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Building a Good Relationship in College

College is hard. Dating is hard. But combining both can feel nearly impossible. Both require an immense amount of focus and time, and it’s easy to reduce the amount of dedication you put in when you’re stressed or distracted. Take it from me, I’ve been in a relationship for the majority of my time in college,and it hasn’t always been butterflies and roses. Here are seven tips about juggling school and relationships to get the best of both worlds.

1. Give each other space.

As much as I love and adore my boyfriend, Alex, sometimes enough is enough. We are both in our university’s Honors Program, which means we are practically forced into all of the same classes. I’m constantly with him, whether it’s in the library studying or watching movies on his couch. We’ve found that it’s incredibly important to spend time apart to focus on living our lives as individuals, rather than as two halves of a whole. This helps us enjoy the time we spend together and maintain our individual goals and activities. 

2. Go on adventures outside of school. 

Given the constant stress we all go through, it’s understandable that some of our stress can pass onto our significant other. Switching up the environment you are always in can help take pressure off of your relationship. For example, Alex and I took a trip back to my hometown this weekend to see Kevin Hart’s Irresponsible Tour, which was a blast! We watched movies with my siblings, had dinner with my parents and enjoyed each other’s company away from the stress of school. Even just singing to the radio and playing car games was so much fun, and it brought back the butterflies I had when we first started dating. 

3. Have open conversations. 

If I had a dollar for every supportive word Alex has ever said to me, I wouldn’t be budgeting for Chipotle once a week. He is my biggest cheerleader and I know I can always talk to him about what’s going on in my world. However, he is human, which means there are plenty of times where he has escalated bad situations or didn’t initially respond to things like I wanted him to. We’ve had a lot of open dialogue about our expectations that go along the lines of “I really didn’t appreciate it when you XXX and would have wished you YYY”. This builds a calm environment where we can come to an understanding of our expectations without leaving things bottled up for later arguments.  

4. Discuss your upcoming week before it happens. 

We’re incredibly focused on doing well in school and building a big future. We have incredibly lofty goals that require a lot of commitment and involvement on campus. We have a lot going on every week ranging from meetings to assignments, and it’s been incredibly helpful for us to sit down on Sunday evenings and walk through our weekly commitments. Not only can we line up our schedules, but we can begin to understand the stresses the other will endure in the upcoming week. When Alex has a big exam coming up or is overwhelmed with the number of meetings he has, I make sure to give him extra space, so he can prioritize his work. I try and check in and send encouraging messages during the week, and I am lucky enough that he does the same for me. 

5. Don’t take every problem personally. 

Alex and I both respond to situations with our emotions, as opposed to logically evaluating a situation before reacting. Because of this, there are quite a few times where we’ve snapped and said things we don’t mean, but we also know when to apologize when to let things go. It has taken a lot of time and practice to be able to walk away from an argument in the heat of the moment, but knowing each other’s personalities help us know when to let things go.

6. Look for nonverbal cues.

I am not always the best at vocalizing my feelings and Alex only likes to talk about his problems when he has nothing else to talk about, which means we have both had to practice understanding little things like tone and posture to know when to leave things alone. It has taken a lot of trial and error and stupid arguments, but we’ve been able to learn a lot about each other and grow from it. 

7. Love the good and the bad.

It’s like the Snickers commercial says, “We’re not the same when we’re hungry.” Or stressed. Or tired. Or one of the millions of emotions we feel every day. I know that Alex loves me, and he knows that I love him, but we’re still learning all of the ins and outs of each other’s personalities. Sometimes they are not glamorous, but they’re real, on both good days and bad. Being in a committed relationship during such a stressful and confusing time in our lives is difficult. It means admitting when we’re wrong, taking the high road and giving more than the other is able to at any given time. But it also means having a partner through the good and bad times, and giving you the opportunity to grow into an amazing person while helping someone else develop into the best version of themselves. 

*All photos provided by the author*




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