4 Ways To Strengthen Your Serious College Relationship, Because Making Time Can Be Hard
College is an amazing time. You learn so much about yourself, you make friendships that can last a lifetime, and you dive into a life-long passion that inspires you on the reg. There's also a chance you'll fall madly in love with someone wonderful, who you really want to be serious with. But as much as college is incredible, it's also incredibly busy, which can make maintaining a relationship challenging. The good news? It's not impossible, and there are lots of little things you can do that make for great ways to strengthen your serious college relationship. Because who wants to let all those long nights spent studying get in the way of true love? Nobody, that's who.
"Open, honest communication is essential for any romantic or sexual relationship," Nicole Cushman, the executive director of Rutgers University's Answer, told Affordable Colleges Online. She continues, saying "any healthy relationship should have a good balance between time spent together and apart, and each partner should be able to maintain their individual identity rather than being absorbed by the relationship."
If both you and your partner are on the same page about those things, then your relationship should hold strong. But still, it never hurts to have a few extra little tips to help really reinforce your bond. Ones that make it even easier to stay close — both while you're in college and after. Because — spoiler alert! — it's not going to get easier after graduation.
Here are a few ways to help strengthen your college relationship to ensure you stay together long after your cap and gown are tucked away.
1. Study together.
Long hours spent with your face shoved into a book or computer screen are pretty much unavoidable. And depending on where you are in the semester or what your course load looks like, it might take up a ridiculously large portion of your time. One way to clock some quality couple time is to do so by studying side-by-side. You can take turns helping each other study, or just do it independently in the same room. This is directly correlated to what researchers in Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems call "the proximity effect," which basically states that the closer you are to someone physically, the stronger your bond will be, or the quicker you'll form a bond.
The important part is the connection created just by physical proximity. Even if you aren't talking, it helps prevent either of you from feeling distant, or, worse, unwanted and resentful.
2. Respect each other’s busy schedules.
This one can be tough, especially when things get crazy around finals and you feel like you haven't spent time together in forever. But when your partner is feeling really under pressure, consider just offering them your love and support, instead of piling on more pressure. Try to remember that once things calm down, you’ll probably get back to business as usual.
If your relationship is long distance, Fran Greene, flirting, dating and relationships coach and author of Dating Again With Courage And Confidence, told Elite Daily to make sure to set up a visiting schedule ahead of time.
"Since spontaneity will be difficult, it's essential to let each other know about important upcoming events (i.e. a friend's wedding, your sister's surgery, your company's award dinner, your vacation dates, etc.)," Greene said. "Knowing ahead gives each of you ample time to be able to plan to be together if possible."
3. Squeeze in little moments together.
Just because your busy schedules don't always allow for regular date nights doesn't mean you can't spend time together. Look for ways that naturally offer the opportunity for quality couple time, like grabbing lunch together, meeting for coffee in the morning before things get hectic, working out together, or even running some errands before or after class. In 2014, Theresa E DiDonato, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today that it's normal for the amount of time you spend together to "ebb and flow" depending on different life stressors.
"As the relationship becomes the center of individuals' lives, it becomes increasingly important to seize chances to nourish it with quality time together, while giving each partner the space they need to be the best partner they can in the relationship," DiDonato wrote.
It can be as simple as snuggling up together at the end of the night or setting aside a time to talk on the phone. Gasp! Yes, I said talk on the phone. Texting is sweet, but hearing one another’s voices just makes you feel more connected and close.
"Calling, or face-to-face communication, is better than texting because there are nonverbal cues that are lost in texting," Carrie Sharpe, Communication Consultant and Speaker, told Bustle. "[...] Voice inflection also helps us understand the true message. Written words, in the form of texting or emails, can be easily misunderstood."
All in all, a successful college relationship can really benefit from just incorporating one another into your busy lives, and the key is to focus on quality over quantity.
4. Make small gestures of appreciation.
It may be a cliché, but it really is all about the little things. Small thoughtful gestures let your partner know you are thinking about them and that you really do care about one another. In a March 2018 article for Psych Chentral, Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., wrote that small gestures "promote connection and intimacy which are fundamental to relationship health. Connection and intimacy directly relate to greater relationship satisfaction, which of course has carryover into overall positive wellbeing."
Leave notes of encouragement. Send them messages of photos that will make them laugh. Remind each other of special memories and moments you’ve shared. Sure, the big grand gestures are great, but let's be honest — ain’t nobody got time for that, especially when you're a busy college student with limited resources.
Everyone will tell you that relationships are work, and they aren’t wrong. But, because all these small and relatively easy gestures really can add up, so can the chances of your relationship lasting well beyond graduation day.
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