Is HBS Relationship Kryptonite?

Well, we’re coming to the end of our first semester as RC’s and the single biggest thing that’s stood out to me as we near Christmas break is this: relationships – they’ve been dropping like flies. The breakups started pretty quickly, and the pace has increased as the semester has worn on. Nearly every day I run into yet another person who’s suddenly minus their plus one. So what the heck is it about this place that causes seemingly solid relationships to falter? Were they that solid to begin with? Are people being tempted by greener pastures here? And why is it that us single people are having a hard time? Hooking up may be happening a plenty, but actual “dating” seems to be a pipe dream. A few of my observations and theories below…

Theory #1: Some people were looking for the exit.

I’d hate to generalize, but anyone who wasn’t sure about their relationship coming here might have known that perhaps things weren’t meant to be. I’d also venture to guess that many people who decided to jet off to business school and leave a significant other behind put a serious handicap on that relationship making it out alive. I’m not saying that a long-distance romance with someone while at HBS isn’t going to last, but its certainly an uphill battle. And I think there’s some underlying motivation (realized or not) in starting a new life that’s completely new and decidedly independent of one’s significant other. Another key factor? We do a rather abnormal amount of self reflection in this place; we’re forced on a regular basis to assess our lives to date and where we see ourselves down the road. The unfortunate side-effect is that all this self-discovery leads people to realize that maybe they don’t see their current partner in that 5 or 10 year vision. Realistically, if that’s the case, now’s as good a time as any to make the clean break. We’re starting to make decisions with an eye on our future, and if you don’t see someone in it, then better to move on.

Theory #2: If you’re not at HBS, its hard to understand this life.

It really is true that unless you live inside the bubble, its hard to get what the bubble is all about. We live a very insular life with – dare I say it – little connection to reality or the outside world. Our conversations are dominated by inside jokes, references to cases that we’ve studied, chatter about things going on within the section, or the next social event on our calendars. If I were sitting on the outside and having to listen to this all the time, I would get really bored (and irritated), really quick. I would also feel really left out; I’d see my other half having all this fun, making all of these new friends, and doing all of these cool things without me. Pangs of jealousy and resentment would likely set in…I’m pontificating of course – but its easy to see how rifts and cracks could start to form. And to this end, my hat goes off to all the partners out there who’ve hung in (and joined in!) – putting up with the madness that is HBS life deserves a medal. A giant gold (or diamond-encrusted) one in fact.

Theory #3: The single people are well, still single.

Coming to HBS, there’s a lot of talk about people who’ve met their husbands or wives while here. So this expectation gets stuck somewhere in people’s heads about, “well, maybe I might just meet someone…” But, with a few exceptions (to my knowledge anyway), there has been a lot of “fun” being had to date, but not too many relationships have spun out of said fun. Why? Well, my theory on this still holds as it did near the beginning of the year: the notion of “casual dating” has pretty much been thrown out the window. Things like going a few days without speaking to someone (what we used to call playing “hard to get”) is a non-starter; you can’t walk 5 feet without bumping into someone – inevitably the someone you’d rather not bump into. And don’t even get me started on the campus rumour mill – everyone knows everybody’s business, which adds this crazy pressure and feeling of being under a microscope. Plus, with all this focus on “the future” we’re forced to look at potential partners with a lens of whether we’d see them as a serious candidate. Yikes. So the net result of all of this? Dating paralysis.

Dating: it’s not all there is!

I’d hate to end this column on such a somber note; to be fair, its not all dating doom and gloom – I’m fairly certain that have had more than enough fun this term. Plus, exciting things to look forward to next year: FIELD 2 in-country immersion – I have a rather amazing trip to Ghana on the January agenda (with a New Year’s stop-off in Cape Town), along with a whole new semester’s worth of classes and learning (yes, this counts as fun!). Not so excited about losing my prime classroom real estate on Skydeck – and I’ve been fortunate to be seated next to rather awesome individuals – but c’est la vie. FIELD 3 is also on the horizon (time to start brainstorming!), along with exciting developments for a new venture with some classmates (how very HBS of us, I know). All in all, the first 4 months have been one wild ride, and I’m looking forward to see what the next 4 will bring. So with that I bid 2012 and our first semester adieu, and I will see you all in 2013!

 

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