Building a Healthy Relationship in College
Many people enter their first committed relationships during college. On the one hand, romantic relationships can be wonderful, bringing out the best in two people. On the other, even the healthiest relationships will have times when things are complicated, confusing, and challenging. Problems sometimes arise when two people have conflicting expectations of what their relationship “should” be like, are distracted by other academic or personal issues, or have difficulty communicating in ways that their partner can really hear and understand.
While the early months of a relationship are often effortless and exciting, successful long-term relationships involve ongoing effort and compromise by both partners. Because relationship skills are rarely “taught,” sometimes one or both partners just may not know how to establish and maintain a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship.
Three Important Points to Remember in the Beginning of the Relationship:
- Explore. Explore each other’s interests and passions so that you have a long list of things to enjoy together. Try new things together to expand mutual interests.
- Build. Build a foundation of appreciation and respect. Focus on all the considerate things your partner says and does. Happy couples make a point of noticing even small opportunities to say “thank you” to their partner, rather than focusing on mistakes their partner has made.
- Establish. Establish a pattern of apologizing if you make a mistake or hurt your partner’s feelings. Saying “I’m sorry” may be pretty hard in the moment but goes a long way towards healing a rift in a relationship. Your partner will trust you more if he or she knows that you will take responsibility for your words and actions.
As the Relationship Grows:
Relationships change over time. What you want from a relationship in the early months of dating may be quite different from what you want after you have been together for some time. Changes in life outside your relationship will impact what you want and need from the relationship. Even positive change tends to be stressful, but change is inevitable. Welcoming change as an opportunity to enhance the relationship is more fruitful than trying to keep change from happening.
Check in With Your Partner
Set aside time to “check in with each other” on changing expectations and goals. These discussions are hardly free of anxiety, and it is tempting to postpone them. Relationships are sometimes compared to boating on a river: Both partners need to be paddling to stay on course. Couples can find that if they ignore difficult topics too long, their relationship has drifted into “rocky waters” without their noticing. Strategizing together about changes can strengthen and deepen the relationship you are building. And good communication is key . .
How well do you know your partner?
One of the most important features of successful couple relationships is the quality of the friendship. Do you know your partner's inner world? Please click here to take a quiz that will help you decide.