Recently, The Guardian newspaper published a comment article verbally banning freshers from starting university in a relationship with the warning ‘don’t even think about it’. The piece champions the benefits of a uni career spent single and, above all else, ready to mingle. In fact, the entire argument seems to be centred upon the apparent importance of (ahem) “mingling” with your new uni comrades, which being in a relationship would, god forbid, obviously inhibit. The article quotes Greta Gerwig’s character in the film Mistress America who accuses young couples of an “old-person morality”, encouraging the youth to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh with whoever they want, while they still can. Ultimately, the piece not only trivialises relationships that most likely mean a great deal to freshers, but also suggests that to get the most out of university life, you must have the freedom to sleep with as many people as you could possibly want.
For an article whose very headline commands you not to start university in a relationship – ‘Don’t even think about starting university in a relationship’ – the irony in them then making a point of ‘following your heart instead of a stranger’s advice’ really speaks for itself. Whilst I absolutely agree nobody should stay in a relationship if it’s making them unhappy, neither should anybody be told they should break up with their partners on the off chance things might not work out for them. I mean, that’s like saying ‘you should drop out of university now, because you might not get a first’ i.e. totally ridiculous. Perhaps I’m just one of those ‘old romantics’ the article denounces, but ultimately if you care for your girlfriend or boyfriend and feasibly see a future with them, who is anyone to say you shouldn’t try and make things work?
For the majority, starting uni only means separating a train journey or short flight away from your other half – pretty do-able in my view. Assuming you care for that person, it’s simply just a matter of adapting to the situation. Going to school with or living in close proximity to your significant other could easily have had you convinced spending time together every day is normal and will last forever. But life isn’t so gracious. People go to university, people start careers, people jet off to Indonesia to “find themselves”, but if we broke up every time these things happened, well, marriage wouldn’t be a thing to start with. Breaking up “for uni” is usually, therefore a product of instability in the first place, or it ends in a disastrous mass of regret with tears, ceaseless drunken texts and shameful rebounds (trust me, I could name a handful). Friends, it shouldn’t have to be this way.
Speaking from experience, the long distance thing isn’t so bad. In our technologically advanced era there really isn’t any excuse for not keeping in regular contact. To be honest, with all that’s shared on social media these days, for me it’s really like my other half never left. Let’s face it; keeping in touch is just not an issue in this day and age, so unless you’re the avant-garde, nouveau-amish type couple that shuns all form of social media, I’d say you’re pretty well set in this regard. Additionally, harsh as it may sound, the separation itself has also had its pros; we’ve both been able to focus more on ourselves and our own interests, and, when we are reunited it’s like rewinding back to that glorious honeymoon period – you know, when things are all exciting and tingly and you don’t fall out over the toilet seat being left up. As the saying goes, absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder.
Saying that, though, this kind of change inevitably comes with its difficulties – you’ll miss them a tonne, and yes, you’ll have to put in a little more effort to keep things ticking. I’m not saying it’s easy, and it’s definitely not for everyone; we all know people who have called things off before leaving home, and some probably are better off for it. But wanting to end a relationship due to FOMO (fear of missing out) is rash, presumptuous and, to be honest, pretty self-absorbed. Until you try it out and do end up feeling held back (which definitely isn’t healthy), a decision like that is completely unjustified. They may not be your future wife or husband, but respect them and your own feelings enough to ignore the stigma and give them a chance – after all, who the heck knows? As I’ve stated before, maybe I’m biased, but ‘I believe in a thing called love’ (Hawkins et al, 2003), so if you’re happy and it feels right, save the ‘what ifs’ and give it a shot.