Since coming to Columbia, I have been in far too many romantic entanglements. But once I realized that I was actually unhappy with myself as a person, I finally gave up on love. It wasn’t just my personal experiences that led me to this conclusion, though. After seeing a friend of mine leave an abusive relationship and watching another friend develop an unhealthy codependency on her significant other, I decided that relationships are not worth the hype. (To any of my ex-boyfriends reading this right now, hey, how are ya?)
After a really crappy spring 2018, I decided to stop dating. For a while I had jumped from one relationship to another but never spent time dealing with the reasons that I had been unhappy in my first relationship. It’s incredibly hard to break up with someone you love when you understand that the reason for breaking up is because you are struggling to identify something that is not right within yourself. I’ve never been able to successfully end a relationship because I needed to focus on myself. How do you say to your partner that you have to learn to love yourself more than you love them?
I never got closure with the boys from said romantic entanglements. Quite honestly, I don’t really believe in “closure talks”—who wants to have a conversation with their ex about why you’re both shitty people and not right for each other? I tried rebounding to another person after each breakup, but that only ended in more complications and hurt feelings.
I learned to believe in the “cooling down period.” We all need time to understand who we are outside of a relationship. I transformed during each one of my relationships. And my cooling down periods worked. Even amidst a lot of crying, I was able to heal.
So, I tried dating again after six months of being purposely single. I hated it.
I went on dates with different guys. While the butterflies may have occasionally been there, they didn’t stick around for long. I wouldn’t realize that the feelings were momentary until it was too late.
It’s not that I have an aversion to romance. But I believe we all still have so much to accomplish as individuals that we may not be prepared to enter long-term relationships. I soon realized that I didn’t want to be the kind of person who fell in love six times only to realize that I had no more “firsts” to celebrate with my lifelong partner.
Now, being single, I’m a lot happier spending time with friends than I ever would have been in a half-assed relationship. Let's be honest with ourselves here: Relationships are great in theory, but are never actualized for a majority of romance-seekers. Puppy love isn’t real love. If you’re getting into a relationship because you want to be taken care of/take care of someone or have someone to hang out with, you want a dog. Hell, have a baby (but no anchor babies, please).
This half-assery comes when we put all our hopes into having those butterflies again—which can really deprive a person of looking out for what is best for themselves. It is unhealthy to try to take care of someone else when you’re unable to take care of yourself.
I cannot stress this enough: We all need to love ourselves first.
I know this is cliché, but love is fantastic and probably one of the most addictive emotions out there. Although it seems like I’m saying, “Stop dating! Only love yourself unless you are positive you are in a healthy relationship!” I always try to stay optimistic. A matchmaker once told my friend, “It doesn’t matter about similar interests, you can build those. But in order to make a relationship really, really last, you want an understanding of what you think a partnership is and what your values are.”
We often don’t think about how to define a successful relationship. With each relationship we are in, we learn from mistakes, what we did right, or ways that we handled ourselves that made us proud. When focusing on finding “the one,” we forget that we are consistently in a relationship with ourselves, and sometimes neglect to nurture that.
Try not to neglect yourself. Take yourself out for dinner. Go for a walk. Pick up a hobby. Meet new people! Create those interests that strengthen your relationship with yourself because it is the longest and most important relationship that you will have.
The author is a junior (technically a first-semester senior, but we won’t get into that) at Barnard. She is a political science and history double major and spends the majority of her time with her friends in Columbia’s International Relations Council and Association. If you wish to reach out, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on instagram: @hpayea.