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Navigating Romantic Relationships in College

By: Julia Collins

As a self-proclaimed “relationship person,” college has been a new experience to navigate. I’ve seen friends and peers in all types of romantic relationships. Sometimes, friends don’t know what they want, and it takes a minute of trying different things to figure it out. I’m here to break down all the different types of relationships and the pros and cons of each.

The Casual Hookup:

This type of romantic/sexual relationship is incredibly common among college students and young adults. A 2018 study done by the Journal of American College Health found that the most common reason for casual hookups was that it’s exciting. Casual hookups can certainly be fulfilling in getting your physical needs satisfied. But one thing to be aware of is that it’s not the best plan to look for emotional fulfillment in something casual. Your partner probably isn’t aware that that’s another aspect you’re looking for unless you tell them. And even if you do tell them you want emotional validation from them, it’s not a steady place to receive it from. Another tip: Make sure to be smart and safe if you approach casual hookups through dating apps. Stick to ones that you share core values with, and make sure to do as much background research as you can before meeting them in person. Safety is everything!

The ~Relationship~ Relationship:

My friends and I often refer to typical relationships as ~relationship~ relationships. This is the type where you are committed to your partner (or multiple partners if you’re into that) and plan on only dating them. This type of relationship usually covers more ground with fulfilling different types of needs such as emotional, physical and social. Now, obviously, there are many, many ways in which typical relationships can go awry. You can become more vulnerable with them, and therefore, it could hurt more if you break up. They could not be the person for you, etcetera. But in my experience, relationships are a great thing to pursue to discover what qualities you look for in people, to connect with someone on a deeper level and to experience that aspect of life. But the other thing I’ve discovered is that successful relationships usually come when you’re not looking for them. They tend to happen organically. Finally, though, know that it’s okay not be in a relationship at all! Everyone has different timelines and desires, and there is never a “right” time to date. You are never behind or ahead of anyone else.

Friends with Benefits:

This last type of relationship in college is probably the trickiest to navigate in my opinion. All of the podcasts I’ve ever listened to on the subject came to the conclusion that having friends with benefits is totally fine, but you have to make sure a few things are clear right from the start: 1) whether or not you have feelings for them. If you have feelings, you’ll only be hurting yourself by entering this type of relationship. It’s important to make the distinction in your mind. 2) Establish boundaries with them. Figure out if you both want to talk about your physical relationship with other friends, but also don’t forget to figure out your physical boundaries and what you’re comfortable with.

Overall, navigating relationships in college can be tricky, but I hope these few tips and tricks helped! Make sure you always use protection, have clear communication and that everything you do is consensual. Happy Valentine’s Day!