Valentine’s Day is not just a day for exchanging candy hearts, going on a romantic date and eating an exquisite dinner, or having movie night in with your significant other. For many, Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14 – that’s it, just another day of the week.
While it is important to celebrate love, and not just romantic love, but self-love and love for people, places and things, it is also important to remember that while for some of us Valentine’s Day is a joyous time we celebrate with a significant other, others are facing the other side of Valentine’s day, a broken heart, loneliness and more. Tyler Jamison, an assistant professor for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies focuses a majority of her research on the formation of relationships in young adults. Jamison also looks at how these relationships can fall apart and how people cope with the ending of a relationship.
Jamison became interested in her research when she took a class on narrative psychology at Miami University where she studied to get her bachelor’s degree.
“I’m really interested in how people gain the ability to form stable and satisfying relationships while they are also figuring out who they are, getting an education, and planning a career or working,” Jamison said. “When I was an undergrad, I was especially interested in how people chose a permanent partner and I have found after almost 15 years of doing this work that I still circle back to that question.”
Jamison’s research is often based off of qualitative data rather than quantitative. Instead of surveys and numbers she is out interviewing and talking to people to complete her research. The age group she focuses on is “emerging adults,” or people ages 18 to 29.
“One of the really interesting things I found in the relationship histories study is that nearly everyone who went to college had a relationship during their 20’s that lasted at least a year and that also ended,” Jamison said. “In other words, almost everyone who went to college had a long-term partner who they loved but ultimately decided they didn’t want to commit to. This leads into another part of my research, breakups.”
With Valentine’s Day only a few days away, the people choosing not to celebrate the holiday are just as important as the ones who are. It is crucial that we realize this holiday isn’t easy on everyone, especially those facing heart break, loneliness, bitterness, or grief.
“It’s easy for Valentine’s Day to play on our insecurities about relationships, whether that’s having our hearts broken or not having a lot of relationship experience. It’s important to remember that people approach relationships in all different ways. There isn’t one right way to move through your love life. If you choose partners who treat you with respect, assess your relationships thoughtfully before leaping into commitments, and most importantly keep developing your sense of who you are, you’re doing just fine. Use Valentine’s Day as a reason to eat chocolate and don’t worry about the rest,” Jamison said.
Jamison’s research applies to Valentine’s Day because no two people are alike, and no relationship is the same. Whether you are single, in a healthy relationship or somewhere in between – you are doing great.
“There are really two things I would take away about college students and relationships,” Jamison said. “First, people have lots of longer term, meaningful relationships in college. Hookups have not replaced relationships. Second, breaking up is painful but it’s normal and necessary. If the relationship doesn’t feel right or there is constant conflict or you keep breaking up and getting back together, it’s okay to let it go.”
Jamison reminds students and young adults that being single doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Many, single young adults are searching for their partner and Valentine’s Day usually emphasizes the fact that they are alone. Jamison wants people to know that this okay and can be extremely helpful in personal growth.
“In the relationship histories study, people also talked about the times when they were single,” Jamison said. “Singlehood can be really meaningful, especially when people choose to be single for a while to sort out what they really need in a partner. Other research has shown what when we’re with someone, we tend to think of their traits as our ideal traits in a partner. When we are alone, we can explore those things without a specific person in mind. Being single is an opportunity to figure out what you want and need, so if you’re single make it count.”
No matter what you decide to do on Feb. 14, spend the day doing something you love, with someone you love (that person can be yourself).