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Students comment on pressures of relationships and dating

| Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Whether it’s buying chocolates or giving flowers, people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by taking part in any one of its many traditions. At Notre Dame, the typical Valentine’s Day traditions supplement a long list of others that stereotypically characterize the campus dating experience, such as making eye contact at Domerfest, walking around the lakes holding hands, kissing under the Lyons arch and receiving a “ring before spring.”

Boasting a number of students who owe their existence to the fact that their parents met at the University, Notre Dame stands apart from other schools in terms of the pressure for dating and finding a soul mate.

Julia Murray and Lukas O’Donnell

Julia Murray strayed from tradition by receiving a ring in the spring of her junior year instead of her senior one.  Murray and O’Donnell met on their first day in their first class of freshman year, but didn’t begin dating until they were sophomores.

Due to “superstition,” O’Donnell said he refused to hold her hand around the lakes until after they were engaged.

In classic Notre Dame fashion, he proposed by the lakes. The newly engaged couple followed the proposal with lighting a candle at the Grotto and a kiss under Lyon’s arch in a marathon of Notre Dame traditions.

As one of the first couples of the class of 2017 to be engaged, Murray and O’Donnell became well-known around campus, and continue to receive lots of opinions and unsolicited advice.

“The more negative reactions I got were from my professors, but it was positive overall from the student body,” Murray said.

From her unique perspective, Murray said she views the dating culture of Notre Dame as a culture of extremes.

“I feel like you’re either looking for someone to date and get married to, or you’re stuck in the hook-up culture … there doesn’t seem to be a culture of casual dating.

“There are people who I’m not friends with who think it’s absolutely insane that we’re getting married two weeks after graduation, but Notre Dame still has a relatively large group of conservative students who are cradle Catholics and want to get married soon. I think that there are other people who just rebel against that,” Murray said.

Kevin Dingens

Kevin Dingens, sophomore computer science major of Dunne Hall, said he does not totally agree with the college hook-up culture, but that he understands it.

“I see college hookup as a manifestation of the pressures of college, and people opting out of the relationship part in favor of the career part of their life,” Dingens said.

Of Dingens’ friends, a small minority are in committed relationships, perhaps due to the pressure of marriage that seems to come with a Notre Dame relationship, he said.

“There is a stereotype here that exists that you come to Notre Dame, you get married and you have a ‘Notre family,’ which is kind of bizarre,” Dingens said. “It’s unique to Notre Dame given its Catholic affiliation. Most of the people here, their values are grounded in Catholicism and staying with someone and not really engaging fully in this hookup culture.”

Talia Snyder and Joe Pinto

Talia Snyder and Joseph Pinto, sophomores of McGlinn Hall and Sorin Hall, started dating Dec. 1 of their freshman year after going out a few times. Although they have participated in some of the typical dating traditions, they said they don’t feel them to be necessary.

“It’s very relaxed on campus — I don’t think girls and guys feel pressured to be dating,” Snyder said.

Similarly, Snyder and Pinto said they do not feel any pressure to succumb to traditions such as the ring before spring.

“I am not a fan of it because I don’t see any big rush,” Snyder said. “You have your whole lives and just because you’re leaving school does not mean you have to have some crazy commitment. It’s kind of silly.”

“You have to learn how to live on your own before you can live with someone else,” Pinto said. “I need to learn on my own before I’m in a situation where we both have to learn together.”

Nicholas Monsalve and Caterina Breuer

Freshmen Nicholas Monsalve and Caterina Breuer, who have been dating for six months, met through a Notre Dame class of 2020 Facebook group after realizing they live relatively close to each other.

“I think that dating at Notre Dame is unique because all the undergraduates are aware that there is a relatively large amount of marriages amongst Notre Dame alum that were established here during their respective undergraduate years,” Monsalve said.

“I know our relationship’s strength was increased by being at such a community-based, loving environment,” Breuer said.

Both Breuer and Monsalve said the existence of the traditions has not put any pressure on their relationship.

“If we’re meant to be, we’re meant to be. Notre Dame traditions aren’t going to determine or affect that,” Breuer said.

Kelly Valenzi

Kelly Valenzi, an off-campus junior studying mechanical engineering who identifies in the LGBTQ community as a lesbian, said same-sex dating is more common at Notre Dame than one might think.

Two girls eating dinner together are assumed to be friends more often than not, though they may be on a date. In some ways, this alleviates some of the pressure to engage in the traditional high intensity sport with the end goal of marriage that is Notre Dame dating, Valenzi said.

“The perception of most dating at Notre Dame is kind of intense. Not everyone obviously, but some people have a ring by spring or they’re going for their MRS degree. I’ve never met anyone in the LGBT community here who has that perception, so I think it’s probably more casual than most,” Valenzi said.

“The less intense dating of the LBGT community may also be contributed to the conservative environment of Notre Dame, and the fact that there are very few people [of the LGBT community] who will walk across the quad, holding hands,” Valenzi said.

“Compared to my hometown, everything feels more secretive and less open,” she said. “Being from a liberal place makes everything easier — there are more people on the apps and everyone is more willing to be open with what you’re doing. Here, I think, that kind of slows down the intensity in some ways, but I think it makes it more personal than public for others.”

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