Run! Don’t catch feelings … or do. Graphic by Elizabeth Hein.
AIDAN HARPER SMITH | OPINION COLUMNIST | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before I went to college, adults described being single in college like it was the greatest experience of their life. They described the excitement of constantly being around people your age with newfound freedom and almost unlimited choice.
With this excitement, it seems as though the expectation is for college students to be promiscuous. Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with that at all. If you want short-term relationships, that’s cool with me. But why has this become such an overwhelming expectation for college students? And if this is expected of us, why do we fall into these expectations and demand them from our peers? Why does it seem like most college students hate commitment?
Let’s start with the obvious: dating apps. According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of college students report using dating apps, which does not even account for other ways in which people meet online such as Instagram direct messages or Snapchat. Meeting online has opened up a whole new horizon, that horizon being an almost unlimited choice of potential partners. Instant value judgments based on appearance and limited information can dissuade college-aged people from someone whom they would genuinely like in real life.
You may have looked at someone on Tinder you found attractive and thought “well, there could be someone better.” Even if that thought hasn’t come to your mind, it may still be a subconscious action you take without even thinking about it.
Simply put, there is just no perfect human being on the planet. Another phenomenon relating to this is the concept of the “ick.” If you aren’t already familiar, the ick is a feeling of disgust associated with a small usually embarrassing act that someone does, usually unconsciously.
This is different from red flags, which are signs that point to potentially abusive or unsavory things a prospective partner may do. Icks are smaller, less controllable human eccentricities. If you don’t think your current partner is exhibiting any icks, you haven’t been with them long enough.
But, to level with you reader: I had my fair share of commitment issues in the past, and I must say icks and dating apps were not the issues. Some people have commitment issues because of past relationships, where fears related to that relationship now bleed into their new ones.
Josh Flint, a junior applied business technology major, had a stint last year where this was the case.
“When my first long-term relationship ended, I had a fear of commitment,” Flint said. “It feels like I’m afraid to know someone on the same level of that relationship again. When you go from having that to not having that, it’s really bad. It hurts. So I didn’t want to put a whole lot of trust and time and effort into somebody just to not have it again.”
This is how I felt. There wasn’t anything wrong with the person I was trying to commit to, it was just the fear of getting to know someone again just to lose them. This of course is a very pessimistic mindset that we can find ourselves in after a bad relationship. Unfortunately for my non-risk-takers, the way to get out of this mindset is to just go for it.
“[The] advice I would give is you just got to put yourself out there again,” Flint said. “Part of life is getting hurt. You live, you learn. Gotta risk it for the biscuit as they say.”
Now, this is not always a doable call to action, especially if you become the one wanting someone else to commit. This is easily the most difficult position to be in as the uncertainty can be crushing. You think about them all the time, but you have no idea if they’re thinking of you or just stringing you along.
Junior healthcare and business major Brian Riem has experienced the frustration of being strung along.
“It’s just really frustrating,” Riem said. “Time is a resource, right? So no one wants [their] own time to be wasted. It’s a two-way street. If one party is ready and one party isn’t, that’s just not gonna work. It’s hard when you’re in [that] situation. The heart wants what it wants so you can be blinded.”
This holds true for me, as my heart has been known to dull my senses from time to time. It makes it feel as though what I see in person can’t be correct, the dry texts can’t be that dry and the other person they seem more into is just a figment of my imagination.
But, aside from the challenges of those with commitment issues and their partners, there’s a whole different set of challenges for those in relationships. Now that I am fortunately in a loving, committed relationship, I’ve had people question why I am not dating around.
It seems like you can’t win. One moment you are starving for that next text, the next you are happily with someone having to deal with the bewilderment of others.
Katie Babich, a junior strategic communication and organizational communication and leadership double major, has had similar experiences.
“I definitely think that there’s a certain [expectation about being single] that comes with being in college,” Babich said. “And lots of times people are confused when you don’t meet that [expectation]. I feel like a lot of reactions when [classmates] find out that I have been dating [my partner] for almost three years is either [one of] two extremes. It’s either: so when are you guys getting married? Or: why are you wasting your time?”
But why does it have to be these extremes? On one hand, even if you want to marry your partner, that is just plain expensive. It is now more socially acceptable than ever for partners to live together, sleep together and share resources without the institution of marriage.
On the other hand, I would argue love is the most valuable use of time that we can have during our short time on this floating rock. A healthy, loving relationship can build you up, challenge you, support you and make your life enhanced in every conceivable way. Commitment, my dear readers, can be the best decision of your life.
Some commitments even span across state lines. Since my partner and I live in different states, I’ve been in a long-distance relationship during the summers. This is the hardest part of commitment: when you don’t get to see your loved one.
Babich also has the perspective of being in a long-distance relationship, which can even further astound people, because they don’t physically see their partner — which is stupid, yet true. But like with Santa Claus, seeing is believing.
“I think it confuses people even more to not only find out that I’m in a long-term relationship but also a long-distance relationship,” Babich said. “There were definitely people who called us dumb for not just breaking up before I went to college [and said] I wasn’t gonna get the full college experience. [Despite this,] we have been able to further our communication and really work on not only being stronger as a couple, but being stronger as individuals.”
Whether you are in a committed relationship on campus, a long-distance relationship, a situationship, single with some complications or just plain single, remember that commitment is not a bad thing for college students. Just because you are at college-age doesn’t mean you can’t be in a loving, mature, committed relationship. I wish you love or whatever else you are looking for, Bulldogs, the college experience is whatever you make it.