As the latest season of The Bachelor concluded on March 12 and as my final year as a college student winds down, I have recognized that the troubles plaguing relationships following the television show resemble the trajectories of relationships I have seen during college. These two sets of relationships fall victim to the same fatal flaw: Both are based on limited interactions and are established within carefully selected settings.
College and The Bachelor exist outside of reality -- in other words, each environment is contained within its own artificial bubble. None of the participants in either world deal with the range of issues normally faced in everyday life. Both worlds remain free of weighty responsibilities, which normally serve to test the strength of relationships. Moreover, every day seems to bring new, exciting challenges that prevent relationships from moving past those first few weeks of infatuation. And, most importantly, these two worlds conveniently produce eligible individuals that fuel a competitive dating environment, unheard of in post-college life.
As college students, we are challenged intellectually with new ideas, new readings and new assignments in the classroom alone. Outside of our studies, we turn to Greek life, extra-curricular activities and intramurals to offer instant friends and entertainment.
As far as responsibilities go, most college kids are only accountable for themselves and their educations. Many of my friends, including myself, rely heavily on parents for financial help. We do not worry about food, clothing, paying rent or even stress-relieving outings. For the time being, we avoid the monotony, and at times loneliness, that a stable, nine-to-five job accompanies.
Not only does a university quench our thirst for knowledge and excitement, but it also lays the foundations for exhilarating dating cultures. Especially at Vanderbilt, beautiful and intelligent women are the norm (and the majority), all vying for the few eligible gentlemen's attentions. After college, I doubt I will be surrounded with as many brilliant, beautiful women in such close quarters as I have been at Vanderbilt; thus, easing the immediate competition that college dating presents.
Cue The Bachelor. All candidates share the same goal of falling in love. All have been selected based on their compatibilities with the 'Bachelor,' creating a space much like a university in that there is an admissions process to choose members according to a predetermined goal and culture. Much like college-life, the women in the Bachelor mansion have instant companions at the house, eager to share in the day's events or add to the drama with snide remarks. The producers of the show become these "college students'" metaphorical parents, providing food, shelter and prepared, romantic dates with the eligible man of the hour.
In both the university and The Bachelor, people come to believe that their significant others are truly who they present themselves to be based on a single, pre-determined setting. However, behaviors change with settings. Courtney's behavior in the presence of the other women at the house did not resemble her behavior when she was alone with Ben on dates. Ultimately, settings limit the interactions and depth of relationships.
So, you ask, what happened to transform Ben and Courtney's dispositions from seemingly smitten to devastatingly somber in Monday's "After the Final Rose" special? The setting had changed; their relationship was brought into the harsh light of the real world.
No longer were there extravagant, pre-planned dates in Switzerland. No longer were there 24 other women to make Ben that much more attractive or Courtney that much more elusive. Life's responsibilities and monotony replaced the sheltered and thrilling adventures that the television show had once offered.
Is this to say that college relationships, like many of the Bachelor couples, are doomed? Absolutely not. I only assert that the transition from college to adulthood will test the most 'ideal' relationships, just as the transition from the Bachelor mansion to reality continues to try Courtney and Ben's relationship. Promising another person forever is not to be taken lightly; the versatility, and success, of a couple comes at a premium while transitioning between two disparate environments.