Not Your Epic Love Story

We all know that one couple, the one who breaks up and gets back together more often than Lindsay Lohan appears in court. As soon as “Jack and Sally are no longer in a relationship” on Facebook, you can expect a tearful call from Sally, who rattles off all the reasons she regrets ever talking to Jack in the first place. Of course, instead of agreeing with Sally and adding that you “never really liked having Jack around, anyway,” (which is admittedly true — he’s kind of a jerk) you quietly console her with an unlimited supply of tissues and chocolate, knowing that history will repeat itself in a week.

You don’t want to judge Sally — she is human, after all, and she is your friend — but you don’t know how much more of this you can stand to watch. Jack has been a condescending jerk from the very beginning, undermining Sally even in front of her friends, and you can’t see things ending well. As Sally finally vows to move on to someone who treats her better, Jack shows up with his heartfelt apology and plans to to fix the already-broken relationship… and of course, Sally falls right back into his arms.

Everyone thinks Sally is making a mistake, and occasionally someone in your group will tell her so, but Sally shakes her head. “Our relationship is complicated,” she explains, “but we fight so much because we love each other.” It’s possible she sees herself as one half of an adversarial love story like Pride and Prejudice, or perhaps she feels that they are fighting for a relationship with some deeper meaning, but she and Jack try to justify their constant on/off status as the sign of something special. It doesn’t matter what their friends say; the two may not be end-game material, but they will have difficulty letting go of one another.

In a way, Jack and Sally are like the Ronnie and Sammi of your reality world — they can never seem to make it work, but they “love each other” too much to permanently let it go. We all know a Jack and a Sally — hell, each of us has been one or both of them at one point or another — but the phenomenon never stops happening. Often, when people are in these relationships, they mistake their constant struggles with the ideals of fighting for the one they love. After all, isn’t that how all the romantic comedies go?

Of course, we should never pull “real life experience” from a cliche movie genre (as much of a guilty pleasure as it may be), but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t guilty of this. Sometimes, we want so badly for things to be real that we will use whatever we can to justify our irrational thoughts and decisions. We think that if ours is the epic love story that everyone yearns for, we can feel confident in our decisions to crawl back to the exes who broke our hearts, even if that means that maybe they might have been stringing us along the whole time.

My theory, which has been bolstered by both first- and secondhand experience over the years, is that getting back together with an ex is never a good idea (exception to the rule: the reason you initially broke up was for long-distance issues). If things weren’t working out before, they will probably not work out in the future. This has always been my rule. And yes, I have broken this rule in the past (aren’t we all prone to breaking our own rules once in a blue moon?), only to be reminded of the reason that the rule was created in the first place.

I think that often we return to our exes for a few reasons. One: It’s easy to fall into comfortable patterns. We know the person well already, so if we can convince ourselves that both parties have grown in the other’s absence, then we can hope to pick up where we left off. This makes things a lot easier on us; we don’t have to let anyone new into our lives, and we can pull from a larger pool of memories with the person we have returned to. 

Two: The storm always seems lighter when it is long gone. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget all of the struggles of a rocky relationship once it’s over. The analogy reminds me of how we remember the deceased. After someone we loves passes away, we don’t sit around and talk about all of their negative qualities and the not-so-pleasant encounters we had with them. Instead, we reminisce about that person at his or her best. Likewise, we tend to idealize past relationships in such a way, remembering the picture-perfect highlights and blocking out the uncertainty and the fights. We long for another chance with that special someone, knowing that if we just changed a few things around, we could make it last.

However, this is where I reveal the ugly truth to everyone: if a relationship didn’t work out in the past, it won’t work out in the future. Chances are, you are not the exception to the rule. This doesn’t mean that a strong relationship won’t take some work or won’t involve the occasional argument, but if you spend more time arguing and debating going on a break than having fun together and finding ways to compromise, you should not be in a relationship with that person. In other words, yours is not the epic love story you think it is. The sooner you realize that you deserve stability and happiness, the sooner you will find it.

Dating, An Overanalysis

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From time to time, everyone is guilty of it. We meet someone cute who grabs our attention, exchange numbers/Facebooks and begin to socialize. Whether we officially go on “dates” or fall into a will-they-won’t-they pattern, we find ourselves smiling a lot more around them, replaying certain interactions in our heads and rereading our text message conversations in search of some hidden meaning.  We don’t do this all the time, but when we do, we instantly know it because our friends won’t let us live it down. It is the science of overanalyzing a relationship, reading into every little detail because maybe it will mean something later.

 Often I wonder why we do this. Why do we turn every single gesture into a symbol of something much more important than it probably is? (Tweet this!) After all, we recognize when our friends are doing it, and laugh as they drive themselves crazy with too many overanalyses of their crush/significant other’s actions. We encourage them to take things one step at a time, and tell them to focus on other things, but of course they only end up pointing out the many times that we have done this in the past.

Maybe our over-thinking gives us some confidence when dealing with unknown territory. Although we don’t know exactly what that one Facebook message meant,  our assumption that it meant something significant can give us hope. It makes us excited about whatever is coming next.

At the same time, of course, overanalyzing a potential relationship can be detrimental. It can cause anxiety if something he/she said makes us think that we aren’t wanted; it can also raise our expectations too high. If we obsess about every little detail, we will only go insane… even if things are headed in the right direction!

Ultimately, it is important to stay positive and be excited about whatever is going on in your life without thinking about it every second of the day. Maybe that extra emoticon was the answer to your questions, but it is important not to dwell on the small stuff  too often, and let the good things come and surprise you along the way. 🙂

The Freshman 15: College Relationship Tips

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With pink and red decor filling the shops, jewelry commercials dominating the airwaves and delicious chocolates hitting the shelves, it is easy to see that Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day, depending on your perspective) is here. No matter where you go — work, school, lunch, the grocery store — you can’t completely escape this holiday, whether you like it or not.

Regardless of any romantic entanglements this year, I though that this month would be the perfect time to address college relationships in this month’s Freshman 15. Whether you’re single or taken, these tips will help you navigate any college relationship. Tweet this!

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The Freshman 15: College Relationship Tips

1. Don’t force a relationship out of nothing.
I see this happen to college students quite often. A boy and a girl who consider each other somewhat attractive wind up in a compromising situation that leads to some kind of hook-up, and the next day, feel obligated to call it a relationship. Maybe it’s a guilt thing; if things work out, they can later say it was “love at first sight,” that they looked into each other’s eyes and just knew. Or maybe this is just their way of following one of those romantic comedy misconceptions — the idea that a random hook-up will ultimately become your soulmate. It happened to Emily and Oliver in A Lot Like Love, it happened to Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it happened to Blair and Chuck on Gossip Girl. The truth is, although these types of relationships seem ideal in the movies, that isn’t always the case in real life. Don’t force a relationship out of thin air; accept that some attraction is fleeting. (Editor’s Note: Don’t deny chemistry, either. If you already liked the person and you happened to end up in the aforementioned compromising situation, don’t write things off completely if there might be something there.)

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2. Never trust too easily.
Let’s face it – not everyone has the best of intentions. One difference between high school and college relationships is that in high school, you have a smaller pool of potential boyfriends and girlfriends, and it is likely you have known most of them since you were kids. Therefore, even though people change over time, your judgment in choosing a significant other is probably better because you have known these people for a while. In college, however, you are often thrust into a completely new social circle, and because of this, you don’t know much about the true character of that cute guy you met in the dining hall. You don’t need to be completely paranoid, but be careful when you place your trust in others. Don’t open yourself up to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

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3. Avoid comparisons.
Chances are, you and your significant other will probably tell stories about exes from time to time, and that is totally normal. However, don’t go on too much about your past relationships. There is a reason those ended, and if all you ever do is talk about all the nice things your ex did, your current significant other will probably either feel inadequate or annoyed.

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4. Keep some things to yourself.
Although your friends are probably thrilled for you, they don’t need to hear every last detail about how much you love your significant other or how the two of you spend every second of the day. This is a real life case of “Don’t kiss and tell!”

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5. First impressions will only take you so far.
Yes, first impressions are important in many scenarios, but keep in mind that things can change over time. For example, at my freshman orientation at college, the guy I thought disliked me and was too cool for me wound up becoming one of my best friends. Conversely, there have been times when I met people and thought we would be close, and they ended up disappointing me. You have to be receptive to the way people change, and be open to the fact that some people may surprise you (in good or bad ways).

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6. Go on dates.
This may sound obvious enough, but so many people forget about dating and end up sinking right into a married couple routine. Comfort is great, but in your late teens and early twenties, do you really want to lose all sense of romance? Hanging out in a dorm room all the time can get boring really quickly. Don’t let that happen to you while you are still in college!

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7. Avoid U-Hauling.
In the past, I have cited U-Hauling (or the phenomenon of a relationship moving way too quickly, to the point where you have practically moved in together after a few weeks) as one of the major problems of college relationships. In general, college relationships tend to be accelerated forms of adult relationships — especially when you’re in the dorm rooms — because your social lives begin to meld into your home lives. Early on, it’s likely you will run into each other getting groceries, doing laundry, taking out trash, completing chores, etc. If your significant other’s parents are in town, it is also likely you will meet them regardless of how long you have been dating. While many of these things are inevitable, it is important to maintain some semblance of mystery in the relationship. Don’t spend every waking moment together. (Editor’s note: I would like to credit my friend Jen for introducing me to the whole U-Hauling concept. Her blog entry about it was pretty informative!)

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8. Don’t neglect your friends.
You only have so much free time, so it can be difficult to distribute it equally between your friends and your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, you have to keep your friends in mind — even when your significant other is a temporary fixture (which, chances are, he/she is), your friends are a more permanent part of your life, and if you ignore them completely in favor of “love,” they might not be as willing to take care of you if and when your relationship ends.

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9. Don’t go in with the intention of “fixing” someone.
No one is perfect, but if you go into a relationship knowing exactly what you want to change about the person, then maybe you shouldn’t go into that relationship in the first place. You cannot control other people, and you should never strive to.

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10. Make time for yourself.
Ultimately, you should be your biggest priority. While it is good to spend time with your significant other, you shouldn’t spend all of your time with him or her. It is important to spend some time alone, focusing only on yourself. You have plenty of time to worry about others.

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11. Mind games are only for players.
If someone is playing the jealousy game with you, it is time to end it. Sure, other people may be attracted to you or your significant other, but flattering as it may be, it shouldn’t matter. And you shouldn’t bring it up in the relationship every chance you get. There is never a reason to try and make someone jealous; if you feel the need to play games, then maybe your relationship isn’t working out.

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12. Be careful about letting friendships develop into more.
Although pop culture would lead us to believe that our best friends are our soulmates, we have to be a little more discerning than that. While we may be compatible and comfortable with those people, the state of the relationship completely changes when you try and turn it into something more. If you don’t stay together, then you may be sacrificing a friendship completely by dating that person. The relationship may be wonderful, but you have to distinguish that before you do anything to alter the course of that friendship.

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13. Don’t place all of your self worth in the relationship.
You are worth more than simply who you are with. A relationship can be great, but it isn’t everything that makes up who you are, and you have to remember that. Regardless of whether or not you are with someone, you still have a lot to offer, and your happiness shouldn’t hinge entirely on how one person feels about you.

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14. If it didn’t work out the first time, it probably won’t ever work out.
There is always that one couple who breaks up and gets back together nearly as often as they change outfits. (Think Sam and Ronnie from Jersey Shore.) Regardless of how they feel about each other at the time, the underlying problems are always there, waiting to cause another scene. When you break up with someone, you have to do so knowing that you will not get back together with that person, especially if they commit one of the major deal-breakers: verbal or physical abuse, cheating on you, etc. None of those things are okay, and you should never accept them by returning to the person who wronged you in the first place.

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15. If you aren’t in a relationship, worry about something else.
There are plenty of perks to being single, and even if you do have someone who catches your eye, you should direct your energy toward other things: keeping your grades up, getting involved in things you love and bettering yourself as a human being. Work on accomplishing your goals that don’t focus entirely on other people.

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What are some of your tips for college relationships? Comment below with your own advice. If there are any other topics you would like to cover in future Freshman 15 articles, please let me know!