Love, sex and college
Decisions about sex and love are incredibly complex and as unique to individuals as fingerprints. As the daughter of divorced parents, it’s easy to be cynical about love — but I like to think about it as being realistic.
Not all relationships will succeed — hearts break, and people grow apart. On the much rosier flip-side, some couples grow old together, romance lives on and I still cry — happy tears — every time I watch “Love Actually.”
Grappling with love, sex and relationships is more challenging than the most difficult of calculus equations. There is no right answer and to be honest, it’s pretty scary. At MSU, I’ve encountered everyone from the single and “freely mingling” to a happily married couple. However, most of us fall somewhere in the middle of that incredibly varied spectrum.
At one end of the spectrum is Emily Moore, an elementary education junior, who is married to her high school sweetheart but legally can’t drink.
Clear across the room is Marc Cunanan, a chemistry sophomore, who needs both hands to count his past year’s sexual conquests.
Smack dab in the middle ground of all this is me — in a long-term relationship with no plans to marry soon and no one-night stands on the horizon.
Names in the game
Sex drives a whole lot of things in our lives, especially at college when “temptation” can feel like the only topic of conversation.
Religious or moral beliefs keep some in check, but plenty of other students are doing it — a lot. Some students see college as a playground of attractive coeds, and that’s fine — just be safe.
Cunanan, for example, plays the role of the sex-driven, relationship-challenged guy who just doesn’t know what’s going on.
He’s a practicing Catholic in a complicated relationship with a girl who has a boyfriend. In a sense, his situation is one of the loneliest varieties. Without complete commitment or actual singleness, Cunanan is stuck in the purgatory of love.
By marrying at age 20, Moore made her choice very clear.
Although most definitely not a driving force behind, sex played a role as an “obvious temptation.” The “why not” factor weighed most heavily on the couple, she said.
I understand the reasoning behind the marriage, it all makes logical sense. Marriage means stability, love and an everlasting commitment, which is one hell of a vow.
When it comes to premarital sex I have no qualms, so I really can’t even see that as a motivating factor for me. Moore said getting married seemed to be the next step.
I, for one, would under almost no circumstances get married while still attending MSU. Tying the knot right now isn’t something I see value in.
That’s not to say it can’t be done successfully, but there are many reasons not to jump the gun on getting hitched.
‘You can get with this …’
Getting married is a difficult decision at age 20, but some think they’re qualified to take that step. With parents married at 19 years old or other married peers, the choice to commit to someone for (in theory) the rest your life might be more appealing.
The age at which we say “I do” is a huge factor in divorce rates. According to research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, 81 percent of college graduates who married in the 1980s at age 26 or older still were married 20 years later.
But only 65 percent of marriages performed before the graduates were 26 lasted as long. No thanks.
I’ve made a conscious effort while in college to put myself and my education first.
With the advice of my stepmother, who married her first husband and didn’t complete her MSU degree until last year, I went on a study abroad, leaving behind my boyfriend for almost six weeks.
No, it’s not an extraordinary decision, but it was important to me. By doing that — and it wasn’t easy — I feel more solidified in my independence to pursue my dreams.
A casual attitude toward sex is one that can come with unintended consequences: disease, children, embarrassment, etc. It’s healthy to experiment safely and embrace the experimental atmosphere of college.
There’s a lesson to be learned in every botched romance and experience in many types of relationships can be helpful later on.
The problems start when people’s feelings are hurt on both sides of the equation. The “Love ‘em and leave ‘em” approach is acceptable only when both parties understand the nature of the interaction — I hesitate to call it a relationship.
Healthy sexual exploration is a small step from dangerous indiscrimination. Walk that line carefully.
Do what you feel
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’ll spend the holiday battling our relationship demons with some Burnett’s or enjoying a sickeningly romantic evening with each other. Either way, remember college is a testing ground for the real world.
That’s not to say there are no consequences for what happens here — ask anyone with an unplanned child or broken heart. But college is a place to take the time to figure out other aspects of life, such as careers, religion and sense of self.
Ignore the endless love, sex and relationship advice columns of newspapers and magazines — maybe even this one — because we don’t know you.
I don’t know you, and I don’t pretend to because it’s not about what I think you should be doing: It’s about finding the right combination of love and basketball, er, independence for you.
No one can explain with certainty where your love life is headed. All of that is learned on the job, and the prerequisites are sculpted by parents, friends, religion, society and many other variables.
The bottom line is no one can or should tell you how or who to love. Single or taken, don’t follow the leader when it comes to love.