By Abigail Ang (18S06B) and Jeslyn Tan (18S06R)
Cover image by Angelica Ong (18A01C)
Click here to read Part One of this feature.
“Won’t last one lah,” is an oft-heard phrase when discussing relationships in JC. You may have heard this from parents, teachers, and even peers who cite National Service as a death knell for young relationships. Most JC students are undoubtedly at a crossroads in their lives, and couples may eventually split to attend different universities and pursue different paths in life.
But what do Rafflesians currently in relationships think of these stereotypes? We speak to 2 couples—‘Alex’ and ‘Quince’, ‘Jules’ and ‘Zac’ (not their real names)—to find out.
Relationships in JC: Not Meant To Last?
While some relationships fall apart due to external pressures, others claim that it is the inherent nature of many JC relationships that cause them to collapse on their own.
“For some guys, it’s been four years since they’ve seen girls so they’re more desperate,” one Y6 student mentioned. “For girls, it’s the same. The relationship ends up being shallow.”
Speaking about some budding Y5 relationships, where incompatibility sets in and romantic feelings start to disappear soon after Orientation, “Most of it is just infatuation,” another student points out.
To at least one of the writers’ surprise, the couples we spoke to all shared this view, though they pointed out the attitude with which some students enter relationships was an important factor.
“Many people go into relationships immaturely,” commented Quince, a Y6 student who has been in a relationship for almost a year. “I think that Rafflesians are generally quite excited when it comes to the idea of romance, but they do not really understand what it means to be committed to a relationship. They may just see dating as a new thing to try out, which may leave both parties hurting.”
One also pointed out that since being in a relationship is somewhat of a social status marker at RI, some people may be motivated more by the Instagram likes than the person they are actually dating:
“I think the stereotype that people get together for like popularity or for recognition […] is generally quite true, because there are quite a few couples that last for a really short while and aren’t serious,” stated Jules, who has been in a long-term relationship for more than two years. “But there are definitely couples who are serious and do indeed last.”
“I think the stereotype that people get together for like popularity or for recognition […] is generally quite true, because there are quite a few couples that last for a really short while and aren’t serious.”
Jules, in a long-term relationship for more than two years.
Stereotypes: Lost ‘Bro’s and Distractions
While the couples we spoke to generally agreed that many relationships in JC have short expiration dates, they maintained that they can last if the other aspects of one’s life, such as one’s grades and other interpersonal relationships, are managed well.
Zac remarked that, “The stereotype of those who date with JC is that they are lost bros, meaning that they prioritise their significant other over their friends. And even though I have personally seen this occurring on several occasions […], I think you just gotta make sure your S/O mixes well with your friends.”
“And of course don’t ditch your friends all the time, and like expect them to be there for you [when you are facing difficulties]; find a balance.”
According to the couples, their friends and peers were generally supportive of their relationships—“I often hear people remark that we’re a cute couple instead of judging us,” as Alex put it—but some teachers and parents could be less welcoming. In fact, certain teachers have reportedly raised concerns about some students’ relationships with their civics tutors, though the person who provided this tip said that no subsequent action was taken by the CT in their case.
“I think that some teachers – and parents too—see BGR (Boy-Girl Relationships) as a distraction to the students, especially when they feel that the students should be focusing on [their] studies instead”, Quince offered.
One should note that staff attitudes vary between individual teachers, and should not be generalised upon – though General Paper teachers are mostly “chill” regarding such issues, according to one teacher from that department.
Work-Life-(CCA-Dating) Balance: A Possibility?
So, is possible to juggle one’s other commitments alongside studies?
One couple thought so: “Peers often think that those in a relationship have to sacrifice their free time and studies or even CCA time to go on dates,” Quince stated. “However, most successful couples are able to manage their time well and even help each other to thrive.”
Both couples emphasised the importance of communication and being understanding of the other person’s busy schedule. Jules also commented that “We have attained the maturity and stability of a relationship where we don’t always have to be together.”
Study dates were also recommended to catch some alone time while keeping on top of one’s workload—though a degree of self-discipline is required—and keeping up with what the other person is doing. “If you’re the one with heavy commitments, finding free time to just have a phone call (if you’re too busy to meet) is very sweet,” Alex offered.
Meanwhile, some believed that it is impossible to add a relationship onto one’s plate of commitments without having to make sacrifices. When asked how one balances dating and other commitments, Zac, a member of a Sports CCA, replied, “The short answer is you don’t.”
“It’s possible to [juggle] everything if you are very disciplined and not easily distracted, but that’s rarely the case for most. You make your own decisions and prioritise accordingly as you wish,” Zac said, “but be prepared to face the consequences be it being not selected for the team (to represent RI in inter-school competitions), or failing, or falling asleep in lecture.”
Love (Not War)—What Is It Good For?
With all possibility of rejection and further complications that may come with romantic entanglements, why would anyone want to be in a relationship during JC at all?
Emotional Support and Companionship
Jules: “It’s nice to have someone to talk through your bad days with and also to celebrate the little things with! Also, it’s good to have someone to laugh with or at and it’s nice to always know you have someone to ask out for fun things to do.”
Learning to Become a Better Person
Quince: “It has helped us to mature emotionally and be less selfish people.”
Alex: “I think I’ve learnt to care more for others, give more, and made me a more responsible individual. [My relationship] has taught me what it means to love someone (and there is still much more for me to learn!) and accept someone for who they are.”
Jules: “Zac calls me out when I’m being unkind or not very nice, so it’s good to have someone that pushes you to become a better person but can also tolerate and stick through all the nonsense you throw at [them].”
Zac: “Jules is just this huge part of my life that if you take it away, I’ll become damn empty. [They] have given me a reason to get out of bed; my source of laughter and happiness, the comfort that is always there whenever I am down and the person I celebrate my wins in life (with), be it how small or big.
[Jules is] my role model in terms of everything from studies to sports to character, always helping me become a better person and making my life more interesting as a whole.”
Getting Through Difficulties, and Break-ups
Alex: “I believe communication is the key to resolve any misunderstanding/issue. Have heart to heart talks, learn to understand each other better, forgive each other for shortcomings. For us, a simple act to show that we still care a lot for the other and a sincere apology often resolves any problems we face.”
Zac: “Actually I think that statement [that relationships in JC never last] is popular because JC relationships are usually one’s first relationship. Exceptions occur of course but experience yields maturity and that is usually the key for relations to last. But sometimes you just get together with the wrong partner and if that’s the case, nobody is at fault, just move on.”
“No relationship is without problems, but […] it is the couples who have went through the worst and still stick together that ends up tying the knot.”
You Do You
While most JC students are within the same age range, their priorities and readiness for a relationship vary, and hence so will the age they start dating—if they want to—too.
If you’re still single, fear not, for you may not have met the right person yet. If you do choose to take the plunge, just ensure that your behaviour doesn’t hurt anyone, and that your relationship, instead of just draining you during an important period of your life, allows you to gain something meaningful. After all, isn’t that what relationships are for?