Relationships at Middlebury: are they built to last?

By TRE STEPHENS

Dear Tre, 

Are relationships sustainable in the Midd environment?

— Anonymous

Dear Reader, 

Thank you for your submission. This column may be short due to it being midterm season. However, I still wanted to take the time to answer your question. I may also refer to some of my other columns on preferences, sexuality and labels, because I think they connect to this question. 

Before I begin to answer the question, I want to ask readers a different question. Think to yourself, How many people do I know at Middlebury College who are in a relationship? Some of you may say everyone is, or some of you may say you only know a few people that are, and some of you may say you know no one in a relationship. I also want you to ask yourself who gets to be in a relationship. Here — I’ll give you a hint. If you are a cis, white male or female, then you have the best chances of being in a relationship here on this campus. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it can make for a very toxic environment where people may not feel good enough to romantically pursue anyone on this campus. 

Unfortunately, I come from a place of bias because I have never been in a relationship here at Middlebury. This is something that I hope to change in the near future, but for now, I’m still single. Do I think relationships are sustainable at Midd? Sure! Do I think healthy relationships are sustainable at Midd? Well, maybe. Let me explain. 

I think everyone on this campus is capable of being in a relationship. However, we need to ask ourselves why are we in such a rush to be in one. I think it comes from the societal pressures associated with being a young adult. We see how we should live from movies and even from watching the people around us in our everyday lives. We see that we should go to school, get a job, get married — a very traditional view of how things should go. Well, I think that pressure is weighing down on us to try, and push us to be in relationships in an early age. 

Once we get into them, we tend to hold ourselves and our relationships to unrealistic standards. Example one: “I need to spend as much time with my partner as I can.” No, you don’t. You shouldn’t have to be in a person’s face 24/7 to prove how much you like them. Example two: “I need to get my partner a gift for our three month anniversary.” Wrong again. A healthy relationship requires both parties to have an understanding with one another that promotes a safe environment, not one tethered to unrealistic standards. 

The problem with Middlebury students who are in relationships is that they have to make it known to everybody around them that they are in love. Again, here we go with those unrealistic expectations. Don’t bring your partner to a party and then make out in the middle of the dance floor. Don’t sign up for a “friendly mixer” and then come with your partner. Don’t spend every moment trying to make your relationship as public as possible. Relationships can’t handle that kind of public pressure. They are meant to be between the two parties involved. Here at Middlebury, I see my friends that are in relationships and I see how stressed they are because their bonds are built on unrealistic expectations. 

So, again, do I think relationships are sustainable at Middlebury? Of course I do. However, I do think there is a difference between being in a relationship and being in a healthy relationship. There’s also a difference between sustaining a healthy relationship, and trying to sustain a healthy relationship at Middlebury. My advice is if you are trying to pursue a relationship with someone, make sure you know what you want, so that you don’t base what you want off of others’ expectations. I said in the beginning that I come from a place of bias, but I do think that this advice can apply to a multitude of people. So if you know someone who is struggling with this, have them read my column. 

Love, 

Tre Stephens 

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