I’m a S’porean man in my 30s who has never been in a serious relationship, but I’m happy to be single this Valentine’s Day

After being rejected countless times, I’ve learnt to recognise the lessons among the heartbreak.

Babelfish |
February 13, 2023, 5:49 pm

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

My favourite movie is David Fincher’s Fight Club. No wait, please hear me out.

The film is notorious for being a so-called “red flag” movie—in other words, if you’re on a date with someone and they mention they like Fight Club, make your excuses and get the hell out of there. And I get the arguments.

There are some who miss the satire and accept the tale of male alienation, violence and cultish devotion at face value.

Which is ridiculous, of course, it would be like watching The Menu and sympathising with the rich snobs invited to dine with Chef Julian Slowik.

So why do I like Fight Club? I believe the 1999 film conveys the best, clearest blueprint of how a person can find happiness in our modern world—create something and form a connection with someone else.

But movies aren’t the real world, and not everyone gets a happy ending.

Strike! You’re out.

I’ll level with you. If they hosted the Olympic Games for “Unluckiest in love”, I’m not saying I’d get the gold medal, but I’d at least have a shot of making the finals.

How bad has it been? I’m in my 30s and have never had a serious relationship.

Yep, I know that might make me sound like the biggest loser on the face of the planet. But it’s true, and pretending otherwise wouldn’t help.

I’ll admit that my dating track record would be hilarious, if only it happened to someone else.

I’ve been on a date with someone who eventually revealed she wanted to sell me insurance.

I’ve been on what I thought was a date with someone who eventually revealed she didn’t like men.

I’ve been on a date with someone where we hit it off, had a wonderful time, lots of laughs, ended the night with what I thought was a romantic farewell by the Singapore River, and then the next day she told me she didn’t want to see me again.

This is barely scratching the surface.

And those were just the ones that actually made it to the first date! Matching with someone on a dating app and having long conversations with them doesn’t guarantee a face-to-face.

I’ve matched with someone who trauma-dumped her personal troubles onto me, and worried me to the point where I felt like I needed to stay up late and keep talking to her as a distraction.

I’ve matched with someone who turned out to be a (not very convincing) scammer.

I’ve matched with someone whom I talked to for a month, then ghosted me after I made the restaurant reservations for what would have been our first date.

And that was the last I ever heard from her.

You name a dating disaster, I’ve probably lived it.

Those were just the experiences of my recent years.

Back in my university days, I asked two close friends of mine out (not at the same time), hoping to take our relationship to the next level.

“Disaster” doesn’t come close to what happened next. I felt pain, I felt humiliation, I cried actual tears for the first time since an incident in NS where I was denied weekend leave.

It was not the wisest move, is what I’m trying to convey here.

But the funny thing is that things haven’t been all one way.

Seeing things from the other side

It took a while for me to get onto dating apps, and given my abysmal track record, I was fully prepared not to get even a single match. So imagine my surprise when yes, a number of women did match up with me.

I eagerly swiped right, thinking that I finally found that special someone. I was full of hope and high expectations. This was what I wanted all along, wasn’t it?

But it turns out that wasn’t the case at all. There were no sparks, no moments of joy over shared interests.

There wasn’t that amazing feeling you get when nothing seems quite as important as checking your phone to see if she’s read your message and sent a reply.

Instead, it felt lifeless. Like I was going through the motions.

I wouldn’t say I intentionally ghosted these women, but the conversation just died out and neither of us felt like putting in the time and effort to revive it.

I had learned the first great lesson of dating: matching with someone isn’t the endgame.

It’s just the first step in a long and difficult road. Little did I know that my second lesson was about to come.

The first successful date

One day, I went out with someone who didn’t cut ties after a first date.

She actually wanted to see me again. And so we did. And again, and again, until I realised with genuine shock: “Holy shit, I’m actually dating someone.” For the first time in my life.

And so we did, for a few months.

We hiked up to this abandoned building on one of our dates. I think it’s a fancy restaurant now.

My friends were happy for me, having been witness to my strike-outs over the years. I was seeing someone who actually seemed to like me. Now this was what I wanted all along. Wasn’t it?

I don’t know how it happened, but I eventually came to a stark realisation.

I saw a version of my future, laid out before me. I could continue dating this woman, perhaps even start a serious relationship with her. Maybe even marriage, somewhere down the line.

But at that point in time, I did not feel like I loved her. Or had feelings of affection that could one day grow into love. And to continue seeing her would be to unfairly string her along.

We went to a movie and afterwards, I told her how I was feeling.

I said I didn’t feel like it was working out. She seemed to take it well. But later, somewhat understandably, she blocked me on every social media platform and I haven’t heard from her since.

That was my second lesson. Rejecting someone, even for the greater good, can be just as painful as getting rejected.

I had absolutely no idea. But it was absolutely true.

In a flash, I stood in the shoes of the women who rejected me in the past and understood that it wasn’t easy for them at all.

It took courage for them to be honest with me and let me know it wasn’t going to work out. I can genuinely say that my experiences were worth all the heartache.

The two women who rejected me back in university? They are two of my closest friends today, and I am extremely grateful for their kindness and support.

Satisfied single

So this Valentine’s Day, I will be alone.

I won’t be planning a romantic interlude with anyone, whether it’s in a fancy restaurant, a hike out in nature, and definitely not overseas, kissing in the shadow of some world-famous monument.

My attached friends will be sharing the thoughtful gifts and kind gestures their partner got for them on social media.

I will look at these photos and videos without envy, because I can say in all honesty that it is better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

I may never find my special person. I am not entitled to a fulfilling relationship and a loving partner, no one is.

But my setbacks haven’t made me give in to despair. Blaming the world or worse, blaming women, is a dark path that I refuse to go down. I will take the lessons I’ve learned, both on-screen and off to heart.

And who knows? Maybe this year will have a surprise in store.

As my other favourite movie says, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Image via BestEverMovieClips/YouTube.

Top image by Natalie Teo and the author

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