Here's the thing about being a woman: from a young age, we're told we "need" someone. A better half. A "prince." (Gross.) A white knight. (Grosser.) Someone, anyone, because heaven help us if we aren't tied down.
And it's the worst. It's the worst to feel pressured, it's the worst to endure interrogations, and it's the worst — seriously, though, actually the worst — to hear, "Aw, well we'll find you someone!"
Why? Why is my — or your — worth dictated by whether or not we're dating another person? Are friends not enough? Family? A fulfilling career? And why are we constantly on a quest? Well, that's easy: because, again, we're told from the starting gate that marriage is what we should want. Not necessarily from our parents, mind you. Some parents put a focus on careers, and figure if you want to get married, cool. But then you go to school. And suddenly, if you aren't attached, you're not really somebody. And then in high school, it gets worse, and in your 20s — well, it's worse in a different way.
It's different because in your 20s, you begin to regain the confidence of your pre-pubescent years. Finally, you begin to realize that real friends don't hang your worth on who you're with, and you also realize that you've still got about 75 years to date, marry, and whatever else you want to do between now and the end. And then eventually, you realize the ultimate: you don't settle for your job, your friends, or your family — why would you settle for a partner?
I mean, really: why would you? Because you "should"? Because here's the thing about "should": it means nothing. (At least in this context.) In terms of dating, you don't owe anything to anybody but yourself. And what you owe yourself is happiness. Is who you're dating making you happy? Is dating making you happy? If it isn't, why are you doing it? Because you "should"? What is up with that word?
You are obligated only to give yourself a wonderful life. (And of course, to treat others the way you would like to be treated.) Settling — whether it's for bad behaviour or a terrible boss or some guy you're not happy with or the dating scene (in general) — does not a wonderful life make. It riddles life with unnecessary guilt, and with negative obligation, and makes you ignore what it is you really want. Odds are, you didn't settle for your friends, or your job, or even what you wore this morning. But because of the "should," you're entertaining some guy who doesn't make you feel awesome.
It is not too much to want to feel awesome. Look at your grandparents, or your parents if they've got something really great. Look at the old people who've grown up together, and value each other, and still love each other like they did when they were our age. It doesn't have to be like The Notebook (please NEVER, EVER live your life like The Notebook — those people are not rational, and it's very alarming), it just has to be real. And you have that feeling about your friends, and your dreams, and maybe even your pet, so why shouldn't you (see what I did there?) have it about who you date or end up with?
Finding a partner need not be a quest. Life is supposed to be fun. Getting to know new people even more so. It's okay to want traits like kindness, confidence, respect, etc. It's okay to want someone who gets you; who doesn't just like how you look, but celebrates what makes you great (or more particularly, what makes you you). You wouldn't take a job that undermines your value or makes you bored or makes you unhappy — so why take that from someone you're hoping to spend the rest of your life with? We're all on different paths, living different lives. So instead of getting hung up on "should," maybe get hung up on what it is that you want, and what you will and won't put up with. It's okay to be "picky" when it comes down to how somebody (who you're hoping to be with FOREVER) makes you feel — some people aren't meant to be together; that's okay. And while other people are coupling up around you, don't assume that's what you should be doing, too. If everyone did the same things, life would be horrible. Instead, decide what you want, what's important, and what fills you with joy. Embrace those instead. There's something you "should" be doing. And you'll be surprised at who crosses your path along the way.