Relationships can be hard to pin down and explain sometimes. How you define a relationship also changes as you mature and your priorities adjust.
What you consider to be a blossoming relationship during your sophomore year of college may not constitute the same thing two years after you graduate.
This changing perspective is all part of growing up; as time goes on, your needs and desires change and so do your relationship goals. Let’s face it: Your wants and needs as a 28-year-old will not be the same as your wants and needs as a 19-year-old.
Here are a few of the things you learn about relationships after college:
1. One-night stands still happen.
One-night stands don’t just happen in college. Each of us moves at our own pace, and not everyone is ready to date or enter into a relationship right out of college.
One-night stands exist in the real world because, hey, adults have needs, too. And, yes, one-night stands after college can be just as exciting or as awkward as they were in your undergrad days.
2. You don’t have to be connected 24/7.
We live in the age of technology, where between Facebook, Twitter and texting, you can literally reach someone at any time, anywhere (anywhere there’s WiFi).
But that doesn’t mean you should. As you mature, you realize real relationships can’t be built on infatuation alone and some independence in a relationship is healthy. Communication is important, but it doesn’t have to be nonstop to be meaningful.
3. Sex is great, but a mental connection is better.
In college, you go to bars and hook up. You’re not necessarily looking for something long term, just someone to have fun with. As you get older, you begin to appreciate the value in finding someone who gets you and with whom you are comfortable being yourself.
Suddenly, it’s not just about someone you can hook up with, it’s also about someone you can relate to. It's someone who will stay up late with you and tell you about his or her favorite songs, family, dreams and fears.
It’s about enjoying the company, not just the sex, and appreciating someone’s mind, not just his or her body. The establishment of that mental connection is what builds a relationship and makes your hookups even better.
4. You can split the bill.
With maturity comes a sense of independence and self-worth. Every now and then, it’s nice to have your significant other pay for you, but you shouldn’t depend on it.
Relationships aren’t measured by how many dinners one person buys for the other; they’re measured by mutual care and affection. Offer to split the bill, or even pay for both of you sometimes.
5. He or she may not always be “the one.”
When you’re young and “in love” you may have the tendency to think, with a dreamy look in your eyes, that he or she is "the one." As time goes on and you grow older (and less naïve), you realize that love at first sight doesn’t really exist.
Successful relationships require hard work. Growing up to experience more relationships, whether they are successful or not, allows you to figure out what you’re looking for and teaches you why the "ideal" person may not always be “the one.”
6. Taking your time is okay.
After college, things get weird. Your friends start getting married; your parents pester you about whom you’re dating, and you hear about something called a “biological clock.”
But, there comes a point when you have to sit back and say, “F*ck it,” because the relationship timetable is different for everyone. Relationships can’t be forced; they often happen when you least expect it.
The real goal is to learn about yourself, love yourself and be the best you can be before you try to love someone else.
7. The little things matter.
Relationships in college can be hard, but once you’re out of college it’s a whole new ballgame. As an adult, you may have to balance your relationships with your career, your finances, your life goals, etc.
Whatever it is, you realize the little things in a relationship are what keep it alive. It’s simple things that begin to mean the most, like a sharing a bottle of wine after work or spending a lunch break together.
8. Expressing yourself is worth it.
As you grow up, you develop less and less of a tolerance for relationship games. Ain’t nobody got time for “do I text him first, or do I wait for him to text me?”
If you want to text someone, don’t be ashamed to do it. Part of growing up is figuring out what you want; the other part is growing the balls to go out there and get it.
If you want to be in a successful relationship, you will have to learn how to express yourself.
9. What will be, will be.
Whether or not you believe in fate, there will be times you will have to accept what is meant to be. Relationships don’t always work out, and it may be no one’s fault.
There isn’t an explanation for everything, and that’s okay. Maturity involves knowing when to stay and fight for what you want and, then again, when to move on. At the end of the day, you will survive.
10. You shouldn’t have to change.
College is a great time for finding yourself and figuring out who you are. After college, you become more comfortable in your own skin and also more aware of the fact that relationships should never force you to change.
Of course, sometimes, you will have to bend, but you should never have to break. The person you choose to be with should appreciate you for who you are, not for the person he wants you to be.
11. Sex gets better over time.
Remember that hookup from freshman year you try to forget ever happened? The bad news is, now, you’re probably reliving it; the good news is, with sex, like with most things, practice makes perfect.
As you grow older, you gain more knowledge on a lot of things, including getting down and dirty. Increased experience and more long-term relationships offer you the perfect opportunity to hone those bedroom skills.
12. Jealousy is useless.
Jealousy, or envy, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins for a reason. If you let it get to you, it will eat you alive. Jealousy solves nothing and helps no one; all it does is sabotage.
If you ever feel yourself succumbing to jealousy, remember what’s so special about your relationship and why you chose each other over everyone else.
13. The past is the past.
You have a past; I have a past; everyone has a past. But, it’s called the past for a reason. The past is what teaches us; the present is what we should live for, and the future is what we should look forward to.
Never live in the past or dwell on someone else’s. Let your past be your past, and another person's past be his or hers. Live in the now and appreciate someone for who and what he or she represents in the present.