Longhorns: Let love in

Rachel Freeman

A recent Gallup poll shows college-aged students across the country are not as likely as previous generations to commit to relationships.

Although there are reasons that may motivate students to remain single, Longhorns should not resign themselves to being #ForeverAlone. Students should consider the benefits relationships can bring to their lives and open themselves up to potentially find love on the 40 Acres.

Many students choose not to open themselves up for romantic relationships — instead focusing on their academics or avoiding heartbreak. Economics senior Trey Berthelot says he has higher priorities than finding love.

“I am not in a relationship mostly because I am focusing on finding a job,” Berthelot said. “Spending time on romance can be nonproductive when I have academic and career goals.”

But students don’t have to choose. Having a romantic relationship does necessitate a commitment and time away from other activities —  you are spending time focused on another person. But relationships don’t need to take over your life. As one study shows, being in a relationship may negatively impact students attending class but doesn’t ultimately hurt one’s  GPA. This shows that academic success and romantic relationships are not mutually exclusive — you really can have it all.

If your relationship impinges on your goals, you shouldn’t be in it anyways. The Counseling and Mental Health Center describes many qualities of healthy relationships — including mutual respect and accepting each other’s differences. If a partner is pressuring the other to sacrifice their academic or career goals for them, then that relationship is fundamentally unhealthy.

Romantic relationships, like anything else in life, require time and commitment to be successful. However, young people greatly underestimate the benefits that commitment can bring. Science shows that a healthy relationship can have a positive effect on physical health, primarily by reducing stress and promoting “feel good” hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones are released only after you’ve bonded emotionally with someone, typically in the context of a close relationship.

Students in relationships know first-hand how positive a healthy relationship can be. Radio-television-film senior Rebecca Stewart said her relationship has involved many sacrifices for her, particularly when her relationship was long distance. But Stewart does not regret being in her relationship.

“There are so many reasons why staying in my relationship is more than worth it,” Stewart said. “He’s my best friend and has helped me through the worst lows of my life. The sacrifices we’ve made don’t even begin to add up to the value I see in our relationship.”

Some of my closest friends who I’ve seen go through bad breakups say they avoid future relationships because of fear of another heartbreak. While it’s understandable to not want to put yourself through emotional pain, living a life avoiding potential happiness for fear of pain is not healthy.

Even when a relationship ends, the lessons learned are useful forever. Another study shows that people gain social cognitive maturity, romantic agency and coherence from being in a relationship. Even in a breakup, processing emotions and finding coping strategies are valuable skills.

These tools can not only be applied to a future relationship but also apply to friendships and professional relationships. It is better to learn these lessons now rather than later on in life when stakes are even higher. College provides time to learn about yourself and learn how to be a functioning adult. Part of that is balancing time commitments and knowing how to handle disappointments.

Longhorns should be open to developing romantic relationships during their years on the 40 Acres. Life doesn’t wait to start until after college, so don’t keep your love life on hold.

Freeman is an international relations and global studies junior from Cedar Park. Follow her on Twitter @rachel_frmn.