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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

The four horsemen of the college hookup: Tinder, alcohol, parties and Netflix. These powerful and common tools often fail in finding a fulfilling relationship.

Finding a relationship in college can be hard. Finding a healthy and fulfilling relationship in college is harder. When it comes to starting a relationship, communicating what you want is scary, emotional involvement is risky and hookups can complicate feelings. However, going on dates with different people can help ensure a healthy relationship. Dates allow you to vet who you’re interested in, communicate what you want and don’t force either party into a premature commitment.

Playing the field when it comes to relationships manifests itself in several ways. Hookups, or noncommittal sexual encounters of any nature, are a modern way to discern attraction and chemistry. They ensure minimal commitment while providing physical connection. Expressing what you want is scary if you’re unsure whether your partner feels the same way.

Sociology professor Shannon Cavanaugh said that casual, party hookups provide a way to “save face if you try to hookup and are rejected.” However, hookups lack the strong foundation necessary for a relationship.

“I’ve seen hookups lead to a relationship,” said physics junior Jack Sansom. ”Mostly they just lead to hard feelings and people getting hurt.”

Psychology junior Miranda Toy said hookups aren’t always fulfilling, especially when emotional connection is sought after.

“My friends often come out of hookups embarrassed because their needs for emotional intimacy were turned down or laughed at,” Toy said.

Physical intimacy also clouds judgment because it releases oxytocin, a chemical that increases trust and attachment between partners. People can form feelings without properly understanding and communicating with their partner. The result is a relationship that lacks healthy emotional structure.

“Being frank, open and honest (about) what you need in a relationship is healthy and can be incredibly empowering for men and women,” Cavanaugh said.

Dating around encourages healthy communication because it creates a safe space where you can communicate how you feel without a fear of rejection. The noncommittal and nonsexual context of dating ensures communication as an integral aspect to the relationship.

Talya Nelson, a psychology and anthropology junior, said dates are a casual way to meet people you like.

“We knew that we were just trying to get to know each other when we’d go on dates,” Nelson said. “It was more relaxed because there wasn’t any pressure to be exclusive.” Effective communication is essential to start any relationship. When the social pressures and atmosphere of a party are removed from an interaction, connections become more authentic. Getting to know someone outside the context of a party leads to a greater appreciation of who they are.

Dating around also doesn’t restrict your freedom when it comes to meeting people. Because open communication is encouraged, dating multiple people at once helps you understand and discern what you like. Toy said, “One of my friends dated the same guy for two years. It wasn’t until she started to date around that she realized how unhappy she was and how much happier she could be.”

It’s crucial to be honest in what you enjoy.

Not everyone wants or needs an intimate relationship. We might be too busy, emotionally unavailable or not even know what we’re looking for. It’s easy to hook up, but it’s hard to say what we want. Creating dynamic relationships by dating around helps us form healthy ideas about what we want out of a significant other.

Martinez is a government and Plan II junior from Austin.