Unattached and unapologetic: Singaporean youths on why they’re opting out of romantic relationships

No Flowers February but at least they’re free.

Amanda Tan

Published: 10 February 2023, 4:55 PM

Bouquets of red, romantic declarations of love and candlelit dinners are how many will spend their day on Feb 14. 

For a handful of self-assured individuals, however, they’ll buck the pressures and opt for a table for one.

In the Marriage and Parenthood Survey 2021, findings showed that the top three reasons why singles are not proactive in dating include having a limited social circle, not having opportunities to meet potential partners and preferring to leave dating to chance.


The study shows that most singles aged 21 to 35 intend to marry, though this number has been decreasing in recent years. PHOTO CREDIT: TRAN LONG VIA PEXELS


The survey, which included 2,848 single respondents, also found that 50 per cent of this group are not currently dating, and more than one-third (38 per cent) have never dated before. 

Youthopia spoke to five youths about their reasons for actively staying single. 

Embracing her independence is Yew Jia Yin, 20, who is putting relationships on hold for now as she still has much to learn about herself.

“I need that time and space to grow as a person first,” she said. 

Unlike most of her peers, Jia Yin has yet to experience being in a committed relationship.

She jested: “I think my mom is more concerned for me than I am for myself. Sometimes, she randomly tells me not all men are bad because I think she’s worried her daughter is never going to move out of the house.”

Sharing on why a burgeoning number of Singaporean youths are choosing to stay single, Jia Yin believed that the work culture is too intense for people to have time to meet. She and her friends often joke about how they plan on getting a Built-To-Order (BTO) flat with each other should all else fail.

She also added that compared to the previous generations, youths these days value freedom and their self-worth. Traditional family values aren’t as pertinent as the younger generation adopts a more modern way of thinking.

That said, she does see herself entering a relationship at some point.

“I would like to be in one maybe when I’m older and at a stage where I feel like I’ve understood a decent amount about myself and grown to a level where I can be emotionally and mentally ready to love and share my life with someone else,” said the undergraduate from the National University of Singapore.


According to the survey, eight in 10 young singles aspire to get married and have children, and over nine in 10 married Singaporeans want at least two children. PHOTO CREDIT: DREW COFFMAN VIA UNSPLASH


Adopting a similar lens are corporate communications executive Phyllis Lee, 25, and freelance designer Natalie Ang, 26. 

Phyllis, who has never been in a relationship, explained that she realised she needed to spend more time to “better herself” as she grew older and learnt more about her strengths and weaknesses. 

“Rather than investing time in a relationship, my priorities revolve around myself – to become happier and more successful in my personal, social and work lives,” she said. 

Natalie added that she realised after her first and only relationship she’s had that she is avoidantly attached. She realised in retrospect that it led to a lot of self-sabotage – she was unable to emotionally invest in the relationship as she feared being hurt, causing it to fall apart quickly.

“After that, I decided to continue to stay single as it would be unfair to the other party if I were to willingly get into another relationship knowing that I have all these issues that are unresolved for now.”

While Natalie wants to get into a relationship eventually, she does not want to rush into one “for the sake of it”. She added that she knows what she’s looking for in a partner and will only enter a relationship with the right person. 

“(I) will usually dismiss someone with potential if they exhibit traits I don’t think I’ll be able to look past. As such, a lot of things have to be fulfilled before I would choose to enter a relationship again… I know what I want,” she explained. 


Roughly four in 10 respondents said that they found it difficult to form romantic relationships, and a similar proportion said that they wanted to concentrate on their job or studies. PHOTO CREDIT: YUVRAJ SINGH VIA UNSPLASH


Phyllis also admitted that there are times when she yearns for a significant other. Once, she wanted to plan for a trip with her friends, but they weren’t free and it left her no option but to travel solo.

When friends and family post about the fun activities they do with their partners while on dates and overseas travels, she can’t help but feel a pang of loneliness. She counters this by doing these activities by herself.

“I can’t always be waiting for a friend to spend time with me when they have their own priorities or partners to consider,” said Phyllis.

But she would prefer if they met under “natural encounters”. She intends to stay away from dating apps as she dreads having to consciously put herself out there and make an “extra effort to maintain conversations with strangers”.

Yet, there is another factor pushing single youths into a relationship: Housing.

Natalie stated that her desire for a partner also mainly stems from the desire to own her own house, rather than the fear of being alone. 

“…Getting my own house in Singapore would be easier, as opposed to being single and having to wait many years or rent if I want to move out of my parents’ home.

“The (housing) policy has led to instances of people, single or otherwise, rushing into marriage as they’re trying to meet a certain timeline set by society,” she said.


The current public housing policy requires singles to be at least aged 35 when applying for a BTO flat. PHOTO CREDIT: REAGAN TAN


Then, there are some youths who plan to not enter a relationship at all. Ray Loh, 24, identifies as asexual and aromantic – the museum worker experiences neither sexual nor romantic attraction to anyone.

“I do not feel any desire to have a partner due to my lack of attraction and because I am happy the way I am, I see no need to change this,” Ray shared.

“I have thought about the possibility of relationships, but if I were to enter one, it would mostly be for the Government benefits (such as housing). I would have to make it clear with potential partners that I do not want physical intimacy beyond high fives and maybe a simple hug once in a while, the way I would hug a friend.”

However, Muhammad Afiq Bin Shawal, 21, is choosing to stay single for a different reason. The chemistry lab assistant shared that he has never yearned for a partner as, emotionally, he feels content staying single.

But it wasn’t a conscious decision for him. During his schooling years, he focused all his time and energy on work, family and friends, that the thought of finding a partner never really occurred to him.

He shared that with the time and resources, being more proactive in the dating game is plausible. But he is not putting a timeline to it.

“I’m not ready to ‘try my luck’ since I don’t have the best social skills when it comes to new people. I still need more time to grow as a person and be someone confident enough to start looking for a partner,” he explained. 

Fortunately for Afiq, he has rarely faced the pressure to jump into a relationship.

“I feel a lot of people recognise that the current day and age is way too fast paced and high strung to engage in spouse hunting at any age, actually,” he stated, adding that he is worried for singles with limited social circles. 

“Those with lower quantities of emotional support pillars may use work to stave off their lack of social fulfilment,” he said. 

Combating feelings of loneliness requires one to be proactive and get out there, advised Afiq.

“It never hurts to socialise with folks you’re comfortable with. Even if you don’t get a romantic partner, a platonic one isn’t ever a bad thing,” he said. 

To all the lovebirds out there – or judgemental boomers – Afiq asserted that while it’s great to congratulate someone on finding a partner, being single shouldn’t be something that always correlates to misery.

As to fellow singles, he shared: “I wish you good fortunes when you feel ready to look for that ‘better half’. It’s okay if that time comes late, there’s always time for stuff like this.”

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