Now that Valentine’s Day is over and the dust of romance has settled, it’s time to look around. The person whom you only saw as a friend just took you out, and now you’ve placed them in a new category all together.

Everyone assumes they know how a normal relationship is meant to progress. You’ve had the first date so you have a couple more — to go out to the movies or to dinner, depending on the kind of person that you are. Over time, you begin to see more of each other, stay up all night talking on the phone, hang out together and introduce each other to your friends. More time passes and you decide to make it official, calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend and promising to honor your commitment to stay true.

Those of us who live with our parents would not dare to flounce out at night to stay with our significant other. Some of us would probably be met with a very halting, “Excuse me?” from the owners of the house. But how many of us would even consider this scenario occurring in the beginning stages of a relationship? Would two months be long enough for you to start yearning to wake up next to that special someone?

In college, the relationship progression is a bit different. At first things are pretty similar, you meet and begin talking to the person. You soon decide that you like him or her, and he or she hopefully feels the same. Maybe you go out a couple of times and things begin to advance in a positive direction. Then it seems opportunity and convenience takeover: since one or both of you lives on or near campus it seems a little more natural that after your movie night one of you ends up staying the night. Or, perhaps you go out to a party and the both of you retire to a room together. Why not?

This is what I call the “university catalyst.” The convenience and freedom of sharing a room together speeds up the process of how a relationship might otherwise naturally develop. Consequently, one may run the risk of being faced with problems that wouldn’t have been expected to crop up until later, or never at all. One night’s hookup becomes the next morning’s breakfast date.

This catalyst and its results are a negative product of the university environment. Sharing a bed is something that should only happen when two people have learned enough about each other and are prepared to deal with the consequences that come with it. Admittedly, there are some things about a significant other that one may never learn. Many married couples remain together for fifty years or more and still learn new things about each other every day. But one should at least know the basics, and these shouldn’t be learned only after having shared the same bed.

With such advanced stages rolling past so quickly, it may add more of a dispensable element to the relationship. What is left to work for? A relationship with this kind of a foundation, or lack thereof, becomes more expendable. If these are the norms, then what’s to stop someone from trying to experience the same thing with another person? After all, they wouldn’t have experienced anything they couldn’t have from somebody else on campus.

I think it is important for students not to let these new freedoms go to their heads and still exercise the same self-control they would normally. Don’t let the “university catalyst” affect you. No one wants to be left looking around, wondering how things got so far, so fast, when they still can’t comfortably use the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. Don’t let a relationship go somewhere you’re not comfortable with before the time is right.

Nneka Jackson is a junior in the College. She can be reached at [email protected]. CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF appears every other Tuesday.

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