Dating in College
So, you are living the dream. You’re partying every night, meeting all sorts of interesting people from different backgrounds, and gaining an education which will empower you in the future. But perhaps you are beginning to tire of transient, fleeting relationships—whether it is friends you only see at parties, acquaintances you touch base with in some of your classes, or familiar faces you pass by in the hallways. There is something more that you want out of it, something more dependable and intimate. What you’ve decided is that you want a long term relationship – maybe even someone that will become your life partner.
First of all, appreciate what you’ve got. Realize that college is probably the last time you will be surrounded by such a diverse group of peers, people your own age and at similar stages in life—enjoying the next four years before becoming a working professional. You are collectively embedded in an optimism of new ideas and future promise. There is exactly zero percent chance you will exhaust the number of people you can meet in these four years.
What’s more: casual dating is not really a necessary thing in college. Once you move to the city for work, casual dating is a platform to meet fellow 20-somethings among the bustle of the working life. After college, casual dating finds its place in connecting people who are looking to meet and potentially form lasting relationships among the majority of the population who is not quite in the same boat. In college, though, casual dating is akin to striking up a conversation—anywhere—in the dorms, in the lecture hall, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the coffee shop, or at a party. Meeting others who are in your age group is trivial in college, and it is definitely a luxury which you will no longer have on graduation.
But maybe you’re not talking casual dating. Perhaps building a committed relationship is more your pace. The intimacy of a significant other during the college years is definitely demanding, but it can also be greatly rewarding to have that special someone who you can rely on to take care of you in times of need (e.g. finals) and who you are happy to take care of in their times of need. We have all heard of the college sweethearts who get married and seem to have their lives put together much more readily than the rest of us. Just remember that the fairy-tail conflict free relationships you see in movies and on TV aren’t the best depictions of what go on. As you enter relationships, you’ll figure out what you like and don’t like- if you want a person with the same interests, or different interests. The longer you date, the more you’ll learn how your different from that person – or perhaps the same.
The first factor to dating in college has got to be communication. Make sure you find someone who wants the same type of relationship right now as you do. Commitment for college students is definitely not trivial. You are asking someone to forego abundant opportunities to meet people and explore the various facets of human relationships. Not to say that it can’t be done, but that doing so requires consciously addressing the circumstances. As a result, break ups can be common. The ‘next best thing’ might come along in the next class.
Another factor that is quite unique to dating while in college is that neither of you will have a true income. School dining areas aren’t the most romantic backdrop for a date, discussing your vision of love while overhearing the crazy happenings of last night’s rager. If you have a car or access to public transportation, try dining out and spending time off campus. What do normal people do in the area? If you learn to do this on the cheap, it can be a great break from campus life and a healthy reality check of the bubble that is the college campus.
Finally, take things easy. College is demanding as it is, and there are abundant opportunities during this time in your life which are unique to being a college student. People are getting married and starting families later and later today. This is not to say don’t prioritize forming deep and enduring romantic relationships, but enjoy these years while you have them. Importantly, don’t jump too deep too fast and end yourself in a sunken cost fallacy – marrying someone because you feel like you’ve already spent so long with them. Have the experience to know that the individual will be one you can tolerate and grow with. A good plan if you’re unsure of how to proceed is to spend your first two years of college single, without commitments, and meeting people. Your next two years can be spent learning relationships, and ultimately making a lasting relationship that may go on beyond college.
Do take the opportunity to act on a hunch that this or that person has left an impact that you would like to explore further. Take the time to grow as an individual, learning what you like and don’t like in a partner. Communicate your emotional wants and needs, and learn about yourself and others at an intimate and interpersonal level. As you can imagine, it is a very intricate, involved, and demanding process, but dating in college can be another avenue of education that will be very rewarding after graduation.