Love has its ups and downs, but it shouldn’t be a roller coaster

So I really liked this song when it came out, but now that they play it so much, I’m just sick of it. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this phenomenon at least once in our lives, and understandably so, given the repetitive nature of radio. But something I’ve noticed throughout my time in college is that this also happens with people, and the solution is not as easy as changing the station.

What I mean is that dating, for many people our age, seems to be little more than a form of entertainment. When they grow tired of the same old routine, they decide it’s time to move on to someone new. A friend and I were talking the other day about this very topic, and he was not the first guy I’ve heard with the feeling that the worst thing for a boyfriend to be is boring.

Those of us who have taken a psychology course or two may have learned about operant conditioning, which involves the use of consequences to shape behavior. Countless studies show that during animal testing, any behavior that is rewarded every single time will decline at a faster rate than when it is reinforced only intermittently.

This appears to happen outside of the lab as well. Girls are often more reluctant to date nice guys than jerks for this very reason: They would rather be in a relationship with a guy who treats them well only some of the time, because the constant ups and downs keep them interested and engaged. A guy who hardly ever screws up runs the risk of being too nice, so nice that the girl withdraws because things just aren’t exciting anymore.

Guys do this, too, in different ways. Often, they will choose girls who are beautiful and fun on the surface, but who lack the depth of personality or intelligence needed to carry on a serious conversation. Others still refrain from exclusive relationships altogether because the idea of sleeping with only one girl just seems a little monotonous.

Even among older Americans, we find very high divorce rates, some of those having failed because “there was just no spark anymore.” The problem here is with the fuel. The qualities we’re initially into aren’t always those necessary for a lasting relationship. College students and older adults alike are making the mistake of focusing too much on romance, passion and petty commonalities while forgetting to think enough about emotional compatibility, life goals and the characteristics of a good future spouse or parent.

Spouse? some say. Why would I be thinking about marriage at my age? The truth is, if you’re in a relationship, you should be. It’s not that you should be ready to walk down the aisle tomorrow, but if you’re dating someone you know you won’t end up with, the relationship isn’t much more than a diversion. And we all know that diversions, while exciting, also tend to be a waste of time.

Now, I know several couples who, hopefully, have found the good stuff and are happily planning their marriages. Others are in stable, comfortable relationships and headed in that direction. And goodness knows, the last thing I want to see is a rebuttal asking, “Who has Natalie Glover dated lately?” I’m simply urging those of you who did see a little bit of yourselves in this article to reevaluate your dating style.

Things aren’t supposed to be exciting all the time. The best partner is someone you value for more than what they bring you. Someone reliable and loyal, someone you can talk to about anything. Someone you’ll be happy with when neither of you are young and sexy anymore.

I don’t know about you guys, but I know a song I’ll enjoy forever. Each time I listen to it, I remember something about the first time I heard it. I notice a drumbeat or nuance in the harmony that I didn’t before. I repeat a lyric over and over, not because it’s catchy, but because it’s true. That’s what it’s really like to be in love.