Myth Buster: Engaging in Romantic Relationships Does not Make people More Mature

Erikson (1959) created a developmental model for human beings that went beyond early childhood and adolescence to include the entire human life, with a stronger emphasis on early adulthood and the college experience, which other frameworks did not. His theory included eight psycho-social stages. At each stage, human beings are challenged by a crisis that they must resolve. When they do, they reach the next stage. These stages are: (1) basic trust versus mistrust, (2) autonomy versus shame, (3) initiative versus guilt, (4) industry versus inferiority, (5) identity versus role confusion, (6) intimacy versus isolation, (7) generativity versus stagnation, and (8) integrity versus despair. The fifth and sixth stages are particularly relevant for individuals that are typically in college (Hope, Milyavskaya, Holding, & Koestner, 2014). Erickson (1959) defined “intimacy”, which is part of the fifth stage, as the need to develop both romantic relationships and deep friendships, suggesting that accomplishing only one of the two would not be considered a successful attempt to overcome this developmental crisis or that the individual is not as mature as others.

DePaulo (2011) has documented the impacts these common beliefs have had on our society. She argued that “[c]ompared to married couples or coupled people who are described in very positive terms, singles are assumed to be immature, maladjusted, and self-centered” (DePaulo, 2011, p.19).

I disagree with Erikson’s theory and I remember how anxious it made me to learn about it myself in a psychology class in my first year of college. Educators can support aromantics by making sure that students are not only taught one truth and that they understand and believe that they are free to live their romantic orientations through on-campus workshops and activities on identity development.  Absolutely nothing makes someone less mature or responsible than others for having a less common romantic orientation. These nuances should also be shared with interested faculty as well so that curriculum is appropriately adapted to go beyond the romantic orientation binary and false belief that coupled individuals are superior.

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