By Amanda Gabriel
and Dan Teano
Elm Staff Writer and Lifestyle Editor
Every August, students flock to campus in order to start the school year off fresh, make and reconnect with friends, and have that all-American college experience. Many of us are also on the lookout for a significant other. After all, what is the college experience without a few Saturday night hook-ups or the occasional romantic walk through Chestertown? My family always told me that “you find your partner in college,” but fate can be challenged when we start classes still clinging to that summer fling.
Being in a positive relationship is a wonderful feeling—the world is brighter, your smile is bigger, and life becomes more purposeful. Time management becomes a more necessary skill because managing classes, a love life, and other activities can prove difficult. However, talking from personal experience, coming into college with a significant other (specifically as a freshman) does not always prove successful. I’m not saying that starting school off as #couplegoals is impossible; I know a great deal of people who have managed to stay close with their high school sweetheart throughout their Washington College career.
I had dated a guy for five months throughout the spring and summer after my highschool graduation and continued to pursue the relationship going into WC. If I could go back and do it all over, I wish I would have done it differently. I was constantly attached to my phone waiting for his next text or Facetime, and I missed out on amazing activities. Additionally, he used to visit me on the weekends which also took me away from campus life and connecting with new people. If I was unavailable to answer his texts, or I told him that I was out with the other freshman, he would get angry, jealous, and insecure. He was afraid that I would run into someone better and that these other people were taking time away from him.
When I eventually realized that my life was suffering from this negative relationship, I broke up with him and was left alone. I had isolated myself. Rebounding from this situation in the following few months was hard, but I did eventually find a place among my peers.
Because of these experiences, my advice to any new student is to get involved as much as possible. If you do find yourself in a relationship during orientation and the first few weeks of classes, communicate with your significant other. Let he or she know that this is an important time in your life and you do not want to miss the chance to get involved and make new friends. If you are used to talking on the daily, perhaps try talking every other day or even every two. In your extra free time, you can then make the effort to reach out to those around you.
Your partner should respect you enough to trust you and encourage you to be exposed to as much as possible, unlike mine did. Then, if you two are “meant to be,” the relationship will still be there for you at the end of the day. If not, there are more than enough people on campus to get to know for a one-night stand or a lifelong love.
As with any life experience, college is what you make of it. More often than not, if a student suffers from loneliness or frustration, the student is fully culpable for creating his or her reality. For the most fulfilling undergraduate experience, the student should foresee and analyze the consequences of an action or decision. For someone in a relationship, one of the biggest decisions he or she has to make is whether they should enter college single or not. While having a significant other in college is a personal choice, there are some challenges that you should be aware of.
First, if you are in a relationship beginning college, neediness is likely to be an issue. In high school, couples usually spend all of their time in close proximity of each other. From seeing each other nearly every day, the couple becomes inseparable both emotionally and physically. Without addressing this growing need for each other, the couple will most likely struggle with jealousy, anxiety, and mistrust.
If you and your partner go to different colleges, you will have to get used to not seeing each other so often. Moreover, you have to remember your partner is not always available to text or Facebook message. Even if you’re at a party, your partner should be able to fully enjoy themselves without any nagging or petty complaints.
Placed in brand new environment, you will meet countless people of all kinds. If you’re in a relationship, you should prepare yourself for the unexpected. Although your partner has promised loyalty, that does not guarantee that they will not meet someone who they spark a connection with. For the boyfriend or girlfriend in college, worrying your significant other should not hinder you from networking. Undoubtedly, the people you interact with, from peers to professors, will shape your future. If your partner is uncomfortable with you socializing, remind them that you are only doing what is best for yourself.
At first glance, it seems as maintaining a relationship from high school to college does more harm than good. However, keep in mind, most people who go out to parties are subconsciously looking for someone. After several parties and a few walk-of-shames later, their innate desire to meet someone is still unsatisfied. It is important to remember that we often want what we don’t have. Coming into college, I was single and insistent on staying that way. After getting the party bug out of me, I found myself lonely and unhappy. Along with seeing my other friends with significant others, I soon wanted to be in a relationship. Not much later, I found myself in one. After a couple months, I ended up complaining about the life I thought I wanted. While I appeared fine to my girlfriend, I struggled internally with wanting security, yet missing my personal freedom.
At the end of the day, you have to assess what makes you happy and stick to it relentlessly. If you are truly happy with your relationship, then both you and your partner have to resolve to fight through the many challenges of college. While you should expect disagreements, you should also remember that relationships have the potential to grow stronger after each fight. If you ever start to doubt your relationship, realize that you brought this predicament upon yourself. As with your grades, club involvement, and circle of friends, you have the final say on how your college life will shape out.