Break-Ups at Dartmouth: Is It Really the End?
One writer investigates how students get through breakups at Dartmouth and reflects on his own experiences.
Ah, fall at Dartmouth. The foliage is at the peak of its brilliance, the river is still warm enough for a daily dip and, if you’re tired of on-campus activities, you can take a trip to the Norwich farmer’s market or go apple picking. These elements create the perfect storm for a romantic escapade! At Dartmouth, fall is the season of love and excitement as the new academic year starts. Or is it?
As my friends and I were reflecting about our “question of the day” around a circle table on Foco dark side — a sort of high council for all-things Dartmouth — we thought about the sheer amount of Dartmouth alumni couples that we see on our Instagram feeds, email newsletters and at Parents Weekend.
But with all of these Dartmouth relationships, break-ups are inevitable. So the question arises: When every other study spot seems like a romantic, picture-perfect location, how do you get over an ex when you are constantly forced to see them around?
Overall, there seems to be a common consensus on the culprit for breakups at Dartmouth: the infamous D-Plan.
One ’25 said that the D-Plan is antithetical to deeper connections.
“There’s a big hookup culture, and the thing about the D-Plan is that there will be six months with us where we’re not on campus together,” she said. “When priorities are in different places, it’s harder to start relationships and harder to maintain relationships when you know that’s coming.”
She added that couples can be apart for up to six months and, in this case, it can be easier to say goodbye than to try and sustain a relationship.
“If you haven’t communicated what you both want, it’s harder to make deeper connections with someone,” she said. “That’s why a lot of people hook up here.”
In an email to The Dartmouth, Caitlin Barthelmes, Student Wellness Center director, also highlighted that the D-Plan can be a barrier to maintaining relationships.
“Many students have shared that the fast-paced terms can be a barrier to establishing and maintaining relationships, as well as seeking out support when challenges arise,” Barthelmes said.
In another email response, Alexandra Lenzen, an associate director and psychologist at the Dartmouth Counseling Center, wrote that it can be especially hard to go through a breakup if other people close to you are off that term.
“If a student on campus breaks up with their partner, they would likely want to turn to a close friend for support,” Lenzen wrote. “But this [can] be especially challenging if all their close friends are also away from Dartmouth.”
So if it feels like breakups are all around us at Dartmouth, then what do we do when we break up?
We’ve all heard the classic advice. Take time and space away from that person. Cut off all contact. No texting at 2 a.m. No looking at photos of you together. No stalking them on Instagram.
Getting over a relationship is not an easy process. But it’s certainly easier when you have real space from that person. Physical distance enables self-reflection, growth and a start to a new phase of your life. You can even start a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try — for me, it was reading.
So what happens when that relationship ends at Dartmouth, and suddenly it seems like that space you’ve worked so hard to create from them has become fictional? When you run into your ex on the stir-fry line at Collis, or lock eyes with them bright-red on the treadmill at Alumni Gym?
When I take my walk across the green to Collis to get my morning Hugh, I see and wave to the same people. When I’m at the gym, I dap up the same five gym bros. And when I go out, it seems like the same cast of characters join me at every frat basement.
“It is a small school, and yet there are those who love it,” Daniel Webster once said, as we all know. And it’s true: Dartmouth’s size can be charming.
However, Dartmouth’s small size and insular nature does not help when you are trying to get over someone. Another member of the Class of 2025 remarked that the problem with breaking up with someone is the awkward interactions that arise from constantly seeing them around.
“The thing about breaking things off with someone you used to see all the time is that you also have to get used to always seeing them,” she said. “Also dealing with the awkward interaction about seeing them in person.”
Lenzen also wrote about how breakups have the potential to painfully upend social networks.
“Even in the most amicable situation, there is usually some awkwardness while the partners grieve, and mutual friends navigate the new friendship dynamics,” she wrote.
Do you wave? Do you give them a side-eye? Or do you just act like they do not exist and put your headphones in? No matter what you do, however, your heart can sink a little every time you pass them by.
This problem can be intensified within close friend circles. A ’26 who recently ended a relationship stated that you often meet people through the person you are dating.
“You meet people through dating someone, and the person you were dating can meet your friends,” she said. “People don’t know how to react and how to support you if they’re newer friends and are closer with your ex. It takes mature conversations, and if one of those people isn't willing to have those conversations, then it’s not going to work out.”
Another ’26, who ended his relationship last spring, added that word can travel fast around campus, and everyone “knows everyone else’s business.” This can add a new dimension of tension to an already less-than-ideal situation.
“You have to consider what other people think, and what they know,” he said. “It’s harder for people to keep things under wraps.”
So, what should we do? Well, it depends.
If things went horribly wrong, then you do not have to see the person. There are ways to dodge them, especially if you love Collis and they love Foco. Even if your frat does events with their sorority, there are ways to stay well out of a six-foot radius, like making sure they never get on table.
On the other hand, the awkwardness that can come from Dartmouth’s small, tight-knit community can also be its strength. If you went to a bigger school and did not have to see your ex around, then perhaps you would never be forced to confront past mistakes or things that were left unsaid.
The same ’26 added that “because we see each other, we are on good terms.”
Now if you want to ask your ex’s best friend out, well, then that may end a little bit worse.