Is Never Having Been In A Relationship A Big Red Flag?

The internet is divided...

Omar Love Island

by Alice Hall |
Updated on

There comes a time in every relationship/situationship (or whatever else constitutes dating right now) when the conversation about exes rears its head. Usually, this involves each partner shedding light on what went wrong in their past relationship and, ahem, reassuring their new love interest that they've grown, they won't repeat the same mistakes again, etc. You know the drill.

But what happens if you're, say, in your twenties and you don't have any relationship history to share? That was the case on last night's episode of Love Island, when Omar Nyame went on a date with Mimii Ngulube, 24, after a twist saved her from getting dumped from the villa. But on the date, 25-year-old Omar mentioned he’s never been in a relationship before. When Mimii, who admitted she previously had a ‘serious’ two-year relationship, asked Omar about this dating history, he said ‘I’ve actually never been in a relationship.’ After she pressed him on why, Omar said it’s ‘been a rollercoaster’ in terms of his emotions, before adding ‘I’m looking for love.’

While Mimii didn’t seem too phased by the revelation, the internet was quick to wade into the discourse around Omar's dating history, calling it a ‘red flag.’ One user wrote on X ‘Mimii needs to stay away from Omar, the reason behind “I’ve never had a long term relationship” is giving red flags  #LoveIsland.’ Another wrote ‘Never being in a relationship at his big age is low-key a red flag for Omar. We know what you are #loveIsland.’ A third agreed, writing ‘I can’t even get excited for Omar, cs this one with he’s never had a relationship what does it mean? You’ve just been messing around? #loveIsland.’

All this raises the question: is it really a red flag if you haven’t been in a relationship? I put the question to a group of girls. Sabby*, 27, says ‘I would definitely think it was a red flag, because I’d wonder: why haven’t they? Are they not a nice person, or do they just want to be a player? I’d be very cautious.’ One of the main themes that comes up is not wanting to have to ‘teach’ someone how to be in a relationship. ‘A first relationship is no joke,’ says Grace, 28. ‘They don’t have any reference points, and at this age if someone hasn’t been in one, it feels like you’re going back to being a teenager. They might have no understanding on how to compromise, or not have any patience.'

In a TikTok shared by @feeshdailymeggs, she asks Alex Day ‘what age is it a red flag if somebody says they’ve never been in a serious relationship?’ to which he replies ‘if you’ve never been in a serious relationship then who cares? But I’ll say 26.’  He cites someone who hasn't had a relationship through high school, college and post-grad as ‘looking at trouble.’

It's true that, statistically, most people’s first relationship tends to be in their teenage years. A 2019 study of 2,000 adults which looked at major life events found that the average age to get your first real boyfriend or girlfriend is 17. This is probably the relationship where you make (most) of your major mistakes – the survey found that 18 was the most common age to experience your first heartbreak.

But on the flip side, it’s now perfectly common for people to reach their twenties, or thirties, having been single for their whole life – particularly when we consider the complexities of modern dating. Thanks to toxic behaviours such as ghosting, the rise of situationships, a Gen Z sex recession and the endless choice of matches offered to us on apps, dating has gotten so bad recently that it’s gone viral on social media, with many people taking to TikTok to share their experiences. On the app, there are thousands of videos with captions such as ‘dating is terrible nowadays’, ‘dating in your twenties is exhausting’ and ‘the worst first date ever.’

It’s little wonder, then, that so many more people are entering their twenties or thirties single compared to even just a few years ago. While part of this increase could be down to more of us wanting to play the field, it’s important to remember that having never had a relationship by the time you reach your twenties isn’t always a choice - it is sometimes just circumstantial.

This is the case for Anthony, 28, from Bristol, who has just got serious in his first relationship. Prior to meeting his girlfriend, he explains he had dated lots of girls, but they’d only amounted to ‘four or five’ dates each because he just didn’t like them enough.

‘I’ve always been aware that relationships are a big commitment. Some girls might think I have commitment issues, and there were times I’d be slightly insecure and worry that I’m incapable of finding someone I can connect with emotionally and romantically – but none of that’s true,’ he says. ‘Now I have a girlfriend, it's confirmed to me I’m capable of being in a relationship – having never been in one before shouldn’t be a red flag.’ He adds that qualities such as honesty confidence, and knowing what they want are ‘better traits to be concerned about’ than someone's relationship history.

Relationship psychologist Dr Limor Gottlieb explains that it's 'increasingly common' for young people to prioritise education, career, and personal growth before 'making serious commitments' in relationships. 'This situation doesn't automatically indicate someone is a 'player' or unwilling to settle down. Instead it could mean that the person is more mature by not committing to a person until they feel ready,' she says. However, she adds that the rise of dating apps has led to an increase in hookup culture among people in their twenties. 'A red flag would be if someone continues to seek casual sex instead of long-term relationships or has problems committing to a relationship or other important aspects in life for the long term,' she says.

If you do find yourself in a relationship with someone who hasn't one before, she recommends practising open communication, patience, and setting realistic expectations. 'Everyone has their unique timeline and priorities, and being single can offer valuable opportunities for personal growth. Therefore we need to challenge this stigma, there’s nothing wrong with someone who has not committed to a relationship long-term,' she says.

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