Paige Eades

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Maintaining Relationships In University

Maintaining Relationships In University

There is no denying it; university can be hard. Taking into account the fact that many students move out of their family home to go live with some relative strangers, have to adapt to a whole new city, town, or even country, cope with a new workload that is completely independent and find ways to socialise and get to know people - it can be hard to keep relationships, both romantic and platonic, from 'before' up.

The readers that have been around for a little while will know that I didn't move out when I started university - I live pretty close to mine so decided to stay home and commute every day. Whilst I found there are good and bad points for doing this; it should have meant that I found it easy to keep up my relationships with my friends and boyfriend, especially ones that stayed close too? No. It can be hard, no matter how convenient you think life will make it.

Retaining romantic relationships is somewhat easier than platonic - in my experience, my boyfriend and I already live around an hour's drive from each other and by never having gone to the same sixth form meant we already had set times and days where we could see each other. I suppose that is the same with all relationships; you tend to develop a schedule. You have your special person and aren't looking to find a new boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.

Naturally; you will continue to converse and engage with that person as you do every day, although potential changes could include FaceTiming instead, or having to decrease the number of times you physically meet up because of expense or practicality. 

Maintaining Relationships In University

Friendships are different. They're not as exclusive - you can have multiple friendships and actively look for new ones and it's encouraging to do so. Especially attending university; it is somewhere that makes it almost essential to have a support network and find your people. If you've moved away from home; then you do need to have people that are physically there with you that you can turn to if you need help.

You need to have people that can relate to you with course lecturers, university problems, etc. I'm not saying to ditch all your past friends, you still need them and should be making the effort to keep in touch but it is only natural that you will make new friends that are relevant to a certain aspect of your life. So what happens if you suddenly lose special people from home? Why have you lost a friendship that you previously thought was going to last forever?

Sometimes it goes wrong. A missed text here, a day without talking there, and relationships can start to quickly deteriorate. Any relationship; romantic or platonic needs communication or mutual understanding to thrive - and sometimes this doesn't happen. Did you know that the average undergraduate loses 40 per cent of their existing friends every six months if they do not take steps to maintain those relationships?

I'm sure that you'll be able to understand from relationships with people you have had in the past; some friendships you have will be with people you hardly see, but when you get together it will be like nothing has changed. Others will have started well, and ended in an argument. Perhaps you just drifted apart and now things are weird.

Decide who is worth keeping.

A major part of maintaining relationships during university is deciding who is worth keeping. It's well known that your friendship circle number decreases as you progress through your life with extra commitments cropping up including life, kids, education, jobs, etc. As with anything; as soon as the effort to maintain something increases - you prioritise who and what you need.

For the majority of people; you won't be able to keep every single person in your life so you need to surround yourself, and decide who is your main priorities. Focus on the friendships that bring value to your life, that encourage you to become a better person, that inspire you, and that supports you even when you can't always give the support back. Those people who you've always had an inkling that they would dump you for the next best thing? Get rid. Those people who just don't support you or your friendship is based out of convenience? Get rid.

It doesn't have to be harsh, or cutthroat - you will naturally be drawn to certain people over others. You may find that friendships disappear; in which case they probably weren't worth keeping if both parties don't want to commit to the friendship, or find that certain people will communicate more upon learning of the distance - and those are the people that you may not have considered but are worth keeping as they value you. 

Maintaining Relationships In University

Designate time.

Create a routine, make a timetable, set specific times each week where you are purely focused on that person. Whether it be a FaceTime call, an in-person visit or just sending a text - make sure that you separate some time to catch up with that person. You've chosen them in your life to stay; so they mean some importance to you - make sure they know it.

I've made this mistake before; university can get so busy, or it can be hard to balance life and work commitments around the university, etc so time just ends up depleting before you know it. It might sound rather robotic, but within planning your week set alerts to FaceTime various people, or remind yourself to text or check-in with that person. Meeting up is always something you remember, but digital can sometimes be hard.

Communicate effectively.

The difference between successful friendships and ones that don't work is that there is a lack of communication. If you don't lay out what you expect from a friendship, or successfully demonstrate it through your actions - things won't work out. Make sure you communicate what you want from friendship; and speak if you're not happy. If someone isn't giving you the attention and the same energy that you feel you deserve - respectfully tell them if you want to keep that person in your life.

If you're like me and hate any form of conflict (I turn into a blubbery mess, anyone else?) then it can be so much easier to just not say anything if you are struggling, and unsuccessfully coping. It's such a huge mistake to make though - people aren't mindreaders, and won't be able to instantly tell if something is wrong. Friendships shouldn't be one-sided though - it takes two to tango, and effort should be made on both sides. Petty behaviour like who texted first, I organised this meet-up so you have to organise the next one has no place in adult friendships.

Know your worth.

Know your worth; you should be surrounding yourself with people who actively show their friendship and want what is best for you, and you should be giving them that in return. Like I said before, friendship works both ways. If you have lost a friendship where you're not sure what more you could have done in the circumstance - it isn't you.

University will prove to you which of your friends are in it for the long run, and which ones were made out of convenience. I have my best friend who is still with me and lost others. Some of them I still talk to and check up on each other, others I don't speak to at all. Losing relationships with people you thought would be in your life forever is hard, and it sucks - but it's the harsh part of life. 

Understand that it's okay if things don't work out.

Sometimes, even despite your best efforts, friendships don't last. That's OK, and to be honest inevitable. Part of growing into adulthood is about surrounding yourself with people who you actually want to, and vibe with instead of having friendships out of convenience. Not all relationships last and although it's perfectly normal to grieve and be sad for a little bit, make sure to move on and learn from the experience.

Priorities change when people head off for university, and it is perfectly okay to let things slide for a bit. Those friends who are still there after you've sorted things out and got your head in the right space are the ones worth the keep, and are the ones that will be with you for the long run as they understand that life happens. You may find that some previous friendships just weren't worth the time you were investing; and that's part of growth. It helps you learn for the future. 

How did you find maintaining relationships whilst at university? Did you lose some people, or has your group stayed exactly the same?


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