No matter your degree, the majority of students at university often find themselves subjected to some tough lessons in love. Whether it be a long-distance partner, the friend you’ve accidentally committed ‘flatcest’ with, a hinge hookup, or someone you’ve met the old fashioned way (a.k.a in real life!), Maddie Dinnage attempts to debate the age old question: is it really possible to maintain a healthy, happy relationship throughout one of the most notoriously tumultuous periods of your life?
I’ve noticed that there’s a discourse amongst students that university is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to freely explore the romance scene and, if you fail to do so, you are missing out on a valuable life experience. Oftentimes, being in a long-term relationship throughout your time at university can be perceived as wasted time, an obstacle in the way of you making the most of your experience.
Deciding whether to maintain a relationship long-distance can be an incredibly tough decision
In some cases, sure, long-term relationships can sometimes become more of a habit rather than something two people choose to maintain, and this could possibly lead to feeling unfulfilled or held-back. Though on the other hand, casual dating and fleeting hookups are not for everyone (but they are for some, and that’s okay!), and certainly shouldn’t be seen as a reason to end a relationship which makes you happy.
Many students move across the country (or even across the world!) to study at university, and therefore often find themselves leaving their partner behind. Deciding whether to maintain a relationship long-distance can be an incredibly tough decision to make, with neither outcome seeming obvious or easy.
There is definitely a lot of pressure to break-up with your significant other prior to moving away and starting anew. You may feel some external pressure from your parents or your friends, or you may be feeling doubts as a result of relationship failure stories you’ve read online. I think the most important thing to do if you’re feeling this way, is to identify where these feelings are coming from. Are they really arising from within yourself as a result of insecurities within your relationship? Or are you allowing the opinions of others to cloud your judgement?
It’s very normal to want to instantly form new connections
For those starting university single, it can seem a daunting task to navigate the overly-saturated dating pool, with many feeling the pressure to dive in head-first. When we move away from our hometowns for the first time, and hence those vital support systems (which help to keep us stable) it’s very normal to want to instantly form new connections to bring us some much needed comfort.
This desire for a quick-fix-connection can often lead to some seeking out romantic attention in the wrong places, for example, your flatmate’s bedroom, a phenomenon very aptly named ‘flatcest’. Becoming romantically involved with a flatmate may seem like a great idea, particularly when you’re feeling the effects of a heavy night of drinking at afters, but it’s important to remember that flatcest very rarely results in a success story, with most instances resulting in, at best, some very awkward kitchen encounters.
It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship without sacrificing your university experience
Personally, I have been in a long-term relationship with my partner for nearly five years after meeting at school. In that time we have faced multiple relationship tests and even spent a year doing long-distance. If you do find yourself with feelings for somebody who you want to make it work with, I am here to tell you that it IS possible to maintain a healthy relationship without sacrificing your university experience.
The most important facet of making any university relationship work is communication. Whether your partner is a hundred miles away or two doors down the corridor, it’s so important to ensure that you prioritise time and space within your relationship to facilitate healthy, frequent, and honest communication.
An essential part of communicating is setting boundaries. Be open and realistic about what you expect from your partner and your relationship. Remain honest about any insecurities, concerns and trust issues you may have; allowing worries to bottle up is never good for any relationship. If your partner violates a boundary that you have set, or does something to make you feel uncomfortable – voice it! The healthiest of relationships are founded upon respect and honesty.
Make sure to dedicate time to each other. This especially applies to long-distance love, because it can be easy to get caught up in the chaos of a busy uni and social schedule. Why not set aside a night to facetime? When my partner and I were long-distance, we used to order food for each other and watch a film together through Netflix party. Commitment to quality time with one another is a really wholesome way to show your love.
If you love each other, you will make it work no matter what
It is also really important to make sure that you’re making time for yourself and for your friendships. Especially when you’re in the early stages of a relationship, it can be tempting to spend all your spare time with that one person, but take care not to neglect your studies and all the other important relationships and friendships you create throughout your time at university.
If you’re at the same uni as your S/O, socialising as a couple is the perfect way to spend time with your partner while simultaneously broadening your social network. Integrate your partner into your own social circle and get to know their mates too! I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of my best friends through my boyfriend.
Don’t lose sight of the reason you came to university in the first place
When leaving university with a partner, it’s really important to remain open and realistic about your future plans. Don’t hold back from career opportunities for the sake of your S/O; if your relationship doesn’t allow you to both thrive individually then maybe it isn’t right. Don’t lose sight of the reason you came to university in the first place. If you love each other, you will make it work no matter what.
Remember that it is PERFECTLY FINE to be single at university, there is no pressure at all to find the love of your life. There are so so many amazing experiences to be had that do not involve a romantic partner. At the same time, it’s okay to not feel too fussed about the hook-up culture that is so inherent to popular discourse surrounding the university experience. There is no right way to experience love at uni and you should always do what feels natural to you.
Featured image courtesy of Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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