Ryan Chartrand

I’ve been in a relationship with relationships for quite some time now.

It’s been such a long time that I can hardly remember how it started. All I recall is that suddenly, this multifaceted, dynamic subject captured my attention and fascination.

Soon I couldn’t think about anything else. Every thought or feeling I had somehow led me back to i.: There was always some connection to be made in every movie I watched, every book I read, every song I heard.

So I sought it out. I read about it, wrote stories about it, wanted to talk about it ceaselessly with friends who were kind enough to humor me, most of the time. I couldn’t get enough of it.

It was all proverbial wine-and-roses at the beginning. I was obsessed. I was constantly looking to learn more, to figure it out; and there was always more to be discovered. The information and the knowledge seemed endless.

But as the years passed, I grew up, and realities began to sink in.

I strove to teach myself as much as possible, so that I could employ all my knowledge to have the best relationship possible. But what I learned didn’t always work the way they were supposed to.

I felt angry, betrayed, mocked: with all the romantic ideals in the movies and the psycho-babble from my books, what was I doing wrong? Why was it all failing me?

I was a little upset with relationships for a while. My hopes dashed, I decided cynicism would be a better outfit for me. After all, relationships had me going there for a long time, and then, to teach me a lesson, it pulled the rug out from under me.

But time really is the best healer, and slowly I came around again. I realized that it couldn’t be wine-and-roses indefinitely. I couldn’t learn everything I needed to know from psychology books, lifestyle magazines, or romances.

I had to be proven wrong: my relationship with relationships couldn’t be a perfect one. It wasn’t the same as it used to be, but maybe it was better – not because it had changed, but because I had changed my perspective.

So I’ve been on both sides of the battle: I’ve been a hopeful romantic at times, and a hopeless cynic at other times. Today, my relationship with relationships isn’t as volatile as a love-hate one.

For the purposes of this column, I’ve had to find a neutral spot somewhere in between – if I was too starry-eyed and romantic, or too cynical and glum, gentle readers would have put the paper down (with good reason!).

But I’d say, after the ups and downs, after having years and years to think about it and lots of columns through which to sort it out, I’m declaring my allegiance to the side of optimism.

Our world is a jaded one, and very often it’s a hostile place for relationships.

As college students, every time slot on the calendar is booked weeks in advance. We have obligations to academia, to work, to internships; to success. Somewhere in there we have to fit in time to spend with friends, family, and ourselves.

On top of all that (or at the bottom of it), most of us are looking, either actively or passively or both, for someone, more than a friend, with whom to share all the good, bad and ugly of romantic relationships.

We have time to work, to stress, and to reap the tangible rewards of tangible triumphs. Where does that leave time for relationships? It would seem that love isn’t a priority anymore; relationships are supposed to just fall into place on the side, and stay there.

Disney told us to hold out for “the One” and “happily-ever-after.” Then social influences told us it was all make-believe.

Today, media influences sensationalize unhealthy relationships. On the surface, shows like Dr. Phil and books with titles like “Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships” aim to help people improve their relationships.

Instead, they give us ever more reasons to diagnose every relationship, to pathologize and predict what will go wrong next with the relationships in our own lives and in others’.

We know a successful relationship isn’t problem-free; but the minute a problem springs up, we anticipate the worst, and start placing bets on its inevitable demise.

We’ve forgotten two important facts:

One, no relationship is perfect; and two, there are still good relationships out there!

Sometimes it seems like good relationships are an endangered species; by some sociological accounts, that may be true. There must be a reason why all we ever see highlighted are “bad” relationships.

But good relationships haven’t entered the realm of mythic creatures (yet)!

They’re out there, if you look for them. They’ve gotten through the “problems” and made it out without dissipating into mythical status. They’ve made it past the lovey-dovey stage and into the reality stage, where wine-and-roses are no longer the cure-all.

They’re closer than you think. They’re among your friends, acquaintances, family, fellow students, co-workers, professors, and mentors. Instead of honing in on “problems,” maybe it’s time to take a look at what really works.

Real-life examples are a primary foundation of learning. These real-life good relationships can be an endless source of inspiration and motivation to improve our relationships – and our relationship with relationships.

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psycholgoy junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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