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Dating and building relationships

Posted on 02.07.2018
Graphic by Noah Crenshaw and Zoë Berg

Graphic by Noah Crenshaw and Zoë Berg

Classrooms, bars, workplaces and mobile apps, though all seemingly unconnected, they have one thing in common: they are one of the many places relationships can start.

According to Associate Professor of Sociology and co-author of the book “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships” Amanda Miller, college is a good time to build communication skills that could be beneficial in a relationship. She said college can be thought of as “practice dating,” but not just in terms of romantic relationships, but also friendships.

“You’re meeting so many different kinds of people, from political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds and international students,” Miller said. “So the more that you are able to interact with people who are different from you the more solid that your communication skills tend to be. That helps set you up for success later on in a relationship.”

UIndy has a wide variety of students from different background with different interests and students should not limit themselves when looking for a relationship by saying that they will never date someone who likes, acts or presents themselves in a certain way, according to Assistant Professor of Political Science Laura Merrifield Wilson.

“The first thing I’d say is keep an open mind and an open heart. So never say never…” Wilson said. “You never know who you’re going to fall in love with. You never know who you’re going to click with.”

Junior visual communication design major Linzie Williams and sophomore secondary English education major Larson Hicks met and began dating early in high school. Williams said that she thinks it is important to take time getting to know someone.

“Don’t rush anything,”  Hicks said. “I’ve seen lots of relationships kind of burn up because they’re trying to rush every aspect of their relationship. It’s been six-seven years that we’ve known each other, just wait until you’re comfortable with one another.”

Although Hicks and Williams both suggest taking time to get to know someone, Miller said society has gotten more casual and as a result of that people tend to disclose more personal information earlier in the relationship. According to Miller, this ties in to online dating.

“If your first conversations for the first three weeks are just through text message, it feels anonymous so we [society] might over disclose a little bit, like tell things that you wouldn’t normally tell if you were sitting face to face and had to look the other person in the eye… I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a great thing,” Miller said.

Junior human resource management and psychology major Katie Ellsworth met her boyfriend on a dating app. Ellsworth and her boyfriend have lived together for about a year and also have a baby together, but she said the first time she met him she took precautions. She said it is important to be cautious when dating online.

“When you’re using it [a dating app] know what you’re looking for in a person and what you’re looking for in your life….” Ellsworth said. “Just be honest with yourself and the more successful the app will actually be. If you don’t know what you want your just kind of looking at people online.”

Williams and Hicks also live together. Williams said she is very comfortable around Hicks and not embarrassed of doing things like burping. She said it is, in part, due to being together “practically 24/7.”

Hicks said he thinks that their nonverbal communication has grown stronger, and he also just enjoys living with Williams.

“It’s made me happier, just getting to be around her more,” Hicks said.

According to Miller, having communication skills helps a relationship be successful and not cause stress to either person.

“Relationships should not be difficult. Life is difficult,” Miller said. “So the hardest parts of your relationship should be the things that are happening on the outside and stressing you out on the inside… So if the relationship itself is hard, it’s going to be awful during those times.”

But, of course,  not every relationship will work out. Wilson said that when she talks to students who have recently broken up, they are often really disappointed.

According to Wilson, they should think about looking back on the relationship in ten years and they may realize that just because they were not a good match does not mean they did not have good times.

“I think it’s really important [to know] even if a relationship doesn’t work out it’s not a failure,” Wilson said. “You’ve learned something in it.”

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