Prince William's Big Engagement: Thoughts?

Should all couples who have been together since college take a long break from each other before they get engaged?

Kate Middleton and Prince William
(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Whenever I hear about a couple that's on-again, off-again — again and again and again — I think: Why can't they just rip off that Band-Aid once and for all, and move on?

I think part of the reason that people return to old relationships, and re-kindle them, is simply because it's hard for plenty of us (most of us?) to meet people we like and feel comfortable with. Even when there are problems with a relationship, the comfort of the companionship can override disgruntlements or dissatisfactions — at least for a while. But I do tend to think that people who get back together after two or three break-ups are probably just prolonging the inevitable, or trying to ignore what they know deep down, which is that the relationship isn't going to work out.

Less cynically, I also think some couples — usually ones who re-unite after a single big break-up come back together again because the time away from each other has helped the reluctant partner realize how much he or she wants to be with the other person. Maybe they'd split up because of pressure from family and friends, or maybe because they'd been together since college and began to get a seven-year-itch. Maybe a job change temporarily altered their priorities. Maybe a big personal development (like the death or illness of a parent) made them feel too emotionally depleted or commitment-phobic to continue with a newer relationship. Whatever the reason, they often return to each other with their doubts overcome and their determination to make things work renewed.

Do Prince William and his princess-to-be Kate Middleton fit into this second group of couples whose break-ups don't kill their relationships, but rather make them stronger?

If their engagement, announced today, is any proof, I would say so.

The Prince and Kate, both 28, have been together since 2001, when they were undergrads at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Kate, the daughter of middle-class parents — her mother is a former flight attendant, and her father is a former airport flight dispatcher — could become Queen of England one day. As The New York Post notes, she "will be the first non-blueblood since the 1600s to marry a future British monarch."

Many media outlets have hinted that her lack of social credentials might have been the reason that Prince Willy and she broke up for a few months in 2007. As The Post puts it, "reports surfaced that some of William's friends began mocking Middleton's mother, Carole, calling the former airline stewardess 'doors-to-manual' (a reference to landing procedure) and spreading rumors that she offended the Queen by using the word 'toilet' instead of 'lavatory.'"

But it seems that William is a modern prince, less concerned with protocol and procedure and propriety than with marrying the girl he loves. (The Post, again: "She'll also be the first to have graduated college, modeled lingerie, and lived with her future king out of wedlock.")

I feel like in most cases it's probably a good thing for couples who have been together since college (which is such a formative experience) to take some kind of significant break from each other before getting hitched. My sense is that it helps them experience the world through their own eyes, as single people — to understand better their individual personalities (which can sometimes get a bit muted by a long relationship) and to even sow some wild oats, so that they when they do come back together, they do it feeling sure of their choice.

What do you think? And what's the most interesting part of the William-Kate relationship to you?