What It's Like to be `Married' in College

Four-Year Couples

Two freshpersons are sitting on a bench at a Thayer party during freshperson week. One of them is slightly drunk and quietly places her legs over those of the male freshperson sitting next to her.

"And before I knew it, I had two really sexy legs draped over mine," Kevin W. Yardley '89 says. "My friends teased me for awhile and called me the `legman,' but now what would you do in that situation?"

Yardley uses this story to describe the way he met his girlfriend, Christine H. Berkenstock '89, whom he has dated ever since.

Berkenstock and Yardley are not the only couple who chose to ride the Harvard roller coaster together. In spite of the demands of tough classes, the time commitment of extra-curricular activities and the occasional third-party principle, several couples in the senior class were bitten by cupid's arrow early in their Harvard careers and have not recovered since.

Cupid is not at all discriminating about the places he chooses to strike and for the Class of '89, romance always seemed to strike just when students were least expecting it. From the Yard to the Freshperson's Dean's Office (FDO), freshpersons were hit and hit hard.


Margaret B. Ingall '89 says that she got to know her four-year beau, Christopher J. Duffy, in a freshperson seminar on American film that they took together. But the first time she met him was in the FDO. "People would go in the FDO and check the seminar lists," Ingall says. "I saw him leaning on a post and I remember thinking, `oh God, what a cutie.'"

The Yard is another place that frequently buzzes with activity during the incoming students' first weeks here. And for one four-year couple, it was the spot where they had their first chance encounter.

"One night it was pouring rain and I was going to a party. I didn't have an umbrella and I stopped to ask this guy if he knew how to get [to the party]," Sandra B. Lee '89 says of the first time she met her long-standing boyfriend. "And he offered me his umbrella and walked me to the party," she continues. "The next day I didn't remember him and we always joke about it now."

Time Strain

In a place like Harvard, where the emphasis is on being an individual and expanding one's own horizons, it is difficult to keep a relationship going, these four-year couples say. They explain that establishing a personal identity while still remaining a part of a couple can often be difficult.

Denise E. Katsias '89, who has dated Elliott S. Smith '89 for the last four years, says that it is understood that when people are dating seriously, they have trouble seeing their other friends.

"As far as seeing friends, anytime you have a boyfriend you're just not going to spend as much time with your friends," Katsias says. But she adds that the activities that her friends are involved in keep them busy enough so they do not mind the time she spends away from them.

But Katsias says that because she plays field hockey and Smith rows crew they do manage to spend time with their separate friends on occasion. "When I'm away [with the team], he has time to do more things with his friends and when he's away I have more time with mine," Katsias says. "It's kind of good in a way."

"We definitely have our own groups just because we like to have our independent lives, but we like to spend time together, too," Katsias says.

Others say that time apart strengthens their relationship because it gives them time to develop as individuals. And it also allows them not to become too isolated from the rest of the world.