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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Why It’s Okay If You’ve Never Been In Love

Whether you love to hate it, hate to love it or can’t get enough of it, love is always on our minds. From your favorite new celebrity couple, to your BFF’s Instagrams of her beau, to the cutie in your lecture, love is inescapable in the society we live in. But what if the only romantic love you’ve experienced is watching Chuck and Blair’s epic love story via Netflix? Sure you’ve had crushes, but been in love? That’s a long shot. While it might seem like you’re the only one, you’re definitely not alone. We talked to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, about all things love, and most importantly, why it’s okay if you haven’t gotten there yet. Here’s the scoop.

Not being in a relationship is better than being in a bad relationship

While social media may make it seem like all relationships are perfect, most aren’t as sparkling as they seem under filters and perfectly cropped pics. If you’ve never been in love, it’s easy to look at relationships through rose-colored glasses, thinking that everything would be easier if you just had someone to share it with. While it is nice to have a partner-in-crime, Dr. Ramani reminds us that “not being in a relationship is far better than being in a dysfunctional relationship.” She continues to say that while “relationships are a healthy and important part of our lives…seeking one out for ‘relationship’s sake’ or to keep up with everyone else is inauthentic and can actually be bad for you.”

So while you may be feeling the FOMO as pictures of couples ice-skating flood your newsfeed, remind yourself that you’re in a relationship with yourself first. Dr. Ramani says to “live a life in which you are in love with yourself—surround yourself with friends and family and a loving group of people, give back to the world, do work you love and that fills you with purpose, be loving and empathic in all of your relationships, as it prepares you to let someone in.”

Ava, a freshman at DePaul University, believes that being in love doesn’t have to just apply to romantic relationships, sharing a similar mentality with Dr. Ramani. “It’s okay to not be in love as long as you have a passion for something that you care about as much as a person,” she says. “Some people fall in love with their jobs rather than people. Not being in love can be totally fulfilling.” When the time comes and you fall in love, it’ll be wonderful. But until then, take your self on a date. You deserve it.

Related: An Open Letter to the Girl Who Thinks She Needs a Boy to be Happy

Not being in love means not being tied down

As young collegiettes, there are so many opportunities for us to explore, whether it’s joining a new club, accepting a career starting internship or studying abroad. The world is at our fingertips and it’s up to us to take advantage of all it has to offer. Sometimes, however, being in a relationship can cloud these opportunities. When you’re in love it can make it more difficult to make tough decisions. Getting a job offer in another state is fabulous, but accepting it is infinitely harder if you know it’ll separate you and your sweetie.

“When you are not in a relationship you often have the luxury of not having to compromise,” Dr. Ramani tells us. “You can accept a job transfer or a study abroad, you can move where you want, work late, maintain your own schedule and set priorities and goals in a very specific sort of way.” Being young is all about finding yourself, and these experiences can help further that process. Being in love doesn’t have to hinder self-exploration at all, but if you’ve never been in love, you can take solace in the fact that your decisions are for you and you only.

It’s for this reason that Micki, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, feels comfortable never having been in love. “I’m glad I haven’t been in love yet because it has given me so much time to just be with me,” she tells us. “In not being in love with anyone else, I can give myself undivided attention to figure myself out and love myself the way I deserve to.” Valuing yourself highly allows you to enter relationships without feeling the need to settle—you know what you deserve!

Remember that love, like life, is a journey

Cheesy, we know, but true. Dr. Ramani reminds us that “the term ‘being in love’ is very subjective and means very different things to different people.” While your idea of being in love might be complete honesty with someone, to another it could mean someone to laugh with. All feelings of love are valid, but prior to falling in love it’s wise to take a close look at what “being in love” means to you, and the expectations you hold. Dr. Ramani recommends asking whether your expectations are realistic or closer to a Disney movie.

The older you get without having been in love, it becomes easier and easier to over-romanticize and view love as it is in fantasy, which sets you up for disappointment and sets the bar too high for your future partners. Dr. Ramani warns that these “unrealistic assumptions may thwart the development of a relationship,” so be sure to keep your expectations in check.

Though it’s easy to over-romanticize love if you’ve never experienced it, it is worthy of our affection. As Dr. Ramani so eloquently put it, to be in love is to have “experienced one of the most profound of human experiences.” The beautiful thing about love is that it has no expiration date. Dr. Ramani tells us that “love is a very personal journey–some people may experience in their early teens, and others may not until they are 80. The human soul does not operate according to a developmental timetable.” Whether you’re 18, 50 or 99, you are worthy of love and it will find you. It’s just a matter of being ready for it when it does.

Good things come to those who wait

While some people are lucky enough to see someone and just know they’re going to be together, other love stories are much more gradual. You may be watching a movie with your best friend and hear them laugh, and suddenly realize that that’s the only laugh you’re interested in hearing. Or you may feel yourself slowly falling for someone you never expected to. “Falling in love is not always a swan dive off a cliff, sometimes it is a very gradual slope you gracefully come down,” Dr. Ramani says, letting us know that this type of journey is just as beautiful as another. Though you may not recognize it at first blush, as Dr. Ramani puts it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t heading towards you. Be open to any and all possibilities and love may surprise you.

As the Beatles famously said, all you need is love. What is often misconstrued about that statement is that that love needs to be romantic. While romantic love is an amazing experience unlike any other, it is equally as revolutionary to love something else with as much passion and fervor. Fall in love with yourself, your job, your school, your best friends, and your heart will be so full it may burst. Romantic love will undoubtedly come. Until then, just enjoy the ride.

Courtney Cook is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying creative writing and art and design. She has a passion for Netflix, feminism, pop culture, and cute dog vines. Courtney is the founder and president of Zeta Omega Eta, a feminist sorority dedicated to bringing like-minded women together to take on all the University of Michigan has to offer. Follow Courtney's adventures on her Instagram: @courtneyc00k !