Avoiding the relationship apocalypse

University isn’t easy and neither is finding true love. So why would any sensible person want to combine the two? Relationships demand proper maintenance and constant work, and that can be hard to balance with classes and assignments.

“It depends on if both people are willing to actually put effort into the relationship,” says Justin Ferrante, a first year Concurrent Education student.

He thinks relationships are worth fighting for, and what individuals learn from them is worth the sacrifices. However, he notes it sometimes isn’t easy to live up to your significant other’s expectations.

“Two people won’t want to be in a relationship when they realize that their lives are so hectic that they can’t make time for that other person, and it just collapses,” says Ferrante.

In general, relationships involve a lot of give-and-take. One must be willing to look past the hectic schedules, the short phone calls and hours between texts, and days without seeing each other. When your SO expects a lot of personal time with you, it can be hard to focus on completing schoolwork.

“I think single students definitely have an easier time focusing on school,” says Evan Thompson. “The pursuit of a partner can easily be put on hold by ‘Sorry, I’ll talk to you later, I need to get this essay done,’ whereas in a relationship there’s an expectation to spend time with them and sometimes put them before schoolwork.”

He balances schoolwork and time with his boyfriend by studying with him and pitching essay and assignment ideas to get his feedback.

“It’s great having someone to be there to support me when the work piles up and gets stressful.” he says.

For a first year student, the thrill of meeting hundreds of new people can sometimes result in less than desirable behaviour, like cheating. Each new face brings new opportunity and possibly new temptation. The anonymity and transience of university can allow students to eliminate discretion and make some opportunities hard to pass up.

“University is an opportunity for one sexcapade after another,” Thompson says.

While in a committed relationship himself, Thompson recognizes the temptation to indulge as much as possible in the “university experience” and, in essence, in your fellow students. Being in a committed relationship can put a damper on interactions with new people, especially at parties. The thought of possibly harming the relationship can be unsettling and nerve-wracking.

According to Kathy Foxall, a psychology professor, a successful relationship involves two people willing to see past hardships to grow stronger as a unit. When one is in an unstable relationship, they often accuse their partner of negative behaviours. Flirting with a classmate, being busy with homework and unable to hang out or trying to spend more time with friends can be seen as attempts to spoil the relationship. Stable couples, however, attribute these “negative behaviours” to the situation and not to their partner. She cites John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” theory.

Gottman’s theory explains the four reasons why most relationships fail. He argues the way individuals handle the conflict and not the conflicts themselves often end relationships. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are the four negative reactions, and each involves an attack on character. Often, people choose to lash out at others when faced with their own mistakes. This can apply especially to university relationships because of the huge amount of pressure placed on students and the stress of adjusting to life away from home.

Handling another person’s problems can be hazardous to one’s mental health, and that may cause some to question the value of relationships. While some are satisfied with their current relationships, others lust after the idea of having “friends with benefits.”

In a perfect world, this would be the ideal for someone who wants all the positive aspects of a relationship without dealing with negative elements, like fighting and jealousy.

“I think that a friend with benefits relationship is easier to maintain and get rid of, if and only if it stays simple and neither party changes the rules,” says Taylor Turner, who has been with her boyfriend for three years and maintains a successful long-distance relationship.

”By that, I mean that neither falls for the other. If they do change, then it is very, very complicated.”

In the end, an individual must decide if they’re going to pursue love in university. Sure, it can be a distraction, but it doesn’t need to be. Taking time to study, work, hang out with friends and family and have alone time apart from SO’s keeps both individuals – and their romantic relationships – healthy. Obsessing over the relationship will cause unnecessary stress. And in university, that’s the last thing students need.

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