SINGAPORE — For years before she recently started sweeping dating apps, 32-year-old Rachel (pseudonym) was “passive” when it came to romantic relationships.
“I may be an anomaly. In the past, if I found someone, that was great and I’ll see where it goes. Otherwise, that’s fine with me,” she said. “I was much more passive; I wouldn’t actively go looking for someone.”
The media publicity manager also said her job often meant irregular hours and it took up a lot of her time and attention, leaving her “without energy” to even think about dating.
As the years went by, Rachel discovered that she was soon past her thirties, without having had a serious relationship.
For the past three months, however, she has been using a dating app.
“I feel like (dating) is a lifetime experience; if I don’t go through it, it’s like I’m missing something,” she said.
So far, she’s gone on dates with five different men, and she plans to continue using the app to meet more singles.
Singles like Rachel, who have never had any past dating experience, are not a small group.
A recent National Population and Talent Division survey on marriage and parenthood, which surveyed more than 5,800 Singapore residents between the ages of 21 and 45, showed that among single respondents, nearly 40% of between them said they had never dated before.
Although figures from previous surveys were not shared with TODAY, dating agencies and dating coaches who contacted TODAY said the figure was not surprising and may in fact be at the source. rise.
Ms Violet Lim, chief executive and co-founder of the dating agency Lunch Actually, said around 25-30% of her current clients had no relationship history before seeking her firm’s matchmaking services.
Ms. Lim added that this figure is increasing. When the agency was founded in 2004, the proportion of clients who had no previous relationship experience was around 15-20%.
Relationship experts whom TODAY spoke to agreed that with the proliferation of technology reducing face-to-face interactions and the fact that many people choose to pursue successful careers over relationships, this trend could continue.
For Anand Kumar, 31, who has been in several relationships in the past, the time taken up by his job has dashed his hopes of getting into a serious relationship anytime soon.
He hasn’t dated for the past six years as he currently works about 10 hours a day in the security industry, while pursuing a career in rapping in his spare time.
“I barely have time for my family. For me right now, a relationship would be heavy baggage,” he said.
Although he was on some dates, nothing serious materialized from it, as he didn’t have time to follow up with potential love interests.
Although his long-term goal is to get married and start a family, he wants to make sure he sees success in his career first, which is why he doesn’t “work hard” to be in a relationship. .
“I work hard elsewhere (in my career) because it’s very important to be financially successful first. With the rising cost of living, it’s financially dangerous to start a family,” he said.
REASONS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER DATED MAY BE ON THE RISE
Relationship experts said there are several factors why people might find it difficult to get into a relationship.
Elizabeth Ng, an independent dating coach, said that, as the survey suggests, about four in 10 clients who come to her looking for matchmaking and relationship coaching have never been in a relationship before.
She added that for her clients, most of whom are men, lack of self-confidence is the most common reason they are unable to attract a love interest.
“It’s usually the quiet, socially awkward ones…they don’t know how to make themselves attractive and it slowly snowballs,” she said.
Ms Ng added that some of her clients have even gone on their first dates in “sloppy” outfits like a football shirt, citing that the weather in Singapore is hot.
“It’s not about women being materialistic, but it’s about being neat and clean and presentable…it’s all about effort,” she said.
She added that some of her clients also lack face-to-face communication skills, being more comfortable with text.
“You don’t want to meet the person and talk? After two to three months of texting, the fire would have died down,” she said.
Agree, Ms Theresa Pong, director of counseling at The Relationship Room, which advises couples, said that while advances in technology have increased the pool of potential people to date, they have also made human interactions less intimate. and personal.
“A long time ago, we got to know each other by going on dates and meeting face to face, and that helps improve our human interaction skills,” she said.
However, many social interactions these days start with messaging apps. This means people are less likely to hone their social and interactive skills.
“A lot of (singles) have the resources and know the channels through which to get to know people…but they struggle to build a long-term, committed relationship,” she said.
And like what Rachel and Mr Anand are dealing with, experts also said the time taken up by work has become a big factor.
For many singles, investing in a career will give them clearer “returns on investment” compared to a relationship, said Lunch Actually’s Ms Lim.
“For example, they would be promoted, get a raise, and earn a performance bonus because there is a very clear KPI of what they need to accomplish,” she said.
“However, with relationships, there is no guarantee that even if they put the time and effort into it, there will be a positive outcome.
“Therefore, given their lack of time, they prefer to focus on their careers.”
WHAT SINGLES CAN DO TO BE MORE ELIGIBLE
Relationship experts say finding the right match is far from an instant process and takes a lot of time and effort.
For starters, they advised singles who had never dated to just go on dates without expecting long-term results.
“Go on one-on-one dates and get to know people. As you talk to more people and meet more people, you gain better social skills and also open your exhibition and also learn more things,” Ms. Pong said.
“Just go out and make a friend and don’t see him as a potential husband or wife.”
She added that for those with deeper self-worth or trust issues, it’s also worth seeing a relationship counselor or therapist to discuss and resolve these issues.
It’s also important to recognize that while technology gives people more options, it’s not wise to obsess over finding “the perfect fit,” experts said, but to concentrate on striking when the iron is hot.
Norman Li, a professor of psychology at Singapore Management University (SMU), whose research interests include marital preferences and evolutionary psychology, said technology such as dating apps have given single people “the illusion of choice”.
While it may seem like there are a myriad of people to choose from, the truth is that the other party also has to “choose you too,” he said.
So Ms Ng, the dating coach, said it was also crucial for singles to seize the opportunity to express their feelings or desires for a potential love interest, rather than believing that better options are looming. on the horizon.
She gave the example of a client who went out on a date and ended it after about three months because the man did not initiate any romantic gestures.
“If after three months he hasn’t tried to get closer to her, then the girl will feel like ‘you don’t love me,'” she said.
WHAT MORE SINGLES COULD LEAVE FOR SINGAPORE’S FUTURE?
The growing number of single people unable to relate is a symptom of a larger societal problem, Ms Pong said.
“Our way of communicating is very application-driven, but relationships are about the human element, the human touch,” she said.
“All of these apps are all about instant gratification, but relationships take time to build and effort to maintain as well.”
From a longer-term perspective, experts said an increase in the number of single people with no dating experience could also lead to a continued decline in birth rates as people marry later, as well as a decline in the number of families, with older decide to live alone and have casual relationships.
SMU’s Professor Li said: “There’s a big trade-off… between economic success and productivity, and also those kind of ‘basic things’ like family.
“The more a country is prosperous, the more you are going to lose the basic type of relationships, like family, friendships.”
“It often happens when a growing number of people are too busy with work and too focused on climbing the corporate ladder to slow down and think about starting a family.
“Individuals face these trade-offs, and then countries as a whole face this trade-off.”