College Students and Love Relationships

In Baby, Lizzie and Danny’s relationship is portrayed as very healthy and sturdy; they are clearly in love and devoted to each other. Such romantic relationships seem to be a common component of college life, as young people search for love.

In a study at East Carolina University entitled “Love Relationships Among College Students,” a questionnaire was given to 184 undergraduate students. 94% reported having been in love before and 36% reported 3 or more love relationships. Therefore, love and romance is obviously popular among college students. Younger respondents (19 and under) were more likely than older respondents (20 and older) to believe in love at first sight; respondents currently in a relationship were more likely to agree that love conquers all than those not in a relationship. While some couples experience love feelings upon first meeting and find love helpful in motivating them to resolve conflict, most couples discover that love develops over time and that managing conflict in relationships takes work. These discoveries come with age and relationship experience.

However, the level of devotion which Lizzie and Danny portray is quite remarkable and somewhat rare, according to surveys of recent trends in college love relationships. Two articles, “Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships” and “College Hook-Ups Replace Dating,” explain this trend. For many who are delaying responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing, hooking up has replaced dating. This represents a major shift in culture over the past few decades.

The hooking-up phenomenon has been traced back to the 1960s and 70s when male and female students were thrown together in apartment-style dormitories, and there was a revolt against strict rules. At the turn of the 20th century, young couples went for a movie or dinner; courtship would lead to a relationship, the capstone of which was marriage. In the hookup era, something sexual happens, even though it may be less than sexual intercourse, that may or may not ever lead to dating. Several national surveys of college students found a stalwart 28% who remain virgins. The term “hookup” is so vague, however, it might well encompass someone’s idea of virginity – it involves anything from kissing to fooling around, oral sex and sexual intercourse.

The main reason hooking up is so popular among young people is that in the U.S. and other Western countries, the age at which people marry for the first time as been steadily creeping up; marriage is often the last thing on the minds of young people leaving college today. The thought of being in love with someone “is the most terrifying thing”: Students say this avoidance of monogamy and commitment is tied to the fact that they are trying balance their social, independent and academic lives; they are in a transition period. Relaxed attitude toward sex outside of relationships may be a natural consequence of the sexual revolution, women’s growing independence and the availability of modern contraceptives.

For the most part, young people from high school on are so preoccupied with friends, getting an education and establishing themselves, they don’t make time for relationships. On the other hand, juniors and seniors in college often feel the need to settle down because they realize that they are almost adults and that they can handle a mature relationship. They also might be looking to the future, desiring to find a possible marriage partner and start a family.

Compiled by Rebekah Weagraff, dramaturg.



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