Why It’s Okay If You Didn’t Find Love in College

Childhood sweethearts are so yesterday.

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dating at college

If you’re staring down 30 birthday candles on your cake and you’re anxious AF about finding love, you might start reminiscing about your college partner. Sure, you didn’t want the same things. Nah, you didn’t think they were the love of your life. But now that you’re still single, they start to look a little rosier. Before you drunkenly reach out to them, consider this: most people don’t marry their childhood or college sweethearts, according to Stanford’s latest ‘How Couples Meet and Stay Together’ study

The university conducts research surrounding this topic every 10 years, and the changes from 2009 until now may be surprising. To gather this data, 4,002 people completed a questionnaire, with 3,009 of them married or in committed relationships. 

Here’s what we learned:

Friends aren’t introducing each other as much.

How many times have your parents suggested ‘one of your friends hook you up with someone’ when you complain about dating? Likely more than you can count. The next time they nag you, tell ‘em this: while pals-of-pals was the most common way to meet in 1990, it’s fallen 34 percent since then. And a whopping 20 percent since the time Stanford last conducted this survey in 2009. This may indicate the rise of dating apps, since you’re tapping into new categories of people you would have never met, and you may not know of single-somethings to show off to your fellow single folks. 

You’re less likely to stay with your childhood sweetheart…

Over the past 20 years, the number of people who have only loved one person in their lifetime has significant declined. While the notion of a childhood sweetheart is romantic, it isn’t practical these days, according to sex and relationship expert Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST. She believes the rise of technology has not allowed youth to connect in the same way that they might have in previous decades. “ I have seen a rise of younger generations not knowing how to engage face to face or I’ve seen a group of people waiting together or grabbing dinner together and everyone is in our phone,” she explains. 

It isn’t all bad, though, since she also notes a reason kindergarten flames may not last is due to a growing generation that isn’t afraid to travel. “Today’s advances also allow kids to seek higher education further away from home. Therefore, two kids go off to different colleges and loose the romantic connection,” she shares. 

Stanford also saw a decrease in college-aged duos parting ways after graduation instead of building a life together. This could be due to a shift in where job opportunities are present, or due to the rising age of first marriage across not only the United States, but in many countries worldwide. 

And not likely to find a partner at work…

Stanford found that while meeting your partner at work was a thing in the 70s and 80s, that number is now starting to fall significantly. They bargain it has something to do with accessibility of dating apps which make it clear someone is single, while meeting a colleague in the office isn’t always straightforward. Geter also credits a heightened awareness of sexual misconduct, thanks to the #MeToo movement: “Many people limiting interactions or conversations to avoid unintentional inappropriate behaviors. I work with many clients who want to explore if their behaviors at work and if they are considered inappropriate,” she adds.

Online dating may be the way to find love for the foreseeable future.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents confessed they met their now-spouse or partner… online! Though it isn’t the most rose-colored story, the lead researcher on the study, Michael Rosenfeld, says this method of sourcing matches has proven the most successful. If you’re against Tinder, Bumble and all the others, it’s time to change your attitude. How come? Rosenfeld doesn’t predict any shift coming, anytime soon. As he puts it: “I don’t know if we’re going to see another innovation as powerful…  in the next 20 years.”

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