Just a few days ago, one of my close friends/sorority sisters and I were wandering down a cute little street in the neighborhood behind our campus. We were laughing at the fact that 12 hours ago on this very street, the two of us arrived, tipsily bar hopped, and didn’t go back home together. A few jokes about it later, the air between us grew silent.
There is something I call “The Cycle” that tends to haunt many people today, especially in American college/post-college environments. It includes 15 main steps. While it seems like it is more prevalent among girls, I’ve seen a fair share of guys ripped into the vicious cycle as well. It goes a little like this:
- The Virgin Era: Everyone begins here. You’re innocent and naive. You don’t have that much experience with hookups, drunken hookups, or relationships. This period can be as long or as short as you make it.
- The Crush Era: You have a slew of crushes on the following types of guys/girls:
- The one that never knew you existed
- The one that was older/younger (or both)
- The one that was way “out of your league”
- The one that you were deemed “too good for”
- The one that liked you back but neither of you did anything about it
- The one that was an asshole but you still liked him/her anyways for some delusional reason
- The one that was your best friend
- The First Crossroad: At this point, a *complicated* situation arises as you and your crush decide what to do about your feelings. This could result in Step 4 or going back to Step 2. Regardless, this era can be a bit energy consuming.
- The First One: You start dating someone exclusively.
- The Golden Era: Things are phenomenal in your dating life. Everything is rainbows and flowers. You’re in luuuuuuuv.
- The Clouded Era: You find yourself constantly stressed or not as happy with the current situation of your relationship. Whether this is when your relationship plateaus or when you start realizing you’re not a good match, it weighs you down.
- The Patch Era: You both do everything you can to fix things until you can at least fake optimism about your relationship.
- The End, Part 1: You both know it’s over. You break up. You don’t speak for a while. You both cry. A lot. It’s miserable.
- The Numb Era: There are no tears left. Everything is numb. One or both of you find yourselves digressing, spiraling out of normal behavior. It’s not pretty. You can’t help but reach out to help or ask others to help him/her for you.
- The Retry: Something happens and brings you together. This could be as little as a run-in one day or as big as something tragic happening. You fool yourselves into thinking you’re going to get back together when in reality you just miss the company and need someone there that is familiar.
- The End, Part 2: You each go through the stages of a breakup at your own paces. Rock bottom is somewhere in here.
- The Second Crossroad: You’re hopeful, fun, and outgoing again. Do you date or live up the single life?
- If you choose to date, repeat Step 5 till you reach Step 12 again.
- If you choose living a single fun life, here it goes: You flirt with strangers. You go on dates. You embark in fun and non-intimate sexcapades. You have “the time of your life.”
- If you’ve only dated your first love at this point, you are trying to cover up the fear that you will never love again/be loved again.
- The Funk Town Trip: You go into this funk where you spend your hours self-evaluating and self-pitying. You question the past and how you got here. You think you’re lost. You don’t know what to do or if you like who you are and how you’ve changed.
- The Warring Era: You try combat all those thoughts and regain control of yourself that by repeating Step 12 (and either choosing to stay at Step 12 or going back to Step 5 which will now be known as “Serial Dating”).
- The Hole Era: After a few breakups, if you decide to go back to Step 12, at some point you will suddenly catch feelings for someone OR you find yourself hating the casual sex. You end up shying away from usual social activities that involve meeting new people especially in an alcoholic setting. You mope a lot, brood a lot. It often ends with you sitting in a coffee shop one day questioning whether or not you like the changes you’ve made, and whether you’re capable of ever letting someone heal your wounds and love you for a lifetime. ~sips tea~
Now you might be asking yourself why I just walked you through what seems to be a very common and “natural” transgression. However, The Cycle isn’t as common or “natural” as we think it is. In many other cultures, you’ll notice that people are not afraid to do what we call “Serial Date.” In fact, it seems that many are relatively confident in themselves and what they want, enough that they spend much less time alone between relationships than we tend to. Many people in different cultures are also not afraid to exclusively invest time in one person for a bit to figure out whether or not it will work.
You see, the biggest downfall of being stuck in The Cycle is not necessarily the fear of commitment but the fear of going through The Cycle again after they break out of it. All my friends (and myself included) who started out as “relationship people” have been so jaded and scarred that they lost many of their rosier romantic viewpoints. We used to like coming home to someone, sharing our highs and lows with someone, growing steadily with someone. Now, we hate anything and anyone that derails our plans. We don’t let anyone in enough to have to worry about ~catching feels~. We have the tendency to view many hookups as disposable experiences that we don’t care about. It’s our way of being “independent and valuing ourselves first.” But what we don’t want to admit is that we are acting in a way that purposely drives away people who resemble what we want in the long term. Then when these potential significant others show interest in us, we panic and tell ourselves that “They’re too good for us.” We push them away. We are afraid that if we date them again, we will end up going through Steps 8 through 15 again.
The reality of the matter is that everyone is going to be heartbroken at some point in their lives. I’ve seen too many of my friends push away a potential significant other because they are so terrified of their “baggage” and that they’re too “messed up” for them. I promise you that this person is not the same as someone from your past. No matter what doubts you have, just remember that.
Everyone goes through The Cycle at least once in their lifetimes, especially in college. Embrace the lessons you learn about yourself as you go through it, and don’t be afraid to break free from it when you find someone who is not afraid of your “baggage” and understands your scars. Don’t be afraid to be loved. Don’t let one person’s actions take away your confidence or your long-term happiness. You will only grow and become a better version of yourself through it.
Bonne chance, mes chéries.