Courtesy of Marina Salsbury
College is a time of great exploration and new life experiences for most young adults. It’s a time when you learn what’s really important to you and what you want to accomplish in life. Between cramming in the library and working on online college classes in your pajamas, you begin to set life goals and priorities and learn about who you are as a person, apart and independent from your family and parents. Young adulthood is also a time when many young people begin to experiment with relationships and may, for the first time in their lives, have dating choices to explore and experience.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
One of the challenges many young people in college face is whether or not they really want to make a commitment to a long-term relationship while in college. For some people, this is a natural step in the progression of a relationship and it may feel like absolutely the right thing to do if they really feel they are in love and want to share a commitment for the long haul.
For others, college romances are opportunities to try on different ways of being in relationship. They may have several different boyfriends or girlfriends during this period and maybe all at the same time. For them, it’s a time to explore what dating is like and figure out what they want or do not want in a potential partner. They aren’t looking for a lifetime or even long-term commitment, but simply exploring relationships in general.
Many opinions differ on whether or not it’s healthy to make a commitment to a long-term relationship in college. Parents may feel the stability of a long-term relationship will make it easier to stay focused on studies and larger goals, including marriage, family, and career. Other parents believe their children are too young to make a serious commitment during college and should be focusing on their studies and thinking about serious romance after they’ve finished with college. Whether or not it’s healthy really depends on each person and his or her particular life goals.
Some of the many problems that can appear in college-age relationships can occur in serious relationships at any age:
- Abuse – Dating violence can be a serious issue and date rape occurs with unfortunate frequency. Abuse is not just physical, but can also be mental and emotional. Anyone threatened by partners, afraid of their temper, have had partners destroy property, manipulated, or physically assaulted must protect themselves and get out of the relationship. Contact campus police or a school counseling center for help in getting out of the relationship and to report any instances of assault or physical violence.
- Depression – Dating a depressed person can be damaging to the relationship and very emotionally draining for the healthy partner. By the same token, in a strong relationship a healthy partner is a huge asset in overcoming depression if you believe you may be dating someone who is depressed or having mental health issues, encourage him or her to seek help from the school counseling center.
- Isolation – Healthy relationships also include other people. Even if it isn’t deliberate or abusive, involvement in a serious relationship can inadvertently exclude partners’ other friends and dominate their time. No matter how serious your romantic commitment, be careful that your relationship doesn’t disrupt the balance of your life.
For most people, college is a time to get to know oneself better and figure out what one wants and values in life. Dating is one part of learning about yourself and who you are. Some people find being in a long-term relationship during their college years seems like the most natural thing to do, while for others it’s a time to explore dating several different people and learn about relationships in general. Whatever you do and whomever you find yourself with, keep in mind balance should characterize any healthy relationship.
Thank you Marina!