The elusive LTR (long term relationship): they are not supposed to last at our age. Hookup culture normalizes casual sex with no strings attached, and we are encouraged to experiment and be carefree because we have plenty of time to settle down in the future. I’ve been told that I was too young to get serious with somebody and consider a future with them, and hey, you’re entitled to your opinion, but my relationship has been happily progressing forward for over three years. I met my boyfriend, Robert, in high school, and we encountered a lot of flak for getting seriously committed so early. We both wear promise rings (not purity rings-that is often misinterpreted) because we know for each other, we are it. Insert judgment calls that we will break up before we graduate-it’s cool, I expect it, but hear me out.
My belief is that love is not convenient; it is not going to show up in a handsome, well-groomed package on your doorstep when you have accomplished everything you have ever dreamed of that required you to be single. I also believe that you potentially have many “soul mates,” or people that you could happily build a life with, but you do not let go of somebody who is perfect for you because you want to see what else is out there. Thus, being committed to someone is a choice and a daily effort. Love is not those overwhelming butterflies that start a relationship; love is knowing that you have a safe place when life is impossibly hard and being that safe place in return.
I’d like to share the best advice I can muster for navigating the world of the young LTR, but let me first preface it with this: only you and your partner know what is best for you as a couple, and only you know what is best for you. Do not try to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy for the sake of being in a relationship; healthy relationships should always enhance your life, not make you miserable.
Be your partner’s best friend: This seems to be the common thread across those relationships that go the distance. In my relationship, the deep friendship and respect between my boyfriend and I developed naturally. Comfortable silences, understanding each other’s humor, knowing what makes them happy and what upsets them, making an active effort to improve their day, admiration for who they are as a person; these are all things you should be really appreciative of if they exist in your relationship. While I disagree that relationships are friendships with sex, I do believe that a deep friendship is the foundation for a loving relationship.
Don’t listen to the naysayers: I once read an opinion piece that argued people should be banned from serious relationships until they are 25 or older. Yeah, that is completely insulting; it suggests we are incapable of knowing ourselves well enough to make mature decisions. I acknowledge that statistics do not paint the brightest picture for young people in long term relationships, but there are plenty of young people who are committed and will stay (happily!) committed all their lives. There is this idea that you discover what you do and don’t want out of a relationship exclusively through experiencing ups and downs in several relationships. That could be true for some, but it is just as possible to figure that out within a monogamous commitment. When you are with the right person, they respect your boundaries and vice versa.
Don’t be afraid to grow (together): Change is natural, and it’s a good thing! Five years from now, you may be in a completely different place than you expected. Maybe your career goals will have changed or you’ll decide you want to spend some time abroad. Maybe your life will have played out according to plan. That is the reality of life; it is full of uncertainty and in turn full of opportunity. Uncertainty should not deter you from maintaining a healthy, committed relationship. Indeed having a partner there is an advantage in making life changes, because they will always keep you centered. Of course, these big changes mean big discussions with your partner. Making these life decisions with your partner strengthens the relationship and allows you to grow together rather than apart.
This list is not, and can never be, exhaustive. Relationships are the most unique and personal aspects of our lives, and so, only you know what is best within these relationships. Nonetheless, these tips have been successful within my own relationship and many others. I wish you all the happiness in the world, collegiettes!