Why are we obsessed with relationships?

Zara DeGroot

There I was, sitting in my bathtub, wondering why I was feeling so distraught. Could it be that the water was too hot and the bath salts were making me weird in the head? No, not this time. Was I repressing some type of emotion after seeing my fifth grade crush appear randomly with a guitar on campus? Maybe, but not quite. Could it be clashing emotions about one day finding love? Probably, yes. 

I’ve recently re-watched “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” that early 2000s British film about a struggling young woman and her quest to find love. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

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Aside from the whole Hugh Grant/Colin Firth love triangle, I’ve always identified with Bridget Jones. As a young woman who is pretty much out of luck in the love department and is too socially incompetent for her own good, Bridget and I have a lot in common. That being said, I’ve always watched this movie relating to her from a distance. Like, that’s funny and all, ha ha! I totally relate in theory, but not completely! Surely I’ll be in a committed relationship by the time I’m 32! Tehe! 

But this time around was different. As the movie progressed, an unsettling feeling started creeping up. Maybe I was just sad and in a bout of self-deprecation (most likely what it was), or maybe it was the sesame tofu I inhaled earlier. I actually felt as if I was watching my life unfold, being in my mid-30s, yet still left alone in the relationship garden. I felt panicked about the trajectory of my love life.

This was when I realized that I had a problem that can no longer be ignored, and that I needed to reset myself on the tracks before I derail and go zooming away like in that Denzel Washington movie “Unstoppable”. 

How does one go about doing this? I don’t know. Good question.

I would say that finding true love and commitment is a goal for the majority of us. The prospect of meeting a partner who can be our person for better or worse is a dreamy thought for sure. Someone who we can throw up on, drool on and cry on, and they’ll still think we’re the hottest in the room? How could you say no? We all want to be unconditionally loved and accepted, no matter how unremarkable we may feel. Also, it can be frustrating when you see an actual terrible person in a happy, committed relationship, and you’re over here being single yet slightly above mediocre.

Though finding someone to share your life with, whether that be a few months or a few years, can be a fantastic addition, it’s easy to speed up the process and jump into a relationship because we feel as if that’s what we should be doing at this point in time. There’s a societal pressure telling us we need to date someone in order to feel complete and “on track” in life. We’re programmed to constantly be searching for The One — at the grocery store, in one of our lecture classes or at the neighborhood mailbox. But sometimes it just doesn’t go the way we envisioned it in our heads.

The Modern Love section of The New York Times is revolutionary, and each article presents a very unique aspect of dating in our day and age. Recently, American novelist Elinor Lipman contributed a piece called “Taking a Break for Friends,” in which she shares the story of meeting a man on Match.com, and the bizarre, year-and-a-half relationship that followed. This passage in her piece stuck with me:

“Thirteen months of suboptimal dating passed,” she wrote. “Several times I announced I couldn’t see him anymore because I had feelings for him that weren’t reciprocated. That went nowhere. If he looked (in my opinion) stricken, I would take it back.”

Elinor Lipman is a 65-year-old woman, and was 59 when she met this man. I find it fascinating that, at that age, she dealt with the same type of frustration with a potential significant other that many millennials complain about all the time. Navigating relational commitment surpasses perceived boundaries of age.

One day, you’ll be soaking in a eucalyptus bath and think, “Is my goal in life to simply be the partner of another person? Don’t I want to achieve a title far beyond that? Also, did I remember to turn off the stove?”

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I’ve reached a point in life where a relationship is not the end goal for me. Success in every field I dip my toes in and timeless beauty? Yes, that’s a solid end goal. Though I’d love to commit to someone, that’s not what I’m striving for, and that took a while to figure out. If I find that person tomorrow, that’s cool. If it happens when I’m 36, I’ll be a little disappointed but it won’t be the end of the world. Finding that person would be nice, but I’m aware that it probably would not go the way I’d envision it in my head — as it is for many people who enter into relationships. Everyone’s on some type of game.

There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to finding love and happiness in a committed relationship. At the same time, it’s also not wrong to have some bigger goals. People can leave you, but an Oscar or Pulitzer Prize can’t. And having a solid group of friends always goes unrivaled.

It’s normal to wonder if your hotline will ever bling, and one day it might. But until then, other aspects of your life could bling. I encourage you not to ignore that, even if you feel like your love life is what needs the most attention.

Collegian columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @zar_degroot.