Each week, Dr. Took-One-Psych-Class-Sophomore-Year will be answering Colorado College’s questions about the one thing that perplexes our student body most, Love on the Block. This week, we ask whether a committed romantic relationship is really possible on the Block Plan: can we commit despite the chaos of our lives? Email your burning questions about love, sex, and relationships to Catalyst@ColoradoCollege.edu for a totally free, totally anonymous consultation in these very pages.
Dear Dr. Took-One-Psych-Class-Sophomore-Year,
I really want to be in a long-term, committed romantic relationship, but I also know how busy I am, and how crazy the Block Plan can get. I’m worried that I won’t be able to actually commit to someone else, and I don’t want to settle for hook-ups with people with whom I don’t have a meaningful relationship. Is it possible to make a committed relationship work on the Block Plan?
Many of us believe that the structures of our lives are not conducive to love, to what requires attention and care over the long-term.
There is no doubt a kind of rhythm to life on the Block Plan, but it’s a rhythm of its own, one that isn’t terribly friendly to those conventions that characterize the lives of people who live by ordinary time. Planning for what is still weeks away seems strange to us, or impossible. All our months are half a week short, our time sliced into singular chunks, incommensurable with one another. The order of life for us looks like chaos from outside, and sometimes feels like chaos from within; how could we ever hope to commit to something as substantial, as potentially enduring, as love?
One of the significant obstacles facing those who endeavor to find love on the Block Plan, or indeed to do much of anything, is commitment. We are — or we tell ourselves that we are — too busy to invest in someone else in a way that is both serious and constant.
We fear that our schedules won’t align, that romantic relationships, where they exist, contradict the flow of the Block Plan, that they somehow escape the unique entropy of our chopped-up lives. Such relationships seem to exist despite our daily disarray, and not along with it.
Our lives are too hectic, our schedules too irregular, our plans too up in the air for a relationship, with all its dedication and imagination of the future, to be sensible. So we don’t commit, and we take ourselves to be realists.
It helps, to be sure, that a hook-up culture awaits our decision not to commit. Of course, many of us choose not to commit or to seek long-term romantic and sexual relationships for very legitimate reasons. We may simply desire that things stay casual; we may prefer sex without the accoutrements of romantic fidelity; we may wish to stay focused on academics, or athletics, to commit to that before and above another person. That is to say, many of us don’t seek commitment on the Block Plan, and this is well and good; for those who aren’t looking, it doesn’t matter whether there’s something to find. If sex beyond the structures of committed romance is wanted, a hook-up culture, though it may still be imperfect, can suffice.
However, for those who want to be in a committed romantic or sexual relationship while at CC, as is true for you, life on the Block Plan can often prove a hindrance. Sure, some of us don’t want to feel trapped, or we’re afraid of having to end what we agreed to begin; patience and work can overcome these fears.
But we can’t overcome the chaos of the Block Plan — we live in it. It’s true that commitment on the Block Plan demands more work and greater attention than it often does for those who live in ordinary time. But, with this work and attention, it’s possible, and the fact that extra work and attention are needed can lead to a love that is stronger, or better forged.
You and your partner will be better equipped to deal with the pressure that the Block Plan puts on committed relationships by communicating plainly and honestly, working hard to beat the forces of jealousy and over-attachment by carefully attending to each other.
All romantic commitment lives and dies on the basis of loving attention to the beloved’s needs, wants, and hopes. When the Block Plan feels like a hurdle to commitment, focus on this attention. The moments in which such attention is manifest, as small and ordinary as they may be, can mean a great deal more than any sweeping romantic gestures.