A few months ago I wrote a column investigating a few reasons why some students at Stanford choose not to date. Today I want to take a different angle: When students do choose to date, how do they make it work? How do people find the emotional space for somebody else, the energy reserves necessary to invest in romance, and most importantly, how do people find the time?
Two of my dearest friends have been making it work for most of this year. It’s an uphill battle. Recently, they weren’t seeing enough of each other, so they condensed their Google calendars into one mosaic of color-coded obligations. Just looking at the monster calendar stressed me out, and suddenly I understood why both of them needed to work so hard just to make time for each other.
The problem is not just the sheer number of commitments that two people in a relationship face; rather, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of two overscheduled lives awkwardly trying to mesh. When you’re that busy, you find yourself needing to schedule the person you love into your Google calendar. Romantic, I know. The person who is supposed to make all of your worries disappear turns into another item to check off your to-do list, another color-coded rectangle on a calendar begging for white space.
For the poor guy who feels like he’s being penciled into his girlfriend’s calendar, it’s easy to feel like a chore. When he tries to bring it up with her, she may get hostile and defensive, feeling that he doesn’t appreciate the logistical gymnastics she went through to see him for thirty minutes at lunch. Maybe if he brought it up when she wasn’t so stressed, she wouldn’t flare up so much. But as long as her schedule is overstuffed, his requests that she treat him less like a chore only come across as one more demand on the laundry list. Hence the cycle: too much to do, remember to see boyfriend, boyfriend feels overlooked, one more thing to do.
As is the case with most problems I bring up in this column, I don’t have a solution. I may have a suggestion, though. Finding time for the person you love may not be enough. Instead, I suggest you try to make time. Not out of thin air, but out of those color-coded commitments on your calendar. Finding time suggests prioritizing your other commitments and fitting in a relationship in the precious white space left over. Making time suggests making sacrifices because you prioritize your relationship above your problem set.
Maybe your relationship isn’t your top priority. This is absolutely your prerogative as a young person with a million opportunities before you. Even so, the same principle can be applied to anything: your health, your grades, your family. What matters is that you stick your head in the sand and figure out what your priorities are. Once you find out what the most important things are, don’t allow yourself to fit them into gaps in your schedule. After all, the time that you allocate to an activity should in theory match its rank on your list of priorities. With relationships, or with anything else while you’re this busy, the bottom line is this: If it matters, make the time for it.
Make some time in your Google calendar to email Renee at email@example.com.