20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?”

23 Jun

Women under patriarchy are too often defined not by their own personal development and accomplishments, but instead by the stage they have reached in the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative of dating, boyfriend, live-in, engaged, married, children. We find that we and our wider circle of female friends are constantly subjected to questions regarding where we are on this timeline. This is a means of judgment and a primary way that others participate in socially pressuring you to conform, by constantly reminding you what is expected.

If you reject these questions or are not making what is deemed as the right progress, you are punished, othered, and excluded for your non-participation. In patriarchal society, single women are pathologized, especially as they get older. In contrast, being in a long-term relationship with a man is seen as “success.” But just being in a relationship doesn’t mean you are doing well.

In addition to being too personal for most people to be asking you, questions such as the below:

  • Are you dating?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • Do you live together?
  • Are you engaged?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any children? Do you want to have children?
  • When do you want to/are you going to have children?

are NOT IMPORTANT. They are irrelevant and useless as measures of how well you are doing in your life. The only reason anyone would ask you these questions is so they can assess and judge you against heteronormative, patriarchal criteria. They also use your answers to compare themselves against you and justify their own lives and actions.

Rejecting the intrusive list of questions above, we have created a list of 20 questions we can ask ourselves to assess our well-being. This type of self-evaluation is feminist, non-heteronormative, and has a balanced view of our relationships with ourselves and others, partner or partners, rather than basing all of our worth and well-being on a single intimate partner.

For the sake of coherence and convenience, we have sorted the questions into 4 categories: Relationship with Self, Relationships with Others, Space and Time. If you find yourself answering “no” to any of these questions, we encourage you to focus attention on these areas and take steps towards a healthier and happier you.


1. Are you happy?

2. Do you feel fulfilled?

3. Are you eating/sleeping well? Do you get enough exercise and fresh air?

4. What are the areas of your life in which you are challenging yourself to grow?

5. Are there any habits or patterns you would like to change?


6. Do the significant people in your life treat you with respect?

7. Do you feel free to make your own choices?

8. How are your relationships with family and/or friends?

9. Do you know when it is appropriate or necessary to put up boundaries with particular people?

10. Do you have the capability and know-how to put those boundaries up and hold them?


11. Are you comfortable and satisfied with your living situation?

12. Do the environments you inhabit make you feel alert and clear-headed/restful and peaceful?

13. Do you have a low-stress strategy for dealing with mess, clutter, and household chores?

14. What can you do to make your environment or surroundings better reflect you/your personality?

15. What can you do to make your environment more refreshing or relaxing?


16. Do you make some time for yourself every day?

17. Can you be spontaneous with your plans and decisions?

18. Are you spending enough quality time with family and/or friends?

19. When you are feeling highly stressed, pressured and overworked, do you take the time to address your needs?

20. Are you able to say “no” in order to avoid overcommitment?

Are you sick of being defined by your relationship status? What are some better ways you can evaluate your well-being? Any suggestions or additions to this list, please leave them in the comments below.

6 Responses to “20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?””

  1. Annaëlle Firmin (@AnaDeFirmin) June 23, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    this soothe me

  2. southsidesocialist June 23, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I love this.
    My boyfriend and I were at a party a while ago and we were sitting next to a couple we didn’t know and had never met before. The first thing the woman said to me was “and where are your children tonight?” I responded with “children? what children?” and the conversation went downhill from there.

    • Sista Resista June 28, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Thanks! Yes, the pressure on us to conform comes from all sides, and even total strangers feel they have the right to comment. Glad the post resonated with you.

  3. good one :-) December 29, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    Quite right🙂 People shouldn’t get into relationships just to feel they’ve ticked off a life goal, it’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to your partner.

    I think in neoliberalism, the same thing happens with jobs/careers, i.e. “what do you do?” “Erm… well I’m a freelance, erm, something…” Precarity is actually the norm at the moment, but everyone assumes that we’ll all have careers in the Fordist sense, which makes us feel like failures!

    I think the implied questions relate to a personalisation of social problems – failing to see oppressive structures. The implication is that we are unhappy because we fall short of social criteria. In fact we are unhappy because of capitalism, precarity, patriarchy, authoritarianism and so on. Women who think they’re unhappy because they don’t have a boyfriend, or because they chose the wrong boyfriend, are likely failing to realise that they’re unhappy because of patriarchy. This in turn divides women into different camps. The ones with boyfriends, the ones without. The ones with children, the ones without. The mothers with jobs outside the home versus the mothers who stay home. Similar with workers. Precarious versus stable, part-time versus full-time, formal sector versus informal sector, employed versus unemployed. All of which keeps us fighting each other instead of the structures of oppression. Maybe a woman will end up competing with other women to get a boyfriend, or putting up with male dominance to tick the “success” box.

    Very often, we’re also mapping feelings of low self-esteem and spoiled identity onto particular issues. We’re more sensitive than we need to be, because feelings of failure are intensified by past traumas.

    Some of the questions I like to ask myself are:

    Did you do anything lately that made someone a bit happier, or less miserable, than they would otherwise have been?

    Have you done anything – however small – that helps to bring about social transformation, or that directly made the world a better place?

    Have you done anything that authentically expresses your real desires – that brought on a peak experience or a sense of wholeness?

    Have you done the best you can with the resources available, towards the things you care about (remembering to be realistic, i.e. burning out is not “the best you can”)?

    I can usually tick yeses for three or four of these, which puts feelings of failure in better perspective. I think all of us are trying the best we can, and remembering this (about ourselves and others) is a great thing. Putting the focus back on inner or autonomous goals, rather than things the system says we ought to do (“success” and so on), is important. As someone struggling for social justice, I often feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems and my own feeling of insignificance in relation to them.


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