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The “Real World” Relationship


When I was in college, people knew a lot about my relationships without me having ever said a word.

I was told things like, I saw you guys on a date at the Den, so cute – and – Oh my gosh, you guys were so ridiculous last night. Or- I love how he comes up to say hi to you in Commons – and – We tried to introduce ourselves to him last night but it didn’t really go as planned; it was like his eyes could only find yours.

When those relationships were over, because people knew so much about them I heard a lot of opinions: This is going to be a hilarious story some day – and – He was never the right guy for you, anyways. Or – You left the country, what did you think was going to happen? – and – Maybe you guys can still be friends.

Shortly after moving to New York, I found myself in my first real world relationship.

As I started to share my happiness with close friends and family, they each encouraged me to write – both for myself, and also to share a piece on the differences and the similarities between a college relationship and a real world one.

I thought it over, but I found that I didn’t really like writing about my relationship. In starting to share this new part of my life with an audience, I felt like I was losing a little bit of it; with my words, the relationship was starting to polish itself into something much smaller and yet much more established than it really felt, all so that could follow along the lines of the story I was writing for it. I feared that if I let other people in, if I shared too much, the relationship would cease to be ours and we would both be left feeling like we were once again on a college campus. So I stopped telling its story; I shut my laptop and I closed my eyes and I just breathed.

At the end of the day, there aren’t very many differences between the college relationship and the real world one.

It doesn’t matter if you live in the same dorm or a whole subway ride away from each other; you will spend time together when you can, stay in or go out, see friends or just relish your time together. When you’re happy, you’re happy; when you’re not, you’re not. It really doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are.

I do believe, however, that the difference between the two can be found in the number of people who feel that they understand, live or know your relationship. In college this number includes everyone you know and even some you don’t; after college, if you so desire, this number can be reduced to just two: to yourself and whomever it is that you are just beginning to love.

My first real world relationship was a perfect example:

I had protected that relationship from outside involvement, when it hit its demise I found that I remained, miraculously, enclosed and protected by it. Because I had spoken no words that could be used against me, I was able to live (for a week or a month or however long I needed) in a safe little world where I could put myself back together – with the help of other people I love and trust, of course, but without incessant commentary from the collegiate peanut gallery. I had left no kindling near the relationship’s flame, and was therefore finally given what I had so desired, and yet been denied, in my college relationships: respect and peace as I lit that flame – and still later, as it burned down.

Read more posts by Ebbe Sweet here. Ebbe blogs for JenningsWire.


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