Rate this article and enter to win
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes, just like people. We seem to be a culture obsessed with romance, sex, and attraction. Whether you’re looking for something deep and long-term or light and fun, here are some tips for finding and developing relationships that are right for you.
A Chemical Reaction
According to research at Harvard Medical School, romantic connections can be just as influential on your health as balanced eating, not smoking, and sleep.
Caring behaviors between people actually trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones. These not only make you feel more at peace; they also play a huge role in attraction.
When you meet someone you like, your brain is flooded with “feel good” substances, like endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of Love, calls oxytocin the “cuddle chemical.” When you feel an attraction, other physiological changes take place, too. For example, your pupils dilate so you can take in a clearer image of the person you see. So maybe “love at first sight” really does exist!
Make a Date
You might be asking, “Where do I meet great people?” Well, school is a perfect place, because you see new folks almost every day!
Try chatting with classmates, joining a club or sport, and attending campus events. It can be as easy as introducing yourself to start a conversation. You can also make connections through your friends, or at jobs and internships, cafés, the gym, or just hanging out on the steps of the library or on the quad.
How to Turn a Friendly Conversation into a Date
One thing to keep in mind: try not to put your romantic interest on the spot. You don’t want him or her to feel pressured or obligated to say “yes.” Save the grand gestures for once you’re already sure of his or her interest.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Indicate that you’d like to continue talking by inviting your romantic interest to join you for a snack or walk.
- Suggest getting together for an upcoming event. Even if other friends will be there, you’ll have more time to get to know one another.
- Ask for his or her email address or phone number. Follow-up with a friendly note and an invitation to hang out. Sometimes suggesting a specific idea can help things move forward.
- Build upon something you both enjoy. If you’ve met volunteering, find out if he or she would like to organize a similar program with you. If you both enjoy the outdoors, suggest a hike. You can even study together!
- Invite your romantic interest to join you for dinner. It can be just the two of you or a double date. You can even meet in the campus dining hall.
- Be creative and show your personality! Most people appreciate attention, and you’ll stand out if you show your interest in an out-of-the-ordinary way.
Activities that build on your interests can help you find like-minded people, especially if you’re introverted. You’ll have an easy topic for chatting, and you’d be doing these things anyway, so the stakes are low. Keep an open mind and a pleasant expression, and you’ll be easy to approach. If that cutie you’ve had your eye on doesn’t show an interest, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, as they say.
Different Strokes For Different Folks
Relationships beginning or blossoming in college can head in a variety of directions. Knowing what you want and expect from another person will help you develop bonds that work.
How to Assess Your Romantic Interests
- Are you looking for something short term, serious, or a fling?
- How much time do you want to spend with another person?
- Are you looking for someone to do things with (hiking, movies, gaming, etc.)?
- Are you interested in sharing personal stories and experiences and developing trust?
- What common interests are important for you to share?
- What kinds of physical intimacy do you want? You might be looking for something purely sexual, a relationship that might include sexual intimacy, or one with limited or no sexual involvement.
- How important is it for your friends to like your partner, and vice versa?
- Do you want to have a similar upbringing? How about common goals for the future?
- How important is it to share similar values, such as religious, political, etc.?
- Do you want to have had comparable experiences in past relationships?
Think about what’s important to you. Angela S., a graduate student studying counseling at West Virginia University in Morgantown, notes, “You can’t have a meaningful relationship until you figure out what you’re looking for, who you are, and that you can provide for your own needs, rather than being dependent on others. College is about finding what you want in life and establishing your own values and self-concept.”
There are no rights and wrongs, as long as all the people involved are on the same page. Here are some options:
- You hang out, but the spark just isn’t there for romance. Maybe you’ve found a new friend!
- You start in the “friend-zone” and gradually move along a continuum. Though this is sometimes complicated, it’s worth talking to figure out if you and your friend are looking for similar things.
- Romance can be fast and furious right from the start. These connections sometimes burn out quickly, and other times have staying power.
- Sometimes it’s all about physical attraction, and if there’s mutual understanding, consent, and you practice safer sex, “hooking up” can work.
- Casual dating is nice if two people want to keep things “easy breezy.” As long as there’s clarity about the situation, everyone can get his or her needs met.
What Are We?
This question—usually reserved for those connections that exist in a gray area or are early in their development—can feel like it needs an answer. But it can also create pressure on one or both parties.
According to Angela S., “Many students come to college with the impression that this is where you find your soul mate or the love of your life, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You can have meaningful relationships that last a year, or less, and that is okay.”
Take a Relationship Check-Up Quiz
- Is there a balance of give and take?
- Are your needs being met? These may be emotional, practical (e.g., time together), or physical.
- What are your strengths? Are they expressed and appreciated? What about your partner’s?
- Do you accept your partner for his or her attitudes, opinions, and (sometimes quirky) behavior?
- Do you each define the relationship in the same way?
- Do you communicate effectively if conflict arises?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and plans?
- Are you able to balance time together with other responsibilities and relationships?
If you have ever been manipulated, threatened, or harmed by your romantic interest or partner—physically, emotionally, or financially—it’s not your fault and help is available. Contact your campus counseling center or another resource like the one below for support.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY: 1-800-787-3224
It can be helpful to ask yourself why you want (or don’t want) to label a relationship. Think about what having a “boyfriend/girlfriend” or “friends with benefits” or other descriptive stamp would mean to you. How might it change your interactions? Would people outside the relationship look at things differently? Would you feel more (or less) secure in your connection?
Have a conversation with your partner and be clear about how you feel. Honesty is essential here. Talk about where you each would like things to go. While this could be an emotional risk, if the other person doesn’t want what you want, that’s not a reflection on you or your desirability. Being upfront about the situation can save everyone heartache later on.
Talk It Out
While you can’t completely control whom you meet, you do have control over the quality of your relationships.
Perhaps you are in a relationship now and things are going pretty well. Or maybe it feels like something is missing, or things aren’t going the way you’d like.
All people have conflicts, and there will likely be days when your partner frustrates you, no matter how serious you are about each other. What’s important is the frequency and how you and your sweetheart handle these stressors. Being able to talk through what you’re thinking and feeling is probably the most important element of any healthy relationship.
How to give your romance some Vitamin L (for love)
- Have a date night. Set aside time each week that’s special, even if it’s just grabbing dinner or cuddling up with a movie at home.
- Try new things together. You can bond over what you’ve learned, or how awkward you felt.
- Maintain your sense of self and independence. Spend time with friends and family on your own (and together too, if you’d like). Keep up with your individual hobbies. It might seem counterintuitive, but time apart to develop yourself can actually enhance your appreciation for one another.
- Everyone is human and we all make mistakes. Practice the art of forgiveness, with your partner as well as yourself.
- Remember what you like or love about this person, rather than focusing on what you don’t like.
- Listen more than you talk. You may learn something new in a simple conversation.
- Talk in person whenever possible, especially about sensitive topics. Texts, instant messages, and email can be misinterpreted.
- Honesty is the best policy, but it doesn’t have to mean insensitivity or a lack of kindness.
- Compliment your partner. Focus on the things about his or her personality that you like, not just appearance.
- Demonstrate your appreciation by doing something thoughtful, like picking up a favorite food, offering a massage, or writing a love note.
It’s normal to look at your relationship and express your needs and concerns. Addressing issues early on can provide an opportunity to work things out, rather then letting an underlying problem build to a pressure point.
If the conversations with your partner are consistently unproductive, this might be a sign that something’s not working. It’s okay to end a relationship that doesn’t feel good to you.
Keep It Going
Sometimes it’s hard to give a relationship the time and energy it needs to grow. Recognizing this can lead to creative ways to reenergize the connection.
Whether you’re looking for something casual or a long-term commitment, tune in to what feels good and right for you. Talk openly with your romantic interests, and you’ll make connections that are healthy, fun, and rewarding.
- Consider what you’re looking for in a romantic relationship.
- Be open to meeting people through many different activities.
- Communicate clearly, openly, and sensitively with your romantic interest.
- Understand that different kinds of connections work for different people.
- Find ways to stay connected, even during busy times.
- Check in with yourself if the relationship is causing you stress.
Get help or find out more
Campbell University, Characteristics of a Healthy, Functional Romantic Relationship
Love Is Respect