With another fall semester here, it’s time that we take a good, hard look at ourselves (and our love lives). Whatever mistakes we made last year are in past semesters—we’ve got the chance to revamp our romances, so let’s not waste the opportunity by falling into the arms of yet another sleazy frat bro! Whether you have a nasty habit of choosing guys who were going nowhere or you were too much of a wallflower last spring, we’ve got the right advice to help you change your ways.
1. Your Social Life Revolved Around a Guy
It starts off innocently enough: you want to hang out with your fun, new hook-up, so you decide to spend a Saturday night with him and his friends. But then a single Saturday night becomes an entire weekend, and before you know it, you’re making plans to fit his schedule (and ditching your friends in the process).
Why is it such a bad thing? “Most college relationships don’t last forever, so when the relationship ends, you don’t want to be left behind by friends who are disgruntled that you have been neglecting them when you had something ‘better’ going on,” says Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus.
Shira Kipnees, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College, had to change her habits when she started making sacrifices for her boyfriend of three years. “We’re long-distance during the school year, so we try and Skype every night,” she explains. “However, some nights he would have something [going on] and would not be able to Skype me until right before I’d be going to bed. I’d stay up waiting for him to be done and to Skype me, sometimes sacrificing an earlier bedtime just to talk.”
Eventually, Shira talked to her boyfriend about the issue and they settled on a “five minute” system. Right before she’s going to bed, she asks him if he’ll be able to Skype soon. If he responds, “Yes, I have five minutes left,” she stays up. If he says, “Not in the next five minutes,” she says goodnight and goes to bed.
It’s all about compromise. By being direct and bringing up the problem like Shira did, you and your guy can figure out a way to spend time together that doesn’t make anyone feel left out or taken advantage of. If you’re long-distance, try setting a specific day and time to Skype and stick to it every week. If you’re on campus together, set aside a girls’ night each weekend—no boyfriends allowed!
2. You Hooked up With a Guy Knowing He Didn’t Want More (& Hoping You Could Change his Mind)
Like many collegiettes before you, you’ve probably fallen into the ever-alluring, fixer-upper hook-up trap. Here’s how the story goes:
- You hear of his illustrious bed-hopping reputation and vow to never be just another notch in his belt (no matter how cute he looks from across the quad).
- You run into each other at a party, one thing leads to another, and you discover that this boy knows how to kiss. Like, Gone with the Wind, sweep-you-off-your-feet-style kissing.
- You decide to make an exception.
- He tells you he doesn’t want a relationship, so you unwittingly agree to a FWB situation.
- You tell yourself that once he gets to know you better, he won’t help but falling for you.
- He doesn’t.
Here’s the thing: it’s not that you aren’t the most amazing, talented, intelligent girl he’s ever been with. You probably are. But when he tells you he isn’t looking for anything serious, chances are he’s set on living the single life in college—or worse, rebounding from a rough break-up.
Connie Chan, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, found herself in this exact situation. “I’ve hooked up with a guy before knowing we weren’t on the same page,” she says. “As much as I enjoyed his company, I was really wasting my time waiting around for someone who couldn’t give me what I wanted. He was nice enough to end things instead of stringing me along, but I wish I had done it myself—and much earlier!”
To save yourself from this tough situation, make some hard rules and resolve to live by them. If he tells you he doesn’t want anything serious (or you hear he’s a heartbreaker), ask yourself where you want to be by the end of the semester. If you envision yourself living the single life or open to hook-ups, then by all means, give him a shot. If, however, you’d prefer to be able to snuggle up with a guy and a mug of hot chocolate come wintertime, keep looking for someone who’s interested in more than midnight booty-calls.
3. You Hooked up With a Guy You Weren’t Really Into
Almost everyone has a past hook-up that they would rather forget, but what if that hook-up also happened to be with someone you didn’t even want to hook up with in the first place? There are plenty of reasons not to hook up with a guy, and this is high on the list.
“Junior year, one of my roommates pushed me to start hanging out with her guy friend, who was best friends with her boyfriend, after he expressed an interest in me to her,” recalls Amy*, a senior at Boston College. “I started going out on double dates with the guy, mostly because I wanted to make my roommate happy. However, once things got physical with [him], I immediately became uncomfortable. I realized that I had never been into the guy since the beginning, as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, and ended things as best I could.”
It’s a tricky spot to be in: you want to be there for your friend, but you’re just not feeling the spark. Remember that just because he’s a friend of your friend’s boyfriend doesn’t mean he deserves any preferential treatment—and definitely no undeserved kisses! If your friend is pressuring you to give him a chance, sit her down and explain that you want to find someone that makes you as happy as her boyfriend makes her, and you can tell that this guy just isn’t Mr. Right. Plus, does your friend really want to deal with the mess you’ll make when you break things off with her boyfriend’s buddy? Definitely not—so remind her of the repercussions!
On the other hand, you might find yourself going for a guy you’re not into simply because you’re lonely, you want to be physical, or you feel left out as the only single girl in your group. (Why rom-coms make the single lady life seem like an awful thing is beyond us.) Bogle’s advice: don’t settle! “There is no upside to hooking up with someone when you don’t really want to,” she says. “There are enough guys out there that you will actually be interested in, so focus on them.”
4. You Chased After Guys Who Were Unavailable
We all want what we can’t have: guilt-free carbs, Carrie Bradshaw’s closet, and, of course, unavailable guys. You’d think that we would have evolved to lust after the single ones—after all, they’re much more likely to return the favor—but unfortunately, we collegiettes are constantly crushing hard on the taken ones.
“If you only want what you can’t have, you have to ask yourself why,” advises Bogle. “Are you afraid of being hurt? Do you like the thrill of trying to attain the unattainable? Does the thought of getting someone who is hard to catch boost your ego?” If this is becoming a theme in your life, she says, you need to look inward for the reason why.
Once you figure out why you’ve been chasing taken guys, you need to try to make some changes. Don’t go to a party that you know your elusive, taken crush will attend. Instead, spend your time meeting new (single) people. Accept an invitation to hang out with people outside of your usual crowd. Even if there aren’t any guys there the first time, you never know which fantastic boys they might be friends with! Plus, the excitement and nerves of getting to know new people will take your mind off any unattainable flings.
5. You Made an Enemy of Your Ex
It can be hard to use good judgment when feelings get in the way—particularly when those feelings are of the “I need to dump him” variety. Whether he got on your nerves, let the spark fizzle, or played tonsil-hockey with someone else over the weekend, you knew you had to end it. The question was: how?
Briana Morgan, a recent graduate of Georgia College, regrets the way she ended things with an ex. “I was too afraid to have ‘the talk,’” she recounts. “Instead, I avoided him whenever I could. Finally, he showed up at my dorm because he was worried about me. Then, we had the talk. I wish I’d come clean sooner instead of dragging the whole thing out. It wasn’t fair to him.”
To avoid making the same mistake twice, try to put yourself in his shoes. Would you want to be strung along, hurt and confused for weeks? Nope, and neither would he, so be honest with him.
If you weren’t the one doing the dumping—but you dealt with the break-up badly anyway—you’ll want to take a different tactic. There’s nothing worse than running into an ex on campus who has heard you say bitter things you came to regret. And you definitely don’t want to be known as that girl who starts rumors about old boyfriends (or hooks up with their best friends immediately post-break-up).
This fall, keep your distance from former flames. If you’re with someone and he ends things—which means he’s lost his mind, of course—think before you speak. You may not care much for his feelings in that emotional moment, but keeping in mind how any potential awkwardness could affect you in the future—like in class, at parties, or at club meetings—will help you hold back any nasty insults.
6. You Turned Down a Guy Who “Wasn’t Your Type”
Sometimes, it can be hard to spot a truly nice guy, but Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them, and When to Leave Them, explains that a lot of college girls actually avoid good guys—but not on purpose. “They’re afraid to be with a good guy who wants to get close because they’re afraid if they get close, the guy will hurt them or abandon them,” she says.
Instead of giving nice guys a chance, most of us collegiettes write them off as “not our type.” We then head straight for the notorious ladies’ men, because deep down, according to Lieberman, we think there’s no risk of getting attached—or hurt. (Spoiler alert: This plan always fails. Always.) That subconscious fear might be to blame for that just-not-into-him feeling you’ve got in your gut when you come across a nice guy.
“I went on a date with this great guy last semester, but I just felt like there wasn’t any chemistry,” recalls Jessica*, a junior at Skidmore College. “I basically put him in the friend zone. Of course, by the end of the year, I ended up wanting him. I’m giving guys a two-date minimum chance next year!”
Give the nice guys a chance, even if they don’t seem like “your type” at first glance. Don’t force yourself to go on more than one date if you really aren’t feeling it—especially since it’ll probably turn into a notorious first date disaster—but ask yourself what it is about the guy that makes you think you don’t have chemistry. Does he seem too predictable? Too interested? If he’s coming on way too strong, keep your distance. But if it’s just that he’s more direct and friendly than the bad boys who’ve kept you guessing in the past, he deserves a shot! Use these seven foolproof ways to tell if he’s a good guy to see if he’s worth your time.
7. You Let Your Crush Slip By
We get it: cute boys are intimidating! They’ve got those dreamy eyes, that fresh cologne smell… it’s a wonder we don’t all start stuttering mid-conversation. If your nerves got the best of you last year, making you more of a wallflower than a flirt, now’s the time to turn things around.
“You only live once,” Bogle reminds us. “If something doesn’t work out, fine. But, you will sleep better at night if you know you gave it a shot. Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch someone else steal your crush!”
Instead, get in on the action. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. If you see your crush in class, casually ask him to remind you of your latest assignment. Then, ask how he likes the class. The conversation should flow from there!
If you get to the point where you’re on talking terms but he isn’t making moves, he might not realize that you’re interested. Turn up the flirt factor by asking him to hang out for a one-on-one coffee on campus to get him in a dating mindset. Never underestimate the power of body language, either; putting a hand on his arm for a second after he’s told a funny joke is one of the best ways to signal that you’re open to something more.
Don’t fall back into bad habits this semester. You may not find love on your first day, but by making these changes (and avoiding these seven love mistakes), you’ll be seven steps closer!
*Names have been changed.