Never been in a serious relationship at age 28, and having FOMO

Long story here, thanks for the ladies who will take the time to read and share their thoughts.

I am 28 and I’ve never been in a serious relationship. I’ve had some flings here and there in uni, but always thought I will end up spontaneously meeting the person I am compatible with by now, the person that would make me want to commit. Most of my friends are either married or in a serious relationship which makes me question my situation.

I know I am still young and that the 30s are the new 20s now. But as I am doing self-reflection I realised I associate being in a relationship with more stability/less me-time/less ambition and need to make sacrifices. So I am afraid there might be more than “I just haven’t met the right person yet” situation. I changed careers and countries twice already in the last 7 years and am probably going to pivot careers and change countries again in a year or 2 since the country I live in right now is not necessarily where I dream of spending the rest of my life at. Every time I start a new role, there’s obviously a learning curve but since I change for completely different fields I need to put in much more time and effort, thus less space to have someone in my life.

I am not meeting much interesting guys atm, nor am I actively looking for a date. I thought I would seriously make efforts to being in a relationship once I find the role/field/city I feel most aligned with but the more I observe myself the more I realise that stability I picture may never happen, or happen in a very long time. Sometimes I wonder if I am missing out on something and wether I am prioritising my career and emotional comfort zone way too much. I do not feel that urge to being in a relationship neither, and still do not know wether I want to have children so I don’t have that pressure.

I could really use an external perspective on my situation and would love to hear your opinion/advice. What would you tell your younger sister if that was her?

P.S : background in structural engineering, pivoted to a Tech data science role, and thinking of switching to project management at some point.

P.S 2 : already talked to a therapist about this. Her opinion was : I don’t look motivated to be in a relationship, maybe I am not ready to be in one. She told me I shouldn’t look to be in a relationship because of FOMO. I should really want to be in one.

I was in a long-term relationship in college, and when we graduated college, we were both serious about our careers, which were location-specific, multi-year commitments that would be very demanding of our time. Neither of us were willing to give up our career paths to follow the other person (this was before being "remote" was a thing). I probably would have been willing to try long-distance, but that was irrelevant since he was not.So although I had relationship experience, I inadvertently prioritized my career in my 20s despite always wanting a relationship. I would go on dates very VERY occasionally using apps, and even tried a professional matchmaker at one point. I started seriously prioritizing dating when I turned 30. This wasn't because of changes in what I wanted romantically, it was because my control over my time got a lot better because of advancing in my career. It wasn't until deciding to put time and effort into it that I actually started having "mini"-relationships, which is how I refer to situations where I exclusively date one person and see them once or twice a week for 1-3 months. In my personal experience, this was very important for me to learn what I need and want in a relationship in terms of life goals, communication style, and values. I actually determined whether or not I wanted kids through one of these mini-relationships (it was like one of those coin-flip experiments where the other person said he was done having kids, which made me realized I really wanted them).In terms of my friends, the majority of them met their spouse when they were in college or high school. I have only one friend who met her spouse at work — you actually sound a lot like her, because she moved to different countries a bunch of times. She was in her early 30s in the first few months of a job in a new country when she started dating someone at work, and they were married and pregnant within a year of meeting.All of my other friends who met their spouses post-college dated intensively and intentionally using dating apps, and it took most of them a few years of doing this in order to find their person. That's the stage I'm currently at — I haven't found my person yet, but I've gotten close a few times.I think it's extremely hard to date after college if you are looking for someone with a similar education level and who appreciates your ambition (at least this has been my experience). If you actually want a relationship one day, my advice would be to start looking now, because the process of dating itself will teach you through trial-and-error what you actually want, and it takes a long time to find the right person.
Thank you SO much for sharing your experience. I really relate when you said "it was because my control over my time got a lot better because of advancing in my career". I think that's exactly what I lack every time I change fields. Thanks for putting that into words. Also thanks for your advice, I feel it comes from the heart, so truly thank you. I wish you find your person
Thanks! Also, I wish I had known when I was younger that using apps was going to get a lot harder after age 30. It's not because men are less interested in me when we meet in-person (it's almost the opposite — we connect better because we've both had more life experience). It's because the algorithms the app uses literally show women who are 30+ to fewer men. And I'm expecting to hit another drop-off if I turn 35 before meeting someone.I'm not saying that this should influence your behavior if you don't want to date right now, but it's definitely something I took for granted until I experienced it.If you are in data science, maybe you can join a dating app company and fix this for us! Haha.
Sorry for the long response!So, I can only offer insight based on my background: I am also 28, and I'm about to be divorced. I met my ex-husband at university, when I was 19, we married when I was 24, and separated when I was 26. I thought that this relationship would be the one, but never factored in the fact that I was a drastically different person at 26, with debt and a full-time, intensive career than I was at 19, as a first year Music undergrad. We had changed a lot as people, and who we were was no longer compatible.That said, I've now been in a relationship with someone else for almost 2 years, and it feels different. We both encourage each other to pursue our career goals, and support each other in any way we can. I emphasise this, because, the right person will help balance you through any instability or change, particularly if you end up relocating.I didn't specifically look for a new relationship - it all happened very fast after my ex and I separated. We were friends, and were talking and grew closer and clsoer, and decided to take the risk, and this time, it seems to have worked.I guess what I'm trying to say is:1) Sometimes relationships that you think will work don't, and that isn't bad2) Being in a relationship doesn't have to mean less me-time, you just need to discuss clear boundaries with your partner3) There is no 'correct' time to be in a relationship, and you are definitely not too old!and 4) You may well find your person in the most unexpected place. I wasn't looking, and I don't think you need to be on dating apps, or actively searching, to meet them.I know it's easier said than done, but use this time to focus on yourself, and work out exactly what you want from a relationship. That way, when you meet someone, it is easier to establish a good foundation, and make sure you fit well together.
@madisonpollardshore agree and I am going through a divorce as well hopefully it will work out for me like that too.
I didn’t have my first serious relationship until I was 26, so you shouldn’t worry that it’s too late. If you don’t want a relationship right now, or ever, it’s fine. Your therapist is right. Not all of us are meant to be paired up.
i think i did this too - i kept waiting to be "settled" in other areas of my life before looking for a relationship and i think it closed me off to a lot of experiences because when i dated someone, i always had an "end" in sight already. i also lived across 3 countries in the past 5 years and had not found the place or the career i wanted to stay in long-term. i think the advice i have is to keep your heart and mind open - maybe you will meet someone worth staying in that place for, or maybe they will move for you! but also, you are young! i had never been in a serious relationship until i was around your age as well and though i feel a little bit like i "missed out" on some experiences, i very much loved the freedom to only think about me in my twenties and make all my decisions based on what i wanted to do.
I don’t think you need to be in a hurry to be in a relationship. Part of bringing someone into your life means respecting their choices and ways of moving through the world. This starts by respecting your own choices and how you move through life. A relationship, when it comes, shouldn’t be forced into that journey because some societal norm says it should. Be receptive. Enjoy the dust of the road and the people you meet along the way and think of every waking sunrise as the miracle it is. When you love your life, people will be drawn to you. Just focus on shining.
wow that resonates so hard...this really helped me, thank you!
This is so beautifully put. I feel like I should pin this on my vision board. Thank you! :)
My thoughts - I'm currently 30 and in my first serious relationship, which started when I was 29. I'd been on and off the dating apps for most of my 20s, but I spent most of my energy elsewhere. I had so much more fun hanging out with my friends, traveling, volunteering and focusing on my career than I did on first dates. So I never really prioritized dating. What changed for me was the pandemic. I felt so alone and lonely, I really wanted a partner and the support that comes with a good partner. So I changed my approach and really prioritized online dating. I learned a lot about myself through a lot of meh dates, so that when I met my boyfriend I knew it was different. There was a lot of uncertainty that came with dating for the first time, but my boyfriend was also new to long-term relationships and through lots of open communication we've been able to define really well what works for us. What I'd say to my younger sister if I had one, is are you happy? Are you enjoying your life? There are a lot of things I loved about being single. I am so glad I was able to lean into all that in my 20s. I visited 5 continents, I flew around the world, I worked really hard for promotions at work, I bought my condo by myself, I threw myself into running a volunteer soccer clinic that has brought me a lot of joy. I am so glad that I spent so much time doing that in my 20s, and it was also really hard to be single as society doesn't accept single women, especially ones who are happy and not looking for a significant other. I have a hunch that the FOMO you may be experiencing might be caused by society's expectations of women to be in a relationship and settle down. I changed my approach when I was no longer happy with being single. If you're enjoying it still, and the freedom that comes with it, I'd say continue to lean into it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an independent boss, which it sounds like you are. And as hard as it is to throw off the expectations that society still has on women to partner up, I would suggest to a little sister to focus in on the path she's chosen, why she wants it, and to continue to build up the courage she'll need to walk a path that feels right to her and her alone.
This is such an awesome response, because you've really experienced both sides
My first serious relationship started when I was 28. I was similar to you. Focused on started a career & I just never met the right guy. I had met a lot of doozies in my life so at 28, I debated about whether or not I wanted to date. Most of the debate was along the lines of “what’s the point if the only guys I attract were doozies?” But I wanted to give it one more try before I swore off dating for the rest of my life. So I tried one more time & it worked. I met someone that I could settle for.That’s right. I said SETTLED. For 5 years. It was good at the beginning but then it slowly went down hill & we eventually broke up.After that, I didn’t have any intention on dating. I had too many other issues going on but I actually ended up meeting another guy who I have been dating for 2.5 years now. And it’s been amazing.A lot of what you said was very similar to what I went through. There is nothing wrong with not being a serious relationship at this age. If the desire to be a relationship isn’t there, then it isn’t there. If you happen to meet the right guy & things turn into a long term relationship, it will happen on its own. That’s how it happened with my current boyfriend. We took it very slow at the beginning. We didn’t even have our first kiss until a month after dating. But we both wanted to take things slow for our own reasons.In my opinion, I wouldn’t worry about it. But it’s just my opinion. You need to make the decision that is best for you. And I think you are 😊Hope this helps.
Honestly, as someone who doesn't casually date and has only had serious relationships, I admire you. I had a very tumultuous childhood, and spent half of it in foster care, so it took me until my late 20's to really feel ok with being by myself. I'm 31 now, and have dated 5 people for a varying amount of years each, my first relationship being at 17 and lasted 7 years. I tended to really put everything I had into the person I was with, and thankfully was fortunate to have only had supportive and loving partners (even if it didn't work out). People derive emotional comfort from many things, and for me, it was the knowledge that someone always had my back. For you, it is your own independence.I think that is a beautiful thing. I'm a firm believer in that first step to having a healthy relationship is to be ok with being alone. Emotional dependence isn't fun for either side, trust me. I've had a long time to reflect on myself too, and while I love the person I am now, I wish I were as independent and driven as you are. You're successful, ambitious, and seem to be a considerate and reflective person. You're a catch! As cliche as it is, the right person will come along some day. You won't have to make room for them or "fit" them into your life, it'll happen without you even being aware of it. One day you're talking casually, and the next day, you'll wonder how you were missing such a wonderful person in your life all this time. That's how it happened for me, anyway. I wouldn't go searching for the person, just go out there with an open mind. You don't have to feel like you're missing out on "relationship life" because at the end of the day, your own life should be fulfilling on its own.To sum up, the right person will make you want to be in a relationship, there's no need to seek it out.
Firstly let me just say, I FEEL YOU. Reading through your post, I found myself relating so much to your experience.Before I tell you what my perspective, I'm going to share my experience since you so kindly shared yours :) Quick facts for context setting - I'm 27 and I've never been in a relationship- my parents are divorced and I watched them go through a string of bad relationships- I've changed careers 4 times so far (Education > Insurance > Fintech > Tech) - I've lived/worked across 4 different countries in the last five years- I've suffered from Depression on/off for the last 10 years (currently on medication/therapy)Growing up, I always prioritized my career/education over boys/dating fun. At university, Id casually hook up once in a blue moon but I never had the urge to commit/settle down. After graduating, I assumed I'd "find someone" once I moved to the city/changed industries, but despite going on a few dates thanks to the apps, I still couldn't find anyone. I didnt know if it were my high standards, depression, childhood beliefs or some combination of all of them that stopped me. That "spark" or "feeling" when you met someone and you liked them enough to want to be with them, I saw it happen to everyone around me but it never happened to me. I talked to many therapists over the years who related it to past trauma or not being ready enough or who even told me that maybe I'm just okay being alone. Then by accident, I met someone who identified as asexual and after talking to her and reading many many books/resources. I realised that I'm a highly romantic demisexual/graysexual. (aka I didn't experience sexual attraction like my friends and for me I was always looking for an emotional/romantic element) This explained why I never felt "it" on first dates and I'd wrongly conclude I must not like this person. I know that telling you to read up asexuality might possibly be projection but thought I'd spread the word. Regardless, it's fascinating and helpful to understand the difference between sexual and romantic attraction. I hope this helped somewhat and feel free to reach out to chat 🙂
I totally relate with what you just said! I have felt this way for a long time, and you have described this with the right words!
It's admirable how you're self-reflecting and seeking to really understand what you want. Dating can be tough, relationships are even tougher. You should check out the book How to Not Die Alone by Logan Ury (I know, terrible book title). However, the author is the Director of Relationship Science at Hinge and actually gives solid insight on how dating in the modern world is so different than what we expect. You're not alone in this struggle of wanting to have your life figured out before involving someone in it, it's a commitment after all and clearly you value strong decision making when making commitments. The book gave me great frameworks to understand how to turn dating into relationships that work with my life and values so hopefully will give you some insight too. Overall, I think everyone should read it since we glaze over how hard relationships can be and even people who are in one need to constantly evolve their communication to accommodate for new scenarios and life changes.
You sound somewhat similar to me. At/around your age I was in non-committed relationships that I could have chosen to turn into something serious⁠ but didn't—because I bought into the idea that the *right* person would/should magically motivate me to commit in the ways that we conventionally define commitment: co-habitation, sacrificing my personal interests, doing everything together all the time, etc.In my mid-thirties now I can see that these *were* the "right people" (or right kind of people)⁠— but it simply didn't occur to me to ask for their partnership on (less conventional) terms that might have worked for me. That's not to say that these people would have agreed to that version of partnership⁠—it's just to say that it's worth questioning our culturally dominant idea of what "serious" has to look like as much as it's worth questioning your own personal readiness for "seriousness."tl;dr: I used to think I was doomed because I "wasn't wired" for relationships; I now think I'm doomed because I'm wired for a very specific kind of relationship that's potentially impossible to find. There IS a difference. 😂😂😂
I resonate with that fully! I'm in my mid-thirties too. I need my own space to breath and I want someone who understands that. Once I was so sure I've found it... but then it turned out his need of freedom is even greater than mine :DI know a (very) few relationships who have that but they exist and give me hope. And they really are "different" and rather hide their "weirdness" not to be asked too many questions. I hope true love can find us too 😄🤓
I'm 36 and reading your story I feel like I want to say: 28?! Girl, ENJOY THE LIFE and don't worry about this! This is also the time in life when your dopamine = ambition is the highest naturally so make the best of it!BUT, you might not want to take my advice haha; I'm 36 and after all the unsuccessful short-term relationships (8 months max) I'm recently not even interested in the topic of dating. I wish I met a match and create true love, a wonderful relationship, but for some reason it doesn't happen to me. I have my happy life and I'm VERY passionate about the things I'm doing. I love my life. I feel no maternity pressure, because I never dreamed about having kids. So now I really don't see myself wasting time on dating. Is there something wrong with me? well, if so, let it be, because I'm done figuring it out too (or maybe someone here can tell me what it is?) . I was on therapy once but after two years I didn't see any valuable progress in my life, I actually felt like being encouraged to be someone who I am not, so I quit.But also, recently I wondered... would any single, successful, passionate about his work MAN , let's say from San Francisco, worry about not being in a relationship, at 36? Would he wonder: hmm what's wrong with me? Enjoying my life.. not commitments. I don't think so.. People find true love at any and every age. But for sure we need to be ourselves for a true soul-mate to recognize us. Everyone's path is so different and that's a beautiful thing.
haven't read through all the responses, but I'm sure they are fantastic! Your question is totally normal- I recommend following - She talks about owning your own timeline. I really like her content!
I am SO appreciative for this post and all of the thoughtful responses. It feels so rare to have open conversations like this + I find it so comforting.I'm 32 and single! Most of my friends are in serious relationships. While my career has consistently grown and I've found progressing professionally to be fairly 'straightforward' - dating has been a whole different story for me. I've had 2 serious relationships and honestly too many mini relationships to keep track of lol. (I love what someone said earlier about each mini relationship being a chance to learn more about what you want - I just had that experience and it was so impactful!)It does get discouraging at moments. Instead of pretending I'm 1000% happy being single all the time, I try to be honest with myself. I love my independence and my life - it's very full, meaningful, and interesting. And I also have space for someone else in it -- and, at times, that gets me down. And that's okay. It means I care and that's a good thing!A few of the lessons I've learned (and try to remember) in case they happen to be helpful for you:1. Most of my angst about being single comes from societal pressure. Going to weddings, hanging out with couples, etc. etc. When I get really quiet with myself and think about life in a vacuum, I'd definitely want a partner -- and also wouldn't feel so rushed to get there.2. Things can change in a second. Being single is actually much closer to being in the right relationship than being in a relationship with someone else. Each date and each relationship (even the ones that don't work out) is a chance to learn something. Someone once told me that people you date are either partners or teachers, and I liked that. So, when I go on a date and can tell pretty quickly we're not a romantic fit, I just try to make the most of it and see what I can learn. Last week I went out with someone who did the Peace Corp in Ukraine and that was super interesting to learn about.4. If you're like me and lean towards caring a lot what others think remember no one is paying as much attention to you as you think. And if they are - it's through their own stories and narratives that you can never control.5. My dating experiences (especially the hard ones) have helped me grow so much. I've tackled my inner monologue. I've learned to like myself. And professionally, I'm much better at networking, small talk, and also have so many random facts to share that I've learned on dates. (I don't always attribute them to dates lol)Good luck out there -- and be kind to yourself! <3
I relate alot to #1, I also feel very pressured from society and just the people around me but like you, whenever i'm alone and truly think about it, I'm really happy with where I am and I feel less rushed in wanting to find someone! This was a great response - appreciated your perspective and thoughts!
Adding my 2 cents/pence worth here: I'm sure you'll have heard of Mathematician Hannah Fry's viral TED talk about the Maths of Love's a few years old now, but I took her talk and approached dating with a project management hat on (romantic, I know!). It was really "simple": if you don't meet people, you don't date, then your chances of finding 'the one' (a concept I don't believe in) = zero. Personally I did six month 'sprints' of online dating, just for the experience of it, to hone my tastes (what do I actually like?) and allow myself to get used to the activity of 'dating', because it is not a skill I think anyone is naturally born with! Then after a period, whether fruitful or otherwise, I'd take a break, do some self-reflection, and let myself focus on whatever it is I personally wanted to do - social life, career, study etc. And then do it all over again when I had the energy!In the meantime I had to rewire my own conditioning that partnering up with someone was some sort of magic bullet. I had to really teach myself to be comfortable with (and wholeheartedly accept) the concept that being alone may be a serious possibility, and if so, what kind of life did I want to lead that would be fulfilling, meaningful and fun. Met my current partner at 31, I'm 37 and we just bought a house :)Btw partnering up has *not* solved all the other questions I have about my own life, it just means I have a best friend, companion and partner who shares similar values and objectives in life.
THANK YOU SO MUCH ALL ❤️ honestly, was not expecting such honest, raw reactions. I am astonished by all the insightful and kind responses. I am going to be reading each one of them over and over again to sink all this wisdom in. I feel much lighter. I am truly grateful to this lovely community.
hey, it's rough! my first serious relationship was age 27 & i had no experience w/ physical contact before that. so i really feel what you're going though, at least in my own wayso you wrote that you associate being in a relationship with "less me-time" and "having to make sacrifices." this REALLY resonates hard with me. I've gotten so used to being "alone with myself" that being with a partner for too long a time (eg. all weekend) really drains me, i feel an intense need for space.nowadays i've found a couple folks to date that live right close by, so i can still live alone and have time to myself but with easy access to the partners i care about.on the outside, maybe this unconventional style looks like "scared of commitment," and if i'm honest, taking a deep look inside myself, perhaps it is. But it's a compromise that I need to feel happy right now, and I'm dating people who feel similarly and are cool with that.i had to tweak my expectations a lil to find folks in the "free bird with their own goals and sights, looking for company and camaraderie rather than settling down and starting a family" camp, and they're out there ....BUT ONLY once i realized that's what i wanted, once i could be honest with myselfwhat I mean is -- people have all kinds of preferences about relationships, and when we're most in touch with what we want, we naturally bias our search towards the kinds of relationships we KNOW will click for us, even if they look a little avant garde, but that's perfectly okay. i think the realization of "oh, i thought i wanted X but tbh i really need something like Y more" is the big felt-shiftdoes this resonate at all?(in case you're lookin for a book rec, "Designer Relationships" by M. Michaels and P. Johnson comes down *hard* for this)
Super interesting thread! Thank you for posting. I had a brief relationship at 22 and after that also never feel quite motivated enough to date and I'm often skeptical that I need a relationship. I only started using apps after 30. There is still a lot from my career that I want to develop but I'd like to think I'm more open now to spend time to meet more interesting people. Perspective can also be good for generating inspiration and ideas for career-related things. Otherwise, dating can feel like a waste of time.