Let’s forget about the birth rate and the baby bonus for a minute and enjoy a minute of silence for Love, as it seems it’s fast becoming extinct in Singapore.
50% of Singaporeans aged 18 and above declared that work was a barrier to dating in a recent survey, while 65% complained that they spent too much time at work.
Sure, not all surveys reflect reality on the ground.
But this one does indeed seem to mirror the experience of many people I know.
These men and women I’m thinking of are good looking, smart, charming and well-paid, yet many haven’t been in relationships for more than five years, and not out of choice. And one big reason is that going out after work on weekdays is pretty much out of the question for them, as they’re routinely stuck in the office till at least 9pm, 10pm and beyond.
If your love life (or lack of one) is a constant source of consternation and you suspect your job is to blame, is your only recourse Tinder or, worse, the Social Development Network? Here are some tips for those who feel their jobs are keeping them single.
Make time in your busy schedule to cultivate your social life, not your love life
I have a friend who’s an inveterate user of Tinder. In a single week, he can have three or four Tindates lined up. Yet, after a year of nonstop dating, he has yet to find someone he likes.
Said friend would probably benefit from channeling all that time into building his social circle and cultivating a vibrant social life, rather than going on multiple first dates with random women.
While there is such a thing as overdoing it, when you’re pressed for time your social circle is a pretty good investment, especially if it’s always changing and new people are always popping up.
Shrinking social circles have been cited as a big problem for singles who are past their twenties and thirties, and are part of the reason people are increasingly turning to dating apps and websites. Part of the problem is that people are not prioritising cultivating healthy social connections in their lives due to hectic work schedules.
May, a 32-year-old business manager an international bank, says she saw her own social circle shrink in her twenties.
“I spent a few years in my late twenties climbing the corporate ladder. I would have my dinner close to midnight after work, and be in the office the next day at ten. During those years, my social circle didn’t expand. I stuck with the same old friends I’d had since my school days and early twenties. Singaporean men also don’t take much initiative so I was single for a few years.”
“Focusing too much on my career definitely had a negative impact on the size of my social circle,” she says. “I just had no time to make new friends. The older I am, the less inclined I am to want to make new friends. I don’t have the time to maintain so many friendships, or else I wouldn’t get enough sleep.”
First of all, if you have no social life because of work, that can’t be good. Loneliness can take a real toll on your emotional wellbeing, which in turn makes you less attractive to potential dates. I mean, someone whose only hobby is watching drama serials at home is probably not going to be a very interesting person.
Not having friends or activities outside of work also makes it close to impossible you’ll meet someone organically, leaving only the options of dating people from your workplace and using dating services or apps.
Finally, the pressure of going on blind dates or for speed dating events is so crushing that it’s virtually impossible for people to be themselves. That actually makes them terrible places to find a mate, other than the fact that everyone is single. You might be surprised to find you have much more luck interacting with people in neutral situations, when neither is expecting something.
Before even thinking of dating, it’s a good idea to work on yourself first by cultivating interests and interacting with the people around you. When you feel happy and satisfied with your own life, finding someone you click with will be much easier, whether you choose to go the dating app route or not.
Ask yourself if you’re making your work too much of a priority
Let’s face it, many Singaporeans work way too much. By some measures we work the longest hours in the world.
At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile working that long and hard if other areas of your life are suffering.
Sure, Singapore is an expensive place to live in, but unless they’re in a lower income bracket and are forced to work punishing hours to make ends meet, most singles do have some space to decide how hard they wish to work.
Take Victor, a 31-year-old lawyer who has been single since his university days, for instance. He works about 13 to 14 hours a day and knows he is not working that hard because he doesn’t have the choice.
“I could always go in-house where the hours are much better. But my salary increments would stagnate and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. It’s a trade-off I’ve accepted.” he says.
These days, May has taken on a less demanding role at the office and no longer works the crazy hours she used to.
“Life comes before work. When I was in charge, I let my team members leave at 4pm once a month, and take the day off work without deducting a day of leave on their birthdays,” she says.
“In the past, I preferred to concentrate on my career. But my perspective has changed. Life is too short to waste it all at work,” she says.
If you feel your love life (or just your quality of life in general) is adversely affected by excessive working hours (and not because you spend hours watching YouTube videos every night) and can afford to change jobs or take on a less demanding post, you have to make a judgment call.
Ultimately, a career isn’t the only thing that contributes to a full and happy life.
Do you think work gets in the way of dating in Singapore? Tell us in the comments!