By Molly Govus
University is a time where our lives get twisted upside down – for better or for worse. Getting pulled away from the comforts of our childhood home and thrown into a new environment will inevitably put strain on friendships and relationships. Having survived a long-distance relationship whilst at university, I am here to tell you that there is a way you can maintain your relationship healthily.
Losing my boyfriend when he left for university was my biggest fear. I had heard the fresher’s horror stories, the shocking statistics – I let them all fill the ever-growing bubble of doubt that was growing in my head. All I could think was, what if this happens to me? I cannot stress enough how important communication is between you and your partner before you/they go to university. Meet for a coffee or go to their house and have that horribly awkward ‘what are we’ and ‘where are we’ chat. You need it. Get those gritty worries and doubts all out on the table and open for display or they will arise later in the year when it is too late to fix. Talking about your worries to your partner is a pro-active way of dealing with the transgression which will take place when someone leaves for university. The alternative is letting them fester and bottling them up and that is never a good idea. Take control, be brave, and talk.
The mental health of you and your partner must come first when at university. If you cannot help yourself then you cannot expect yourself to be able to help someone else. You know what they say about the oxygen masks on planes? It’s a good life lesson. University is a huge change and that brings about great stress to both parties and ensuring that you support the other person during this time is vital. Stress is inevitable – they will miss home, they will feel lonely, they will feel stressed with the new hurdle of workload. Just let them know that you are there for them. To make this very clear, support does not mean that you sacrifice your own well being for theirs. Support can be anything from a reassuring, ‘I love you’, listening to them about their day, a phone call or sending them a cute paragraph. It is important to be able to empathise without becoming reliant on each other for advice. You can always be there for each other without it becoming toxic and unhealthy.
Freshers week, on both parts, was difficult for me in my relationship. Texts go sparse and conversation runs dry whilst the other person tries their best to fit into university life, especially in the first 2/3 weeks with all that’s going on. It’s important to note that this doesn’t just have to be in Fresher’s week, this can be at any point in the year. It is important to recognise that this space and compromise is essential for personal growth. As much as you may be part of a couple, you are also your own individual person and settling into university at whatever stage is your journey, but make sure you support your partner.
Obviously, tensions will run high and arguments will arise. Jealousy will ensue from insecurities, arguments will be heightened by distance and stress – these are all very normal things in small quantities. These issues can become abusive and toxic if they become out of proportion and that is when these problems become warning signs. If the jealousy is consistent and the arguments become a daily occurrence, it’s time to sit back and think about whether you are the happiest you could be in this relationship. Don’t lower your standards for anyone, even if you love them.
As much as it is easy for me to sit here and give advice on relationships at university, there really is no set ‘how-to’ or example. Your relationship is what you make of it; at the end of the day, only you understand your partner and how you both work as a couple. There is no perfect university relationship. We all have problems, arguments and little blips in the road that damage our idea of that picturesque relationship.
Work together, speak out and have trust and faith. It will all be okay in the end, I promise.