A Guide to College Relationships

I have to be honest with you. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a marriage counselor. So why am I giving advice on college relationships?

Kenrick Leung
Guardian

It’s because I’ve had my share of experiences that have taught me a lot. In addition to my relationships, I have also seen many close friends go through the difficulties of college relationships.

My hope is that others can learn from our mistakes, as well as our triumphs, by reading this article. That said, here are my humble offerings of advice about life and love in college.

A Whole New World

The first thing you must realize is that you aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. College relationships are on an entirely different plane of existence than high school relationships. While many college relationships fall short in magnitude when compared to post-college relationships, they are much more serious than your typical high school relationship.

Gone are the weeks on end when all you see of your so-called significant other is the 15 minutes between math and science. Since not everyone has the same schedule in college, it takes some effort to actually see your boyfriend or girlfriend. This means that you two might actually have to go on a date, a foreign concept to many high school students.

The dating world can be a lot different in college as well. Whereas trips to the movie theater with a large group of friends passed for dating in high school, the majority of college women expect dinner along with the movie. You can also forget about the mob of friends there for moral support. Most college dates, especially the first ones, are just the guy and the girl, or at least they should be.

Dating

An interesting feature of college relationships is that they can serve as a springboard into post-college relationships. Prior to college, if two people went out to a movie together, they were most likely “”together.”” The concept of a date in high school was virtually nonexistent, save a select few seniors at every high school.

Dating can be a great thing if done right. On the other hand, it can also be the gateway to hell. Let me explain.

The purpose of dating is to get to know another person. Ideally, two people who didn’t quite know each other could go out and have a good time talking about their lives and their dreams. They could share what kind of person they are with each other. By the end of a few dates, the two people have, ideally, learned enough about each other to make an educated decision as to whether or not they wanted to pursue a relationship. Unfortunately, things don’t always work like that.

One of the drawbacks to dating is that the two people are usually too worried about making a good impression on the other person that they completely forget to be themselves. As a result, each person is left with a vague idea of who the other is. Often times, people take this information to heart and enter into a relationship, not knowing too much about the other.

The inevitable conclusion is that the hidden quirks come to fruition once the person’s guard is down. These quirks can come as a shock to the other person and can get on their nerves. This can lead to ugly fights and even breakups.

The one cure for this unsightly outcome is to be honest from the start. If the other person doesn’t like you for who you are, then that person probably isn’t the right person for you in the first place. This sounds like pure common sense, but you would be surprised how many people do not follow this advice.

Presents Aplenty

Once a relationship has been established, there is nothing like presents to make that special someone feel much more loved.

Oftentimes, a bouquet of flowers when they are not expected can bring a big smile to a girl’s face. Even a single flower can do the trick. The thing that most guys don’t realize is that it is not how much you spend on the gift (unless the girl is a gold-digger, in which case the guy should cut anchor and set sail), but rather the thought that truly counts.

Some might argue that such things look good on greeting cards but have no place in college relationships. However, my collective experience has taught me that this is not the case. All a girl really wants is to know that she is in her boyfriend’s thoughts. Sometimes a simple gift can do that better than anything. After all, actions really do speak louder than words.

A common misconception among girls is that they shouldn’t buy their boyfriend a gift. Do you ladies actually think that guys don’t like getting confirmation that you’re thinking about us? Now, it doesn’t have to be flowers or a little teddy bear, but a small gift every now and then might be nice, even if that gift is a simple massage after a long week; just something to reassure your boyfriend that you still care.

Those Three Little Words

No combination of words has ever had such a dynamic effect on relationships as the famous trio, “”I love you.””

These words have made and broken millions of relationships. When the words are said and both people involved truly mean it, then it is a wonderful occurrence. However, if those words are uttered and only half of the pair is committed to their meaning, then nothing can be more frightening.

I have found that the main problem behind those three words is their various meanings. “”I love you”” can mean anything from “”I like you a whole lot”” to “”I am in love with you.”” Depending on its use, these words can cause a lot of unnecessary friction within a couple.

For example, two people can say “”I love you”” to each other, and one of them means that they are in love with the other, and the other only means that they like the other person. If this is not clarified, the one who is really in love can really be hurt. My advice: Don’t say it unless you mean it. Simply uttering the words can be more damaging than being honest about not feeling that strongly regarding the relationship.

A side note to the whole issue of “”I love you”” is that those words should not be uttered in the heat of passion. Many have been scared away by someone screaming “”I love you”” during, or in close proximity to, sex. The fact is that hormones and emotions are raging while people do their thing, so it’s not a good idea to say “”I love you”” for the first time during sex. I would recommend not saying it for an hour after sex, kind of like eating and swimming. That way you get a chance to calm your emotions and figure out if you really mean it.

Getting Physical

Taking this step in the relationship is different for everybody, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on the subject.

My advice on getting physical is to simply wait until both people feel completely comfortable with it. Rushing into it before one of the partners is ready can lead to unnecessary tension in the relationship.

The same goes for pressuring a partner to go further. If you truly care about the person, then you will wait until your partner is ready as well.

A side note on purely physical relationships: It has been my experience that these never turn out well. When two people say that they are just in it for the physical aspect and they don’t want a relationship, things usually don’t turn out the way you would like. Inevitably, somebody starts to get feelings for the other. It’s just not worth it, at least in my experience.

Problems

No matter how close two people are, there are always going to be problems in a relationship. I have yet to encounter a couple that has gone out for longer than a couple of months that hasn’t had at least one argument.

The key to getting through problems in a relationship is honesty. I am convinced that this is all that is needed. The real problems come when people bottle up their emotions and then unleash their fury in one epic argument, leading to more serious problems than if they had simply been honest in the first place.

If you are completely honest with your partner, then things will turn out the way they should. If you two find that you are truly different people, then it is better to be honest about it than to drag out the relationship. It may hurt, but it is the right thing to do.

The Breakup

This is always the worst part of the relationship. Nobody likes breaking up. If they do, then they are sick bastards in need of therapy. There is nothing that I hate more than having to break up with a girl, but at the same time, I realize that it is something that needs to be done.

For me, I can’t stay in a relationship if I know in my heart that it doesn’t work for me. If I find myself doing things that aren’t “”me”” just to stay in a relationship, then I have a decent idea that things aren’t working out. Relationships are two-way streets and one person shouldn’t be the one always making the compromises.

What I hate more than anything about breaking up is when it is used as an ultimatum by someone who doesn’t mean it. That is something that can tear at the fiber of a relationship. The threat of a breakup can leave people very defensive, which can lead to escalated fights and a bigger problem than the one that started the argument. The breakup should be a last resort, used only when all other options have been exhausted.

Getting Back in the Game

While breaking up is tough, it is a part of life. After all, you’re going to break up with everyone that you go out with except the person that you marry. But even your spouse isn’t immune to the breakup, as recent figures on divorce will confirm.

The important thing is that you don’t give up on relationships. If someone breaks up with you, then you should move on. I’m not saying you have to go out on a date the very next day, but you should get out there eventually.

There will be an inevitable grieving period. The length of it will vary based on the length of the relationship, the kind of person you are, as well as the kind of person that your ex is. A good way to get through it is to surround yourself with friends, and realize that life goes on.