Mentorship battles chronic toxicity

Free advice and freedom from pain — dating success begins with good guidance.



Samantha Gassaway, Writer

Dear Wendy,” “Ask Dr. Tracy,” “The Dr. Laura Program” and countless other relationship advice shows and columns seek to mend the broken relationships that fill this world. Any Disney princess, romantic comedy, sappy novel or sentimental song will say that a relationship, relationship or not, will complete life and make dreams come true.

A re-evaluation of relationships

Collegiate-level romance is a breeding ground for immaturity and unintentional relational harm — and the bizarre dating culture at Biola does little to help, according to Center of Marriage and Relationships staff members and professors of psychology and communication Chris Grace and Tim Muehlhoff, respectively.

Grace and Muehlhoff spoke to upper campus students about relationships and how to navigate them in a panel hosted by the CMR and upper campus Residence Life, causing many students to re-evaluate what singleness, dating and relationships with family and friends should look like. Grace and Muehlhoff stood before a crowd of students and bared their hearts honestly to transparent questions on how best to approach all relationships.

“It will be generally helpful to at least get the conversations started for people who might not be talking about their relationships in some of these manners or ideas,” said Miles Bocianski, an alum who assisted with setting up the conference.

A time for questions

The speakers talked about unhealthy relationships of their own, both romantic and familial, contrasting them with their healthy relationships. They then encouraged students to ask questions, which they answered with lengthy and wise replies.

“You’re going to have students here who are in very healthy relationships who are going to be very encouraged walking out, and you’ll probably have students who might not be in the healthiest relationships and might find themselves challenged,” Bocianski said.

Ring by Spring” may seem like a joke to Biola students, but this pressure actually exists on campus. Many students feel they must meet “The One” during their undergraduate years, which can lead to unhealthy, strained relationships.

The importance of casual dating

Muehlhoff, to the delight of many students, spoke about the dangers of “Ring by Spring” and the importance of casually dating before entering into a serious relationship. Moreover, events such as “Get Your Roommate A Date” can offer all the more pressure to students uninterested in selecting a partner, even casually.

“The fact that casual dating can be a thing as long as you’re being careful, not letting people in too deep or giving people too much access, I think that was good to hear,” said Samantha Belgum, junior commercial music major.

CMR has wanted to cater more to students, and Residence Life wanted to host an event in upper campus to build community specifically in the area. Thus, it worked swimmingly for the two groups to partner together in hosting this event.

“Nothing like this has been done before at Biola,” said Garrett Miller, senior kinesiology major and RA in Horton Hall.  “I think it’s a lot of stuff that residents actually deal with a lot, especially with GYRADs going on.”

A “toxic relationship” seems like a concept far from the Christian sphere and Biola, especially. On the contrary, toxicity festers in Christian settings, often due to a need for deep and blind emotional devotion to a partner in expectation for marriage. The hidden monster in the dating culture at Biola? Intention.

“About healthy friendships, there are a few things: they are emotionally safe. They are something that’s fun, enjoyable. But there’s also a toxic side of this that’s not emotionally safe, or there’s too many broken promises or boundaries, things like that. Or if there’s ‘too close too quickly’ — emotionally, spiritually, physically. Too close can be toxic. Then in a dating relationship, that’s what we’re talking about. In a friendship there are other kinds of markers,” Grace said.

Kiahna Rodriguez, sophomore psychology major, helped immensely by decorating Horton’s lawn with Christmas lights, cozy chairs and a single lamp to offer a welcoming and homey vibe. Her experience with Grace as a professor had her excited about the panel, and her admiration for his wisdom clearly shone through as she spoke of the subject matter.

“I feel like this is just relatable to anyone. You’re either single or you’re dating someone. It’s just, that’s where everyone is. So I feel like, Professor Grace… he’s just so interactive and you just want to listen to what he has to say. So I’m so excited,” Rodriguez said.

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