Being in a romantic relationship , whether committed or casual and or undefined in college can be both exciting and stressful!
Romantic connections can be important sources of emotional support as you face the challenges of school and life, but they also add additional demands and expectations of your time. Being thoughtful, intentional, and honest about your romantic needs and partner expectations are key in establishing healthy and mutual relationships.
Level of Commitment and Impact
A key step in establishing a romantic relationship is to determine the boundaries and expectations of that relationship, including levels of commitment. Thinking about your own needs, expectations, and capabilities is important. Having clear communication with any partners about your reflections as well as their own can help you determine the level of commitment and involvement you are looking for. It is also important things to pay attention to how you feel about yourself and your life with this person in it. Do you feel better about yourself and more satisfied, or is the relationship more of a source of stress? These questions are important ones to answer as you make choices about not only initiating but continuing in relationships as well.
Expectations & Life Balance
Once you have made the decision to be in a relationship or to stay in one, you are faced with the challenge of balancing and integrating your relationship with the rest of your life. As a student, you may be used to doing course work whenever you feel it needs to get done. You also may be used to being able to be spontaneous in your extracurricular activities and spending time with your friends whenever the mood strikes you. If this is your accustomed style, you may find it difficult to balance the responsibility of taking someone else's schedule and needs into account consistently. You may find yourself putting your romantic relationship(s) on hold with the expectation that the issue of balancing your committed partner time with your other priorities will automatically disappear when school ends.
Not only is it very possible that things will not change as much as you imagine with the ending of school, but partners may have different expectations—expecting to share time working or playing with you while navigating academic, occupational, and extracurricular responsibilities. Expectations for attention, affection, and support carry with them an expectation for time together. If members of a romantic relationship are to enjoy both their relationship and the other parts of their lives, it is important that they understand each other's expectations and work together to reach mutually agreeable compromises about how they spend their time.
Setting limits is an important skill to learn because, for most people in school and after graduation as well, there is always more to be done than there is time to do it. Setting aside time to take care of your work and your relationships can help you be more effective at both. You may find it helpful to set aside specific times to spend with your partner (s). It is also important that you learn to prioritize your romantic and communal needs with other needs as they arise, which may include saying "no" or "not right now" to some people and experiences.
Communication & Conflicts
Maintaining committed relationships require a great deal of communication. Partners need to feel able to express positive and negative feelings, complaints, and affection. Regardless of how hard a couple works at it, there will be times when they have difficulties in communicating. At these times, couples may find it helpful to examine their communication. The person who has identified something that is bothering them should focus on what the other is doing that is hard for them and then identify what meaning this behavior has for them and how that makes them feel. The listener should focus on helping the speaker to feel heard by reflecting back to their partner what the behavior at issue is, what it means to their partner, and how it makes the partner feel. It is important that all partners have a chance to be heard. It is important that they all feel they have an active role in deciding on the nature of the relationship.
Good communication is essential in negotiating a variety of issues in relationships, be they about money, sexual experiences and expression, decision making, or time. If you are having difficulty establishing the kind of communication you desire in your relationship, or want to discuss any other relationship issues, please call or stop by the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment.
We know there are many more topics and themes that may arise when identifying different needs related to romantic love and healthy partnership. Please consider the below resources for additional information:
The Counseling Center located in Humanities 150 is open M-F from 8:30am until 5pm (EST) and closed when the university is closed. If you would like to make an appointment with a counselor, schedule an appointment online
, stop by our office, or call 410-617-2273.