Inter-College Relationships: Yay or Nay?

Crying in the smoking area in Lloyds on a Thursday night.

Despite my best efforts this is where I frequently find myself, blubbering to any poor soul who will listen about nonsense that only half makes sense on the best of days. One time I was even found hiding beneath the heaps of coats thrown in piles under tables, burrowing myself in the sticky mess in an attempt to escape something. And no, it wasn’t my new University relationship itself, an unanswered Snapchat or an ignored phone call to weep over. Nor lies, fights or sly remarks of any sort.

So why, you may ask, am I crying? And here’s the thing: I don’t know. I find myself overwhelmed at the simple reality that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. So I figured: nobody else does either. I’m crying because of the uncertainty of a college relationship, the uncertainty at whether I’m doing it right and the fact that nobody is ever going to give me an answer.

I’m writing this in hopes that I can make sense of new University relationships – especially for Freshers and how to help avoid the possibility of weekly embarrassment after too many double vodka lemonades.

University itself, factoring out love, sex and everything in between is one of the most startling changes I think anyone could ever go through. What do you do with all this freedom? Am I allowed to sleepover at my boyfriends every night? Who’s going to tell me I can’t and why wouldn’t I when I just simply enjoy it? The salient idea here is moderation over excitement, maturity over desire.

Sure, sleeping in the same cramped bed that gets way too hot seven days a week could be a good idea, but only if you’re managing to function in a way that you could if you were sleeping alone. That is, actually getting out of bed at 8am instead of lazing around in each other’s arms for another two hours and missing college breakfast. That is, reading an article before bed and settling down straight away instead of watching the Hunger Games for absolutely no particular reason and sharing bowl after bowl of microwave popcorn until 4 am on a Wednesday morning. Keep these things for the weekend, make them feel special instead of just an everyday occurrence.

There comes a time when reality has to hit; I would recommend talking to your partner then, figuring out how to fit the relationship around what you both want and welcoming compromises and alone-time as a good sign rather than a hindrance.

There is also the matter of living with one another, before university you are likely to have been separated from a partner by a notable distance. Here you can find yourself practically on top of each other. In my case, my boyfriend lives downstairs. Approximately a 13 second walk away. This is a blessing in disguise – feeling cold in the winter nights? A cuddle is 13 seconds away. Want someone to gass up your new earrings? 13 seconds. Trying to do some last-minute cramming in your room before a big test, or trying to finish an essay before the impending deadline? Distraction is only 13 seconds away. It is a matter of self-will, something that the stress of a workload may completely eradicate.

Even if you aren’t in super close proximity, this is where discipline, that dreary and tedious word, comes in – take yourself out of the college; even the college library could be a massive help. Failing that, work on a reward system – when you complete the essay you can see them, for example. Simply changing your mindset in this way can alter problems in other areas of University life.

An inter-college relationship also means that you are likely to have a lot of mutual friends – so even hanging out with mates, unlike before, means hanging out with your partner too. This, on the face of it is wonderful – killing two birds with one stone, right? Definitely, and conducting yourself in the right manner in these situations is key. For me, that means talking to the other friends first about things that matter to them, things outside of your relationship so it doesn’t suddenly get stuffy and awkward; becoming, as Bella Swan would put it (I’m sorry), Switzerland. But this also warrants deeper consideration, sharing meal-times, friends, beds, and nights out, so where is the space to become your own person? To explore yourself as an individual? For me, this is away from the constraints of college – with course mates, with friends from different colleges, maybe even in a sport. Now, more than ever, it is essential to do your own thing outside of the place you associate massively with your relationship.  

Though cliche, I have found that keeping a diary about this kind of stuff helps immensely. Jotting down how you feel and why can prevent the re occurrence of situations that become suffocating and upsetting. My diary becomes my friendship group removed from the immediate situation, someone I can truthfully reveal inner thoughts to that aren’t particularly safe in a friendship group knitted so closely with your partner. It is an unfortunate hiccup to face, offloading to friends only to find the information passed along a drunken path so eventually everyone has a verbatim copy of your hormone-driven breakdown. Believe me, not fun.

Ultimately, a college relationship on the face of it sounds ideal – fun nights out, cute nights in, stopping each other in the corridor for a kiss on your way to and from lectures. But it is important to remember that you are still allowed to struggle in the ocean of freedom you’ve been plunged into – you still need to learn how to swim even if it is the calmest, bluest ocean you’ve ever been in. Take this article as a pair of armbands. Keep going till you reach the shore. And enjoy it.


Featured Image: @Durhamuniversity Instagram

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