College and Dating: Love Advice From the (Not-So) Love Guru
When you read articles on college survival, or what it’s like to be a college student, you will probably receive all sorts of information and advice on classes, your major, how to deal with roommates, and so on. Yet one aspect of college that no one really talks about, but is a major aspect in a 20-something-year-old’s life, is dating. Dating in college is talked about constantly among peers, and you will probably hear about every type of relationship, breakup, and makeup before you leave with your degree. With all of the drama that can surround a college student’s love life, things can seem a little disheartening. While I don’t personally believe in happily-ever-after, I do believe in lasting, fulfilling, and love-filled relationships. I would like to share with you guys my own personal love-filled adventure.
This past Tuesday, October 8th, my boyfriend and I celebrated our four year anniversary. We met in high school when I was a junior and he was a freshman, and here we are four years later in the same dynamic, only this time we’re in college. I now attend LMU, and Jared attends UT and is working on a Nuclear Engineering degree. While I would like to say it was love at first sight, I’m pretty sure that was one-sided on my part. About a month and a half after meeting, we took that scary leap of faith and began dating. To be honest, I don’t really think I ever expected us to last this long, at least not in the beginning. He was my first serious boyfriend, my first kiss, and the first man besides my dad that I let myself trust. And he still is. When I think about our relationship, I know that I am unbelievably blessed. Most people don’t end up staying with their first love. Yet, we haven’t been together this long just because we’re lucky. Our relationship has been filled with tears and laughs and arguments just like everyone else’s, but I believe that the reason Jared and I have been able to overcome our struggles is because we have an unwavering love and respect for one another. Most of all, we acknowledge that relationships take work, and we’re both willing to roll our sleeves up and push through the hard times together.
Now, I don’t want to sound like some kind of magical love guru that knows all the answers just because I’ve had one successful relationship. But I do think that there are certain lessons that I’ve learned through being in a long-term, long-distance relationship that most college students can apply to their dating life, or even friendships.
The first thing I want to address is that this is real-life. With all of the tear-jerking love movies out there, that we ladies just soak up, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that real love will look like The Notebook. I feel like if, as a woman in college, I expected my relationships to look like the magical love scenes, I would be cheating myself out of valuable and rewarding relationships. This is not to say that love can’t be magical, but your man shouldn’t be compared to Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling. I try to appreciate the little gestures of love, like being brought flowers to work or dinner being made for me, than to expect grand, unrealistic gestures. Also, it is important to remember that every relationship is different, and comparing one relationship to another can be detrimental. In the beginning of our relationship, anytime a couple a around me was having problems or breaking up, I started to compare that relationship to my own. Eventually through a couple of good talks, Jared got it through my head that doing that was only looking for trouble. Now, I find that by not comparing my relationship to any other, real or imaginary, I am a much happier girl.
The second thing that I think is important in any relationship, be it friendship, family, or romantic love, is respect. This includes respecting your partner and respecting yourself. I am a strong believer in the fact that if you don’t respect and love yourself first, you won’t be ready to love anyone else. In college, this is very important. There can be so many new pressures and situations that you might not have experienced before, and if you don’t respect yourself first and foremost, you might find yourself in situations you regret. One of the best ways to respect yourself is to make it clear with your partner how you feel about issues such as faith, sex, drugs, and so on. I made it clear from the beginning with Jared how I felt about these issues, and to this day we still continue to talk to each other about these things as we grow up and change. The other aspect of respect that comes up in relationships is respecting your partner. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tease or anything, but rather that you should always try to respect your partners decisions, opinions, and feelings. While I love to tease Jared about his procrastination and video game habits, at the end of the day I respect his decisions about how he spends his time. This can be really hard, and I myself can say that I have failed at this plenty of times, but if you always try to respect your partner, chances are that your relationship will thrive and you will be respected in turn. In college, this applies to many relationships. Respecting your professors, roommate, and friends will encourage healthy relationships throughout your college experience.
The last thing that I want to attest to is that relationships are hard work. Some people in college are not ready to put in the time and commitment that a lasting relationship takes, and that is perfectly OK! If you aren’t ready for a long-term relationship, it’s just a matter of making that clear to your partner and to yourself. If you are ready to make that kind of commitment, you have to remember that things aren’t going to be easy. Jared and I would not have made it through the transition of high school and college, and all of the normal frustrations that can come up when you spend four years with someone, without working at our relationship continuously. When I first came to college, I felt a lot of anxiety, thinking that our relationship would not work out because of the distance between us. I also feared that we would grow apart. Yet, Jared and I worked hard at our relationship, often balancing each other out between my anxiety and his laid-back attitude, and here we are. To be honest, I don’t think people really fall out of love; I think that they forget to work at the relationship for each other. My relationship is by no means perfect, because no relationship is, but it lasts because we love and care about each other enough to work hard for one another. Even now, I know that we don’t have any guarantees in life, so I make it a point to work hard in our relationship so that things don’t slip through the cracks.
College can be such a confusing and exciting time in your life, and the relationships you form are probably going to be one of the most memorable parts you take away from this experience. I hope that some of the things that I have learned so far in my relationship can help some of you in your future ones.
As one of my good friends like to say: Love, Peace, and Chicken Grease!