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The start of the relationship always feels the same: swiping endlessly, texting shallowly, and realizing that you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. This usually ends with either ghosting or something more — the dreaded what are we? Suddenly “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are carelessly thrown around yet ingrained into your identity. Even though you may have a genuine connection, it feels lesser in an arbitrary mold, a category. Your friends now see the two of you as a team and your partner as a liability. You may feel obligated to tell them everything, but you wish for privacy: a moment where you can just think for yourself. Labels might help claim exclusivity, but they also can simplify the emotional connection, complicating every part of your life.

Sure, this might just be a fear of commitment, but it also might be a need for independence, a cry for help. If you get an ick from imagining yourself in a relationship, especially with someone you have feelings for, then you sound a lot like me. I love the idea of romance, but the reality is suffocating. Why? It’s more than just a surface-level problem with commitment or categories. For me, it has to do with self-acceptance. If I can’t be at peace with myself, then how am I supposed to find peace with another person? The label adds so much pressure to this, reminding me that a healthy relationship is a two-way street, so I should be emotionally ready to handle both myself and my partner. It’s an equal amount of responsibility and risk.

That’s not to say that staying single is somehow irresponsible. Just the opposite. When you know you’re not in the right headspace, dating might not be the safest option for you or the other person. You might be wearing rose-colored glasses, leaving yourself emotionally vulnerable and volatile. A labeled, exclusive mold is the last thing you need. Whether you’re prone to codependence or avoidance, your negative tendencies will come out, especially when you feel suffocated.

Personally, I tend to put my value into another person’s hands, craving that sweet, sweet validation. This isn’t a sustainable mentality for a long-term relationship. There’s a reason why people are so quick to say, “I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. I need to work on myself.” Because usually, it’s true. The problem is that these people likely already knew that they needed to work on themselves before entering the relationship. So, we should try our best to be okay with ourselves before starting a relationship or even just labeling it.

As idealistic as all of this sounds, learning to be okay with yourself is easier said than done. It takes work, but progress isn’t linear. Right now, I’m taking a break from dating, and it’s helping me realize how much I love being single. I’m independent, self-sufficient, and working towards my future. I still love the idea of romance (and will continue to daydream), but I like where I’m at right now — I like being alone.

Kiley is a third-year English major passionate about art, poetry, and trying new things. In her spare time, you'll find her gorging down coffee, binge-watching Tim Burton movies, and deleting the Sims (again). After graduating, she hopes to pursue her passions as a writer and artist.
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