Forming Healthy Relationships

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With Valentine’s Day looming over us, the pink hearts and cute couples all around us are a stark reminder for many people that their lives are not on schedule. While Valentine’s Day might seem like an innocent enough holiday, the implications of it, and our feelings towards it, are signs of a greater societal issue.

In a survey conducted by College Pulse, 30,000 college students across the country were asked how much they were looking forward to that Valentine’s Day. 41 percent of students reported that they were not at all looking forward to it, and only 16 percent felt a significant amount of excitement. Needless to say, it is not a popular holiday among people of college age.

As people age, especially women, they often feel a greater societal pressure to find ‘the one’. The media is especially guilty of depicting a sort of timeline for women to live by- find a guy in your early twenties, pressure him into marrying you when he’s hesitant, and pop out two or three kids by the time you are 30. Women who do not fit into this narrative are characterized in two was: the weird cat lady, or the cold workaholic with no life. This mindset not only stigmatizes those who do not follow the ‘normal’ path, but it causes many to make harmful choices in order to keep up with their peers who are ‘on track’, which ultimately leads to unhappy relationships.

“Lacking power within the relationship to give sufficient voice to their dissatisfactions, women may choose to exit,” wrote Michael J. Rosenfeld, a Stanford professor who conducted to a study into the reasons behind divorce. In the study, Rosenfeld reported that 69 percent of divorces in heterosexual marriages were found to have been initiated by the wives. The study found many reasons for the dissatisfaction in their marriages, which included, but was not limited to, the gender housework and childcare gap, as well as an overall power imbalance in the marriages.

Due to the internal and societal pressures to partner up, many women will choose to settle in relationships. As children, many of us grow up being told that we are princesses, and one day our prince charming will come along. As our age increases, our standards in men seem to lower dramatically. I have noticed many women, including myself, convincing ourselves to be attracted to so called ‘nice guys’, i.e. basically anyone who looks like he brushes his teeth and didn’t ask for nudes within the first two minutes of texting him. Gone are the days where we wanted the perfect guy, now we will take someone with the bare minimum of human decency. These low standards lead to many women pursuing relationships for the sake of being in one, which is an unhealthy way to establish a relationship.

“Whether you are in a relationship now or will be in the future, it is important to know what to be looking for in a romantic or sexual partner,” says EdCC’s Healthy Relationship Team (HEART). HEART provides many resources and handouts to students on forming healthy relationships, as well as the warning signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships. Overall, they say that in a healthy relationship “you enjoy spending time together but can be happy apart.”

Relationships should be founded on the mutual joy of having the other person in your life and wanting to grow with them, rather than being scared of what it means to be alone. Women need to start taking control of how we view relationships, we need to stop having our happiness be dependent on other people.. Forcing ourselves into relationships just leads to heartbreak in the end. Not only do we need to reevaluate what we want in relationships, but we also should learn that it is OK to be ‘alone’. You don’t need to have a romantic relationship to be happy and have a fulfilling life. You might not have someone to make out with this February 14th, but just remember that post-Valentine’s Day clearance candy is a hell of a lot cheaper than the obligatory date you would have gone on.