Ryan Chartrand

“Sigh.” This is the general sentiment sweeping campus at this time of the quarter, encapsulated in a single word, which, when expressed, is merely an audible release of all our distress and anxieties into the brisk December air.

But, is this feeling of accumulating heaviness merely due to the molasses-like crawl of finals week inching closer on the calendar? No; seeping in with the cold, there is that pervasive sense of wistfulness, even melancholy, and an odd longing that signals one thing:

The holidays are here.

What does that mean for relationships?

For starters, it means that for the next month, you will have to acquire your dating digest from a source other than your trusty Daily! (Tragic, I know.)

Beyond that, many experience a sense of repugnance during the holidays, directed at the very topic this column treats. Holiday vacation is supposed to be a cheerful time; but instead of eyes glistening with seasonally-inspired happiness, eyeballs roll at disgusting displays of the inherent romance of the colder months.

Here is my line of reasoning: that which is cold sends us instinctively searching for warmth. When it’s cold out, we wrap ourselves in sweaters, scarves, and coats; we warm ourselves from the inside-out with cozy hot drinks; we retreat indoors to where the cold, harsh world cannot touch us.

With the cold of the holiday season, it isn’t simply physical warmth we seek. We want to wrap ourselves in the company and protection of loved ones; we want to warm ourselves from the inside-out with shared laughter and joy; and we retreat indoors to places we love, places we are safe, where the cold, harsh world cannot touch us.

It’s this very affectation that makes some of you retch at romance when the holidays roll around.

I don’t blame you. Though, as a self-proclaimed severe romantic, I adore this “most wonderful time of the year,” I also experience a tinge of disgust when every other commercial is either for jewelry or some kitschy kitchen-bound mom taking cookies out of the oven, 1950s style.

Don’t fret. You can get through this holiday season without regurgitating all those red-and-green, iced-and-sprinkled Christmas cookies from your baking-obsessed buddies.

We seem to be under the impression that our precious American society values the individual above all else. If this is the case, why the, are we so hung up on this single-attached dichotomy? Why, in this supposedly modern and free-thinking culture of ours, are we compelled, almost forced, into or toward romantic relationships, whether we are ready for them or not?

Because things like jewelry and cookie commercials, combined with well-intentioned inquiries from well-meaning relatives at obligatory family gatherings during emotionally-laden times like the holidays, make us feel as though we should be in a relationship.

Please don’t mistake me. Of all people, I will be the first to tell you how much I value romantic relationships. When it comes down to it, I believe human relationships are the most important aspect of life altogether.

However, there is something else that is fundamentally important to the very quality of our existence, and primary to relationships themselves.

I am referring to self-worth: the value that lies in us as individual human beings.

This isn’t a hippie self-love thing or a cushy boost to your ego. The psychology world uses the term “global self esteem”: an overall positive sense of worth that comes solely from within our individual selves, from just being who we are, in and of ourselves. While it is certainly affected by outside forces (like real-world accomplishments or relationships with others), this self-worth does not come from them; it comes from feeling intrinsically positive about oneself.

This means that our worth does not come from whether we are single or attached. Thus, our feelings about ourselves should not be based on our relationship status. “Learning to love yourself” sounds like some hackneyed title straight out of a bookstore’s self-help section; but there’s something to the phrase, if you’re willing to look past the giant, shamelessly self-promoting picture of the psychologist-author on the book jacket.

Before you can bring all of yourself into a relationship, it’s probably beneficial that you actually like what you’re bringing to the table. There’s a perception that a relationship is this magical thing that appears and exists only in the metaphorical space between two people. While this is partially true – “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – a relationship is always the pairing of two separate, distinct individuals, who are worth just as much, or even more, than just who they are in the relationship.

While relationships can certainly define part of who you are, they should not dictate who you are. Healthy relationships are those in which both parties can be both autonomous and complementary, and the value of the relationship shared between the two is a product of the value of each individual standing on his or her own feet.

Gentle readers and friends, congrats on getting through another quarter in one piece; you did it. Take a pleasant sentiment or two along with you as you head into finals and a nice, toasty, long winter break. I wish you homemade cookies and trees aglow, cozy hot drinks and maybe some snow; but above all, even more than a toy, you deserve this wish: I wish you joy.

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

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