The time in Grad School (equally relevant to college) is not just critical for your career but also for personal relationships. Many a time, school life does not derail because of the decisions of mind but that of the heart.
A healthy approach to relationships is a must have. Here are 20 tips to keep you emotionally sane-
1. Enjoy dating with an open mindset
Meeting multiple people gives you a better idea of your own preferences before you start seeing someone more seriously. And no, you are not supposed to be dating many people at the same time (glad you clarified).
2. A successful relationship is about compatibility and that goes beyond how cute someone is
I know, I know. Hormones. After a while, you will stop noticing the cuteness but if the person has a habit that annoys you (not making their bed, bad at losing in board games), it will become hard to ignore.
3. Break up is not the end of the world
For whatever reason, if you have to break up (or your partner initiates it), it is okay. No, seriously. You would think that it is the end of the world and you will never find anyone so good again. But usually, your mind is just reacting to the insecurity of ending up alone. Breaking up sucks but being stuck with a wrong person is a torture beyond comprehension.
4. Don’t date assholes, narcissists and control freaks
Self explanatory. Quit if the person is abusive, tries to make you feel bad for his/her problems, feels manipulative, does not pay attention to your needs or talks down to you. There is no reason big enough to justify staying with such people.
5. Kindness is the most important trait to look for
Yes, it is shocking but in the end, if your partner cannot be kind to you when you behave differently from what they expect, you will run crazy trying to please them. It is not a battle you can ever win. Romance will cool down, you have to pay bills and do unpleasant chores when you live together. There will be days when the world seems wrong. You need a kind partner to get through those days.
6. Don’t chase anyone, move on
If someone is breaking up again and again with you and coming back, stop. If they don’t value you, they are not worth keeping.
The longest relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. You are the most important person in your life. Have some self-esteem.
7. Career and relationships are equally important
No amount of wealth can fill in for loneliness and no amount of company can fill in for emptiness. You can have a balanced family and professional life. Go for it. Don’t compromise on your dreams and always be there for your partner. Find that delicate balance — it is hard but it is so worth it.
8. Don’t try to change anyone
Everyone holds some beliefs and values in life. Some of those are non-negotiable. Unless you understand what you can and cannot live without, how can you find the ‘one’ for yourself? If your plan depends on changing your partner so adjust to your values, think again. Can you change for them?
Examples are known where deep incompatibility in religious beliefs, political beliefs, financial values corroded the relationship over time. If you are a spiritual person and that is core to your existence, you won’t be able to thrive easily with someone who is agnostic, materialistic and contrarian to your values. People usually don’t change when it comes to such core values. Exceptions may occur but you don’t want to hold your breath on it.
9. Backpack test
My favorite advice came from Richard Muller on Quora, “Take a week long backpack trip together. Before you get married, you want to experience stress together, ideally over an extended time.” How do you hold together in stressful moments will tell you if you are right for eachother or not.
10. Never cheat
Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Don’t cheat — not because someone will find it out but because you are much better than that. One never sleeps peacefully when one is worrying about being caught.
11. Read relationship books before you fuck it up
You will fuck it up, trust me. But to avoid making it a catastrophe, educate yourself. Relationships can be understood by reading about human psychology and communication. I know 20 something people think it ludicrous to be reading about relationships. But you will be thankful later when you end up not losing a great person because of your ego. Or, when you get rid of a toxic person. Despite how smart you feel you are, you are naive and books can help.
Here are the three books I can recommend to start off with-
1. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie — Because you need to learn how to be a likable person to be in a relationship
2. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray — Because it helps to understand different mindset of men and women (avoid generalizing too much though)
3. “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg — Hands down the best material I have found on how to avoid miscommunication that kills so many relationships
12. Long distance is hard, not impossible
Any relationship needs investing time. If you can do that, distances may matter less. But don’t overtly romanticize the notion of making long distance work. As you move to a different country/place to study or start a job, you are going to change — whether you like it or not. You should take time to decide if that old relationship of yours is still the right one for you. In a good relationship, both people grow simultaneously.
And if you can grow from distances apart and keep the commitment and integrity alive, you can have a relationship that will truly stand the test of time. And if not, it is better to let go.
13. Don’t commit before you feel ready
This is an extension of point 3. If things are not great, quit. A right relationship is not supposed to be okayish, or just-good-enough; it is supposed to be great. It should make you feel not starry-eyed but calm from inside. ‘Yes, this is the person for me!’
So, if you are not feeling this way, don’t feel an obligation to commit just because you have dated each other long enough.
14. Discuss important things instead of sexting
Do you want to live abroad or in your home country? Do you want kids? Do you want to keep working after the marriage? Would you wish to take care of parents together after marriage? These are the questions that matter and yet most couples never discuss it until after the wedding.
15. Interracial relationships face extra challenges, are you prepared?
Asian cultures are ultra-conservative and a western person may find many of the customs strange. While Anglo-Indian, Jewish-Muslim marriages are not unheard of (and I personally know successful couples), they require that much stronger foundation to withstand the extra complications.
16. The only good reason to marry someone is love and compatibility
Definitely not peer or family pressure.
17. Best friend may not make best spouse
Intimate relationships need more than friendship to thrive. Read point 16.
18. Keep a good circle of friends and don’t let your life revolve solely around your partner
Grad School is a perfect place to meet super intelligent and interesting people. There are awesome things to do academically and socially. The worst thing to do is to miss out on this chance because you and your partner isolated yourselves socially.
What seems very intimate in the beginning can seem like an extra burden of expectations on each other. If your whole life revolves around your partner, there is more probability of getting disappointed when the other person cannot give what you want. It is not fair on either of you.
19. Nothing good will get away, don’t be desperate
Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away — John Steinbeck
20. Do not carry on if you know it isn’t going to work
Respect your partner’s time and break up gracefully and let them move on. Never hurt anyone with your careless attitude. Whatever you throw out to the universe will come back to you. Karma never forgets.
I have seen brilliant people dropping courses and grades and barely managing to study because they were involved in dramatic relationships. While there is no algorithm to find the right person (wouldn’t OKCupid pay billions for that?), the right relationship will feel right. And the right person will elevate you instead of letting you drown in the dungeons of insecurity and longing.
A long life lies ahead. Take time to study well, make the career that you dreamt. Attract a person that enjoys same things as you do and live happily ever after 🙂