You have likely experienced emotional upheaval from being in a romantic relationship, or from never having been in one. Was that one of the harshest emotional experiences of your life?
Senior school and college students say “it’s complicated” more often than they say “I’m loving it”, when discussing their relationships. As young adults, thoughts related to a romantic partner are among the things on top of our mind, all the time, if not ‘the’ only one up there.
The first few romantic relationships involve very high investment in terms of time, energy, emotions and expectations on a daily basis. It is taxing, to put it mildly.
Spending quality time with the significant other, fantasising about s/he who could be ‘the one’, hating or loving or changing the chosen one, planning the next date, shopping for clothes/gifts, discussing friends’ relationships, hearing them crib/brag...the list of demands on our psyche is endless.
Is it any wonder then that our mental well being hinges a great deal on the health of our romantic life, at a time when we are already navigating the pressures of growing up, chasing career dreams, meeting parents’ and our own expectations?
Emotional distress experienced - due to the absence of/during/following the coming to end of - a romantic relationship could have its basis entirely in the circumstances and details of the relationship, but it may also be a result of long standing issues in one’s own life, getting manifested and becoming apparent in exchanges with the romantic partner or the fact that there is no partner. The difficulty in navigating the intense emotions and mood states experienced at this stage of life is not a sign of weakness, but evidence of real struggles, challenges and underdeveloped mental and emotional capacities that wreak havoc on a youngster’s overall mental well being.
We are forced to seek immediate medical attention when we ignore a back injury or ankle sprain for long enough that one fine day, these joints are unable to support the body’s weight and we literally break a bone. Similarly, when we let relationship related emotional difficulties become chronic, expecting our mind and body to stay stoic for far too long, we invite mental illness to creep into our system.
The only difference is that mental illness is not as obvious as breaking a bone, but manifests with disturbances in falling and staying asleep, unexplained crying spells, drastic changes in appetite, among other signs.
If we are not ashamed to seek help when we feel pain at a twisted ankle or a strained back, why do we judge ourselves and feel ashamed about needing help when we go through a break up, experience loneliness and rejection, or are extremely confused about our feelings for someone? Talking about these issues with peers, teachers, elders, cousins, and mental health professionals is a brave thing to do, not a matter of shame, guilt or impending doom. Welcome to the blog series on emotional difficulties stemming from romantic relationships during college life. We will discuss all about why we seek a relationship, what we experience, what the experience means and does not mean, and how to deal with nagging concerns.
Most importantly, no concern is insignificant and may be a hint to uncover wisdom about who we are, how we think and feel, and who our ideal partner is likely to be. Relationships ought to be beautiful and delicate, rather than disturbing and demanding. To navigate them, a little support and guidance goes a long way.
Let’s meet here again in February, see you!
Nishtha Singhal, Writer, Manoshala
Bhavya P, Counselling Psychologist, ManoShala