Sunday, May 1, 2011

Does Dating Affect Your College Life?

Exams are finished and while many anxiously await their final grades, I recently had the realization that while grades and exams cause much stress in college, nothing seems to compare to the anxiety, stress, and frustration that seems to be caused by relationships. Specifically – dating relationships.

I recently had a conversation with some friends who were asking my advice on a plethora of relationship issues. Feeling very Dear Abby I was more than happy to play the part and dish out relationship advice. Who doesn’t love to play this role?

A few highlights came from that talk, and it made me think about how often relationships conflict with college. From nasty break ups to betrayals to heartbreak to long gossip trails, the anxiety and drama can so quickly envelop the day to day. And then grades, studying, friendships, and even health become lost in the swamp of relationship confusion.

Sure there are a few of those healthy mature relationships overflowing with genuine support and love  - the kind where you make each other better every day, grow and challenge each other, and enjoy each other’s company more than anyone else’s. These are a pleasure to watch and even more so to be a part of.

But what seems to plague most students are the troubled relationships. The one’s that seem great at first and then quickly spiral into great struggle that eventually turns college into a giant dumping ground of wasted energy.

Instead of delighting in the learning process, being challenged by new collegiate endeavors, investing and exploring friendships with a diversity of others, and discovering who you are and what you want to do with your life it is so easy to become encumbered with all the overwhelming feelings of relationship drama.

So the big question is, how do you avoid it? It’s easy to say just stay away, ignore the bad ones, find the good ones, man up, step up, get over it, he’s just not that into you, etc.

But the truth is, when you’re in the throes of a relationship, especially with someone you care (or cared) about, it’s difficult to see reason. It’s difficult to stay away. And it’s difficult to focus on school.

I’m not saying you have to be single to get the most out of your college experience. However, I do think it is important to consider who you invest in very carefully – at any period in your life – but especially in college as it is such a unique time in life when you are able to focus almost solely on your own self improvement, development, and growth.

Done right, that kind of self-investment can be the perfect recipe for eventually finding a great person to spend your life with.

Now I am no dating/relationship expert, but I have learned a lot from the incredible relationship I have with my husband as well as from the successful and tragic relationships of those around me. So college students, below are some points to consider for your dating life to ensure you are able to make the most of this time to grow, flourish, and succeed.

-    Be picky: Now please don’t start making a list that you want someone who’s “5 foot 6, black hair, blue eyes, plays guitar, has a red car, likes cats, wants 2.5 kids…..” In fact, I think it’s dangerous to be picky when it comes to the external.What I do think students aren’t picky enough about is finding someone who shares their values and who has the kind of character they are looking for. And most importantly, holding out for someone who really, truly, cares about them and causes more joy than pain. Be picky about who you let into your life.

-    Invest in yourself: In all the best relationships stories I’ve ever heard it seems they met while doing something they both loved or engaging in some sort of mutual activity. Enjoy college and enjoy being single. Engage in your interests and your friends and take full advantage of the unique freedom you have in college to explore so many avenues of life. Chase the experiences. Let go of the pressure.

-    Don’t chase: I find so many people trying to force relationships that just aren’t happy or beneficial. Typically one person is more into it than the other and one is chasing. Chasing may work in the short term but it seems to never work for the long term. The truth is, you deserve someone who wants to be with you.

-    Save the drama for your mama: Okay so I really don’t know what this means but I just wanted to say it. Essentially, catch yourself when you find yourself engaging in the drama of your relationship or a friend’s. It only leads to emotional self-destruction.

-    Love yourself:  I know this sounds super hippy and cheesy. But what I really mean is to engage and learn about who you are during this time. Being confident in yourself first is the most attractive quality there is. It is the kind of confidence that comes from the quiet self-discovery of your strengths and abilities, and the understanding and peace that comes from knowing that you are enough.

Always remember a relationship should be a positive addition to your life. All you have to do is continue to focus on making your life a positive addition to this world.  

1 comment:

  1. Last quarter, I had a really amazing couple in my course. They were both early 20s, very driven, supportive of each other, and always a step ahead of assignments. If a relationship is going to happen in college, this would be an ideal one that Isa describes early in her post. Right before the quarter ended, this couple broke up. I was so surprised because they seemed very solid. When my female student told me, she didn't describe anything dramatic or ugly, but simply said they were both too focused on their goals to give the relationship the attention it needed. I see so much "drama" take over students' lives in college. This was a pretty impressive change. Ellen Bremen, M.A. @chattyprof


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