What’s Occurring Wednesday: Young Love

There’s so much stigma on people falling in love at a young age these days. It’s not helped by the trend of the other young people – the sleeping around, the lack of commitment. I’d be the first one to admit that I never, ever, ever expected to be in a committed relationship from a young age. My plan was always to try and work abroad at the earliest opportunity.

Life however dealt me a slightly different card. Four years ago today I went round for an innocent dinner at a new friend’s house, and came back with a boyfriend. Despite insisting to my mum prior to going to the local boy’s school sixth form that I wasn’t interested in starting a relationship. Despite insisting to friends that day that I wasn’t sure I liked him (that was a lie). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never turned away from what I wanted because of him, but what I wanted has changed. Yes, I’ve gone to a university 150 miles away from him, but that placement year in America? Well, I’m working in Surrey. And loving it, I hasten to add! I certainly don’t feel I’m missing out!

I’ve had a lot of questions about whether I feel that being in a relationship has made university life more difficult, more boring. I have to say no. Yes, I sometimes miss occasions and parties because it falls on a visit weekend, but realistically I know I’d much rather be with him than not. Sometimes I miss out on girly nights in because of Skype dates, but those aren’t just nights sitting staring at my laptop. They are giggly chats, playing cute songs to each other, catching up with our lives, and generally just trying to pretend that there’s not the distance between us.

 photo 2014-09-13150145_zps6a3c57b6.jpgSome of the best couples I know met when they were relatively young. One of my besties (hi Libby!) has been with her boyfriend since they were 15; currently long-distance between here and America (hat’s off to them!). Another blogger Briar Rose got married at a young age and looks wonderfully happy – I’m not a teeny bit jealous of course! And of course there’s my wonderful parents – meeting one lunch time on a blind date, with my seventeen-year-old mum announcing to friends that night that she’s met ‘the one’, they’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage.

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgIt all goes to show that sometimes following your heart isn’t a bad thing. I’m so glad that, terrified as I was, I took the plunge and held his hand four years ago. I’m grateful that I had the courage to keep going when we started university, because it only made us stronger. And I’m thankful, and quite frankly amazed, that’s he’s put up with me for four years. Happy Anniversary – here’s to many more to come!

Student Summer: Taking Your Relationship to University

My post on Long Distance Relationships remains one of the most popular posts on my blog; I’ve had a lot of positive comments and tweets about it, and I’ve loved hearing other people’s LDR stories too. Today I thought I’d concentrate specifically on taking your relationship to university, whether that’s going long distance or moving together.

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Side note – my boyfriend cannot pull a ‘normal’ face in photographs anymore…

As I’m sure you’re all aware, I was in a relationship for two years before starting university. We both live in the Midlands; I moved South to university, and he moved (slightly) North – good planning! We picked our universities completely independently of each other, although having said that there was nowhere offering both our courses, and so knew for a good while we were heading towards long distance. Other couples I knew ended up purely coincidentally heading to the same university, which really worked for them. Funnily enough, the majority of couples I know who ended up splitting actually went to the same universities because of each other.

If you’re ending up going to the same university, I recommend making sure you give each other space. University really grows you as an individual, and it would be a shame for your and/or your partner to miss out on that. Don’t plan to move in together straight away, have your own friendship groups – basically just carry on as normal just away from home. Of course, moving in straight away does work for some people, but it isn’t something I’d necessarily advise at 18.

 photo 2014-04-26123410_zps4e0140e9.jpgObviously I’ve already written a whole post about long distance love, so do go there for more advice, but if you are going straight into a long distance relationship when you start univesity, I do have a few more targeted tips.

  • Have a talk. Realistically, if you aren’t sure about being together for a significant period of time, going long distance is unlikely to work. You need to sit down and have a serious chat – are you committed to each other? How often will you visit? We sat down several times over the summer before university and ultimately decided that we were sure we were ‘it’ for each other – and that was enough for us to know that we needed to make it work.
  • Sort out visits in advance. Whilst we have graduated from a calendar to a spreadsheet (I AM a trainee actuary!) its so helpful to know when we’ll be seeing each other over the coming months. Gives us something to look forward to, and it means we won’t accidentally arrange things and then be unable to see each other. We see each other roughly every fortnight, any more and we both get moody – it works for us as its often enough to avoid missing each other loads, but far enough apart to give each other space to get out with friends and get on with work.
  • Make some ground rules. What do you class as unacceptable behaviour?
  • Arrange time for each other. Have specific nights where you chat on the phone or Skype. Let the other know in advance if you can’t make it. Making time for each other when you’re apart is key to lasting long distance.
  • Get to know each others friends/housemates. I won’t lie, it is very easy to get jealous when your partner is making new friends. One of the best things for me was running into them whilst visiting and them saying ‘we’ve heard so much about you” – it honestly made me so much more relaxed.
  • Make plans for visits. Even if its just try that nice cafe for lunch, or making a yummy dinner, its important to make the most of your time together. You want to look back on the last visit and know you had fun, and not just sat waiting to say goodbye.

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgI have had friends ask me whether I’ve felt that I have “missed out” on university or felt “held back” due to my relationship – but really I feel the opposite. I’ve moved away from home and really, really grown up, and I have had the support of a lovely young man to help me. Yes I sometimes turn down invites as its a weekend I’ll be away visiting, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve managed to do everything I want, do fantastically well in my degree so far, get offered not one but two work placements, all whilst keeping a long distance relationship going. And because I work out all my assignments and revision so I don’t do any when I’m with him, it works out that I get a mini-holiday every fortnight!

 photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgStarting a serious relationship at a young age doesn’t mean it won’t last, and likewise it doesn’t mean that you say goodbye to other life opportunities.  I wouldn’t change any part of my life; its not easy, its not perfect, but its right for me. Going to university in a relationship is something to be proud of, and it is entirely possible. So don’t worry if that’s what you’re about to do this month.
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What happened to your relationships when you went to university?

Lifestyle: Long Distance Love

I’m sure most of you know by now, but I’m in a long distance relationship due to university. I told the details in full a few months back, but basically we met at the beginning of sixth form at the sweet age of sixteen, got together within a few months, spent two years together before we travelled to university 200 miles apart. We’ve now been long distance for nearly two years, and we have at least another two years ahead of us. This Sunday will mark the start of our third year apart, as I move to Surrey to commence my placement. It’s bittersweet – the end of a short summer together, but we’re hopefully over halfway there! Here’s my tips for going long distance, and how to cope:

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgDon’t compare yourself to other relationships. Be they people who live together, or people who are in an LDR with a lesser distance between them, you don’t know the details of their relationship. I’ve had people look down on me when I’m struggling ‘cos he’s still in the same country; yes, but that doesn’t mean I can see him, it doesn’t make me feel any closer! Yes, its only 200 miles, but its also a minimum of four years – I’ll be nearly 23 by the time I can even think about trying to move in with my boyfriend. Equally I know I’ve gotten extremely jealous of couples living closer to each other, but I do try not to show it. Most of my friends are coupled up, I’d soon see them and their partners as opposed to sit sulking on my own!

Try to have a long-term plan. I know where we are going in the future, and that helps an awful lot. Wanting the same things is ultimately what keeps a LDR going; if you are about to embark on one its probably a good idea to have a frank discussion.

In terms of a plan, it’s also useful to try and plan out visits in advance. This is easier when you are in the same country, but even international relationships should try and have an idea about when they will see each other next – even if its ‘by XXX date’. When we first started university our plan was to see each other every four weeks. That never happened, and we see each other every fortnight, with the occasional three-week gap.

 photo 2014-04-26123410_zps4e0140e9.jpgCommunicate. This is really the main point, and its a must-do. You need to make time to speak to your partner. Not just a quick chat, but real conversation. What you’ve been up to, what’s been the highlight of your week, everything and anything. Really listen to what they have to say too. We try and call each other every other night, and have a Skype around 3 times a week (Skype will seriously become your best friend!) – I’ll also call my boyfriend if I’m walking home in the dark on my own!

That said, try to communicate in ways other than through your phone. I found that when we first went long distance I become unhealthily attached to my mobile, it was like having a relationship with a handheld electronic object! We try and write each other old-fashioned letters – and I loved it when I used to be surprised with a parcel of goodies he’d baked!

 photo 27918_10151267754238516_1513098207_n_zps73521391.jpgMeet each other’s friends. Obviously you need your own friends, but introducing your partner and vice versa means you feel a little more involved in each other’s lives. My boyfriend seems to naturally have more girls as friends than boys at university; whilst I know that’s just him, I can truthfully say that meeting them all, hearing them say “we’ve heard lots about you” made me feel a lot better!

Have boundaries. We trust each other absolutely, but we do ask that neither of us put ourselves in certain situations. These will be different for different couples – I have no problem with my boyfriend going out with just a few of his girl mates, but I know others would. Above all though, you really do need to trust each other. If you don’t you will be eaten alive with jealousy, and to me jealousy isn’t a good thing in a relationship.

 photo 10464251_10201833358628057_7137741447011300528_n_zpsda2dc99f.jpgMake visits exciting. Sure you might want to spend the whole weekend cuddled up, but building memories means you’re far more likely to look forward to the next visit. Explore their area, go for brunch, cook for each other. One of my favourite weekends was when we paid (a ridiculous amount) and caught the bus to Whitstable. A day by the sea with ice cream and a giant sausage roll just can’t be beaten! If you can’t manage a whole weekend, arrange a day-trip in a central location. During my exams I knew I couldn’t cope with a whole weekend off of revision, so instead we met up in London – got soaked in the rain, explored Borough Market and had a yummy dinner at Wahaca.

My biggest tip of all – have fun! Whether it be together in person, laughing along on the phone, giggling over Skype, or apart and with your friends. Try not to mope away when you’re in need of a cuddle, but do something to cheer you up and remember: if it’s meant to be, you will get through it!

What are your relationship tips?