Relationships are tricky, no matter how old you are. In college, they can pose an additional set of challenges as both parties grow and work through new situations.
The foundation of a solid relationship is teamwork, but women should not be responsible for teaching men new skills or for cultivating men’s emotional development. However, the pressure on college-age women to do both these things is immense.
Women in relationships with men throughout college are often unfairly tasked with teaching their partner life skills, including emotional skills and daily tasks needed to live on their own as an adult. This needs to stop if we want to fight off the broad, cultural imbalances that are deep-seated in our society.
It is unreasonable that men are excused for blindly wandering through the emotional minefields that can accompany relationships, while women are expected not only to navigate such obstacles with ease – but also to guide their male partners.
When I first entered my current relationship, I did not communicate my feelings well. I expected my girlfriend to know what I was feeling and react in a way that accommodated me. In essence, my lack of communication forced her to do emotional labor, and my actions were unfair to her.
Women often bear the brunt of shepherding their partner’s emotional maturation through college. These responsibilities fall on women because of societal expectations placed upon both men and women. It is unreasonable that men are excused for blindly wandering through the emotional minefields that can accompany relationships, while women are expected not only to navigate such obstacles with ease – but also to guide their male partners.
The norm that women teach men how to act like adults while in college is unreasonable. College men must take the time to learn the skills they need and not rely on women.
Research suggests that boys, especially early and middle adolescents, are as capable as girls the same age to cultivate deep, intimate and honest relationships. However, as boys pass through their teenage years, they are socialized to not be in touch with their emotions, which causes issues down the line.
The idea that women are somehow inherently better at emotional work than men is wrong. Emotional work in a relationship is more closely linked to gender construction than to biological sex, so this cultural norm can be offset if we treat each other as equals. All of this information is to say that men can and must step up to do more emotional work.
Practical skills are another aspect that women tend to either teach their male partners or end up doing it entirely for them throughout one’s college years. Learning how to cook meals, do laundry and keep a residence hall room or apartment clean are life skills that men should know prior to college and without the help of a significant other. Shirking this responsibility to women plays into gender stereotypes.
This is not to say that it is impossible to share these types of responsibilities. But depending on the women in our lives to do tasks, from cleaning and cooking to smoothing out conflicts in our relationship, is a disservice to both of us. Putting these physical and emotional chores on our girlfriends isn’t healthy or responsible. We aren’t boys anymore and it shouldn’t take until there is a diploma in our hand before we start to act like developed adults.
Matthew Zachary, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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