Joris Laarman Lab at the High Museum

What you can expect when settling down in college

When leaving your toothbrush at your partner’s house turns into moving into a small apartment together, or wearing their old sweatshirt turns into a diamond ring on your left hand, you’re probably ready to settle down. Making a legal commitment to someone while in college is a huge step in a relationship. When balancing a job, homework, and a social life was once difficult, now you’ve added your partner’s daily activities into the mix. However, being in a steady relationship is one of the most rewarding parts of life I’ve ever experienced. If you’ve been bitten by the love bug and are ready to jump on a life-long journey of compassion and trust, it’s time to know what to expect when settling down.

Make sure you’re financially stable
Before falling in love with an apartment or house and filling your Target online cart with home décor, identify if you are truly financially stable. If rent costs $1000 per month (welcome to Atlanta!) and you can hardly manage to pay your car insurance each month, you may want to re-weigh your options. While it might be difficult, be honest with your partner and tell them as soon as possible if you need to wait until you can afford it. Living on the edge each month will cause unnecessary stress and problems within your relationship.

Patience is Power
Now if you are financially stable, start to consider your new living situation. While living together before marriage used to be looked down upon, it is now becoming a normal evaluation of compatibility, which ethically, makes sense. Why would you marry someone knowing nothing about their habits and pet peeves when you are not around? Sure, it bothers you when your boyfriend constantly leaves the toilet seat up at his house, but can you live with that every day in your shared home?

When living together for the first time, patience and communication is the key to a successful and healthy relationship. If your partner routinely does something that agitates you, ask them kindly to have a conversation about it. If you barge in the door screaming about the issue, chances are you will just exacerbate the problem you’re trying to end.

Making Compromises
Going along with patience, if moving in with your significant other, you should be comfortable enough to speak your mind. If the dishes are piling up in the sink and the trash has been sitting in the same spot for a week, you might want to plan a compromise chart. (Or at least set some agreeable ground rules for your relationship.) Each partner should have an equal amount of work to do so one isn’t drowning in chores.

Invest in alone time
When the honeymoon phase is in full effect, the thought of leaving your partner’s side is unimaginable. However, a few months down the road, you might be feeling a little smothered. Setting aside personal time is just as important as date nights in a healthy relationship. Even if you can’t get enough of your loved one, remember that you will be spending the rest of your life with them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a load off watching your favorite Youtuber or going for a run at the nearest trail. Having an hour to breathe and reevaluate your feelings and mindset is essential for a relationship to function correctly. Don’t forget, even in a steady relationship, you are still an individual.

What you have vs. What you’re missing out on in college
If you live with your partner away from your college, this dreaded thought has most likely crossed your mind before: “What am I missing out on in college?” Unfortunately, you are avoiding possibly one of the most socialized points in your life. However, you can make friends during and between classes. You might also see your friends’ Snapchat stories at parties laughing and having fun. A common misconception that couples living together have is that they are under house arrest, or they must be with their partner to have fun. This ideology is unhealthy, and you should keep in mind that you can party with your friends and be lucky enough to come home to your significant other later to cuddle. That is something most college students do not experience, and you have the opportunity every single day. The bottom line, you are in control of your schedule, and if you don’t want to miss anything happening in college, make sure to keep up with your friends.

Date Nights still matter
A successful relationship will make designated date nights to keep the relationship exciting and interesting. No one wants to come home from classes every single day and just watch TV with their partner. Set one day aside each week as your designated date night. To keep the dates fair, alternate each week on who decides what to do. For instance, if your girlfriend is dying to watch a new chick flick but the sequel to your favorite movie just released, try to meet somewhere in the middle. Offer to watch her movie this weekend, and plan on going together to watch the sequel next weekend.

Especially on a college budget, the same idea goes for spending money. If you purchase the movie tickets, make a pact that your partner will buy the snacks. It may be a new ideology, but it is okay for the girl to pay for a part of the date too.

Remember what made you fall in love with them
Overall, through the hardships and tears, and the happiness and laughter, always remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. Was it their wittiness? Maybe their ability to always make you smile when you’re down? Their same undeniable love for Taco Bell that you have? (Hint: that is a big part of mine.) Whatever the reason, always keep this thought in mind. This can come in handy if you are having a rough day together. Take your significant other back to the place where you first met or play your song and slow dance in the kitchen together. Savor the little moments and remind each other why you love each other daily. A healthy relationship will never let go of what brought them together.

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