to experience sex and find out what all the fuss is about. 

While I berate myself for the jealousy, my desire for a relationship is based on wanting a new experience, needing sexual fulfilment, and experiencing the emotions that have thus-far been denied me. It is difficult to feel completely confident in my personal strength and determination if there is a whole array of emotions and sensations out there that I have never felt. I have had the time to mature and gain control of my own emotions, readying me to co-exist with another human rather than being dependant on another. Insecure people make for insecure relationships, and I am no longer insecure.

I do not need a relationship, absolutely not. However, that does not mean I do not want one, and wanting one does not make me less of a strong woman.