Ruth DeWitt Bukater, Rose's mother, insisted that Rose marry a rich and wealthy man that maintained a high social status so that she and Rose could also maintain their high social status after falling into bad debt problems after Rose's father died.
It is not known when the two met, but eventually became engaged and planned to be wed in the United States (their reason for boarding the RMS Titanic), despite their rather large age difference (Cal was 30 and Rose was 17 when they boarded the Titanic.) Perhaps the best thing that Cal ever did for Rose was give her the rare and priceless Heart of the Ocean necklace. Cal often abused Rose and demanded much from her. They had several differences. One of them was their taste in art, Cal constantly complained about Rose's fascination in art done by that of Picasso or Monet. His deepest resentment for her artistic tastes was the fact that she loved work done by Jack Dawson, a penniless third-class artist who boarded the ship after winning a pair of tickets in a game of poker. Upon their meeting, Rose and Jack fell deeply into a passionate romance. Rose had her flaws, too, but perhaps they were for the better. Rose was very secretive around Cal, especially when she refused to tell him that she planned to commit suicide by throwing herself off of the side of the ship. Jack stopped her and saved her.
Eventually, Rose became fed up with Cal's constant arguing with her and his abusive actions he often did to her, such as throwing their breakfast table at her and threatening her when he began to suspect she was having a love affair with Jack Dawson. Rose realized that Jack was not only kind, but he cared about her, unlike Cal. The final straw was when Cal found a nude drawing that Jack drew of Rose locked in his safe. He snuck the Heart of the Ocean into Jack's pocket and framed him for it in order to get his revenge. Rose saved Jack afterwards, however. When Ruth and Cal insisted that Rose get into a lifeboat to escape the Titanic after it hit an iceberg and began to sink, Cal made a rude comment to Rose, saying, "You know, it's a pity I didn't keep that drawing. It'll be worth a lot more by morning." Rose responded by calling him an "unimaginable bastard" and spitting in his face.He seemed to forget this and desperately tried to get Rose into one of the lifeboats. He placed his coat on her (which had the Heart of the Ocean in it) and continued to persuade her to go. He and Jack then told Rose that there was an arrangement made for the two of them to escape the ship, but they would not be in the same lifeboat with her. She could not part with Jack and jumped back onto the ship as the lifeboat began to descend into the water. Rose could not bear to part with Jack. Cal became enraged by this and chased the two through the ship with a revolver in an attempt to shoot both of them, however, his attempt failed when his gun ran out of bullets.
Now, having given up, Cal boards Collapsible Lifeboat A by pretending to care for a young girl he found crying behind a davit motor. Rose is rescued by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe in Lifeboat No. 14 after the the Titanic sank.
Their love affair seemed to have ended. Rose had never had feelings for Cal, but became engaged to him only because of her mother's insistence. After the Titanic sank and Jack died of hypothermia, Cal searched for Rose on the RMS Carpathia, the ship that rescued any survivors from the Titanic. Although Rose had survived and been rescued, she hid from him and avoided him. Cal presumed her to be dead and remarried. Rose remarried as well. In 1929, when the Stock Market crashed, Cal fell into financial trouble and committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth.