“Long distance relationships are difficult to survive”, I always told myself and the easy way out was to become “friends” with your partner. Well, after arriving at Wharton it was clear that my assumption was wrong. Wharton was a pleasant surprise for me because I witnessed the genuine effort people were putting into their relationships and a ton of compromises they were making in order to stay together.
I had some stereotypes about relationships in the west as I was growing up in India. Somehow ‘divorce’ and ‘break-ups’ were the initial words that came to mind when I heard about western culture. I would blame romantic comedy movies that made this impression inevitable.
When I landed here and started knowing my colleagues better, I was pleasantly surprised to see different relationship segments (yes! It’s a marketing term). Here are the categories –
- Happily married with children going to school
- The Family Guy – Happily married and striking a balance between dropping the children to school and coming to class on time
- To Be Parents – Married and expecting a baby during b-school (the logic is you get more time in school than on a real job)
- Just married – Time to tie the knot, there are enough distractions in B-school
- Just engaged – My girlfriend (boyfriend) stood by me during crazy recruiting time, she (he) is the one!
- Just moved in – Hey! There might be a proposal on the way. Let’s see what destination this train reaches to
- Happily Dating – Let me enjoy this period. It isn’t the right time to get serious
- Single! – Let me take it slow
- Single ready to mingle – You might see me at every party and event
- I mean business! – I have relationships only with my start-ups and investors
Well, I hope everyone falls into at least one of the above segments. Just by the count of it, 6 out of 9 categories i.e. 67% of people are in serious commitments in school. There! My first stereotype was broken.
To go one level deeper, I found some really interesting people here – one of my friends had been in a relationship with his childhood sweetheart for 12 years. His girlfriend (now fiancée) decided to move here in order to support him during his b-school journey. And they are one of the sweetest couples in love I have ever met.
Another friend of mine moved from mid-west away from her husband but they did not let distance be a barrier – the “trophy” husband (as she calls him) travels to Philadelphia every Friday and goes back to mid-west every Sunday evening. He hasn’t missed a single weekend with her! Well, there is also the incentive to accumulate miles, haha. Jokes apart! That to me was the most outstanding gesture in a relationship.
And then there is another friend who spends every weekend with his two kids and he has integrated the family so closely in the Wharton activities that most of the people know his kids better than him.
If I look at the partner’s club, I have nothing but huge respect for all the partners. It is frustrating to not have a real job throughout the day, yet these partners have taken that painful step just to support their spouses in their Wharton journeys and mind you, they have found Non-profits to volunteer for, courses at Penn to keep themselves occupied, and have formed a stronger community of their own. Can there be a better sacrifice in love?
While travel is one of the integral parts of the B-school experience, there are some peers who have made sure that their Thanksgiving breaks and spring breaks are dedicated to places like Brussels, Germany, Argentina where their counterparts live instead of going on leadership ventures or a fun trip to Columbia. Just like the partners, my MBA friends are putting enough effort in order to spend time with their counterparts and include them in Wharton community. And Wharton has welcomed them with open hearts.
I met an old couple at Penn during a project work while doing customer surveys. The husband went through a painful surgery and had tears in his eyes when he was mentioning how his wife supported him all through that journey. The couple is going to celebrate 50 years of their marriage anniversary next month. That was the most heartfelt love story for me.
These are just a handful of the countless love stories that I have heard at Wharton and that fills me with tremendous inspiration in my life. Not only did this experience help me break all my stereotypes but it gave me a new perspective on relationships and the love that lies in the hearts of people. At the end, I can say that neither distance nor any amount of work can hinder your relationship, only if you are ready to be in pure love!