Low commitment, “casual” relationships — only way to date in college?


Lana Altunashvili ’27 is a prospective biology major. She is a James Monroe Scholar and a member of Club Tennis. Contact her at laltunashvili@wm.edu.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

The 14th of February is a widely celebrated holiday, otherwise known as Saint Valentine’s Day. It’s a day that many look forward to, but many more seem to dread as companies decorate their websites with cupids and warm-colored hearts. Companies that assume you have that ‘special someone’ to spend this joyous holiday with. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the people who manage to date in college. However, it was in a conversation with a friend of mine that we deemed it only possible to date in college on one condition: that it be a “long term, long distance, low commitment, casual” relationship, in the words of Ryan Gosling as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” Is this the only way to be in a relationship whilst getting a degree? Or are we just sour-faced pessimists who are slightly grumpy this time of the year? 

If I’ve learned anything in my short time here, it’s that most students of the College of William and Mary are overachievers and not in a particularly bad way. We are in an academically-rigorous environment with the motivation to participate in everything that interests us. We have trouble saying no, even when we know we have little time to ourselves as it is. We take on more and more responsibilities until it is absolutely unmanageable for us to take on anything else. It feels good though, to be occupied and to be busy doing the things you love. This is where the question of love comes in. How are we supposed to have time for a significant other when we barely have time for ourselves and our friends, let alone a boyfriend or girlfriend? Some people I know spend days at Earl Gregg Swem Library, practically living there – by the way, don’t do that, please. It’s for your own good. I suppose that’s my question to the people who have someone to spend this Valentine’s Day with: how do you do it? 

Now, there’s nuance to every situation. Some people are long-distance, which I suppose fits the ‘Ken’ theory of a perfect relationship. It’s easier to focus on schoolwork and other extracurricular activities when you have a set time for every one of your calls, when you text throughout the day to let them know about everything you do. On the other side of the coin, it is, after all, long distance. I have so much respect for all of you who are making it work, so I hope your guys’ Valentine’s went as well as it could have, however far the distance is. On the other hand, if you and your significant other go to the same school, how hard is it to stay on top of your schoolwork, your job, your club participation, your social life and your personal time? Does it feel overwhelming, or do they all balance out to give you the perfect combination? I wish my statistics class taught me how to evaluate this one… 

But why such an obsession with relationships anyway? Why is there this huge emphasis on whether or not you are taken, whether or not you have someone to go on a date with, whether or not you have a Valentine at all? Is it socially unacceptable or embarrassing to be single? Or have we as college students imposed that standard upon ourselves with the help of various social media outlets? As I am writing the article, I’m wondering why I’m so focused on this issue when I could be occupied with literally anything else — is it because I truly want something serious or because we are constantly fed these ideas of teenage love stories, so we think we aren’t whole without them? I truly believe that this obsession with ‘finding the right one’ is an epidemic in of itself that we need to eradicate.

While some of us are here, constantly romanticizing our interactions with people who don’t even know our names, waiting for replies that are never going to come, others are out there discovering and working on themselves for themselves and nobody else. This idea that we are fundamentally lacking something if we aren’t in a relationship is often planted in our minds and then keeps growing out of control until we don’t even question it. But why not question it this Valentine’s Day? The fact that we aren’t okay with being alone itself is reason enough not to date anyone for now and to grow fond of ourselves in the first place. It’s cliche but true — you can’t love someone else until you love yourself. So to all those concerned with not having a significant other, the minute you’re okay with being alone, they will come along. That’s usually how those things go anyway — they happen when you least expect them to. In the meantime, why not work on ourselves? After all, we’re stuck with us for the rest of our lives, so we might as well make that time worth it. 

We could also go on and on about whether there’s a point to this commercial holiday at all. Whether we are simply playing into the consumerist culture of the U.S. by buying Sweethearts and sending Candy Grams… One thing remains clear to me though — Valentine’s Day should be a day for not only romantic relationships but platonic ones as well. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re taken or not and it shouldn’t matter if you have a date on the 14th, because all your friends should be your Valentines. The bottom line is that it’s better to have a meaningful relationship with yourself and find someone later, rather than settle for the “long term, long distance, low commitment, casual” relationship right now while being unsure of what you want from life, not knowing who you are yet. What I want to say is that college is a time for self-discovery. If we stop to look around and appreciate what we are doing, and where we are, everything will come in time — slowly, but surely.


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