NOTE: I originally wrote this post on what its really like to have a boyfriend at university around 5+ years ago. Fresh from university and part-way through a 9 year relationship. As so much time has passed, and this has become one of my most read posts ever, I wanted to add more details. I hope if you find yourself in the same situation that I was, that you will make the right decision for you. Please do take this post as it was intended. As a record of my own experiences and what worked well for us at the time. Every couple is different and what worked for us might not work for you, but that is up to you to decide.
Getting into university
Heading to university soon? If you're in a relationship and feel torn over having a boyfriend at university – this is the post for you. This is my way of sharing my own relationship experiences in the hopes it will help others. This is aimed at young couples facing difficult decisions over long-distance relationships or even breaking up. I met my boyfriend when I was 16 years old, he was a year older and the complete opposite of me. While I worked hard, studied all the time and dreamed of escaping to university. He was loud, misbehaved and the teachers hated him.
It was so satisfying to get the results I wanted, and to prove my family, friends and teachers wrong. All were concerned I wasn't studying hard enough simply because of my boyfriend. When the truth was if anything he encouraged me to study more! Not only did I beat expectations but I got into the university I had set my heart on – University of Hertfordshire. But I had my pick of accommodation, course modules and everything I had been dreaming of. From the second I had walked on campus the year before, I knew this was the university for me. The question was, would my serious relationship survive university?
Having a boyfriend at university
By the time I left for university, I had been with my boyfriend for around 2 years. We hadn't even considered breaking up – we were happy and he was supportive of my studies. He had already finished school at this point but had chosen to do an engineering apprenticeship which meant he would be staying in our home town. Throughout the whole three years of my having a boyfriend at university – we stayed together. He lived and worked at home, I studied a few hours away and we saw each other as much as possible. The truth is – it was hard, but I'm glad we did it. It's now five years on – we eventually stayed together for a total of nine years and we're still the best of friends now.
Over the years, I've been asked so many questions about maintaining a relationship at university. Is it possible? Am I missing out on anything? Should I be single? Can we survive a long-distance relationship? The truth is – I can't answer any of these questions about your relationship. But what I can do is I can tell you what worked for mine. University will test your relationship, probably beyond anything before at this point in your life. You're madly in love with your boyfriend, can't imagine ever being with anyone else. You can't bear the thought of breaking up, but at the same time are ready for a whole new adventure.
How did we make it work?
For me, it was simple. I loved my boyfriend and wanted to stay with him regardless – I didn't see why university would get in the way of that. I wasn't interested in meeting guys, and we had never stopped partying since we had been together so I knew I wouldn't feel temptation on nights out. Distance plays a big part in your decision – long-distance relationships are not to be taken lightly. It's a huge commitment to make sure both partners feel secure and loved, while maintaining your independence. My university choice (which was not influenced at all by my relationship) was just 2.5 hours away, less than 2 hours by train and one or both of us had a car throughout my time there.
We were both always very independent people who had our own groups of friends and our families to keep us busy, we always set aside time for each other. Now I won't deny that it was hard at times – that we missed each other like crazy. But we were determined to make it work – both of us. So that meant making compromises on our schedules to make time to call each other, but also being understanding when one of us was not available. It meant dedicating certain weekends to nothing but couple time, but also encouraging time apart to build our own lives. It meant a lot of communication. Calling each other just to say hi, thoughtful texts to say how you feel, even flowers to remind the other how much you love them. Having a boyfriend at university only worked because we BOTH made the effort.
Key things to remember:
Becoming an independent woman
Starting university is throwing yourself into new-found independence and freedom. The excitement of making new friends, discovering new passions, keeping up with your course and lots of partying. At first your new schedule will be jam-packed with Fresher's Week (or month!) and you may have little time for your boyfriend. Remember they might find this difficult to deal with – you're off having a new adventure and it feels like you've forgotten about them.
Make the effort! You wouldn't like it if they disappeared off for weeks of getting drunk with strangers. Text them updates or email them if your schedules don't line up enough for a call.
Time-management is the key
Getting used to your new life and schedule is fun at first, but it can make maintaining your relationship hard work. My university course involved a lot of independent study and very little time in actual classrooms. Naturally, I loved my flexible schedule and it led to a lot of nights out with my mates, and a lot of random study nights in the library. I found that I worked much better at night and the library was much quieter. After a while I felt like I was practically nocturnal which wasn't great for us keeping in contact. He was working 6am-2pm and I was staying up all night and sleeping all day, or drunk calling him at 2am and waking him up. It takes compromise and you have to find your own balance as a couple.
Don't let this continue or you'll both feel neglected. Call your boyfriend and explain your schedule – tell him you're finding it hard and find a time that works for both of you.
Don't forget the importance of alone time
One huge benefit of going to university is having your own space. Perhaps you were both living with parents at home and struggled to get time to yourselves. Suddenly, you have your own room in a block of people that won't disturb you! Go off for dinner, or cook your own, lay in bed all day and watch movies or do whatever you want. Having a serious boyfriend at university was quite easy for me because my campus was so quite at weekends. Lots of people went home to work in London, so often we would have the whole flat to ourselves. Being just a few hours away, we took it in turns for him to come and visit, and other weekends I would go home and visit my family. Later on I had a car which made it even easier to decide to drive home at a moment's notice.
Be honest about how often you can see each other. Maybe you can see each other every other weekend, but once a month is also great. Don't put too much pressure on yourselves or you're more likely to fail.
This is the biggest question of all about having a boyfriend at university. Put simply – yes, there is a lot of temptation at university. If you like sweaty blokes who are wearing too much aftershave daring their mates to down dirty pints without being sick on themselves. Not really my type thanks. Some might feel left out of all the drunken snogging and sleeping around that comes with Freshers. But real talk – what you're really missing out is doing the Walk of Shame while dressed as Superwoman, and a whole lotta regret.
It is possible to go to university and not sleep with everyone. It is possible to go on a night out and go home with your girls and a greasy burger. And it is possible to spend a night in your own bed. There are a lot of girls out there who get drunk and just need some affection. This was the tough bit, being drunk and wanting to call your boyfriend because you miss him. But you deal with it and move on. My best advice – if you are tempted, end the relationship before making a big mistake and hurting your partner. Honesty is always the best policy.
So, should I stay with my boyfriend at university?
Put simply - it is possible to have a happy, loving, long-distance relationship while at university. It isn't always easy, but in the end it is more valuable than any one night stand. You will have wobbles and strops over seeing each other and missing each other. But you will also have amazing times and you will end up a lot stronger for it. My main advice is to be sure of what you want before you go. But don't be afraid to change your mind when you actually experience university life. You have to choose what is best for you both. If you think it is worth it, it probably is.
I was two years into my relationship when I went to university and we stayed together for nine years. He's still a huge part of my life today. It's not an easy decision, be be assured that whatever you choose will be the right decision for you. Breaking up a relationship can sometimes lead to some of the best moments of your life.
Have you been faced with a big decision over whether to break off a relationship or stay together at university? What did you choose?