“He’s only back for the summer, but he’s so nice and sweet. I think I’m going to go for it.”
“Yeah, we both know it’s not serious, we’re just having fun.”
And so it begins. You are an attractive, intelligent, and somewhat mature college student who finds someone you like.
So what could be the problem with this seemingly romantic situation?
Maybe this love of your life attends a different school or is only in town for this one weekend/break/certain amount of time. Maybe they are a “commit-a-phobe” or is a celebrity (hey, Emma Watson chose Brown University; it could happen).
The idea of expiration dating– — a relationship in which you knowingly participate because you know it won’t last and will expire in the near future — is attractive to young, passionate, and thrill-seeking individuals such as college students for many reasons.
You’re able to reap the benefits of the “honeymoon stage” in the beginning without having to stay for the “you never listen to me/why are you so emotional” stage towards the end.
You get to partake in that ideal, yet, for whatever reason, tragically doomed relationship. You get to have fun sex without the danger of getting bored with them because you know it won’t last.
Alright, time for a reality check. As much as this no-strings-attached plan sounds like a good idea, I think we’ve all seen enough real-life examples (note: not romantic comedies) to know these types of flings rarely work out in the end, especially in college.
Even if you have a great time, we are socially programmed in the back of our minds to question at the end of this relationship if this person is actually “the one.”
And when we try to sustain the relationship past its so-called expiration date, things start to go awry.
Late night Skype calls turn into weekly phone calls, which eventually become monthly “check-ins” (“We’re still together right?”).
Sweet and sexy messages develop into suspicious accusations, which snowball into all-out screaming matches and drunken dials of frustration. Before you know it, the “I miss you baby” you once said has transformed into something more like, “I can’t do this anymore” (or if he/she is a real jerk, it may be, “We’re not exclusive anymore, right?”).
Of course, there is a possibility that you might make it through college and end up together after all. Maybe you’re that one in a hundred couples that is able to wait it out by concentrating on how much you love the other person (the hot reunion sex helps too).
However, considering the current state of the economy (last time I checked, love is not a currency that allows you to sustain yourself) and the always powerful influence of the media (“Friends with Benefits,” e.g.), “expiration dating” is hardly a great or secure avenue for a happily ever after.
Besides practicality, that long-distance or short-term relationship can distract you from the here and now. What if the one you thought was “the one,” wasn’t, and they distracted you from the real “the one?”
This begs the question: do we take the leap and go for it anyway? Do we prudently avoid this and hope we don’t end up as cat ladies/gentlemen in the future? How much risk are we willing to take for even a brief amount of happiness?
There are no clear answers, but I’d rather stick it to the classic expiration date and not throw away something that may be perfectly fine, despite what the numbers may say.
Gao is a member of
the class of 2014.