Relationships or Fifth Courses?

A great woman once told me, “Love is co-existence and not co-dependence.” I firmly believe that one of the fundamentals of any healthy relationship is allowing your partner to exist independently of the relationship; otherwise, it would never amount to love, but would rather be a battle for power. Fortunately, many Amherst students share my opinion. Nevertheless, I often hear my peers make the following statement: “Well, relationships are like fifth courses.” Whenever I hear this, I cringe: Why would anyone think of a relationship as a burden? Allow me to explain myself.

Throughout my years, I have heard many times that romantic movies are not realistic. However, if you watch “Stuck in Love,” you realize how easy it is for a romantic movie to be cynical about love. Undeniably, being in a relationship is difficult, but you get from it what you put into it. If I were in a relationship that was making me miserable or too tired, to the point of furiousness, then I made a fault somewhere — relationships are bound to make you explore the human urge for intimacy, not desperation. Understandably, some people take more time to adapt to relationships than others do, but one should go into a relationship knowing so and should be ready to be patient — in fact, one should choose to be persistent. It is unfathomable to me why some people rush into relationships simply because of physical attraction or “chemistry.” Making hasty decisions usually results in complicated relationships. I am not telling people to excessively overthink everything, but rather to sometimes allow reason to topple emotions. If I think of my relationship as a class, then I am probably in the wrong relationship.

Moreover, I have heard many times that relationships tie down a person to one place; indeed, some people find the ultimate thrill in traveling and being outdoors. That is sometimes the case, but not always; it actually depends on your significant other. Notably, the greatest deterrent of a successful relationship is the lack of communication. If you are dissatisfied with something, you should simply verbalize it rather than bottle it. Indeed, secretiveness has rarely enriched a relationship. Relationships are supposed to be something you are willing to invest in, not some course requirement for the major of a happier life. If people constantly think of relationships as classes, then we will become less willing to enter into new relationships for fear that they will be “an extra load.” However, it is much better to be able to say, “I am not ready for a relationship right now, and I’m okay with waiting and focusing on academics” than to say, “Relationships are like fifth courses.” Euphemizing anything does not help self-reflection — honesty does. Besides, it is true that you do not know who you will become over your four years at Amherst College. Everyone is still working on what it really means to love friends and family and finding the best way to show them the kind of affection that they merit in your life. Since it is much easier to find someone to hook up with than someone to love — at least from what I have seen in college — then it certainly takes great dedication to select a significant other.

Still, I received criticism from friends for disagreeing: “Why is it a bad thing to say that relationships are like fifth courses?” they said. “Isn’t it true that you have to dedicate a block of your time for a relationship?” Now, the reason why relationships are not like fifth courses is that courses are already scheduled and have a syllabus — they actually require less effort. Figuring out how a relationship works takes time and commitment, and there will always be unexpected incidents. While a course has a particular syllabus and rules of conduct, a relationship is unique and the parties involved create its rules (and it may last more than four months, unlike any course you may take). If any relationship is thought of as an encumbrance or a “course” rather than an escape or a relief from the pressure of Amherst, then an honest re-evaluation is needed. I can only hope that people choose to be in relationships because they want to.