In my first year of college, I enjoyed an extremely passionate love relationship. We met during freshman orientation and our initial chemistry was instant as well as mutual. Actually, on the night we met he "rescued" me, so to speak, because one of the guys from my dormitory floor was annoying me by the way he ignored all of my very obvious signals that I was not particularly interested in talking to him.
I smiled the first time he looked at me, but to be perfectly honest, I would have smiled at almost anybody at that moment, because I was trying (unsuccessfully) to discourage the guy who would not leave me alone. The idea was simply to hint at the idea that I was not interested in him by making eye contact with someone else. My (eventual) boyfriend was very polite about it, but after we smiled at each other, he drifted over to my chair. He could tell what was going on, but he was very polite about introducing himself. That was something I noticed right away, because I have always admired gentlemen.
He was already a junior at the time, which seemed to explain why he was so much more mature than my classmates, and that appealed to me very much. In addition, he had beautiful blue eyes and it was quite obvious by his physique that he spent more time involved in athletics than just drinking every night the way almost all the immature freshmen guys seemed to. He happened to be wearing the same cologne as my father, which I have always loved.
Our relationship developed very quickly, and by the time classes were in full swing, we were dating exclusively. In fact, there were many times that I had difficulty paying attention in class because I found myself drifting away to thoughts of him, even though we were already spending most of our free time together. We met each other's families during the first holiday break, and we were even talking
about living together for his senior (and my sophomore) year, after his roommate graduated that upcoming spring.
We were able to arrange to spend the summer together by applying for the same summer studies abroad program, but it was during that summer program that our relationship started to fall apart. One of the problems was that I started to see another side of him that was somewhat immature, especially the way he could never admit that he was wrong. Instead, he would always find some excuse to be angry, so the topic of the original disagreement was obscured. There were also other issues of compatibility, despite the fact that we always had a fabulous physical relationship, sometimes even more so after a fight.
There were some communication issues, because I was very open with him about my thoughts and feelings, whereas he kept his thoughts to himself many times, and I began to feel lonely, even when we were together. Ultimately, what really ruined things was his unjustified jealousy, which was even more annoying to me because he was the one who was interviewing out of state, even though he knew I
would have two more years of school left, while I wanted to spend that time living together until my own graduation.
How We Fell In Love:
To be perfectly honest, when I first arrived in college, I was quite ready to begin a new relationship. I had experienced one serious romantic relationship in high
school, but it had been more than a year since I had such love. My first boyfriend was my closest friend and confidante and I missed having that kind of intimacy in my life.
On one hand, the fact that I have such a good relationship with my family helped fill that void when I still lived at home; on the other hand, the closeness to which I was accustomed contributed to my feelings of loneliness those first few weeks of college. When I met my boyfriend, much of that loneliness seemed to dissipate almost immediately, especially when we were together. This comports with the views of social scientists, who consider love to be, fundamentally, a "manifestation of our need for affiliation with others" (Johnson & Marano, pp. 225,
227) especially, as concerns the intimacy of romantic love.
Another factor that may have accounted for some of our chemistry is that we had such a similar sense of humor; in fact, he reminded me very much of one of my best male friends from home, who I adored. We had very similar taste in music and I liked my boyfriend almost immediately (partly) for that reason. In many ways, the friendship component of our relationship was almost identical to that which I shared with my best male friend from home, except (in his case), unfortunately, I was never physically attracted to him. According to Robert J. Sternberg, the fact that we liked each other so much -- wholly apart from the physical attraction -- played a major role in our developing a romantic love (Trotter, p.243).
In retrospect, it might not have been such a coincidence that my boyfriend was so drawn to me on the night we met, even if I was also, as he used to always tell me,
"just his type." Studies have established that men are particularly likely to be attracted to women who they perceive to be selective; more particularly, they are likely to be most attracted to women who seem completely unavailable to other men but comparatively receptive to them (Hatfield, p.207).
Hatfield demonstrated that men are much less likely to express a romantic interest in women who are seen as too receptive to many different men, but they are also less likely to express an interest in women who seem completely unreceptive to any man (pp.213, 216). So, in that regard, the circumstances under which we met initially could not have been more favorable from his perspective. The mechanism underlying this feature of male perception is a form of self-fulfilling stereotype, in which one elicits some of the behaviors and responses that one expects to find by treating someone in a manner consistent with the presumption (Synder,
On my end, a similar phenomenon might have played a role in my immediate attraction to him, in that I was feeling quite uncomfortable and upset -- almost to the point of wanting to leave the pub because of the unwanted attention from my dormitory mate -- when he first approached me. While the studies into the effect of one's emotional state at the time of exposure to a potential suitor conducted by Berscheid and Walster related mainly to fear, it is nevertheless conceivable that my discomfort about my pushy classmate contributed to my receptivity toward my (soon to be) boyfriend at the particular time in a very similar fashion.
At the time we met, I had already expressed disappointment in some of the behavior that I had witnessed on the part of college age males, partly because I lived in an all-freshman dormitory. Naturally, I had anticipated meeting more mature men in college, but at the same time, I had almost overlooked the fact that at least half of the members of the student body were barely older than I was at the time. So, I was quite thrilled when I realized that he was almost three full years older than I was.
Even though I may not necessarily have been looking for an older romantic partner, the fact that I considered it such a positive thing is very consistent with research into gender-based differences in mate selection in that women are, generally, much more likely to be drawn to slightly older men, whereas men are comparatively more likely to prefer somewhat younger partners (Sprecher, p. 213).
Finally, it is equally conceivable that, at least to a certain degree, factors analogous to a self-fulfilling prophecy (Synder, pp.99, 100) accounted for my immediate perception (or expectation, rather,) that he would be considerably more mature than men exactly my age. This observation is only corroborated by the fact that I discovered, only much later in our relationship, that aspects of his immaturity contributed to my disillusionment with the relationship.
Why We Broke Up:
In retrospect, some of the factors that contributed to the eventual deterioration of our relationship actually had their roots in some of the mechanisms that facilitated our initial attraction to each other in the first place, especially in my case. The immaturity issues that surfaced later were particularly disappointing to me, precisely because my prospective belief (and/or expectation) at the beginning of the relationship was that he was more mature than men my age. In all likelihood, I
accepted the premise that a man three years my senior would surely be more mature than anyone my age in the manner described by Synder (p.99), rather than observing his behavior more objectively on a continuing basis in order to…