Relationships can be messy, especially in the beginning. After all, committing to take care of another person can be difficult if you jump into a relationship too quickly or without taking a second to reflect on what you want from your campus cutie.
So what should you think about before change your Facebook status to “In a relationship”? Here are five things to consider:
1. Get involved for the right reasons.
One of the simplest questions to ask yourself is why you want a relationship in the first place. Is it because you really like this person, or are you trying to distract yourself from other problems?
Dr. Jane Greer, a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship, acknowledges that there are definitely some not-so-awesome reasons for entering a relationship. “Some wrong reasons for getting into a relationship are agreeing to go out just because he's more invested in it than you are and is making you feel guilty, starting a new relationship only because all of your friends are dating someone and being with someone just to feel secure with a partner rather than for the feelings you have for that particular guy,” she says.
Jackie*, a senior at Wesleyan University, didn’t think about her reasons for getting involved with her then-boyfriend, Conner*. “I had just gotten out of a pretty serious relationship that lasted over three years, and I met Conner about a month later and immediately decided to date him because I missed the companionship,” she says. “It ended up being the quintessential messy rebound relationship. We didn’t mesh well at all, I subconsciously compared him to my ex-boyfriend and, looking back, I feel like I just wasn’t fair to him.”
Overall, Jackie wishes she’d given more thought beforehand to why she wanted a relationship in the first place. “If I’d just stopped to think about it, I would’ve realized that I was doing it because I was hurt, not because I was invested in any type of future with Conner,” she says.
So how can you make sure that you’re not jumping into things too quickly? Dr. Greer suggests you go out with a couple of people to ensure that this relationship is the one you want. “Before college women invest all their time and energy into a single relationship, they should give themselves the opportunity to date multiple guys and be open to different types of people before settling down,” she says. Have a little fun hanging out with many different people!
2. Know how long you can see yourself with this person.
We’re not saying you have to be ready to marry this guy or girl, but are you looking for just a semester fling, or do you want something serious and long-term?
Jen*, a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, knows how awkward it can be if you don’t answer this question before you really begin your relationship. “I started dating a guy named Lucas* in early June last summer and never really thought about where I wanted to take it, instead assuming it’d just be a summer fling,” she says. “Not knowing what I wanted led to a lot of arguments and fights about defining the relationship, which in turn spoiled a lot of the fun we could’ve had as a couple.”
Obviously, how long you see yourself being with a person determines how much time and energy you’re going to want to put into the relationship, so it’s important to figure out!
3. Make sure you know what your potential significant other wants, too.
As essential as it is to know where you stand, it’s just as crucial to make sure you’ve been talking with your beau and know what he or she is looking for, too. A breakdown of communication early on in a relationship is dangerous, so chat with your SO about the state of your relationship often.
Building on her experience, Jen wishes she had asked Lucas what he wanted a lot sooner. “Since I was vaguely interested in a summer fling, you can imagine how sticky the situation got when Lucas started talking about us visiting each other at school in the fall and spending Thanksgiving and Christmas together,” she says. “I really wish I’d said something about my intentions sooner.”
Jen emphasizes the importance of knowing where the other person stands when making your own decision about a relationship. “Had I been smart enough to ask Lucas sooner, I would’ve seen that he wanted something super serious and I didn’t,” she says. “In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t have starting dating him if I knew that.”
4. Know if you have enough time for a relationship.
To state the obvious, relationships take a lot of time and energy, so if you don’t think you can give a serious time commitment to your campus cutie, you may want to reconsider whether or not you date him or her.
After all, dating isn’t just about going on actual dates (which do take up quite a bit of time as is). There’s all of the texting and calling you’ll be doing, the events you’ll be going to together, and just the general amount of time it takes to get to know another human being.
Dr. Greer reminds collegiettes of the importance of staying centered when in a relationship. “It's important to balance it out with spending time with friends and participating in campus activities,” she says. “College girls need to be open to possibilities and opportunities before making a decision on a relationship, and, once they're in one, they need to devote an equal amount of time to the boyfriend, their friends, their hobbies and schoolwork.”
Not sure how to see if you have enough time? Rachel, a junior at Florida State University, recommends talking to your beau before things get serious. “One thing I wish I’d done in a couple of my previous relationships was talk to my guy about how much we wanted to communicate and hang out on a daily and weekly basis,” she says. “It can be so exhausting spending all of your free time texting someone or turning down other things to hang out with your boyfriend if that’s not what you want.”
Rachel emphasizes that boundaries are extremely important. “You need to figure out how much communication you need from the other person,” she says. “Do you need to be in contact 24/7, or will just a quick ‘good morning’ text do on most days? Relationships aren’t always about the big romantic gestures; they’re about the little things, too.”
5. Know what sacrifices you’re willing to make.
Building on whether or not you have enough time for a relationship, how much time for other things are you willing to give up for your significant other? After all, just because you have the time doesn’t mean you want to be using it. Are you okay with spending 30 minutes every night talking to him on Skype if it’s long distance or having a date night with him every weekend? After all, Skyping takes away time from homework (or binge watching Netflix), and date nights mean less time with friends. How are you going to fit in everything?
Jackie had this issue with Conner. “Since I’d just gotten out of a really long-term relationship, I wanted something light and fun, but Conner wanted something way more serious,” she says. “He wanted us to text all the time and hang out several times a week, but I wasn’t willing to give up all of my extracurriculars and friend time to do things with him that much. It created a rift in our relationship pretty quickly.”
Rachel also notes that sacrifices can range from small to pretty serious. “I’ve dated long distance before, and that’s a huge sacrifice both time-wise and financially,” she says. “In contrast, I also once sacrificed eating meat so I could date a guy who was a staunch vegetarian! Honestly, sacrifices vary a lot, but you just have to make sure that you know what they are and whether or not you’re ready and able to make them.”
Not eating meat for a guy? We’re not sure we could do that!
Overall, getting into a new relationship can be scary, exciting and difficult all at the same time. By taking a step back and asking yourself some crucial questions, you can avoid some heartbreak and have a much healthier relationship from the start!
*Names have been changed.