On an overcast November day, you hold your jacket tight and sprint through the New Haven cold to return to your dorm. Midterms, essays and Canvas notifications wait for you on your computer, but when you crack open your laptop to begin your work, another email grabs your focus. Someone named email@example.com says you’ve been invited to participate in their program. Your FOMO kicks in; you read on. Fill out a Google form, the email instructs, and you’ll be matched with somebody else and given “dating tasks” to finish. You click on the Facebook link, to which a couple of your good friends marked “Interested.”
You don’t sign up right then, but, over the next few days, you mentally revisit the email. When you walk through the fresh snow to your Wednesday 9 A.M. and feel the harsh wind pummel your cheeks, you think it would be nice to have someone’s hand to hold. When you climb, exhausted, into your bed, you wish there was someone to text “goodnight!!” to. If you sign up, maybe you’ll meet someone else who feels the same way. At worst, you could get free Vivi’s bubble tea.
Last November, 790 Yalies experienced their own version of this moment when they decided to sign up for the Three-Day Relationship, a novel program organized by Yale undergraduates Barkley Dai ‘21, Elliot Britton ’22, Jason Chen ’20, Cormac Slade Byrd ’20, Mark Torres ’20, Shunhe Wang ’20 and Huahao Zhou ’21. Whether you signed up for a blind or non-blind date, requested a platonic or romantic partner, reached out to your match but never sent a message, or just abstained and watched the chaos ensue from afar, chances are you heard about it. This Valentine’s Day, we look back on the Three-Day Relationship and find out how it went.
“We are running the Three-Day Relationship Program because we think that Yale students find it hard to commit to relationships (or anything!),” read the initial email from the program. Reviewing the statistics, their statement seems like a prophecy. While most participants who signed up for a blind date ended up going, almost half of participants who signed up for a non-blind date never actually met.
As one anonymous first year said, “Neither of us reached out. I realized I didn’t want to do something that artificial, and it felt so unlikely to be effective. At least when you’re getting set up you know you have something in common.”
“I was paired with a man I had no intention of ever talking to, so I didn’t,” said another first year.
“I got matched and I was just kinda like, is this something I wanna do?” said another interviewee. “And the answer was no.”
For others, the bureaucracy of The First Move got in the way. One first year told us that he’d freaked himself out: “I was with my friends and they told me not to email first, which I think is the stupidest fucking thing they’ve ever done to me, because I think we could have had a really good friendship. Now I don’t know how to get in contact with him.”
And then, of course, there was the actual date itself, in which awkward conversations and late arrivals abounded. One first year said that her date was “trying really hard to sound profound.” Another reported disappointedly that her date “was nice, but he was like 5’3”.”
None of our interviewees seemed to fall head over heels for their match; the highest compliment tended to be something like “he was like a really nice person — but — well, was he a really nice person? I mean… he was… nice.”
Many respondents said they signed up hoping to at least make a new connection, but most of these potential bonds fizzled out and died very quickly. “We both said ‘we’ll do this again!’ and then neither of us ever texted each other,” said one interviewee.
“He offered to walk me back to L-dub, and I was like… ‘sure!’ and then I said bye and we never hung out again,” said another. “Probably for the best.”
When we started writing this piece, we had hoped that this would be an article about finding love, that we would discover the magical case of two people who are happily together months out after their three-day relationship. After all, it is Valentine’s Day. We wanted validation for putting ourselves out there, for taking risks, all in the name of that special someone. We wanted to know that it was possible. Instead, we found a slew of awkward experiences, a pile of mutual ghostings, and more regret than we honestly thought was plausible. So, we reevaluated. Instead of asking why this is the case — because we know exactly why this is the case: algorithms, no matter how advanced, cannot predict chemistry. We decided to ask a different question: why did we even try in the first place?
Maybe it’s a first-year thing, relegated to wide-eyed frosh who want the true college experience, completed by another body to share it with. After all, most participants in the three-day relationship program were younger students, with most seniors gawking at the idea. When we asked one senior why she didn’t take part, she answered, “I thought it was the stupidest shit. People just wanna be in love, but you can’t force it. There’s a time in my life when I really would have liked something like that, but now I think when people are just in a relationship because they want to be in a relationship, it isn’t healthy. I’ve never seen something good come out of that.”
But, then again, first-years also echoed those same sentiments. As one first-year who didn’t participate said, “I don’t think a relationship is super what I’m looking for. I think for now I want to keep intimate friendships, like people I can cuddle with and hug a lot, and then getting with people, as two separate things. Things could move from one to the other, but for now that’s where I’m at.”
Maybe the answer, instead, is that there isn’t one. Maybe the point is that it’s not rational. Maybe it was a spur-of-the-moment, impulsive decision cascading around campus, a campus filled with people who got here by doing things by a playbook and following the rules and holding themselves in check. Maybe this was a rebellion of sorts against a world that says that love in college is relegated to sweaty hookups in a friend of a friend’s suite. A desperate attempt to revert to the “old-fashioned way”: shy smiles in a coffee shop, a late-night walk back to your room.
So, what does it mean that we never got that happy ending? Are we resigned to our hookup culture, ghosting, regretful, fate? Is this what college love is like, and it’s about time that us wide-eyed frosh stop searching for more?
It doesn’t seem so; or, at least, from Yale Data Match to Yale Orb1t to the LGBTQ+ Co-op’s recent speed-dating event, Yale students aren’t demonstrating any lack of determination.
And, not every connection that was made through Three-Day Relationship dissipated. After all, when one of the co-authors of this piece posted an Instagram story soliciting feedback about the program, his own match sent a message in response:
“I met this really cool guy and we had lots of fun!!! I think he and I should get a meal sometime.”
Daniel Blokh | firstname.lastname@example.org
Madison Hahamy | email@example.com