Students reflect on struggle to find balance in a polarized dating culture

The 2023-2024 academic year has brought questions of dating at Notre Dame to the forefront of campus dialogue and inquiry. Last semester, Right to Life and Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) hosted a talk given by Notre Dame Professor of Philosophy David O’Connor titled, “Get Married Already: Lessons from a pro-life life.” 

This semester, there have been two talks addressing this topic. Last week, Catholic speaker Jason Evert visited campus to give a talk titled “College Dating 101” at the start of SCOP’s White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) week, and Suzy Younger, the Notre Dame Campus Ministry Marriage Prep Coordinator, gave a talk with Catholic marriage and family counselor Adam Smith entitled “Dating Under the Dome.” 

All of the events have been highly attended, demonstrating an interest in dating and marriage amongst the student body. Even more indicative of a campus interested in relationships is found in looking at the highly popular campus matching algorithm, Marriage Pact. Just months ago, over 3,000 Notre Dame students opted in to take the Marriage Pact survey that then assigned them an algorithm-generated relationship match. 

In order to gauge student’s current views of dating and marriage, the Rover surveyed over 60 students from across the tri-campus. 

The results suggest many reasons as to why students are not currently in relationships and the difficulties faced when trying to establish something long-term. The inability to commit was a common factor in deterring relationships. 

Some students commented on how the preeminence of career prospects over relationships is one of the main drivers for the lack of commitment in the dating culture at Notre Dame. A senior from Keough Hall remarked, “Pressure to establish oneself in a career, the pursuit of advanced degrees, and attaining financial security are all common reasons why many Notre Dame students—even if they hope to be married and form families—tend to put off or end serious dating during their undergraduate years.”

Other respondents noted that finding people who are willing to commit to a long-term relationship can be difficult. A freshman from Pasquerilla East Hall (PE) replied, “I think it’s honestly hard to meet people because it’s such a small campus. I went through about five talking stages, short and long term, before finding my current boyfriend because either the guy wasn’t interested (just wanted to hook up or not at all interested) or I was not seeing anything long term.”

Though some students desire more commitment in their relationships, many students also had concerns about the level of commitment that dating at Notre Dame usually entails. A senior from Breen-Phillips (BP) noted, “ND kids also don’t casually date, like it’s a very odd thing if someone is going on dates but not dating that person yet.” The perceived necessity of officializing a romantic relationship before going on a single date may deter some from beginning relationships. 

In addition, students described how the beauty of getting to know another person through conversations on dates is lost when people immediately jump from being strangers to being in a romantic relationship.

Many couples also feel pressured to get the “ring-by-spring,” which can hasten the relationship process. This is in part due to the prevalent notion that college is the place to find your future spouse. 

In order to find a balance between these two extremes, dating immediately versus waiting to define the relationship, students indicated that there is a need to recover the notion of going on dates without having an officialized relationship status. A senior from Lewis Hall said, “I wish guys would just ask girls on dates, especially first dates, and be clear about what they mean (i.e., ‘I’d love to take you out on a date.’).” 

And while these casual dates are crucial, students also found it important to emphasize that casual dates should not imply being physically intimate with one another. 

If there are two ends to the spectrum, and one is the “ring-by-spring” culture, students mentioned that the other end would be hookup culture. Even though some feel pressured by “ring-by-spring,” many indicated that they do not like the alternative any more.  

“Hookup culture is a detriment to society,” a sophomore claimed. “It is fundamentally a lie which destroys those involved and damages their ability to love.” 

A sophomore from Pasquerilla West Hall (PW) was concerned that “no one addresses the issues of an increasing destruction of self esteem and craving for short-term, intense emotional cycles.” 

The aforementioned freshman from PE confessed, “I am against hookup culture. Last semester my first two sexual experiences were hook-ups and they made me feel negatively about myself.” 

She is certainly not alone. NIH research shows that “feelings of embarrassment, loss of self-respect and sexual regret are … common [after hooking up]. For example, approximately three quarters of sexually active college students report at least some regret over past sexual experiences.” 

Over 85% of respondents stressed the importance of non-sexual physical affection in dating relationships. Research from the Institute of Family Studies affirms this, as “people with premarital partners are 161% more likely to dissolve their marriages compared to people who tie the knot as virgins.” Given that 91.2% of surveyed students expressed the desire to get married, the trend of premarital sex must change if students want their marriages to last.

Despite this difficulty some students experience in determining the right amount of commitment at certain points in a relationship, many Notre Dame students have found a balance and are thriving in their relationships. Of all the top 50 colleges in the US, Notre Dame has the highest marriage potential at approximately 15% above the natural average.

A student from Holy Cross College shared, “I am very happy with my current relationship … We both have the patience to know that love isn’t always easy … People always picture love as a perfect, all happy sort of thing. While it is true, it is just true in a different way. The happiness comes from growing with that person, not necessarily what you’re doing all the time and how you’re feeling at that moment. We are able to realize that issues aren’t going to stop us from loving one another.”

Daniel Rueda-Ramirez is a freshman from Baumer Hall studying business analytics and theology. If you want to know more specifics about the relationship survey or just chat about anything, you can email him at

Photo Credit: The Irish Rover

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