I am a huge advocate for women spending their college years focused on themselves, and I think it is especially wise during the underclassman years. College is tough, and it is one of the most important periods of a person’s life. Relationships are tough in their own right, and a good relationship requires a lot of time and maintenance. For this reason (I also speak from personal experience), relationships and college often compete for a young woman’s priorities and attention.
I, myself ditched a lengthy relationship after my sophomore year of college because I felt that I wasn’t putting my all into my schoolwork, or into the person I was meant to be. I felt like I was developing solely within the mold of the other person’s expectations, which meant I was neglecting whole pieces of my personality. When I transferred universities for the second half of my undergraduate, I decided that I wouldn’t date again until after graduation.
Cupid sure is a cheeky little bastard.
As luck had it, I fell for one of my first friends at my new university, or really he fell for me, I should say. I resisted the notion for three months straight, until I finally went back on my decision to not date until after I finished my degree. 538 days later, I am coming up on my last semester of undergrad, and I am still so happily dating this hunk…I think he will be around for awhile.
Our one year anniversary
Even though I am in such a happy relationship, and I am almost done with my degree, it has not been easy. I have never been a casual dater, and a serious relationship during college years is demanding. I’ve learned a few things along the way though, and I thought I’d impart some of these lessons on any other readers balancing a serious relationship with the hectic schedule of obtaining a degree!
1. The library is an acceptable date destination. During our first few months of dating, Benny and I never even went on an official date—we’d meet up at the library and spend hours studying and hanging out. Even now, during midterms or finals, our “couple” time is simply us at the same table studying. I know this seems silly, but I truly think this was a huge building block to the type of couple we are now: we both wanted to be together, but accepted that we both had the huge obligation of passing 16-21 credit hours. We hang out while we put in the hard work. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s real life.
2. A boyfriend isn’t a cutesy accessory. Benny came to the US to play collegiate soccer. During soccer seasons, he was taking a full load of classes, had 2-a-day practices, and would often be gone whole weekends to play multiple games. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to be spent together. It sucked; I won’t act as if it didn’t. But I was at every single one of his home games, and during his away game weekends, I was conducting myself loyally. My point is that during college, a person cannot always focus on his or her significant other, and in order for a collegiate relationship to succeed, that has to be accepted and not resented. Benny is much more than fun arm candy for Instagram photos, and I have always supported the things he has going on in his life, just as he has shown the same support throughout my own endeavors. He doesn’t always know why being in a sorority equals attending so many conferences and leadership event weekends, but he knows it’s important to me, and that has always been reason enough for his support. If you are committing to a relationship, you are committing to it even when the other person has life events inconvenient to you. Don’t half-ass your commitment. Half-assing is like the word “almost,”–only applicable in horse shoes and hand grenades.
3. Know when your arguments are dumb. Benny is very passionate, and I am a defensive person, so asinine things escalate easily. We have been dating long enough now to know when we just need to stop talking, and we can usually be all smiles and giggles within minutes of a stupid disagreement. In our early days (yesterday), we would from time to time have volcanic arguments over the most ridiculous of things—I’m talking as ridiculous as disagreements over what certain idioms mean or how to cook hamburgers all the way through (Memorial Day had us all sorts of grilling angsty). Like, what?
Also know when a particularly argumentative period of your relationship is indicative of an underlying factor. Relationships grow and change just as people grow and change. Benny and I argue most when change is on the horizon, often without initially realizing the reason at cause. Don’t cop out simply because the going is getting rough. If you can’t handle a month of turbulence with your significant other, don’t proclaim he might be “the one.” Turbulent times are when you learn the most from each other.
4. Stay open-minded. College is when people get out from within their parents’ clutches, thinking they are free from curfews and raised eyebrows, only to find that they will always think Mom’s way of folding t-shirts is right, or that Dad is the only man to have ever properly grilled a steak. In our case, also add the fact Benny spent the first 17 years of his life on another continent, speaking another language. It should be no surprise that we do a lot of things really differently, but what might be a surprise is that it typically doesn’t cause tension or arguments.
I entered our relationship knowing that my boyfriend is a Venezolano, not a good ole backwoods country boy, and he knew that he was courting a Southern Belle, not a Latina (two totally different kinds of sassiness). Despite the American South and South America (we regularly argue about which one of us gets to be the Southerner) both heavily celebrating tradition, we have gotten on so well largely because we are both curious and accepting of each other’s customs and traditions. We don’t expect one another to change, but rather we encourage each other to learn and adapt to different ways of doing things and thinking. College is the time for learning, both academically and personally. Let yourself break a few traditions, and maybe make a few new ones!
5. Don’t lose yourself. In the past, I have been guilty of morphing my interests into those of the people I hung out with, including those of guys I liked. I can confidently say that making myself into who I think another person wants (either as a friend or a girlfriend) has failed 100% of the time.
My biggest tip for when you feel yourself slipping into this habit is to go be by yourself. There have been a few occasions on which I have opted to go home and hang out with my dogs or read rather than hang out with Benny. He always tries to seize an opportunity for spending time together, but when I tell him I’m going to be a loner for the night, he gets that I need some personal time. You can’t be there for your significant other if you aren’t there for yourself. Sometimes being alone is uncomfortable, but it is so healthy now and again.
College is hard. Relationships are hard. It is possible to pull the two off simultaneously, but it is challenging! People, particularly older adults (*cough*moms*cough*) will doubt you, but if you have something worth working twice as hard for, I think you should. My advice is to stay honest with yourself though; your time and attention are so precious.
Venezuela (Benny is the Southerner in this photo)
Alabama Jubilee (I am the Southerner in this photo)
What is the best or worst advice you’ve received regarding dating during college?