Over Spring Break, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with some of my girlfriends. Aside from the sunbathing, laughter, wild nights (NOT "Girls Gone Wild" style) and cheesy moments of "oh-my-God-we're-graduating!" nostalgia – the seven of us could always just sit around, as good friends do, talking for hours on end.
While I have had many great in-depth conversations and debates with these girls, what we have always done best is give each other a hard time. After all, that's what friends are for. However, it occurred to me one night, when a conversation was dropped surprisingly quick that while even though several of us are involved in great committed relationships, we never really discuss them. Sure there always are the courteous "how are you two doing?" type questions, but usually it is a topic we avoid unless it correlates with, again, more playful banter or as a confessional.
Now this confused me, especially because I know it is a constant assumption that women love to sit around and discuss relationships "Sex and the City"-style. And don't get me wrong, we do, but in my experience whenever this topic is actually thoroughly discussed it is because either we are upset and need to vent or because we are joking around. And while we will do the occasional gushing of – sigh – "I'm so in love," we don't linger or expand on the thought for too long.
What made me really reflect on this is that lately in the media I have noticed a lot of attention drawn to the concept that our society focuses strongly on sex. "The Today Show" had a week dedicated to the issue of teens and sex, and how casual sex has become a commonality outside of relationships. Oprah constantly talks about relationships and recently had a show revolving around people who forgive each other after having sexual affairs.
What I am trying to get at is, why is it so easy and comfortable for us to discuss and relate to the sexual, comical even negative components of a relationship, but so hard to open ourselves up to their more emotional side? Why is it easier to make ourselves vulnerable to a purely sexual relationship, than it is to an emotionally attached one? Why are we so ready to discuss the sexual aspects of relationships but clam up when it comes to discussing our feelings? Even if this isn't typical for you, it is happening and we oblige to it further when we stop ourselves from sharing positive relational emotion.
For example, isn't it odd that we can comfortably sit around and discuss our sex lives, or readily call a friend to vent our relational problems or to comfort us when things aren't going right, but to confide in someone when everything is going great is considered bragging or an annoying bore?
Why do TV shows love to revolve around problematic relationships and drama? Why does the news so easily expose the sexual activity within relationships? Why do we hide our emotions yet promote our sexuality? Why do we focus on what we have to lose emotionally rather than what we can gain?
Kids these days (I can't believe I just said that) are showing more and more signs of emotional detachment toward relationships, and studies have exposed that sex, not emotion, is becoming a strong determinate in relationships. It's not to say that emotions are not present within any relation, but it is stating that they are often overridden by sex.
What is causing us to feel so comfortable with sex, but not with the feelings we have in relationships? Why do we find that people are more willing than ever before to forgive their partner for cheating on them sexually? Is our culture changing to one of emotional distance?
This topic is bigger than I have room to write, but I couldn't resist bringing it to the table, and it is very compelling. So the next time you find yourself avoiding the topic of relational emotion, no matter how it's brought up, stop and ask yourself why. And if you get a minute, let me know what your thoughts are. But no matter what, try to keep the conversation going, because it definitely is something I will be working on.
Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communications major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian.