Whether you're fresh out of high school, or decided to enroll after years in the real world, college dating isn't like dating anywhere else. There is a whole culture of romance that people must learn about, and learn to balance along with their course loads, extracurriculars, and, in some cases, jobs as well. So here are a few tips which will, hopefully, help you see that college dating isn't as intimidating as you might have thought and can actually be a ton of fun!
As anyone who has seen any '90s teen movie can tell you - a lot of people come to college looking to hook up. If that's your thing, great! There are a lot of people who are looking for the same thing. And if you're someone who prefers something more serious then you're in luck too. A lot of people, boys and girls, also want a long-term relationship. The problem is that most people are too shy to admit it. It's important to be upfront about these things when you meet someone that you're interested in. Not only will this make the entire dating process so much easier, but you're more likely to find what you're looking for - whether that be fun or something more meaningful.
With everything else going on (classes, projects, papers, clubs, etc.) it's hard to find free time. Don't expect that the person you're dating is going to be jumping to hang out with you every second, and don't take it personally. For a lot of people in college, finding downtime is hard, and they might need a moment or two to themselves to relax and take a breath at the end of the day. Give them their space, and try and be flexible without compromising on the times that you would also like to be alone.
This is great advice not just for college dating, but for dating in general. Communication is known to make or break any relationship, and not telling your partner what you like, dislike, and how you feel will only lead to issues and resentment. It might be tough at first, but it's important to get into the habit of being forthcoming with people. Not everyone will respond to it either, some people might say that your wants or desires are dealbreakers for them. That's okay, it just means that it isn't going to work out between the two of you, so thank them for their honesty and be on your way.
Sometimes we put the blame on the failings of the relationship on the other person, whether it's fair or not. While it might be easy to point at the other person and accuse them of bringing the relationship down, "You never listen," " You don't want to hang out with me ever," it's likely not going to get you the long-term results that you desire. Instead, try to calmly and rationally explain how the other person's actions make you feel. Simpler said than done, right? You bet it is. The key here isn't to be perfect, but rather to try and pay attention to yourself when you start playing the "blame game." If you can, try and catch yourself, calm down, and rephrase what you're saying in a more productive way, "When you said you didn't want to go out it made me feel unimportant." Don't get mad at yourself if you're not perfect at this, it's a skill that takes time and emotional maturity to develop.
College has major ups and downs. There are going to be parts of the year where it seems like you're flying down Easy Street - you have minimal obligations and classes are pretty simple and straightforward. Take advantage of that time by hanging out and having fun together. Then there will be times where it seems like you hardly have a second just to breathe. You're not going to be seeing your partner as much during that time and they need to be okay with that. That also works inversely, if they have projects and midterms piling up, don't give them grief for not spending enough time with you. They need their space just like you need yours.
Just because it might be a new relationship it doesn't mean that you or your partner aren't allowed to spend time with friends. This advice runs double if you guys have two different groups of friends. Oftentimes people just want to spend some time with their friends and that's perfectly fine - again don't immediately take it as a personal slight. Additionally, don't get down if your partner's friends don't immediately fall in love with you. Bonding with their friends and ingratiating into a new group might take a little time and energy, be patient and, most importantly, be yourself and it will happen with enough time.
College is a time of exploration - not just in relationships or at parties, but exploring different ideas as well. Your partner may have discovered a new author whose ideas really resonate with them, but they're still in the middle of processing those ideas. A healthy relationship in college means that you're not immediately dismissive, even if you don't totally see eye-to-eye with them. Talk to them about it, be a soundboard for them to bounce their thoughts off of if need be. By the way, you don't have to walk away thinking the same thing that they do, and you don't even have to agree with them, but you should be respectful enough to accept their way of thinking and appreciate them as a person regardless.
Being in a new relationship might seem like the most exciting thing in the world, but don't forget why you came to college in the first place. Your focus needs to extend not only to your relationships, but also to your grades and other resume and skill-building activities you have. Don't let dating in college become your number 1 priority, and if someone is giving you a lot of grief for spending "too much time" studying or working, they might not be the person you should be dating right now. It's tough to say "thanks but no thanks," to someone you really like, but for the sake of your future in the long-term, it is sometimes the best thing you can do.
Movies and television like to portray dating as a series of excursions to fancy restaurants followed by incredible shows. We hate to break it to you though, but this is college. Even the people who are working are only going to be able to work part-time, meaning that $300 meals at upscale restaurants definitely aren't on the agenda. It's best to have realistic expectations when it comes to dating and appreciate the things the two of you can do together. Things like going for a walk through campus, or getting a coffee or beer together at one of the student bars are a more college-affordable way to spend time together. It's inexpensive, fun, and, most importantly, gives the two of you a chance to spend some quality time together in between classes and other obligations.