Serious college relationships lead students to look beyond the usual four-year plan
Credit: Crickett Bowman
For students in serious relationships, graduation day means leaving with more than just a diploma. While in college, couples juggle school, work, friends and other obstacles. The first step is finding that special someone and then figuring out how to make it last.
For Brittany Klein, junior nutrition and dietetics major, all it took was attending class to find her boyfriend of six months, junior business management major Robert Rininger, junior business management major.
“We sat next to each other randomly in class,” Klein said. “One day we just started talking to each other because class was so boring.”
Sometimes it really can be as easy as going to class to find someone compatible. Others meet people through organizations they’re involved in. Susan Roxburgh, associate professor of sociology, said this makes sense because there are so many social networks in college.
“It’s called the principle of homogamy,” Roxburgh said. “In college you have unlimited time to socialize with people you might not normally. You have all of these opportunities to meet people with same interest and similar hobbies. People want to be with people they share interests with.”
Klein said she agreed that having similarities with one’s partner is an important factor in the relationship.
“I actually did date someone I was completely opposite from,” she said. “I’m Roman Catholic; he was atheist and tried to convince me there wasn’t a God. I had a lot of goals, and he sat around all day. Basically, it’s impossible to have a relationship with someone who you don’t have much in common with. It’s very frustrating and will eventually lead you nowhere.”
For junior nursing major Ashley Minck, having someone in her life who has a similar personality makes her happy.
“I love always having someone to talk to,” said Minck, who has been dating her boyfriend for four months. “Having someone to sleep with at night, go to the movies with, eat with, study with. I love pretty much every thing about having a boyfriend.”
Roxburgh said something to consider when in a relationship in college is where will it go from there.
“A lot of people that start dating in college stay together from then on,” she said. “While people are getting married a lot later in life than they did 20 or 30 years ago, there is a trend of cohabitating together for a few years before marriage.”
Klein said she wants to live with her boyfriend soon because they are always with each other anyway.
“I think it would be easier,” she said. “I think people live with their significant others because they want to be closer to one another. I’m always with my boyfriend. I sleep at his place. We are rarely apart, and if we lived together it wouldn’t be much different. It would be a lot more simple to live together, but it wouldn’t really change our relationship.”
For some, dating in college is a process that goes from dating, to living together, to marriage. Rininger and Klein both said they agreed it’s natural to think in that process.
“I think it is a trend to think about it,” Klein said. “But it’s not a trend to be in a relationship. If you’re with someone, it’s normal to think about marriage because the next step after you move out of the dorms is living together.
“If you get into a serious relationship in college, you kind of think in the back of your mind what would happen if you stayed together. So you think about those kinds of things in advance. And maybe you don’t say it out loud, but you start to think about planning your boyfriend into your life.”
Roxburgh said she thinks it is easier for people to meet their significant other in college because the number of women often outnumbers the number of men. Having limited choices makes it easier to find someone.
“Once you’re out of college,” Rininger said. “I think your options for finding the one for you decreases. I’m nearing the end of college and I know that I want to have a significant other. Maintaining your grades and your relationship is important because you never know, one day you might be providing for the person you dated in college.”
The downside to remaining exclusive with one person in college, Roxburgh said, is missing out on being independent.
“Staying with one person could mean limiting your options,” she said. “There are a lot of people who date, then cohabitate and then get married. They never experience being alone. There are ups and downs to both sides, either way there is a cost.”
Rininger said he doesn’t think he’s missed out on much.
“I’ve never been so happy with my girlfriend,” he said. “She is the love of my life. I mean, of course you’re going to miss out on new friends and opportunities. But in life, those come and go. But being with your love is forever, if you are that involved.”
Contact student life reporter Erin Dean at [email protected]