In addition to the four years of studying it took to get you there, preparing for graduation day and (perhaps more importantly) post-grad life takes a lot of work. There are DIY grad caps to be made, post-grad vacations to plan and thoughtful DIY graduation gifts to create for your friends. And, of course, the stressful entry-level job hunt. However, in the flurry of preparations, there’s one important aspect of their lives that many grads don’t know how to tackle: their relationship with their college S.O. Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist, knows better than anyone how to help couples through this transition, because she lived through it with her college sweetheart (and current husband!).
Despite the success of shifting her relationship to the real world, Laura’s advice is rooted in prioritizing YOUR dreams and independence. The biggest general shift that most college couples experience in post-grad life is a transition from short-term to long-term thinking. Albeit scary, this change of mindset can actually benefit not only your personal happiness, but your relationship. Read on for five tips for making the transition from college cuties to an adorbs young adult couple.
1. Know that change is inevitable. Multiple studies point to the fact that proximity greatly contributes to how attractive you find someone. Often, graduation means that this component of your relationship will be taken away, along with the lifestyle you shared with your S.O. while in college. “When people leave this unique little world they’ve created, their interests start to diverge,” Laura says. Be prepared for the reality that you’ll continue to grow separately.
2. Don’t sacrifice your dreams. “People should leave themselves available to their dreams,” Laura says. “You just spent the last four years working towards them, so sacrificing them doesn’t seem worth it.” However, this doesn’t mean you have to choose between your relationship and career. It simply means that if you want both, you have to balance the two.
3. Communicate your priorities. Prioritizing doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you put your relationship first. In fact, Laura says that even if you and your partner agree to put your careers and families first, your relationship can still be successful, because you’re both placing the same amount of importance on each other. The key here is that your priorities are equal and that you’re both open about them.
4. Create a long-distance contract. If you and your partner are moving to different cities after graduation, Laura recommends creating a long-distance contract. These expectations — such as limiting alcohol consumption or promising to FaceTime before you go to bed — can ease the shock of suddenly having a lot of physical distance between the two of you.
5. Live alone, or at least not with your S.O. Most of us spend our college years in dorms, sororities, fraternities or apartments with our college besties as roommates. And although communal living is a great way to make friends in college, Laura says that living alone will build your independence and move your relationship forward by fostering your growth as a whole person — not someone who’s dependent on their S.O.
In this housing market, living alone may not be an option. You can still grow in an adult-filled group house, though. Consider living with non-college friends so that you aren’t tempted to keep up your college habits and consequently have room to explore who you want to be in the real world.
Have any advice for growing with your college boo after graduation? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)