The Freshman 15: College Relationship Tips

With pink and red decor filling the shops, jewelry commercials dominating the airwaves and delicious chocolates hitting the shelves, it is easy to see that Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day, depending on your perspective) is here. No matter where you go — work, school, lunch, the grocery store — you can’t completely escape this holiday, whether you like it or not.

Regardless of any romantic entanglements this year, I though that this month would be the perfect time to address college relationships in this month’s Freshman 15. Whether you’re single or taken, these tips will help you navigate any college relationship. Tweet this!

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The Freshman 15: College Relationship Tips

1. Don’t force a relationship out of nothing.
I see this happen to college students quite often. A boy and a girl who consider each other somewhat attractive wind up in a compromising situation that leads to some kind of hook-up, and the next day, feel obligated to call it a relationship. Maybe it’s a guilt thing; if things work out, they can later say it was “love at first sight,” that they looked into each other’s eyes and just knew. Or maybe this is just their way of following one of those romantic comedy misconceptions — the idea that a random hook-up will ultimately become your soulmate. It happened to Emily and Oliver in A Lot Like Love, it happened to Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it happened to Blair and Chuck on Gossip Girl. The truth is, although these types of relationships seem ideal in the movies, that isn’t always the case in real life. Don’t force a relationship out of thin air; accept that some attraction is fleeting. (Editor’s Note: Don’t deny chemistry, either. If you already liked the person and you happened to end up in the aforementioned compromising situation, don’t write things off completely if there might be something there.)

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2. Never trust too easily.
Let’s face it – not everyone has the best of intentions. One difference between high school and college relationships is that in high school, you have a smaller pool of potential boyfriends and girlfriends, and it is likely you have known most of them since you were kids. Therefore, even though people change over time, your judgment in choosing a significant other is probably better because you have known these people for a while. In college, however, you are often thrust into a completely new social circle, and because of this, you don’t know much about the true character of that cute guy you met in the dining hall. You don’t need to be completely paranoid, but be careful when you place your trust in others. Don’t open yourself up to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

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3. Avoid comparisons.
Chances are, you and your significant other will probably tell stories about exes from time to time, and that is totally normal. However, don’t go on too much about your past relationships. There is a reason those ended, and if all you ever do is talk about all the nice things your ex did, your current significant other will probably either feel inadequate or annoyed.

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4. Keep some things to yourself.
Although your friends are probably thrilled for you, they don’t need to hear every last detail about how much you love your significant other or how the two of you spend every second of the day. This is a real life case of “Don’t kiss and tell!”

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5. First impressions will only take you so far.
Yes, first impressions are important in many scenarios, but keep in mind that things can change over time. For example, at my freshman orientation at college, the guy I thought disliked me and was too cool for me wound up becoming one of my best friends. Conversely, there have been times when I met people and thought we would be close, and they ended up disappointing me. You have to be receptive to the way people change, and be open to the fact that some people may surprise you (in good or bad ways).

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6. Go on dates.
This may sound obvious enough, but so many people forget about dating and end up sinking right into a married couple routine. Comfort is great, but in your late teens and early twenties, do you really want to lose all sense of romance? Hanging out in a dorm room all the time can get boring really quickly. Don’t let that happen to you while you are still in college!

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7. Avoid U-Hauling.
In the past, I have cited U-Hauling (or the phenomenon of a relationship moving way too quickly, to the point where you have practically moved in together after a few weeks) as one of the major problems of college relationships. In general, college relationships tend to be accelerated forms of adult relationships — especially when you’re in the dorm rooms — because your social lives begin to meld into your home lives. Early on, it’s likely you will run into each other getting groceries, doing laundry, taking out trash, completing chores, etc. If your significant other’s parents are in town, it is also likely you will meet them regardless of how long you have been dating. While many of these things are inevitable, it is important to maintain some semblance of mystery in the relationship. Don’t spend every waking moment together. (Editor’s note: I would like to credit my friend Jen for introducing me to the whole U-Hauling concept. Her blog entry about it was pretty informative!)

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8. Don’t neglect your friends.
You only have so much free time, so it can be difficult to distribute it equally between your friends and your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, you have to keep your friends in mind — even when your significant other is a temporary fixture (which, chances are, he/she is), your friends are a more permanent part of your life, and if you ignore them completely in favor of “love,” they might not be as willing to take care of you if and when your relationship ends.

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9. Don’t go in with the intention of “fixing” someone.
No one is perfect, but if you go into a relationship knowing exactly what you want to change about the person, then maybe you shouldn’t go into that relationship in the first place. You cannot control other people, and you should never strive to.

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10. Make time for yourself.
Ultimately, you should be your biggest priority. While it is good to spend time with your significant other, you shouldn’t spend all of your time with him or her. It is important to spend some time alone, focusing only on yourself. You have plenty of time to worry about others.

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11. Mind games are only for players.
If someone is playing the jealousy game with you, it is time to end it. Sure, other people may be attracted to you or your significant other, but flattering as it may be, it shouldn’t matter. And you shouldn’t bring it up in the relationship every chance you get. There is never a reason to try and make someone jealous; if you feel the need to play games, then maybe your relationship isn’t working out.

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12. Be careful about letting friendships develop into more.
Although pop culture would lead us to believe that our best friends are our soulmates, we have to be a little more discerning than that. While we may be compatible and comfortable with those people, the state of the relationship completely changes when you try and turn it into something more. If you don’t stay together, then you may be sacrificing a friendship completely by dating that person. The relationship may be wonderful, but you have to distinguish that before you do anything to alter the course of that friendship.

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13. Don’t place all of your self worth in the relationship.
You are worth more than simply who you are with. A relationship can be great, but it isn’t everything that makes up who you are, and you have to remember that. Regardless of whether or not you are with someone, you still have a lot to offer, and your happiness shouldn’t hinge entirely on how one person feels about you.

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14. If it didn’t work out the first time, it probably won’t ever work out.
There is always that one couple who breaks up and gets back together nearly as often as they change outfits. (Think Sam and Ronnie from Jersey Shore.) Regardless of how they feel about each other at the time, the underlying problems are always there, waiting to cause another scene. When you break up with someone, you have to do so knowing that you will not get back together with that person, especially if they commit one of the major deal-breakers: verbal or physical abuse, cheating on you, etc. None of those things are okay, and you should never accept them by returning to the person who wronged you in the first place.

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15. If you aren’t in a relationship, worry about something else.
There are plenty of perks to being single, and even if you do have someone who catches your eye, you should direct your energy toward other things: keeping your grades up, getting involved in things you love and bettering yourself as a human being. Work on accomplishing your goals that don’t focus entirely on other people.

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What are some of your tips for college relationships? Comment below with your own advice. If there are any other topics you would like to cover in future Freshman 15 articles, please let me know!

The Dating Middle-Ground

Ever since I started college, I’ve noticed two major trends when it comes to the dynamics of boy-meets-girl. When both are attracted to one another, they tend to gravitate toward one of these two extremes: either meaninglessly hooking up (however you choose to define those terms) over a certain course of time without regard for anything other than the physical, or they dive into an exclusive, very serious relationship that sometimes resembles a marriage. I’m sure each of those options has its merits, but at only nineteen years old (twenty in less than an hour!) I often wonder how good of an idea it is to stick to such extremes.

On the one hand, we’re young, and we deserve to have a good time. On the other hand, it is important for us to develop strong relationships with the people around us, and surely, committing to one person for a while would help us to do so. (After all, according to many psychologists, now is the time in our lives when we must overcome the crisis of intimacy vs. isolation.) While I agree that it’s best not to rule out anything that is ultimately going to make you happy, I do think that it’s a wise choice to consider the middle ground between these two extremes, and that is going on dates.

It’s a foreign concept for a lot of us, because our generation is so used to either (a) hooking up at a party and then occasionally seeking one another out afterward, or (b) diving into a relationship with someone simply due to a fleeting attraction. The two of you might have nothing in common, but because of a simple feeling, you’re together, quite seriously, even though you might not even know one another all that well.

Going on dates without immediately becoming a couple, however, allows you to recognize that yes, there is a connection between the two of you, and you would like to explore that further. It doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time with that person and it doesn’t mean that you have to be out with different people all the time, either. But going out with the person you’re interested in and walking around at the park or going ice skating or doing something you love — that’s how you can really get to know someone and see how compatible you are. If you realize that there’s still something there after a few dates, then you might consider an official relationship, but why not have a little fun together first before you launch into something that may not be real?

You’re young and vibrant and wonderful, so you definitely don’t have to settle for a relationship just because you feel like you have to. Be open to meeting new people — don’t just cast someone away because they don’t seem like someone you would be “serious” with — and enjoy your youth. Hopefully someday our generation will revert back to the ways of some of our predecessors, and date won’t seem like such a foreign word. 🙂

The Jersey Shore Misconception

Just last week, the second season of Jersey Shore premiered on MTV to over 5 million viewers. While many people (sadly including myself) tuned in to witness the train wrecks that are The Situation, Snooki, Sammi, DJ Pauly D, Ronnie, Vinny, JWoww and Angelina, I’m sure that many others flipped the channel in disgust. And who can blame them? The cast members have become caricatures of themselves at this point, with their lives revolving around sex, alcohol, hair gel and the now-famous concept of GTL (Gym, Tan, Laundry). Does anyone really take them seriously anymore?

Of course, there are plenty of Italian-American organizations out there who are urging people not to watch the show. Such groups are so offended by the “Guido” stereotypes perpetuated by the Jersey Shore cast that they have even begged MTV to drop the show completely. And from an outsider’s perspective, I can see why these groups might take offense — none of the cast members have much to offer (with the slight exception of Pauly D, because at least he’s a decent DJ) besides the ability to cause a scene and get arrested. Pair that together with the fact that they are constantly trying to represent the young Italian-American community, and it’s obvious that no reasonable person of the same ethnicity would want to be associated with them.

However, what critics fail to recognize is that the Jersey Shore cast doesn’t so much speak negatively about Italian-Americans, but rather about our society as a whole. On the show, Italians and non-Italians display completely trashy behavior that no one who has to live a grown-up life could ever abide by. The cast itself is not even entirely composed of Italians, even though they do try to represent their self-proclaimed “Guido” lifestyles nonetheless. In each episode they interact with a number of people — the girls they bring home for one-night-stands, the guys heckling them at the bars, and various others — to the point where it’s not about poorly representing Italian-Americans anymore. It really just reveals what’s wrong with our young culture in its entirety.

I’m no Puritan, but I can honestly say that the emphasis on drinking and sex is so excessive that it makes me wonder if that’s really all our generation wants to hold onto. How empty must people be for the GTL lifestyle (which, let’s face it, is not even remotely limited to the show) has become their own? When did we stop meeting socially for fun and conversation, and start hooking up with the first person drunk enough to accept us?

Jersey Shore and reality television definitely emphasize a wild lifestyle — perhaps even wilder than our own — but we still seem to be headed in that direction. I’m not saying there’s anything bad about going out and having a good time, but it’s important to remember moderation and to know about more than just how to hold your liquor.

After all, you have a lot more to offer than that. : )