Stop Thinking Of A Relationship As A Life Sentence


“I knew it. I was as sure of it as I’ve ever been sure of anything—you were falling in love with me. But what I was not prepared for was for it to happen to me.”

“For what to happen to you?”

Guys need everything spelled out for them. It’s one of their species’ many downfalls.

“For me to love you back.”

I don’t know if it’s just me. But every time I have a conversation like the one above, it turns into my shining moment, the scene of the movie written just for me. The background fades into obscurity and the focus is just on us. A trickle of light through a nearby window illuminates us, highlighting our cheekbones and deepening the valleys of our bodies. We mold around each other’s shapes, our frames giving way to the other. It all seems so cinematic, so theatrical, so… scripted? Why do we, as young women, feel that love is something only movie stars should feel?

Being in college is a unique experience, but being at a large state university is indescribable — much less being at the number one party school in the nation. We have a lot of noteworthy academic programs, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. This kind of widespread attitude fosters a relationship-phobia unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s hard enough being an ambitious twenty-something in the heart of the Midwest: try being one at a university where having a great (drunk) time is the first priority. We can’t help it. We judge people who would rather spend their nights cuddled into someone else than chasing the bottom of a Mega Mug. Can you blame us?

I’m a senior this year. Last year, I endured a messy breakup with my then-boyfriend of almost three years. My High School Sweetheart (gag me). He was a great guy, but I was ready to experience college like it was meant to be experienced—and I might have gone a little overboard. While it was undoubtedly the best year of my life, a little bit of introspection over the summer made me realize I had no idea what my worth was. I drank more than I thought my liver could physically handle, danced like inhibitions weren’t even a thing, and entertained whatever guy showed me a speck of attention.

Enter: New Man Friend. Let’s call him Joe. I met Joe last year under the most unusual of circumstances (I’m talking Nicholas Sparks-worthy circumstances. Honestly. It’d make an excellent book). We hit it off and became pretty close friends. We kept each other company at the library (I started studying again!) and went together for food and drinks all the time. We seemed to run into each other everywhere, and eventually stopped chalking it up to pure coincidence. He was the first guy I really liked being around since my 9.0 on the Richter Scale breakup earlier in the year. However, there were some issues we both had to address before we could be more serious: he had severe emotional problems from being in the army, and I was still convinced that being in a relationship meant giving up my happiness. We toyed around with each other for months, neither of us wanting to commit, until months later, he gave in. He asked me to be his girlfriend. And I said no.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? He treated me like an absolute princess. He did absolutely everything right. I loved being around him. He made me strive to be better in every way just so I could impress him. And I said no to making him all mine. This really puts it into perspective: he has debilitating emotional issues from fighting a war on terrorism. I have trust issues from breaking up with a boyfriend I thought I was in love with who turned out to be gay (oops! Did I leave that out earlier?). AND HE OVERCAME HIS OBSTACLE BEFORE I COULD? I apparently had way more issues than I liked to believe.

Fast-forward about six months: I finally give in. I agreed to be his girlfriend and make us a thing where we could meet each other’s families and have dinner dates with other couples and go to the movies and hold hands in public. But guess what? It wasn’t any of that. It wasn’t the super-serious pre-marriage-esque commitment I imagined would suck the life out of me. It was fun. We don’t spend every waking moment together like the world is ending. We don’t get jealous or play those awful “I-really-mean-no-when-I-say-yes” games. The moral of the story is: when you’re with the right person, a relationship doesn’t seem like work, and truthfully? It shouldn’t be.

Just because you’re a college 20-something in the heart of the Midwest doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the company of someone else. Being in college or being in your 20s in this day and age shouldn’t preclude you from enjoying time with someone whose main concern is your happiness. Relationship is becoming something of a dirty word, but I’m here to clear the air. Take it from someone who was as anti-love as you could get: It’s not so bad. You could finally put all those Ben & Jerry’s pints in their final resting place because now all the John Mayer songs make sense and you can watch The Notebook and cry for a different reason: because you understand love instead of being jealous of it.

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