We lay on the carpet floor, our beds, the couch, sit around the table and sigh. Oh, how we long to be in loving relationships. It’s that time of year when my friends and I fantasize about the people who we wish to meet, the ones we are longing after and those who were just not right for us. When will we meet someone new who will change and impact the rest of our lives as we know it? Recently, I realized I spend a lot of time having conversations with my friends about the existing or nonexistent romantic partners in our lives.

Sometimes, it’s really fun, and we talk about all the good things happening with those we are seeing or how we love our single life. Other times, we laugh at each other’s horror stories and cry over the heartbreak. But either way, my friends and I are constantly asking each other about each other’s love lives and relationships or lack thereof. This Thanksgiving Break, it was a common part of the conversation when catching up with friends and family. It almost came up more than how school was going, my social life or my career and post-graduation plans.

I wasn’t shocked my friends and family brought it up, because I often ask them the same. There is something exciting about learning about the emotional lives of our loved ones. But people tend to only pique interest in this type of relationship. For example, wouldn’t it be ridiculous if my family or friends talked about my best friendships with the same seriousness as they would about romantic relationships? For instance, imagine if they asked if my friend was meeting my emotional needs, how our communication was and if I saw our friendship long-term. It sounds pretty silly, and it shows how much interest we have in romantic relationships.

Our society highly values these romantic relationships, and lately I have been noticing the pressure we get from our media to have these experiences. There is the classic narrative in romantic comedies and princess stories of heteronormativity, where a man shows up solving all of the woman’s problems and they can now be happy for the rest of their lives. This could be a driving force in why women feel like they should want to be in a relationship and why we are all so obsessed with talking about these relationships. Women have been taught to think being in a relationship is going to complete us and make our lives better. We are taught we can only see our worth if there is a man present, which gives men a lot of power.

Romantic and sexual relationships are important because they can add some positivity to life, like having someone who is there for you, who lifts you up and is your partner at the end of the day. But one’s problems are not going to be solved because one now has this partner. Also, in romantic comedies the female characters are very dependent on the male characters. Our media needs to portray confident independent women who make things happen and do not wait for a man. Women who put their needs, wants, passions and careers before the subject of their love life.

I know this is a common feminist rant about seeing more complex storylines for women and created by women. But the only way we are going to see a change in the content that is created is if these storylines are created by the people who actually experience them. Ultimately, if men with the power are creating the media women consume, they are fostering this obsession with relationships and the expectation of what we should be. We need to see more storylines about young women who do more than just fall in love. Women deserve to learn from a narrative that their interests, passions, careers and who they are as a person are so much more important than if they are in a relationship.

I see my friends and me falling into toxic conversations during which we discuss our relationships first before we even bring up anything about ourselves. We all have other things happening in our lives that have so much more importance, which we should be highlighting and sharing with one another. Relationships are crucial and fun to talk about, but so are our friendships; these should be equally as important to our romantic relationships.

This cuffing season, let’s try to not get caught up in the toxic messages and conversations about relationships. Let’s focus on bettering ourselves. Let’s talk about our present and future goals, passions, interests and careers. When you are ready to be with someone, make sure that they complement the already amazing life you have and the person you are without them.

Ellery Rosenzweig can be reached at erosenz@umich.edu.

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