Being twenty-something is awkward, confusing and not always easy. Cramming for exams, choosing a career, experimenting sexually—shit gets weird. Dating becomes more challenging than it was when you were younger: you often can’t see each other on a daily basis, you have to deal with money and time management, stress levels are high and social media reeks havoc. So is it worth it to even enter the dating scene? Or is staying school and career focused the smart thing to do?
Well I don’t have an answer for you. Deciding to date during college is a decision everyone must make individually. However, I can offer some useful information to help you make a more informed decision that best fits your needs.
I recently got out of a long-term relationship and felt extremely down, unmotivated and frankly just sad. Things ended on good terms; we both want different things, but we are still friends, so I could not figure out why I had this lingering lousy feeling. I decided it must be some chemical reaction in my brain forcing the feels to fall upon me. I took to the internet to prove my theory and reassuringly enough, I was right!
According to a study by neuroscientists at Columbia University, the same brain activity takes place during a break-up as when you’re physically hurt. When you look at pictures of, or think about, an ex-partner the part of your brain that processes pain is stimulated, thus causing pain. This is important to consider when thinking of entering a relationship; although it might be rainbows and butterflies to start, if the relationship ends, you are going to be distracted for a period of time after. On the bright side there are ways to shorten the time you feel pain after a relationship, such as putting photos and sentimental objects out of sight and busying yourself with other activities.
During the start of a relationship there is also brain activity that can cause distractions. According to a different study that compared relationships with drug addictions, they found that “dopamine is involved in both drug addiction and the early, obsessive stages of love.” This chemical being released in you brain during the start of a relationship can cause you to become obsessive and to have “cravings” for your partner. Although this may be sweet for a hot minute, it could end up interfering with other important parts of your life such as school and work.
Everyone needs to feel supported, especially during stressful times which seem to be plentiful in college. According to Oregon State University, “building relationships and spending face-to-face time with people who support us can help us find balance and promote academic success.” Finding a partner could be a great way to get the support you need. Having someone to talk to, to offer advice and to be around when times are hard is extremely beneficial. Being able to support another human’s needs is also therapeutic and rewarding. Thinking about and caring for someone else often helps take some of the stress and pressures of life off of yourself.
The above stated things, however, can also be found in a friend. What sets dating and friendships apart is the romantic aspect and, let’s face it, some sexy time is not only fun, it is extremely stress relieving. According to Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright, a sex expert, “sexually active people take fewer sick days.” Less sick days means less classes missed, which means a smarter you, right? If you can find someone you care about, find time to spend with said person without falling behind in school, support one another and have mind blowing sex, then go you!
In high school, I was a sort of serial dater. I would hop from one relationship to another quickly and did not spend much time on my own. So when I started college, I swore off of the wild world of wee-wee’s and hoo-hoo’s to focus on myself and my future. This didn’t last long. Studying in a wine cafe alone one Friday evening lead me to meeting my first real, serious boyfriend. Although we have since parted ways do to our very different visions for the future, it was by no means a failed relationship. I learned about love and compromise, I balanced school with my relationship, I showed stress who’s daddy (whilst calling him daddy), and I ended up with an amazing friend and overall great experience to look back on.
Yes the breakup was hard, but it was also a learning experience and opportunity for growth. I channeled my sadness into my writing and found a new love for poetry. I put my extra energy into sports and learning to cook. Eventually the pain passed and I learned to love myself more through overcoming the hurt.
My best advice is to focus on yourself, but when someone comes along that makes your world a little bit brighter, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to fall in love. I am aware how cheesy that sounds, but one day when you are in a crowded cafe flipping through flashcards of the human anatomy while sipping chardonnay, and you suddenly lock eyes with a stranger across the room, and you physically feel your heart start racing, you will know what I mean. Perhaps the smart thing to do is go back to studying or to pay your bill and walk away. If that’s the case than perhaps I’m not a smart girl and you should not be listening to me.