By Jake and Melissa Kircher
June 10, 2011
College is exciting. You get to live with a couple thousand other young adults as you all begin to form identities, and there's the possibility of romance. So, what's the best way to enter this new dating world—if at all? And when should you become "Facebook official"?
Here are 10 tips to help you create healthy dating relationships in college.
1. Prioritize Friendships
Finding a new love and ditching your friends is the biggest mistake people make. It’s so easy at the beginning of a relationship to get lost in the giddy infatuation you’re both feeling. However, making time for both your romance and your friendships is vital to maintaining balance, happiness and healthiness. Having time apart with friends helps couples avoid becoming too intertwined and suffocating each other.
Your friends are also people you can trust and lean on when issues arise in your relationship. They’ll be there for you and be a strength if you have to go through a breakup. In addition, keeping friendships a priority in your life will help maintain your sense of self and identity. Too often, people lose themselves in relationships. Your new love doesn’t necessarily have to like all your friends, but if they love you, they’ll respect that you need time for both friends and love in your life.
2. Put Faith First
This is a tough one. Some might think: “We get along, have fun together, are attracted to one another ... religion won’t be a big deal. Right?” The thing is, the whole point of believing in something is that it should be a big deal in our lives. It should impact our morals, lifestyle and everyday choices.
Think about some of the issues a dating relationship between people of different faiths would create, and work through what your answers to these tough questions would be:
Should we go to church, or to temple or to the mosque together? Do we go separately?
What are our respective moral beliefs? Can we agree about cheating, modesty, lying, gender roles, etc.?
Will we consult a higher power when dealing with problems?
Do our faiths cause us to have opposing lifestyles?
3. Decide When to Start Dating
Some people try to come up with guidelines for what dating looks like. While each relationship will be unique, it’s worthwhile to have a specific set of conversations before starting to date.
Have you both talked to God? When we look to God for guidance and confirmation, He will provide it—given time and patience. Prayer is a powerful thing, and asking God to guide you both as you consider dating will most likely help you get on the same page about moving forward into a relationship or not.
Have you talked to others? God has put friends, parents and others in our lives to provide insight and wisdom. If you are thinking about a romantic relationship, talk to a friend, a trusted adult or your parents for advice. All of these people will have your best interests at heart. They might see a positive or negative about your potential relationship that you don’t see. Having the blessing and support of those closest to you will help strengthen your relationship.
Have you talked to him/her? Maybe that sounds a little obvious, but it’s important. If you aren’t on the same page about what you’re both looking for, there will be hurt feelings and issues to work through pretty quickly.
Have you talked to yourself? This question has to do with understanding why you want to be in a relationship. If you’re not looking to serve and give to the other person, it may be a good idea to wait on dating. Love requires sacrifice and unselfishness. It’s OK to feel like you might not be able to give to anyone right now. It’s also OK to feel like you’re mature and ready. Either way, take some time and self-reflect before dating someone.
4. Discern the Purpose of Your Relationship
We can often overlook the purpose of dating as feelings of love and excitement overtake our senses—especially starting college, where everything is new. However, it’s important to pause and clarify the expectations both people have about this new relationship.For some, the purpose of dating is about finding a spouse and seeing how compatible you are for marriage. For others, dating is more about a social status, wanting to have a close friend of the opposite sex or not wanting to be alone. Understanding what each of you want out of the relationship will create a healthy and united place for love to grow.
5. Figure Out When to Update Your "Status"
So, when does one update a Facebook status from “Single” to “In a Relationship” or vice versa? Broadcasting the state of your relationship on social networking sites is a relatively new phenomenon, and because of that there aren’t really any accepted rules or guidelines. The easiest way to deal with this is to change your status when both people agree to do so. That means you talk about it and agree to be “In a Relationship” or “Single”—or you can remove your “status” altogether.
If you post your romantic life online, be prepared for both positive and negative outcomes. Not everyone will be mature, and it’ll sting if you happen to be dumped and the entire Facebook world knows. So think it through. Privacy has its merits.
6. Let Them Down Easy
Most of us know how to say yes when someone we like asks us out. But what if the person who wants to be more than friends is someone you don't really want to date?
The thing to always remember is kindness. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to put yourself out there. So don’t lie, laugh in their face, blow them off or give out fake numbers and fake encouragement.
Honesty and kindness are always best. If you don’t find the person attractive, simply say, “Thanks, that’s really flattering, but I’m going to have to say no.” Oftentimes, people try to come up with excuses like, “I’m really busy with stuff” or, “I’m not really dating right now.” But these things we say, that do in fact sound kind, are not the truth.
Telling the truth, and saying it in a sensitive way, will help the other person realistically deal with the fact that you’re not interested.
7. Maintain a Long-Distance Love
Many students enter their freshman year with the goal of maintaining a long-distance relationship with their high school sweetheart. In order to keep a faraway romance strong, there needs to be an equal level of commitment from both of you. Also, consistent communication via the phone or video chat is important as it allows you to connect verbally and visually and creates shared times together. Handling long-distance relationships takes a special amount of endurance and effort. Each couple will be unique in making this difficult situation work, and students should not feel guilty if it turns out to be too hard to maintain.
8. Avoid the Freshman Fling
It can definitely be a mistake to rush into a relationship freshman year. Sometimes a freshman fling happens as a response to freedom—you’re living away from home for the first time, and there are no parents to check in on your love life. Other times, there can be anxiety about getting involved with someone before they’re all “taken.”
Whatever the case may be, it’s better to be slow and cautious when considering a relationship, especially during your first semester at college. You need time to know your new adult self, adjust to a new environment, classes and workload. There will be plenty of dating opportunities during your college years, and it might save a broken heart or two to gradually ease into a dating relationship.
9. Breaking Up is Hard to Do
It’s never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking about ending a relationship:
Don't break up just because of conflict. Disagreements, tension and fights are normal as you become close with someone. If it gets hard, try working through your problems and/or seeing an on-campus counselor to help mediate. (Physical, verbal, mental or emotional abuse should never be tolerated. If you experience any type of abuse, get away from the person and seek help from a trusted adult/counselor immediately.)
Work through the questions listed in “Decide When to Start Dating.” They can all be applied to breaking up as well.
Always break up face to face. Facebook, Twitter, emailing and texting are not the right ways to end things. Everybody deserves the respect and time it takes to resolve things in person.
10. Balance Study and Love
It can be hard to focus on school when a new world of socialization and romance is available 24/7.
However, if you don’t want to flunk out freshman year, it’s vital to learn how to prioritize. School should always come before girlfriends and boyfriends. It’s perfectly fine to spend time with them, but you need to make sure you have enough time to devote to assignments and make it to class. If this seems difficult, most colleges have counselors and academic support centers to help you format a schedule that works best for you. You could also join a study group or ask your roommate to keep you accountable about finishing work and getting to class. It’s all about balance, which is unique to each individual.
Be aware that romance can easily eat up your time, and formulate some proactive plans to keep an equal balance between love and school.