While there are few things more rewarding than the feeling of finishing yet another year of lectures, tests and presentations, the end of the school year can also provide some not-so-ideal scenarios for the love lives of many collegiettes. Between study abroad trips, summer internships and graduation, many girls often find themselves faced with some tough decisions regarding their significant other come the end of the semester. And while everyone’s relationship is different, we spoke with Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, who provided us with some insight into the best way to handle these love conundrums, and what to keep in mind when deciding how to make the transition into summer work best for you. Take a look at the various situations you may find yourself in come May, and our guide on what to consider when handling each one.
Situation 1: You and your boyfriend are both graduating
As if seniors aren’t stressed out enough at the idea of paying off loans and finding a job (not to mention, weeknight drinking becoming becoming socially unacceptable), entering the real world can place a large amount of stress on your relationship as well. What if you and your boyfriend accept positions in different cities and have to live apart for the first time in years? Or perhaps you two are from different areas and plan on going back home after graduating? Being apart for an extended period of time has never been an issue before in the blissful bubble that is your college town, and now you’re worried about how much these big changes will impact your relationship post-graduation.
“Transitions are always a risky time for relationships.” says Dr. Lieberman. “Some relationships that have worked well in one setting may not work as well in a different setting.” And while this may not be an ideal prognosis for your LDR, venturing from college life to the corporate world doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed. Dr. Lieberman went on to mention the often unacknowledged benefit that can accompany such a huge change: “If a couple manages to survive a transition, such as graduating and going out into the real world, it can help them to grow closer to each other.”
This being said, the most important thing to bear in mind is to not let the important decisions that await you become ruled by your relationship. “It is very tempting to hold onto each other for security as you venture out, but resist the temptation. You want to be together out of love – not out of fear… you will come to resent [your significant other] for limiting your opportunities.” Dr. Lieberman added. And if you do get lucky and find a job in the same area? “You definitely should not plan to move in together right after college,” advises Lieberman. “You both need time and space to grow in the real world before deciding whether you want to take the relationship to the next level.” Remember that there’s no rush and you’ll both be a lot happier in the long run if you make decisions during this time based on what’s right for you.
Situation 2: You and your boyfriend both have exciting plans for the summer… in completely different cities.
Whether it’s a travel opportunity or internship that you have planned for this summer, it’s not unlikely that you and the boyfriend might be living in separate areas most some if not all of the season. Even though it’s a temporary separation, suddenly transitioning into a long distance relationship can add an extra strain, especially if the relationship is new.
Take Jen*, a student from Salisbury University who found herself living out this scenario. “Last summer, my boyfriend worked at a beach bar and I did a nine-to-five internship two hours away,” she says. “So not only were we apart, but we had completely different hours from each other which made even scheduling phone calls a struggle. Though we stayed together throughout that time, part of me wishes we would have taken a break for the three months we were apart… I would have had more time to actually enjoy my summer.”
This being said, distance isn’t always a death sentence for relationships, and can even turn out to be a benefactor. Boston University collegiette Hannah Rex found herself in this situation when her guy accepted a job in Los Angeles and she opted to stay in Boston. After agreeing to keep the relationship “open” before leaving, Rex found that the distance actually brought her and boyfriend closer as a couple. “I went to visit him in LA and that really pushed our relationship to the next level,” she says. “Which was great! By the end of the summer we were very much an exclusive couple.”
At the end of the semester, make a clear-cut decision before summer, then let things happen on their own. While we certainly wouldn’t recommend ending a healthy relationship that brings you happiness simply because of a summer separation, Dr. Lieberman does mention that this can be a tricky time for even the most committed of couples, “The most reasonable choice is to agree to not be exclusive over the summer, but reasonableness doesn't prevent jealousy.” As Dr. Lieberman mentioned previously, in any scenario it’s important to make choices out of what you feel is best for yourself and the relationship, rather than simply out of fear of not having each other. Three months apart can certainly bring forth a change in feelings for one or both of you, as is displayed by both by Jen and Hannah’s experiences, so commit to being honest with yourself and your guy throughout the summer in regards to how your really feeling. While a solid effort is necessary for any relationship to work, if you begin to feel your long distance love is holding you back from fully enjoying your experience, it may be better to spend your summer unattached.
Situation 3: You’re graduating and leaving your college town but your boy still has a few semesters left, or vice versa.
So whether you’re now facing the realization that your once hot upperclassman boyfriend now has to graduate or you are now forced to enter post-graduate life alone while your guy stays behind to finish up a few credits, the unfortunate reality is that one of you will soon find yourself wrapped up with job interviews, while the other stays in the comfort of your college town. Take collegiette Allye’s* take on how she’s handling her boyfriend’s upcoming graduation, “[My boyfriend and I] get along really well and share many of the same views and values, and I am not ready to let him go after he graduates. I'm staying at school in Pittsburgh and he's moving to Atlanta to start working in a temporary position… but he's working to get closer to where I am.” And whether you’re the one graduating or staying, Dr. Lieberman gave us some important things to consider in regards to this tricky scenario.
If you and your boyfriend decide staying together is the best option for your relationship after the semester ends, beware that the differences in your day-to-day lives may begin to cause problems of their own in your relationship. The post-graduate may begin feeling as if they have “outgrown” their significant other’s lifestyle, says Dr. Lieberman, which can cause tension. Along with this, the other partner may find themselves overwhelmed with the “buffet” of potential partners college provides that they may not have noticed or acknowledged while you were attending school together. The most important factor in the success of this kind of relationship is to be considerate of each other’s feelings during this time. “One or both partners typically feel anxiety about the transition and this can translate into behaviors such as irritability or wanting to be alone to focus on the changes that need to be made,” says Dr. Lieberman.
Her Campus CPO and Creative Director Annie Wang shared with us how her and her fiance have made this transition work for them: “My fiance is in medical school right now, which means he's literally studying all the time. We actually live super close to each other so distance isn't a factor, but scheduling definitely is. I've had to compromise, keeping in mind that the big end-of-year exam he's studying for is going to determine his entire career path for the rest of his life.”
Whether distance is a factor or not, communication on both ends seems to be the make or break for a couple who finds themselves in this situation.
Situation 4: You’ve been hooking up with the same guy all semester… now what?!
Whether it’s nothing more than a booty call or a hook-up that has evolved into a consistent fling, consider the start of summer your opportunity to reevaluate the relationship you’ve established with this guy (if any), and where it’s headed in the future. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the happy-go-lucky nature of your spring semester rendezvous and are ready to move on to bigger and better things this summer or maybe you’ve developed feelings for your this boy that you want to be acknowledged before you both leave.
Whether this confrontation involves a simple, friendly goodbye or a deeper discussion of an exclusive relationship, bringing up your feelings in a mature way will ensure that you both leave on the same page and will help prevent future awkward encounters.
Ending the semester on good, clear terms with your hook-up also opens the door for a potential reunion in semesters to come, or if nothing else at least a friendship. As for those of you looking to start something more serious with your guy, Dr. Lieberman advises that the end of the semester may not be the best time to do so, suggesting rather to discuss reconvening at the start of the next semester if you’re still interested then, “After summer is over, one or both of you may have realized that you want to move on, or that you really missed the other and want to take it to the next level.”
While letting go of a guy that you’ve developed feelings for is never easy, it may be what’s best for you in the long run. Allow us to share with you a quote from Sherry Argov in her national bestseller Why Men Love Bitches: “Sex and the ‘spark’ are not one in the same… every man wants to have sex first; whether he wants a girlfriend is something he thinks about later.”
In other words, if you’ve developed feelings for your current hook-up and he hasn’t seemed interested in establishing a relationship with you thus far, it may be better to take this year’s summer break as an opportunity to focus on finding a worthwhile guy that is more interested in having a meaningful relationship.
Katie King, a recent grad of Western Michigan University, shared with us her experience when confronting her friend-with-benefits on where the relationship was heading before the semester ended: “I told him if he gave me a reason to stay [with him] I would… he said his feelings had changed for me and started dating another girl a few weeks later. We no longer talk, but at least now I have no ties here.”
Although it was painful at first, talking about the situation helped give King the wake-up call that it was time to move on.
Situation 5: You and boyfriend are both staying in town for the summer
While this may seem like the optimal scenario for collegiettes who are looking to keep things consistent with their main squeeze, beware that summer is often accompanied with some major schedule changes; something that could have a ripple effect on your relationship.
Shippensburg University collegiette Mara Nash ended up temporarily moving in with her then boyfriend in order to be closer to the location of her summer internship. “Both of us working full time was definitely a big adjustment for our relationship, considering we were both used to our much more relaxed lifestyles at school,” she says. “Despite the fact that we were living together the shift was definitely a challenge for us in so many ways. I had just assumed everything would stay the same.”
While distance may not be a factor in this scenario, there are still some important things to keep in mind when undergoing the transition from school to summer with your boyfriend.
“Schedule changes can upset the rhythm of a relationship,” warns Dr. Lieberman for couples in the same place with changing lifestyles, “both partners need to be flexible and accommodate these changes – even turning it into a new adventure.”
And perhaps that’s the best way to look at it. By being patient and considerate of your guy’s busier schedule, it will not only encourage him to support you in the same way, but also show that you are able to undergo transitions together without it rattling your relationship.
Establishing a time each week in which you can spend a few hours together catching up and hanging out would be a good start to ensure you are accommodating each other’s schedule changes. Along with this, be sure not to pass up or shy away from travel or internship opportunities for fear of having to be apart from you guy. College is a great time to branch out and explore your own interests, and as Dr. Lieberman mentioned previously, it’s important to not let your relationship stop or hinder your choices.
*Names have been changed.