You’ve only just begun university, but you’re already a superstar. You’ve gotten the hang of classes, joined intramural basketball and made new friends. Your roommate is awesome.
Your long-distance relationship is going well. University life is just a big fluffy cakewalk with vanilla frosting and a million cherries on top.
Until you head home for Thanksgiving.
“Listen,” he says. “We need to talk.”
It’s called the Turkey Dump. Like the delicious fowl for which it is named, the Turkey Dump is a clumsy and vicious beast. And you are now among its casualties.
Once upon a time, high school sweethearts married as a matter of course. This has since become something of an anomaly; only the strongest of high school relationships can withstand post-secondary education.
Let’s face it: colleges and universities are essentially alcohol-fuelled sex buffets. Lectures and assignments fit in there someplace, sure, but for the most part, you’ve got a small geographical area crammed with thousands of open-minded young people who have recently acquired a taste for freedom. And tequila.
Not to suggest that campus life is a modern-day version of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Post-secondary students are generally intelligent and responsible — that’s how they got there in the first place. It’s just that they’re surrounded by a lot of eye candy. A lot of beer. A lot of flirting. And if they are in a relationship, a lot of temptation. (Nobody brings a sandwich to a buffet.)
“Attending university is a developmental transition,” says Dita Everett, clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto. “It is a period of greater autonomy both academically and socially, and such autonomy invites an exploration of identity. Many have argued that we only come to know ourselves through our relationships with others, and this is a time for experimenting in that arena. “
Everett encourages students who are having difficulty dealing with the end of a relationship to make full use of the resources available to them.
“(It’s) important to normalize and to anticipate the kind of emotions that students often feel in the aftermath of a break-up,” Everett says. “Supporting and exploring such feelings through counselling is an entirely appropriate use of a university counselling service.“
Maybe the dreaded Turkey Dump is a blessing in disguise. It gives the freshly single student the opportunity to focus on their studies, get to know new people and learn about themselves. And that’s what higher education is all about.