Keeping a healthy relationship whilst passing your studies may seem quite daunting. Here are some tips and advice to help keep your relationship healthy.
Having a significant other during your university days can be tough at times, especially during exam or test periods. Our stress levels build and our frustration grows. Our heads become cluttered with information and we can fall into the trap of taking our frustrations out on our partners. Building on your relationship with your partner (or even maintaining it) can be difficult at times. How you deal with it during these times will influence your relationship in the future.
After making it through five years of university with the same girlfriend, I’ve learnt a thing or two about how to deal with the difficult situation of juggling studies and love. It is by no means easy and it can be daunting. This isn’t an article offering relationship advice. I’d simply like to share some tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship when times get tough during university and how you can successfully study and maintain a healthy and loving relationship – based on my own experiences.
Help Each Other Learn
Some prefer to sit quietly in their room and absorb the information in relative peace. Others enjoy being in a vibrant, collaborative environment and learning together. To me, the best way to learn is to meet in the middle – learn by myself and then teach my understandings to someone.
Note: It’s not advisable to attempt to teach your roommates while they’re sipping away at a nice cold beer preparing to head out for a big night on the prowl. (I’ve tried it and it fails horribly.)
Girlfriends are a different story altogether. Generally, they’re prepared to endure your forgetfulness and have the patience to help you learn. After all, they want you to excel in everything that you do. I remember sitting for hours on end on my bed with my girlfriend reciting the different types of clouds in the sky.
Hey, at least she now knows what a cumulonimbus cloud is when she sees one and that she should generally take an umbrella along when she does.
It’s a great way to bond and learn about each other in the process. Just a word of advice: you need a partner that has the patience to listen to things that oftentimes they don’t really have any interest in whatsoever! It is indeed a great test for any relationship. And as a cherry on top, when your significant other gets their distinction, you feel like the hero who encouraged it and made it possible.
Don’t Take Your Frustrations Out On Each Other
Anyone who has studied knows how stressful and taxing exam times can be and the awful feeling that comes with it. People deal with pressure differently and everyone has their own unique responses to it. I often went really quiet for prolonged periods, hibernated in my room, listened to music, and just kept to myself.
If there is one thing we know about stress – it’s that it affects your mood and temperament. Its like the Snickers slogan – “You’re not you when you’re hungry”. I know close friends that have nearly ruined their relationships with their partners because their judgment was affected by the added pressure of exam periods. In fact, a few of them did.
We typically lack sleep, have unnatural levels of anxiety, and are under such extreme pressure that most judgment and emotions disappear without us even realising it. Take note of your stress levels when spending time with your loved one. They’re not your punching bag when times are tough or someone to vent your frustrations on. They are there to support you during these tough times, and while they are a shoulder to cry on (in this instance, I literally mean cry) your frustration should never be directed at them. During the exam periods I made an effort to be happy or at least seem so, even if I was going crazy internally.
A little piece of advice: the likelihood is high that they are experiencing abnormal stress levels at the same time. You don’t put out fire with fire – everyone knows that!
Also remember, some people take things personally. In a new relationship, your partner does not necessarily know when you are personally attacking them or if it’s just the situation that you’re upset about. They could take it up in the wrong way, and, well, you may just find yourself talking to your reflection from then on out.
Have a Special Date Every Once in a While
It’s important that during intense times, especially in the lead-up to exams, you give your full attention span to each other, albeit for a short period of time. Spending one-hour a week with your full attention focused on them is much better than five-hours a week with little or no attention.
When you find a free gap, go on a special date and talk about everything except your overloaded schedule for exams. Get your mind out of the working zone, and really focus and enjoy the moment. I used to literally pretend like I didn’t have any exams coming up, and would focus all of my attention on my girlfriend and our conversation. If you have this mindset, there’s a good chance that your partner will too. When you’re spaced out – they will most likely pick up on this and well, the conversation may be pretty boring at the least. (And they might be pretty upset too.)
Be There for Each Other
We all need and crave support during turbulent times. This is a natural emotion and is part of the parcel of being human. Positive social support plays an important role in our ability to deal with the stresses that come along during our university days. The encouragement of our partners can motivate us when we’re struggling and it can help us get back on track more quickly than if we did not have a strong support system.
Just also be aware that even though our partner may not seem as if they need some support, it may be that they are just embarrassed to admit it.
Set the Record Straight with Friends
Friends are your first line of support and will pretty much defend you in any situation, even if you are blatantly wrong. If they find that you’re spending too much time with your partner they will also let their thoughts and feelings be known to you. The very nature of friends is that they are protective, and are looking out for your, or their, best interests.
For me, spending time with my girlfriend used to calm me down and set me in the right frame of mind to deal with the pressure I was facing. I did at times hear some slack from my friends that I was becoming ‘whipped.’
But to me it was the best way that I could deal with my situation. The best thing that I did was communicating these feelings with my friends. After I did, I don’t think they ever chirped me again about spending too much time with my girlfriend during tough times.
You just need to have the courage to tell them this.
Celebrate, Celebrate and Celebrate Some More
To be honest with you, being a young student and going through a university exam/test period with a partner is by no means an easy task. Especially when considering that most couples meet at university, and as a result their relationships are relatively new and vulnerable. Typically, as human beings, we haven’t matured enough to learn yet how to deal with so many situations: from exams, leaving home, a new set of friends, the freedom of university, to the new relationship. Often, relationships play second fiddle to the new set of friends and the complete freedom of university. Or vice versa.
If you’ve managed to get through an exam period and keep your partner, then congratulations to you! The first ‘test’ is always the hardest. When you’re done with exams and the pressure is instantaneously relieved, celebrate with each other, not just because you’ve finished with university obligations, but because you’ve survived the ordeal together. This is also your opportunity to work through any hardships you may have experienced during this time.
Admit when you were wrong, forgive each other, and move on. These types of situations are not exclusive to university – when you enter the working world the pressure is just as intense. And by that time, the novelty and ‘honeymoon period’ of a new relationship has come to an end. Its a great learning experience for the two of you as it teaches you how to deal with tough situations, and shows that your relationship with each other can stand through these times.
It is highly recommended that you take time to do some fun activities with your partner and reduce stress levels. Whilst studying, I used to watch countless movies with my girlfriend (Dom, who works at EduOne!), because it was ‘our thing’. Between you and your partner, you need to find the activity that make you both happy and that, even when you’re having a bad day and angry with one another, you can both enjoy 🙂