The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 8th

Column: Navigating relationships — or "situationships" — in college

Isaiah McCleod and Kaelyn Wall are two first-year students  who met in the fall semester and are currently dating. COVID-19 has presented challenges, but also brought them together.
Buy Photos First-years Isaiah McCleod and Kaelyn Wall chat on the balcony of a UNC residence hall.

I always hear so many adults talking about how they found their soulmates in college. About how they met in class, or at a coffee shop one day.

I always thought that it would be that easy  — that dating in college would be as simple as someone walking up to me on the quad to tell me that they liked my sweater, and the rest would be history.

Instead, it’s a series of downloading and re-downloading multiple dating apps, only to be constantly disappointed that no one cares enough to get to know me.

We match on a dating app and the conversation is good, but the minute I ask to grab a meal instead of asking for his room number, the conversation ends. I used to consider myself a romantic, but now I find myself simply getting excited when someone asks me for my phone number instead of my Snapchat.

It makes me wonder if my experiences are rare, or if more women feel the same way.

Most of my previous relationships started out as a "situationship." 

I was surprised that the word actually has a formal Google definition, unlike the situation that the word describes. My situationships either developed into a true relationship or fizzled out and left one of us heartbroken. And by "one of us," I mean me.

“I always thought that [a relationship] was the trajectory of the situationship — that it was leading to something more — but I feel like there was a lack of communication as to what our expectations were with me and my past situationships,” said Kaila Hamm, a senior at UNC. “It was like momentary happiness, but it wasn't actually what I really wanted.”

For most straight women I know, situationships seem to be a pretty universal experience. 

But why are they such a popular option for people in our generation? Do many women experience the heartbreak of falling for a guy who is simply too entrenched in hookup culture to commit to them?

Hookup culture can be really fun for some people. You’re able to meet new people, have fun and feel liberated, all while exploring your sexuality. It is not something to discourage or disrespect. 

But if you’re like me and you've convinced yourself that hookup culture was the life for you without listening to your past mistakes, then it can start to take a toll as you continue to feel emotionally unfulfilled.

“If there are some emotional needs that you are not addressing, hookup culture will be really toxic and bad for your mental health,” said Amy Lo, a senior at UNC.

And if you are a woman who decides to participate in hookup culture, it’s possible that you will be looked at differently compared to your straight male friends who do the same.

“I feel like the woman is seen in a different light than a guy is,” Hamm said. “It's totally acceptable here for a guy to do whatever he wants and hook up with whoever he wants and then when a woman wants to do the same thing, it's frowned upon or looked at in a different light.”

We’re all just trying to figure out what works for us, whether it be hookups, situationships or relationships. Certain things work for certain people and no one can blame us for wanting what we want. 

But it’s important to remember that the people that we’re dealing with are human and have emotions. Ask questions about what your partner wants and don’t just assume everyone is after the same thing. We can all find meaningful connections that fulfill us, even in this disconnected era of college dating culture.

So with that, I’ve deleted my dating apps for the millionth time, stopped using Snapchat and am just letting life come to me. It’s my new era of dating in college. 

But if you see me on the quad, please tell me you like my sweater. Who knows, maybe the rest will be history.


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