February is the month of love, and the team will be blogging about love of all kinds for our month of #GLAmour (who doesn’t love a pun bilingue?).
One of the questions I get asked most is how I balance being a student and working with having a relationship.I usually joke that I just don’t, I just can’t see my boyfriend very often, but I’m still having symptoms that make it difficult to type so I’m taking this opportunity to let Mel have his say (and have him write the majority of my blog post).
Some useful info:
- We met during my gap year — just after Mel had graduated
- At the end of my gap year I moved back to the U.K for a year, during which time we were in a very long distance relationship
- Now, Mel lives in Hamilton and I live in Toronto. He works full time, and I’m a student
I asked my fellow students what they wanted to know, and below are our responses. Mel’s are first, mine follow in italics.
How do you balance opposing schedules?
We always try to see each other whenever we can. But when we can’t, we often talk on the phone. Living in Hamilton, I can’t really just pop over (as much as I’d like to). But I think both of us have this understanding. I work a pretty steady schedule – Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm. It makes it a little difficult to meet up during the week, but we try. We both often really want to see each other whenever we can and will often make it happen, regardless of what’s going on. If Jasmin’s got school to study for, we’ll sometimes have study dates where I’ll read a novel or work on online courses I’ve picked up recently. When there’s a will, there is a way.
I’m an insomniac who can’t sleep until the wee hours, and Mel is an early riser — so we’re used to being on opposite schedules! I think the thing that has helped the most is having had a general commitment to see each other at least once a week, but remaining flexible about when that is. Mel usually ends up coming to Toronto: I’m not always feeling well enough to travel, sometimes we want to go somewhere or do something downtown, etc. His schedule is a lot more of an adult’s, whereas I’m always all over the place between work, class, and studying, so we had to get good at figuring out windows of opportunity to see each other. Talking on the phone when we can’t physically be in the same place helps a lot too.
A lot of my high school friends who were in relationships already were very worried about how being “tied down” would affect their social life in university. Was this a concern, and how did you deal with that?
I’m not too sure if this question is necessarily for me, haha. I had already finished university when I first met Jasmin, so I didn’t really have any worry of being tied down. I do remember it being a concern for many of my friends while I was at university though.
When we first started dating and Jasmin was going away to school in Cardiff, I think this was something I was afraid of taking away from her, but I think by making time for each other when we could, given the constraints, we made it work (thank you Skype!).
The summer before I started university (Mel and I had been dating for about six/seven months and were shyly skirting around the big conversation about whether or not to stay together when I went back to the U.K.) one of my closest friends at the time, a new grad, sat me down in her garden for a serious talk. With all the good intention and care in the world, she told me not to do it because university is supposed to be a time where you date a lot of different people and enjoy your freedom. I know this is the reality for a lot of people, but it wasn’t for me. I think people worry too much about how they think they’re supposed to be, especially at university. I try to live my life not by how much I can get away with, but by how much I can glorify my choices. It was never about being “tied down” for me, because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by being in a relationship. I know people who choose to be single during university, and I know people who open up their relationships — but I decided that I would be happiest being with Mel. Being in a relationship never stopped me from having fun or going out — thanks to the time difference, I would usually Skype Mel when I got home from the club or the party and tell him all about the fun I’d had.
What is the best thing about dating someone who is in university/a working graduate?
I would say the discussions we have. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit of a nerd. Hell, sometimes I even miss school, haha. I’m a political science graduate and studied political theory, contemporary security issues, and global political economy. One of the things I miss most about school would be the discussions we would have in class. With Jasmin, I can go back to that period in my life. She’s always game to discuss something interesting or tackle an ethical dilemma with me. She is an excellent thinker and always brings such an interesting and unique perspective. It’s one of the things I love most about her.
^ 100%. It’s really nice to talk to Mel about what I’m studying because he is genuinely interested and always has really valuable points to make. He seems to know something about everything, so I go back to class armed with all his knowledge. I’ve definitely become better at critical thinking thanks to him — we only really argue about weird philosophical issues or ethical dilemmas or because he’s playing Devil’s advocate and I take him seriously. Such NERDS.
Also, dating someone who graduated before I started uni gave me a completely different perspective. He’s always the first person I go to for advice — whether it’s a tricky essay thesis, picking my classes, or whether I should take on a freelance job. Seeing Mel navigate graduate life also helps me make decisions with a bigger-picture perspective; he’s always encouraging me to build my career, reminding me not to beat myself up for being chronically ill and studying part-time, and that it’s more important to finish strong than finish within four years.
You’re both at different points in life. How do you manage to support each other when you have different circumstances and goals?
We always try to be supportive and understanding with the different obstacles we face, both independently and as a couple. We also incorporate each other into each others’ lives by actively keeping up with what’s going on with each other. I think that’s is a pretty important part of our relationship — we’re always talking. Besides taking an active interest, we also take part in each others social lives — Jasmin has hung out with some of my friends and I’ve hung out with hers. (all my friends are #teamMel) It also helps that we have similar interests and tastes. I feel like we both live our own lives though, and that’s important.
Life would be pretty boring if we only hung out with people who were doing/interested in/working on the same things as us. I don’t think having different circumstances and goals is a bad thing at all! We have some mutual long-term goals and we make plans for trips or mini-adventures, like a cooking class or a break in routine, which I think helps us overcome any short-term differences.
How have you changed over the course of your relationship?
I think I’ve become more self aware and more mature. I would definitely say I’ve become more compassionate and caring as a result. Having dealt with health issues both personally and in my family, I feel like I was somewhat equipped to deal with Jasmin’s chronic illnesses. On the whole though, it’s made me realize that in order to be the best partner I can, I’ve got to understand what’s going on with myself. It’s given me a clear idea of the life I want to build and the person I want to be. In that way, it’s given me a clear sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. I think in that way it’s even made me more goal driven even and focused.
Besides losing a bunch of weight, gaining a bunch of weight, three chronic illnesses, no longer eating meat, four tattoos, moving across the Atlantic and back? A lot can change in five years! Seriously though, I think I’ve become a lot more grounded and confident. I joke that I met Mel the year before I got sick because the universe knew I would need him, but it’s kind of true. It’s nice to have someone who calls me out when I’m straying from my path or being a brat, who can tell when I’m feeling low and helps me muddle through my thoughts. I’m often very insecure but having a person I trust to always be in my corner has made me a little braver, I think. Also, I think I’m a lot less guarded and sillier when I’m with Mel: my friends have commented that they see a different side to me when he’s around.
What advice would you give to others about balancing a relationship with university/full time work?
Figure out what you’d like to eat before you hang out… otherwise you’ll spend all night thinking about it. Also, learn to like cats (he’s still working on this one). But honestly, just be open and try to communicate with your partner. Things are easier when everyone has an idea of what’s going on.
- Don’t talk to cute people at The Silver Dollar on New Years Eve unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of money on plane and train tickets.
- Overcome your fear of confrontation, and learn the art of talking about difficult things without it becoming a fight.
- The key is the word BALANCE. Sometimes, school/work/health has to be the priority, and that’s okay. If the relationship is worth it, you’ll show up for each other and figure it out together.
If you have your own questions, feel free to post them in the comments! We certainly aren’t experts and we don’t have all the answers, but we’re happy to share our perspectives and experiences.