Feeling the DTR pressure

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Westmont students often have to deal with confusion in relationships, including the phenomenon referred to as “defining the relationship,” or DTR.
While it seems like common sense to make sure that both parties of a relationship are on the same page about what type of relationship they are in, there are adverse effects on Westmont culture, resulting in a subculture obsessed with relationship status and marriage.
Students can feel pressured to be in romantic relationships, sometimes immensely so. Caitlin Postal, who graduated in the spring of 2013, had some thoughts about that societal pressure.
“We're given a culture of romance and marriage from an early age and we're groomed to expect certain methodologies from potential mates,” said Postal. “In that way, I think that we're also under pressure to live out a certain type of relationship, one that I don't think is necessarily healthy.”
Pulling from personal experience, Postal mentioned the emphasis Westmont students place on romantic relationships, both past and present ones. “In my time at Westmont, I found that many of my peers were more interested in the goings-on of my dating life than the intellectual stimulation I was finding in the challenges placed before me,” she said. “To share my stories, I had to have ones worth sharing and, for a first-year from a public high school, that meant stories around dating.”
Dr. Jamie Friedman of the English department also noted the way women at Westmont have told her they feel as if they have failed if they aren’t in a romantic relationship by their fourth year.
These women “would represent success by any measure of a Christian institution of higher learning,” said Friedman. “And yet, they're single . . . and failed somehow. Those conversations suggest to me that there is a real pressure — the women have stated this explicitly — to be attached romantically as a product of a college experience.”
Postal spoke about the troubles she had with all the conversations focusing solely on romantic relationships and marriage. She finally talked to a professor about her frustration, and they recommended she read the book “Altared.”

“I must admit that it was refreshing to follow the story of a couple working through their relationship in retrospect and noticing the ways that they were more concerned about a marriage relationship than about their significant other,” Postal said. “Instead of focusing on marriage versus singleness, the authors recommended a restructuring of those thoughts.”

Postal has noticed the high interest and importance placed by Westmont students on marriage, love and relationships, often to the point of excess. “I cannot even begin to tell you how many conversations I've had about the concepts of love, marriage and relationships,” she said. “While I think it is a good thing to discover how you feel and what you want in a potential relationship, it can be disconcerting when marriage-happy conversations are the only ones you're having.”

Most can agree that there is a huge emphasis on marriage (and romantic relationships leading to it) at Westmont and other colleges and universities, but why is it important to notice it? Is it simply because it’s beneficial to be aware of the cultural pressures at Westmont, or is there something inherently wrong with the DTR culture that should be actively opposed?

Friedman suggested that questioning how it came to exist in the first place is the first step to raising awareness of the prevalence of this mentality that regards marriage as the highest form of success a man or woman can achieve.
“Perhaps the beginning of that conversation is simply pointing to the reality of the phenomenon, of the pressure, and asking ourselves if we really do mean to set up marriage as some explicit marker of success—and singleness, as a consequence, as some failed or derivative state?”


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