My parents and I never had the easiest time talking about boys. When I did get a boyfriend, it usually remained a secret to them. I would tiptoe behind their backs, trying to grow a healthy relationship, whilst ignoring my family. While I was at school, there was that precious bit of time between when school ended and when my parents expected me home that I finally got to date. I learned routes to avoid my parents’ daily walking paths and mostly spoke to my boyfriend on the phone – even then, I locked myself in my room under the sheets to muffle my voice.
It’s hard to be fully committed in a relationship when your parents order you home for dinner each night or set a curfew. It’s like trying to grow grass in highly controlled conditions where the sun is only on for a few hours a day. That is why university is human nature’s way of letting grass grow naturally. You grow up away from your parents and your previous restrictions.
I cannot begin to explain the unbelievable freedom I felt once I crossed the pond and started attending the University of Glasgow. There would be no more sneaking around, and no scrambling to find time and space to be romantic. I could roam the streets free and speak as loudly as I wanted. Yet, an ultimate question remained: would I be sensible enough to keep my own boundaries or would I spiral out of control in this new domain?
After only a few months in my new world, I found a boyfriend. We spent nearly every hour of every day together. A small alarm sounded within me whenever I slept over at his dorm. Eyes bore into me watching every move I made. They were the eyes of my parents. What would they say if they knew how many nights I spent with him? Do they know what I’m doing right now?
At first, I struggled with the lack of the uber-strictness I was used to. In the early stages, I swung from being with my boyfriend for long periods of time, to feeling strung out and shutting myself off for days. There is a fine balance when it comes to spending time with your partner: too little, and it feels like the relationship is going nowhere; too much, and it will suffocate if you don’t give each other enough space. It’s up to you now, and not your parents, to find the right balance. It may take a while, but soon you’ll figure out when the right time to see them is and when to pull back.
Your parents were correct in saying that not every hour should be S.O. hour, but they arguably weren’t giving you enough time together. Each relationship is different and now you have the freedom to let it develop naturally. The good news is that there is time to make the relationship healthy and strong away from the parental rules and interventions. You learn to take responsibility and realise you have your own boundaries to follow.
The bad news is that there is a larger temptation to become dependent on your S.O. and enter more blindly into a relationship. No matter how many times your friends tell you he’s toxic, it doesn’t have the gravitas as the same statement from your parents (although every boy is considered toxic in my family). Additionally, having a S.O. is very time-consuming and can suck up time meant for studying or participating in fun societies.
My advice is, don’t enter into a relationship unless you think you can handle it. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to university life, a significant other is the last thing you need. Being in a relationship often feels like an additional chore to an already busy and cluttered life. It just adds to the list of things your parents used to worry about that is now your responsibility: bills, food, cleaning, and living alone.
Eventually you will find it easy to balance your schoolwork, social life and find time for a relationship. Maybe you’ll have study dates in the library or join a new club together. You’ll have personal days to hang out with your friends or have some time alone. The right partner would not only respect that, but love you for it. Now that I’ve sorted my list and got used to university life, my next hurdle is introducing my new boyfriend to my parents!