Before I dive into the illuminating world of positives that happen when graduating with a ring on your finger isn’t the focus (or a subconscious lingering pressure) in your mind, let me give you some context for why I don’t advocate for serious college relationships.
The first couple of years I was in school I actually had a few college relationships — as in, there were definite start and end dates to the relationship, solidified labels, a commitment, and the world of living as a couple. As everyone does, I learned a lot from these relationships. I transitioned from a timid, worrisome freshmen to an outgoing, independent, spontaneous woman. I could summarize the highs and lows and reiterate the sentiment that I can’t regret my past because it made me who I am today. It would be a solid advice article drawing on lessons I learned from relationships.
However, when I didn’t date anyone seriously is when I learned the most about relationships, and ultimately, myself. This isn’t a revolutionary epiphany; many people want to be alone when they realize they feel lost and need to “find themselves” or “don’t know who they are.” Perhaps more accurately, this is when they realize they skipped discovering themselves.
And a quick disclaimer: I’m not bitter toward love. If you do truly find that special someone you can commit to for your entire life in college, by all means, go for it. Best wishes! And if you’re having an open bar at the wedding, please invite me.
College is a Time of Change
In your early twenties, there is so much change in one condensed time period that you yourself are constantly changing. Personally, a time of constant change, where people constantly change, does not scream “optimal time to make a serious commitment to someone!!” However, lots of change does sound like the perfect time to try new things that help you discover who you are. Save the super-serious relationship for later, when you’re prepared for it.
College Dating is Weird, Anyway
Let’s be real. Even if you’re “single” in college you’re probably still involved with people — whatever that means. There are various shades of college relationships, and I’ve been in my fair share of them: from serious, to committed with no real future, to strings of flings, to the good ole friends with benefits, to occasional hookups. It’s not quite yet the mature world of adult dating, where people have their lives together and know what they want in a partner so they can team up with them to create a badass team versus life (my way of saying marriage).
As humans, we do crave partnerships, though. As a college kid, you easily meet people and grow close to them, without thinking about the world awaiting you once the college bubble pops. This is what leads many to easily being trapped in this stagnant existence where a single relationship becomes the center of your life without realizing it, and then poof! College is over.
You Find Out What You Want
My grandma once told me you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find The Prince (or Princess). This is a lesson to carry when it comes to college relationships. If you go through frogs, you’ll learn a lot. It’s not until you’re with the med-school student that you realize how much more studious and driven you could be. It’s not until you’re with the gym rat that you learn to meal plan and add more exercise into your life (but also fall more deeply in love with pizza). It’s when you date a frog that makes you laugh hard every day that you place humor farther up on your list of attributes you value in someone.
…And You Find Out What You Don’t Want
It’s the frog that sends double texts and triple snapchats when he doesn’t know where you are for two hours that you realize you need someone independent enough to be living their own life and not clinging to you. On the other hand, that frog who is MIA most the time while you obsess over what happened until he reappears like it’s nothing and causes you to question your sanity, teaches you to truly value someone who communicates regularly like a grown adult who is actually interested in you. It’s the frog who screams and yells and dismisses your feelings during a fight that shows you how an argument should be actually handled, and that your thoughts need to be taken seriously.
Because #YOCO (You Only College Once)
College is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Take advantage of the limited time you have and surround yourself with new personalities so you can learn which attributes you like, which you get along with easily, and which ones are real deal breakers. If you never experience all the options that are out there, you will most likely force yourself into making a relationship work without realizing there could be another relationship that happens more effortlessly and uplifts you in ways you didn’t imagine. You may love somebody, but that doesn’t mean you should be with them.
Maybe Loving Yourself First Isn’t Just a Cliche
Here’s the truth: finding your prince or princess is great, but running around the kingdom all by yourself is better. It’s college! You have four whole years (or more) to not carry full adult responsibilities. So make a reflective conscious decision on who you want to be, then go for it! Become her! You can spend time acquiring skills that make your resume stand out from other grads, studying abroad, getting in shape, learning new hobbies, and loving yourself.
Again: if someone special to you accompanies all of this, fan-effing-tastic. But when that’s not your main concern, you will become independent and unshakably confident. A relationship ending will hurt, but it won’t be the end of the world — just the end of some wine bottles and ice cream tubs. And wouldn’t you rather be able to look back at semesters and see them for more than a time covered in the slime of a frog? (Looking at you, spring of sophomore year.)
So skip the serious college relationships, have fun dating around, and — most importantly — learn about yourself. Don’t become so caught in trying to find your happy ever after that you don’t realize you just spent the majority of your time, and a whole lot of effort, on a frog.