When I started dating my boyfriend my freshman year of college, I remember one of my single friends being completely flabbergasted at my decision to date. Throughout my friendship with her, she would continually bring up how my love life conflicted with my academic and career goals. It wasn't until I "broke up" with her did I pinpoint what bothered me the most about her comments.
For one, she was trying to decide my priorities for me and for two, she assumed that I couldn't date and be personally successful. As if my boyfriend was a sign that I left my ambition behind, which he is anything but.
If I'm being completely honest, it still blows my mind that in 2016, a woman's decisions in her love life seemingly dictate how she's perceived. Many people, from my grandparents' friends to random customers at work, assume that because I have a steady boyfriend, I'm planning on getting married and having children. I understand that there are girls who have that plan, and that's great.
But why the automatic assumption based on my relationship?
Furthermore, it also bothers me that, when I was single, most people would "console" me with that I'm "focusing on my career and education." When did a woman's education become a consolation prize for not being in a relationship? I could easily bring up the fact that that mindset seems straight out of the 20th century, but that doesn't explain why it is still around when we've supposedly progressed.
I hesitate to call it sexism, but the term could be applied. For instance, no one (to my knowledge) has asked my boyfriend "What about your career?!" when they find out he's dating me. No one has told him that his education was just a way to bide his time until marriage.
At this point, I'm rehashing old points that have been pointed out by women time and again. But why does it have to be said again? Why is it radical for a woman to have to say "I deserve equal treatment and consideration. I shouldn't be defined by my relationship."?
No one deserves to have assumptions drawn about them for any reason. No one deserves to be judged or to have other people assume that they know better about the situation. That being said, anyone who identifies as a woman does not deserve to have her priorities assumed based on her relationship status.
My success is not based on my choice of a boyfriend. I define my own success, be it with or without a boyfriend. Don't treat a woman's relationship like a lifetime achievement more important than her career or education unless you plan to treat a man's relationship and career the same way.
Yes, my boyfriend is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and yes, I do hope to stay with him for the rest of my life. But my relationship with him does not overshadow my talents or goals.