STUDENT AND THE CITY: Are we better alone than poorly accompanied?

Student and the City is a column dedicated to asking the big questions that all college-aged students are asking. It will explore different social concepts within the younger generations regarding relationships, lifestyle, social media and more. 

Like most teenagers “in love” mistakenly do, I went into my freshman year of college with my high school boyfriend. I should have known the relationship was over when I spent more time in one class gazing at this boy across the classroom than I did paying attention to the lecture. 

He was the kind of guy that didn’t seem real. The way I built him up in my head––he appeared more like a painting than a human being. I caught myself dressing up for class and trying to get his attention. 

One time he asked me for a picture of the assignment, and I ever-so cleverly situated my Spotify desktop in the background playing the artist he shared was his favorite during the dreaded “fun fact” portion of the first day of school, to spark conversation. 

Throughout the semester, we got along very well, and I pathetically lost my breath every time he shined his pretty teeth at me. It was obvious we liked each other, but I insisted on staying loyal to my unwanted boyfriend back home. 

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had broken up with my boyfriend earlier. Where would we be now? 

The reality is, I stayed in that relationship much too long. Many factors contributed to the overdue breakup: I didn’t want to hurt him and I considered him my best friend. But deep down, I know the biggest reason was my fear of the unknown. What if it didn’t work out with this new guy? I would be alone.

The question is: are we better alone than badly accompanied?

Whether it’s a romantic involvement or a friendship, fear-based relationships are not healthy relationships. Staying with the wrong people out of worry can cause us to overlook red flags, deal-breakers and mistreatment. 

I have held onto people who made me feel unwanted and feel stupid every time I opened my mouth to speak. I had “soulmates” who talked badly about me and wouldn’t stand up for me when others did the same. Some ditched me when I needed them most and never reciprocated the effort I put into them. 

I know I am not alone in my experience of toxic relationships. Instead of letting them go, we make excuses and allow them to stay so we feel a sense of belongingness we convince ourselves we need. 

We often equate our worth to the number of people in our lives that love us. The more friends you have, the more you are loveable. 

We depend on others for things to do, for protection and, frankly, to not look like a loser. It is comforting to be in the presence of another. The thought of walking into a restaurant or going out to a bar alone seems like the most daunting task to most. Societal expectations have pressured us to think that we appear unwanted if we are independent––that we need others to have fun. 

Psychologist and relationship counselor, Dr. Sherrie Campbell, told Elite Daily that the desire for connection is biological. Humans are programmed to be constantly seeking a partner, not only for reproduction but to feel needed as a team member. This natural desire often leads to fear, which she advises can be dangerous to your wellbeing.

“This fear can make us codependent, and this codependency or fear of being alone can keep us in toxic relationships—which break our self-worth and sense of personal value down,” said Campbell.

Many jump from relationship to relationship, friendship to friendship, without taking any time to be single. Because they are so eager for a partner, they will probably continue to get into relationships that they don’t really want, because they never took the time to learn what they want. 

Being alone can give you the clarity to see what you like, what you dislike; what you want, what you need. It allows you the time and space to self-reflect, and create the person you want to be. 

I honestly believe that you will never be happy in any relationship until you learn how to make yourself happy, and you are confident that you are okay alone. 

If you take anything out of this article, take some of the big sister advice I have received from my own. She always tells me the best things in life come when you least expect them. 

Honestly, it wasn’t until I was actively not seeking a relationship when I found something special. A few awkward situationships and mini heartbreaks later, I planned a semester abroad and told myself I would stay single until I returned. Instead, I found a relationship I actually wanted. It was full of green flags, and it made me happier than I made myself alone… which is something I never experienced before. 

To be fair, it didn’t work in the end––but showed me that a healthy relationship is possible and there is someone out there that will treat me right. 

When you learn to be alone, your relationships will give you something you truly want, not just something you think you need.