Is Dating in College Worthwhile?
I’m a recent graduate from college, and I’ve tried out long term relationships, casual hookups, and the gamut in between. I absolutely prefer a committed and loving relationship to more casual ones. However whenever I’ve gotten myself involved in a really intimate and meaningful relationship it has inevitably ended, leaving me (as well as my partner) with so much fallout and bad feelings that the duration of the relationship can feel almost not worth it.
The casual relationships don’t mean that much, and they aren’t as exciting, but on the other hand nobody gets hurt.
My question is at this point in my life, where I know that I will not be marrying, and will not be spending the rest of my life with anyone, is it worth it to invest completely in another person?
Love is wonderful, but it’s also can lead to pain and confusion. Should I just wait it out until I get to a “marrying age,” or should I allow myself to continue to invest in relationships that will, when they end, totally destroy the happiness of myself and the person I’m with?
Thanks so much,
I’m glad you asked that, because it’s a subject that I feel is often discussed by rarely addressed. Most conversations I’ve had about these matters tend to end with the conclusion that you can’t mix love and logic — a conclusion which strikes me as vaguely anti-intellectual and deeply unsatisfactory. For me, love is defined by its amenability to reason; love should be the place where you’re (finally!) no longer forced to choose between being happy and thinking too clearly, an intellectual resource that can’t be exhausted and which bears endless scrutiny. But then, I’m a philosophy major, and my ideas about love are probably not like most people’s.
The short answer to your question is “No.” You should not “continue to invest in relationships that will, when they end, totally destroy the happiness of [you] and the person [you're] with.” Partly because it wouldn’t do you any good, but also because the people you’re with, if they were aware of the ending you considered “inevitable,” probably wouldn’t accept those terms, either.
The thing is, W, most people don’t begin relationships thinking about “when they end.” They don’t necessarily set out to get married before they know a person, but they don’t usually “know that [they] will not be marrying, and will not be spending the rest of [their] life[-s] with anyone.” I hate to be blunt, but I suspect that the pain you associate with the end of relationships is partly a result of your partners’ discovery that you never really believed it would work out with them, and that from day one you believed the end of your relationship was “inevitable.” You say you’ve been “invest[ing] completely” in these relationships, but it sounds like your partners are the ones doing the investing — and getting hurt. You write that “love is wonderful,” but the approach you describe doesn’t sound like love to me. Love is, of course, difficult to define, but I think most people would agree that love means wanting it to last forever, and it doesn’t sound like you’ve been feeling that way.
At the very least, in the future, I think you have an obligation to let the people you’re dating know if you’ve determined that you can’t be with them forever — particularly because, at your age, they might make the opposite assumption. The average American man marries at 27, and the average woman marries at 25. If you don’t say anything, I think your dates will infer that you haven’t outruled the possibility of marriage or an equivalent level of commitment.
Honestly, though? I think you should rethink your approach. I’m not sure why you believe that you “will not be marrying” — especially since you claim to prefer “loving relationships” and don’t seem to be making the classic argument that you need to do a certain amount of sexual adventuring before settling down — but I think you’re selling yourself short by assuming that the way you feel now (i.e., not in love) is the way you’ll continue to feel. Nobody’s forcing your hand, W — there’s no risk here. You’re not going to get married until you decide to. It makes sense not to get your folks’ hopes up, of course; but it doesn’t make sense not to allow for the possibility that a person and an experience could change your mind and change your plans. If you keep dating people know you don’t want to be with in the long-term, you’re depriving yourself of that opportunity.
Not all good couples (or threesomes or whatever) share a mutual belief that they’re going to be together forever, but I would venture to assert that they share a lack of belief that they aren’t. That’s what it means, to my mind, to “invest” in a relationship — to make yourself open to the possibility of its success. (For more on letting others change your mind, see my “vintage” column about dating with deadlines and my more recent column about whether atheists can date the religious.)
I’m not telling you to get used to the idea of getting married in the next few years; I’m telling you that you’ll be happier if you don’t exclude it just yet. There is no “marrying age,” and there are no rules; there are, however, people and experiences that inspire us and change our lives irrevocably. Stop fooling around with people you know you’re not serious about, and try to stay open-minded, no matter how many bad experiences you have — so that if someone shows up whom you could really commit to, you’ll recognize him or her and be ready.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT