You can’t find yourself if you’re searching for your soulmate

Cailee Zeraat, Staff Writer

Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Hinge; there is no shortage of ways to meet romantic partners in the modern world. Finding a match is as easy as swiping right or scrolling through hand-selected pictures on a customized profile. When navigating through college, “finding yourself” seems to be the common theme pushed onto us. However, many fall victim to the idea that finding yourself is synonymous with finding someone to be a partner in that journey. While companionship is comforting, it often hinders our personal growth and development of self-identity.

When in a relationship, especially one formed during a pivotal moment in your lifetime, it can be easy to conflate your romantic partner with your own identity, constantly lumping the two together. Your days suddenly revolve around your partner, even if you don’t see each other that often. A “good morning” text is your first priority when you wake up, and an evening FaceTime call before you go to sleep becomes a necessity. Plenty of energy goes into romantic relationships, regardless of how long you have been together. A couple who has been together for two months may spend a lot of effort keeping each other interested in the early stages. A couple who has been together for two years may spend the same amount of effort resolving conflicts and managing finances. Regardless of the stage of your relationship, there is constant work that needs to be put in.

While putting effort into a romantic relationship is rewarding, if overdone, it can take away from the effort that you should be putting into yourself. And for many college students who are entering their first relationships, it is often overdone. Teenagers and young adults already struggle to develop a sense of identity, and that challenge is especially amplified in a new environment hundreds of miles away from home. When in a relationship, your partner’s needs become important to you—or at least they should if you’re doing it right. Daily decisions are made with your partner’s best interests in mind, which can lead to you ignoring your own interests. You may lose sight of your own personal, academic and professional desires to appease your partner. While it may be endearing in the moment to turn down an internship offer to spend the summer with your partner, you later can find yourself regretting revolving your decisions around your relationship. Living for yourself is the most important thing you can do, especially when building the foundation for your adult life.

The college experience is heavily reliant on independence and transitioning into adulthood. 

Students all too often turn to romantic pursuits as they adjust between stages of life, limiting their potential to be independent. When you share such a transition with another person, that important experience becomes irrevocably intertwined with them. And unless you plan to stay with that partner for the rest of your life, those happy memories of lifetime milestones can easily be tainted by the reminder of a relationship that once was. 

Finally, no matter how perfect your relationship may be, all couples experience drama and conflict. Adding this emotional stress on top of the mental stress of a challenging academic experience can often be overwhelming for many students. It can be exhausting trying to study for your biology final while also trying to apologize to your partner for ignoring them because you were studying for said final. 

All of this is not to say that relationships are bad and you should never love anyone. However, I am urging those of you in relationships to balance your priorities and remember to put yourself first. And for those not in relationships, consider if you have spent enough time finding yourself before you find someone else. Romantic and sexual companionship is tempting, but it can consume most of your time and energy until you have none left for yourself. As someone in a long-term and long-distance relationship, I have been victim to the downfalls of young love. While I still have much to work on and many codependency problems to undo, my relationship has been immensely rewarding. However, if I were to do it all over again, I would spend more time on my personal growth and self-discovery before entering into a relationship with my current partner. There is no need to rush into anything in life, especially romantic relationships. Your potential to find love doesn’t end when you graduate or when you’ve dated 15 people by the time you’re 30. You have your entire life ahead of you to love deeply and beautifully, but you can only do that if you have loved yourself first in that same way.