This will be the first, in what likely will be a series of posts, on the topic of relationships...
The same 100 people five days a week. A lot of them are new to the city where the school is located. The same 100 people six days a week. Partying together. Commiserating together. Relieving stress together. The same 100 people seven days a week. And so it begins: the relationships form. There are the ones that fizzle. There are ones that become serious. And others are those 'arrangements' where the two meet, late at night, in the law school bathrooms, libraries, classrooms, or conference rooms for an intimate study session.
This tidbit is more targeted to those that become serious. As was mentioned in an earlier piece, the first year law school section is a tight knit group and dating within the law school community is a great idea to find solace from the daily firestorm that is first year. Next to no one will be able to better understand what you are going through then a fellow classmate; this connection can serve as a solid foundation for a relationship.
There were three types of couples that formed in my first year section: the short term (several months), the school year long (this is where my experience came from), and the real thing.
So, here are the lessons that I learned from 1L intra-section dating:
1. Dating within your section can put your relationship into a Pressure Cooker. Words really can't describe what dating is like. It might be that I am a little more outgoing then most, a little more boisterous then most, but wow is all I can really say. The pressure cooker phenomena is that the "normal" relationship occurrences (i.e. casual dating to boyfriend-girlfriend, to serious boyfriend-girlfriend) seemed to happen at warp speed. I think that this, at least in my case, was a result of near never-ending separation between the two of us. So, when most people are identifying themselves as boyfriend-girlfriend, my significant other had a key to my condo. Yeah...it was fast. But this is the pressure cooker syndrome that I am referring to, it goes quick.
2. When you are fighting and go to class, likely Con Law will not be on your mind. My 1L girlfriend sat several rows behind me in each of our classes and like almost all law students, instead of paying attention to the prof, Instant Messaging was taking place. As I mentioned above, the two of us being in the hyper-relationship, had woken up that morning and for some reason started fighting. We went to school fighting and we were feuding right up until class started. Then it carried over to IM during class. [I can only imagine what the people behind me were thinking as I tried to surreptitiously glance over my shoulder at her to get some sort of feel for what she was communicating to me] When the person that you are dating is 20 feet from you, I could not resist the urge to finish what we had started. Class took second fiddle to trying mend the relationship and this can be a detrimental thing.
3. Everyone will know about everything in your relationship (including things that you didn't know about the relationship). People talk. Rumors get started. Fights occur in the presence of others. Needless to say, people know things. This really is more of a matter of fact statement rather than something that you can work to control. You have to be willing to deal with this; to put it another way: you are the celebrity and your classmates are the paparazzi. One of things that I took issue with is my friends, who were friends with her friends, would catch wind of something and then run to me to find out the truth (sound like high school yet?) When your significant other has friends that do not like you, this rumor mill/gossip chain can be used to make people's life interesting.
4. The Break Up can be a bitch. Everyone knows everything, there are people that do not like you, and to make matters worse, the relationship is entering its death throes. There were three options that I felt that I had: break up the week before finals, break up during finals, break up after finals (in the summer after 1L). I just couldn't bring myself to do the deed before finals started. I figured that it would be the most detrimental to us both if we were dealing with the fallout from our relationship and finals at the same time. So I waited the extra month. I hoped that things would get better (they didn't). And after finals were over, things were ended. Whoa boy. Hell hath no fury. The friends took sides. Horrible things were said. Hands down, this was the worst breakup that I have ever been through.
5. Once you've peed in the pool, it's hard to get permission to dive back in. I'm not going to say that you have only one shot at succeeding in your 1L section. However, if things do not work out, it is hard to overcome the perception that was formed about your dating abilities. Everybody has weighed in on you. They've seen you in action. And Lord knows what was said during the break-up. It's a steep hill to get over and it is possible, it just takes some work (and the desire to go through the same rigors that you faced in the last 1L relationship you were in).
Go out, be fruitful, and pray that you don't multiply.