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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Can university romances survive?
This Life cast
Life after university requires re-adjustment
Love had blossomed between Prince William and Kate Middleton at St Andrews but then foundered a few years later. It's a typical story for many graduates. Why?

Another university romance hits the rocks of the real world.

Although a relationship involving a future king makes the circumstances extraordinary and unique, there is one dimension that millions of people can relate to.

The reality check that awaits graduates as they leave the cloistered surroundings of university can as easily apply to the love life as the career.

Relationships that appeared rock-solid for one, two or even three years undergo a stern examination when the lecture hall is replaced by the workplace.

Amy Jenkins, creator of This Life, which for many BBC viewers characterised post-university life, believes the odds are stacked against such romances surviving.

"You're probably too young to settle if you met at university," she says. "You haven't found yourself then and don't know what you're going to do, necessarily. Your most important relationship is with yourself."

She had been horrified to learn some time ago that Prince William and Kate Middleton could get married.

The kind of man I would have picked at university is very different from the man I ended up with
Amy Jenkins
Writer, This Life

"It's the last bit of growing up and some people manage to do that in a relationship but it's difficult. In most cases it's much too soon because if you're not careful you start to define yourself in reaction to the other person rather than just defining yourself."

Being single in your 20s is important because it's a time when, without parental support, you can think about what job to have, what person you are and what life you want, says Ms Jenkins.

"The kind of man I would have picked at university is very different from the man I ended up with. If I had met someone who wanted to have a family I would have wanted to break out in my 30s to become the writer I've become."

Crisis point

University provides a cocooned existence which acts as a safety net, says Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at King's College London.

"It's like a shipboard romance, isolated from the real world and its additional stresses, so when people emerge they begin to meet new people and go separate ways. The world changes around them and that might well be what has happened in this instance."

Prince William and Kate Middleton
Happier times... but were the odds stacked against them?

People may feel if they get hitched irrevocably at the end of university they are going to miss out on testing a lot of new waters and fresh fields, he says, which can prompt a point of crisis or re-evaluation.

There are points in favour of a university romance lasting. Relationships which are built on common ground, including intellectual similarities, have a better chance of lasting than those that cross all kinds of divides, he says.

But women are seen as more attractive at a younger age than men, and males with a strong social standing often pick a more youthful female partner.

"It's good they both have a university background but it might be that William's eventual partner is going through university now, five years later," says Mr Wilson.

"The wanderlust in males takes a bit more cooling to settle than it does for females who are looking for bonds and love from an earlier age."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I met my wife at University in Hull when we were 19 and 20. We are now 31 and 32, have been married for 3 years, and have a gorgeous 1yr old boy. In the last 12 years we have admittedly had our ups and downs, and are now both very different people than we were at University. But you know when you have found someone special and you stick with each other despite each other's changes - and you also realise that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Richard Ellor, Altrincham, Cheshire

Met my wife at her freshers week, my 4th year her 1st. That was 1991, we're about to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and have two kids. Still as in love with her now as when we first met. These royals, they have no staying power. Mind you, in her case she's probably better off out of it ....
Tim, Southampton, UK

Met in our second year, still happily together nearly 22 years later, 7 years married... nuff said :)
Andrew Meredith, Chippenham, Wiltshire

Thirty years on we're watching various Uni marriages among our friends founder... but not all fall totally apart. You have a choice: if you and your "when-we-were-20 partner" aren't the same people after the maturing process, it can still work. It depends if you BOTH want to rediscover who the other person "really is". If so you can be stronger than ever.
Clare Weiner, Oxford UK

Do some research BBC! Whilst it may be true that graduates from other universities do not tend to marry people they met at university, this is certainly not true of St Andrews where over 50% of graduates are married to someone they met at university (the highest rate in the UK).
Phil, Cambridge

I married my first boyfriend, whom I met at university, after five yrs of dating. He was 26, I was 27. We separated within two yrs while I was in medical school. Our completely different outlooks on life became obvious once we no longer had the "common glue" of university and graduate school. (I'm in Germany now, he's still in Nebraska, USA....)
WJD, Formerly of Cambridge, UK

I met my husband at University (I was in my first year, him is his 2nd), we got married last year (on our 6th anniversary). Yes our relationship has definitely changed and it made sense to wait to get married but I love that we have been together from a young age, and my fond memories of university are a result of sharing it with him.
Jenny Slungaard, Brighton

Sadly, young adulthood romance is not reality. My immediate post-university marriage ended; so did that of my second wife's - ours lasted 35 years till her death from cancer. We were both 32. Amongst her close girlfriends at university, three married after graduation and were single again within five years.
David Skene-Melvin, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ours is surviving so far. But still early days - just 23 years so far.
Dave, Warrington

Happily married to the man I met at university 12 years ago...
Julie, Swindon

I would say mainly no. I met someone at uni, and was with them for nearly five years but in the end after uni we wanted different things. You change and grow as a person during your time at uni. I'm now engaged and I am a totally different person now and want different things out of life.
Suzanne Leeson, London, UK

My partner and I have been together almost five years. We started going out at the end of our first year and despite my being on a placement for a year of our time at Uni in another city our relationship survived. At the end of Uni we both got jobs in London and have been living together for 18 months now. Three weeks ago we got engaged - our University romance has more than survived...it's got better and better!
Jen, London

University romance worked for me. Nine years after meeting, six years after university and five years after getting married, our relationship is just as strong as it has ever been.
Matthew, Oxford

I am one of three graduates who were best friends at university, were at the same college, and subsequently each married girls who were all at the same (other) college. All three marriages are doing just fine, thank you, 27 years after we matriculated.
Robin Wilton, Westbury, UK

Of course not we're kids when we go to university and the relationships that start and even continue after University are strictly hormonal and maybe convenient at best... Not too mention once guys have some cash in their pockets its amazing what type of talent they can attract compared to the penniless days of higher learning! Keep fishing guys!
Adil Kamal, Montreal, Canada

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