dating in college

Dating in College: What No One Tells You, But You Must Know

It sucks.

Has there ever been a sentence written that’s truer than “dating in college is hard”? “Melted cheese is delicious” Maybe… Well, it’s no secret that dating, mixed with the stress and agony of college, is difficult to navigate.

Most articles about dating in college read like a fresh, steaming pile of bull s—t. I’m not going to sugarcoat this one — most writers fail to explain to their readers the ugly truth of the college dating experience. They chalk up failed relationships to cheating or succumbing to the temptation of flirting with others, but I think it’s unfair to list those as the only struggles facing college relationships.

When I say “dating,” I don’t mean the casual hookup culture that plagues college campuses. I mean dating as in you’ve found someone you want to be exclusive with, and you’re seeing each other. It’s the two of you, and you’ve made that clear.

Anyways, I think most writers feed their readers lines of crap. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s to scare them into monogamy. Maybe they take pleasure in scamming the hearts of the insecure. Either way, I want someone to tell you the truth. I’ve been in a relationship most of my college years, so I’ll share with you a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned about the dating experience. Here are three things I wish someone had told me about dating in college.

1. If every night’s a sleepover, no night is.

There are certain benefits that having your own studio apartment allows, such as the opportunity for your partner to spend the night whenever the two of you want. Sounds like a recipe for ultimate romance, right? Wrong. The temptation of constant slumber parties is dangerous and can lead to irresponsibly spent time.

While it’s cute to play house, spending every night with your significant other can prove extremely unbeneficial if you don’t set certain expectations. The romance of spending the night together quickly fades when you sleep together consistently. The evenings turn from sipping wine by candlelight to barely being able to drag yourself into bed.

My boyfriend went through an unfortunate living situation this past semester, causing him to frequently spend the night at my apartment (and by frequently, I mean pretty much every night). Although spending every night together felt like a challenge sometimes, once we started having open discussions we got more comfortable with the idea.

We agreed that if one of us needed or wanted a night to ourselves, we would respect each other’s wishes and arrange other sleeping accommodations. We also decided we didn’t need to have the same bedtime; our hectic schedules usually didn’t align for us to call it a night together.

There’s no doubt college sleepovers are sexy and fun, but don’t feel pressure to spend every night with your significant other, especially if you enjoy having your own space. There are some couples, like my boyfriend and I, who come across circumstances that put them spending every night together.

Under those conditions, it’s important to establish boundaries and respect each other’s needs. Most importantly, cherish the time you two spend together, and don’t abuse the privilege of privacy that college affords.

2. It’s hard to maintain a social life.

My boyfriend and I have fallen privy to what I’ve coined as the “rather be watching ‘HIMYM’” syndrome. My philosophy is based around the comfortable, predictable nature of the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” that premiered in 2005 and ran for nine glorious seasons.

Upon entering our relationship, both he and I loved the show and could quote even the most obscure episodes subplots. We bonded over our love of certain characters and distain of others. We started re-watching the series together, and binging soon became our weekend ritual, complete with homemade nachos and cold beer.

There were nights we’d finish homework and instead of making plans with friends to hit the bars or go out to dinner, we’d plot down on my bed and snuggle in for three hours of Ted Mosby and the McClaren’s Pub gang.

Sometimes we’d be invited out but mutually decide we were too tired or didn’t want to put forth the effort to get ready. We’d let texts from friends go unanswered. We’d just keep watching. Why? Because it was comfortable. We had a routine. We liked our routine. It wasn’t me forcing him to ignore his friends or the other way around. It was a mutual decision bred from comfortability and laziness that we agreed to be antisocial.

I’ve learned two very important things from that experience. One, there’s nothing wrong with choosing to spend quality time with your significant other versus going out drinking or partying with your friends.

When dating in college, spending your time how you want to spend it and with people you value most is crucial. Two, don’t let opportunities to connect with people pass you by feeding yourself a boatload of excuses why it’s not worth it. Don’t convince yourself those relationships aren’t worth investing in. I don’t think either my boyfriend or I missed out on incredible friendships because we decided to stay in and watch TV, but I do think we could have made stronger efforts to be more sociable instead of hibernating in my studio like two comedy-obsessed introverts in college.

Your relationship doesn’t have to limit opportunities to meet new people and have fun experiences. Put yourself out there and don’t isolate or hide behind a relationship because it’s easier to stay inside. There’s nothing wrong with a little Netflix and wine but mix up your routine every now and again.

3. It’s okay if you meet your person, and it’s okay if you don’t.

Some people get lucky. Some people walk into their first day of ENG 103 and lock eyes with another beautiful human across the classroom and start up a conversation and have a life-changing first date and get engaged after several months and start a family with plans to make equally freaking beautiful babies. And some people walk into their first day of ENG 103 and look around the room and see nothing that interests them and go back to their dorm room to enjoy microwave burritos and silence.

Plenty of people meet the person they end up marrying while dating in college. There’s a stigma around marrying young or coupling up in college “too quickly,” but I say let people be happy by whatever means they deem necessary. (Side note — just because you meet your person in college doesn’t mean you have to get married before you graduate.) However, many people choose to date casually throughout college and not tie themselves down, and that’s also a perfectly respectable choice.

I consider myself very lucky in that I can confidently say I met my person in college, and I wouldn’t have my story written any other way. The time we’ve shared has been beautiful despite our relationship wedged between demanding course loads, sh—tty part-time jobs and the natural discombobulation that comes from growing up.

My best advice is to approach dating in college, knowing what you want and not settling for less than you deserve. However, understand that life nearly never cooperates in the ways we want it to, so prepare yourself to accept what it throws your way, be it a soulmate or half-price Cadbury Eggs on Easter clearance special.

Reese’s Easter Eggs are better than boys, anyways.

Tatianna Salisbury, Northern Illinois University

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Tatianna Salisbury

Northern Illinois University

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