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In spite of my current mental health, friends, family, and health care professionals* often tell me to consider getting into a relationship without telling me why I should get into one.

As a rhetorical question: would getting into a relationship not make things worse for me and/ or negatively impact a potential partner? I cannot say that I want to get into a relationship due to extremely negative biases against it but said peers usually dismiss my fears and make me feel worse about myself for being "childish".

To expand upon the negativities I feel, I have not been in a relationship before because of secondhand experiences close friends and family have had with his/ her partner(s). Such experiences include (but not limited to):

  • Parental divorce due to adultery (ParentA & ParentB).
  • Second parental divorce due to step-parent's physical and mental abuse of ParentA; physical abuse against step-parent's own children; tax evasion; child support evasion; etc. (ex-step-parent has since been dealt with legally).
  • ParentA being in relationships after that ended due to partners being emotionally distant from ParentA due to unmet expectations.
  • Sibling being in a relationship that ended due to cheating.
  • Sibling being in a relationship that ended due to emotional abuse/ obsession of partner.
  • ParentB emotionally abusing me unconsciously for 10 years due to divorce 2 decades prior. I have since moved out of ParentB's house on my own.
  • ParentB raising sibling and I to be subservient to a partner in a relationship. Physical appearance was policed to meet stereotyped standards of how a female should look and how she should act.
  • Friend currently at risk for physical abuse by spouse who is experiencing mental health issues.
  • Several peers split/ divorce being left alone with child(ren).
  • Several peers dealing with aftermath of sexual abuse.
  • Unrelated: I do experience symptoms of misophonia to both sounds and visual triggers so being close to people in general is unpleasant. However, I am taking small steps to reduce my reactions to those triggers.

I do acknowledge that not every relationship will end so poorly and my own experiences can be drastically different (and even positive) but because a majority of my peers have been or are currently in bad relationships that put his/ her physical and mental well-being at risk, I keep fearing that I will be in the exact same situation. Until I can resolve my mental health issues, I do not want to be in a relationship.

Question

How can I ask my peers why they keep pushing me like this without being seen as naive or pitiful while still being able to get an appropriate response explaining why they keep insisting about this (barring the whole, "I want grandkids" thing)?


Notes and clarifications:

  • As asked in the comments, counselors have brought up relationships after asking about my sexual orientation. To my best understanding, he/ she asked to ascertain whether I am in denial and/ or repressing preferences or desires. I am, to my best knowledge, hetero/ asexual.
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  • before asking someone else why they believe something it can help to clarify what you believe, which it's not clear why you have negative biases against relationships. Adding more details for your biases and the fears you have will help to get better answers.
    – BKlassen
    Feb 25, 2019 at 20:45
  • That's a good point, I'll update my question to give more context to that. Thank you :)
    – Redbeard
    Feb 25, 2019 at 20:55
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    So friends and family might be interested in kids / grandkids, but what reason does a "health care professional" give you for getting into a relationship? That seems very unusual to me.
    – DaveG
    Feb 25, 2019 at 21:16
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    Just something to flag for you : do the healthcare professionals you talk to recognize asexuality as something real ? If not, maybe find someone who recognizes this type of sexuality and/or has experience guiding asexual patients.
    – MlleMei
    Feb 26, 2019 at 9:49
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    @MlleMei I'm actually not too certain. Because of other topics in our conversations, discussions about asexuality don't really go anywhere. I'll press more on the subject next time though to hopefully talk more about potential support with it. :>
    – Redbeard
    Feb 26, 2019 at 18:45

2 Answers 2

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I am in a similar situation (which I will not discuss further on the internet) that lead me to decide not to have sexual relationships at all. It took my parents almost 10 years to accept the fact that I will not introduce them to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Discussions with colleagues or acquaintances about relationships and starting a family still become awkward on a semi-regular basis.

It's safe to assume that you would get the same prompts, insistances and questions even if you had no mental health issues. For the vast majority of people, wanting to be in a relationship is so natural that your refusal seems alien to them.

The reasons are so many that I'll list only the most probable ones:

  • For generations (and even now) people were taught that marriage and raising children was to be their goal in life and inevitable. The idea is so ingrained into our culture that most people don't even question this.
  • Everyone sooner or later falls in love as they become adult (again, this idea is ingrained into our culture, even if it doesn't apply to everyone). Children love in an innocent way, but adults experience a sexual, romantic love in addition to that. People want you to be part of "their" social group, the group of people who experience romantic love. They basically want you to be "normal".
  • Love feels good to those who are in love (it's even compared to being high on drugs due to the effects certain hormones have on the brain). People actually want you to experience this positive aspect of a relationship.
  • Maybe some of them hope that you might find the right person and your mental health issues dissolve into thin air. Yes, such cases do exist, but live seldom works like in the movies.

In my experience, the best way to reply to those people is to treat your decision as the normal behavior and ask them to explain themselves if they're stubborn.

If someone asks you about your family plans, answer in the same calm tone as if you said "I don't want sugar in my coffe":

I don't have a partner. / I don't want to have a partner right now. / I haven't found the right partner. / I don't want children.

The advantage of "I don't have a partner" and "I haven't found the right partner" is that you don't have to explain yourself. It's a normal occurance even for sexual active people not to have a partner once in a while or to have a partner they don't want to have children with.

Saying "I don't want to have a partner right now." or "I don't want a partner ever." often prompts more questions, ranging from an innocent "Bad breakup?" to "But why?" and "But you have to".

Saying "I'm single" is even worse, because it's like waving a flag saying "I'm looking for a partner right now", which prompts many people to either try to "get to know you better" or "introduce you to a good friend" who happens to be single as well. And then you have to fend off suitors and explain yourself to even more people.

How to reply to those "but you have to"s and people insisting on digging deeper depends on how much they bother you and how rude you think their interferences are.

The most diplomatic response (for colleagues and acquaintances) is

I really don't want to talk about it. Please accept this decision of mine.

The next stage (for family and friends) would be something like

Why do you insist on me getting into a relationship? I honestly don't see how it would end well, so I don't understand why you are so set on getting me into one.

If you identify as asexual, you should also discuss the concept of asexuality with family and friends. Introduce asexuality in parallel to homo- and heterosexuality to make them understand that you are not the only person in the world with this preference and that there's nothing unnatural about it.

If people just can't let it go and their insistance feels rude to you, be more blunt.

You tell me again and again to get into a relationship and I tell you again and again that I don't want to. Why are you so insistant? Why do you care so much for my relationship status?

And last but not least, for the most stubborn people it always works best for me to question the given norms and expectations of society. These tend to be more rhetorical questions that should prompt the other to think about their actions, so I wouldn't count on receiving actual answers.

Do you think I cannot be happy without a boy/girlfriend?

You act as if not wanting a relationship is a crime. Why do you think it's unacceptable for me to stay single?

I've made the decision to not enter a relationship and I explained my reasons to you. Why can't you accept my decision? Why do you think it's acceptable to question me again and again?

Do you think repeating the same argument will magically make Prince(ess) Charming appear all of a sudden? Do you think saying "You should find a boy/girlfriend" will magically make me fall in love and live happily ever after?

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  • This is very well put and gives me a lot more confidence in this situation. I'm thankful that I'm not alone, though I do lament that not wanting to pursue a relationship is still considered "taboo". Wording the responses in such a way that it doesn't necessarily differentiate me from romantically or sexual active people is extremely helpful though; thank you for your advice!
    – Redbeard
    Feb 26, 2019 at 20:38
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    Out of couriosity, does it not normally go that way: Why do you insist on me getting into a relationship? - Oh, I just want you to be happy because I care for you - Do you think I cannot be happy without a girlfriend? - Not as happy as with someone... ... Because that was like it was with my aunt.
    – user6109
    Feb 27, 2019 at 10:59
  • @Daniel Interesting argument, but I think it depends on how the marriage / relationships of that person went. My grandma eventually agreed that as long as I'm happy, I'm doing the right thing (she was unhappy in her marriage). My mom once told me she thought that I was "missing out" on what was a great experience in her teenage years, but didn't push me. Maybe replying "Would you say the same to neighbor/friend/relative in unhappy/abusive relationship?" could change the oppinion of people like that.
    – Elmy
    Feb 27, 2019 at 12:03
  • A question that is harder to mis-answer: "How do you think being in a relationship would benefit me?"
    – gnasher729
    Sep 12, 2022 at 15:07
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    @AJM That's true and I hope I made that clear in my answer. But almost everywhere in our lives, from children's movies to theater plays, from action thrillers to horror flicks, we are bombarded with the idea that falling into (romantic, sexual) love is a natural state of humans and inevitable. The very idea that some people simply do not feel the same is often alien for most people and they don't even think that it's a valid way to live your life.
    – Elmy
    Oct 20, 2022 at 4:42
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Let this committed hard-line bachelor tell you a couple of things my life and the lives of others have taught me about relationships. Two unhappy people cannot make a happy relationship. One happy person and an unhappy person can also not make a happy relationship. The unhappy person will inevitably bring the happy person down into his or her bottomless pit of despair.

Two happy people who live happy content lives can come together and have a union of there choosing that is happy. There union being the cherry on the cake that is both there happy lives. That is no guarantee still. Life can judo chop sorrow into anybody's life.

I'm 33 years old and for the first time in my life I have the type of contentment in life where I can consider sharing my life with someone, but rest assured it took many years of chewing rocks for me to become the type of man an actuall women would like to hitch her trailer to.

It is now for the first time in my life possible but still it is unlikely. I now do the things in life that is important to me. If a woman is inspired by my life and wants to go trough life with me great, but the reality for me is that I spent the first 33 years of my life alone and I'm probably going to spend the second 33 in the same way.

The thing is I'm happy how my life is now. The locus of my self-worth is not foreign to myself. I value myself not as others value me. I know I would be a loving husband and a good father, but at the same account I have never had any woman ever giving any indication that she would like get to know me on such a personal level. I'm okay with that because I live a happy life.

I could tell you to deal with your personal problems so to make yourself emotional ready for a relationship. A better suggestion would be to think really long and hard about the things you want to achieve in life and find happiness in that. Rest assured though no child or spouse is going to turn an unhappy life into a happy one. It is just simply unreasonable to expect another person to provide you with the happiness or contentment you crave in life.

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