The Cosmopolitan article “Why Is College Dating So Screwed Up?” was published in November 2013 and has been circulating Facebook newsfeeds ever since. It cites problems such as the person who cares less, has more power, so both parties in a relationship often try to not care. While the writer is correct—college dating is often screwed up—she doesn’t have to be. Having a successful relationship cannot be based on a contest of who can care less because that will never lead anyone to have a healthy, satisfying romantic relationship (and it probably messes up friendships as well). Here are some ways to ensure that if you date while you’re in college, you won’t feel like you have screwed up (and you’ll know how to avoid those who will end up screwing you over).
1. Sharing is caring. This doesn’t mean that you have to share all your innermost secrets on the third date (or fourth or fifth). Talk about those whenever you feel comfortable. What this means is that you should share your feelings. At any point in time. Be honest about how you feel. Don’t say you love sushi when you will end up struggling to choke it down at dinner. Many colleges, including the University of Washington, attribute healthy relationships to honesty and communication. Admit that you have feelings for a person if you’re interested. Being open and honest can be difficult, but it is often rewarding. Most people (including college students) admire confidence, so confessing to finding someone attractive can be a turn-on, instead of actually giving the other person more “power.”
2. Remember there is no right way to date. However, the tricky part of that is finding people who have the same relationship goals as you. There is no reason to stay with someone who wants to settle down when you just want to casually date and not be tied down. In fact, not only is there no reason to stay, but there is no real way it will work out. One or both of you will end up frustrated and disappointed, so you’re better off breaking it off early and continuing to look for someone who has the same end goal as you.
3. Express expectations. The idea of college students being sexually active isn’t just a myth; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a survey expressed that nearly 80 percent of college students are sexually active (defining “sexually active” as engaging in anal, vaginal, or oral sex). But this means that roughly 20 percent are not. Being open about your sexual expectations (whether that means about simply engaging in sexual activities, stating how many partners you’ve had, saying if you use a form of birth control, or even questioning whether or not it is OK to engage in sexual activities with other partners) and respecting the other party’s expectations is crucial. However, a recent Cosmopolitan article addressed that most young people in their 20s have not discussed STIs with their partners, which can really put a cramp into how your expectations may differ from your partner’s.
4. Assess where you’re looking for dates. College dating is often seen as nonexistent because people tend to look for dates when they’re at parties or bars. You might meet a really great guy while you’re out, and you might exchange numbers, but often, you won’t hear from him after a couple of days, unless he texts you as a booty call and you respond to it. Or you might meet a really pretty young woman and you flirted with each other all night, but then she doesn’t respond to your texts the next day. Either way, neither scenario is optimal. College students actually have it pretty easy when it comes to meeting people! Between student organizations, classes and neighbors, there is pretty much a guaranteed way to meet new people if you want to. Starting a conversation may be more difficult without liquid courage, but you’ll automatically have something to talk about if you’re meeting someone with a known shared interest.
5. Don’t rule people out. The friend zone is real (for both women and men) but it doesn’t have to be. If you know someone is interested in you, but you aren’t sure, take him or her up on the offer. At the very worst, you don’t have fun, but you don’t have to do it again. The paradox of college dating is how picky college students often are, and not in a way that allows them to still have the best outcome. Just keep an open mind, and if you’re still not interested, that’s fine. You’re not obligated to date someone, but if you don’t consider all of your options, you may be leaving someone out who would really mesh well with you.