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How to navigate relationships in college

With another school year in session, students are seeing a lot of fresh faces—making new friends and potential lovers. Dating in college is rather strange.

Oftentimes, couples begin as friends. Maybe you meet a person you like in a club you belong to and you start grabbing dinner one-on-one after meetings.

Being friends with your romantic interest is a great and essential thing. However, being friends with your romantic interest for a time before dating can put you in a weird spot. How do you cross the line between friend and lover?

After building a strong friendship with a person, it can be scary to risk it all. Odds are, that person has a lot of respect for you and doesn’t want to hurt you because they’re your friend. Be sure of your feelings before you say anything.

Be honest. Tell them exactly how you feel. The worst that could happen is the feelings aren’t reciprocated, and you two can still maintain a friendship. If you two really are great friends, you can move past the little bit of awkwardness.

“After building a strong friendship with a person, it can be scary to risk it all. “

Maybe you meet a person you like at a party, and you two begin hooking up. There’s no doubt that the two of you are into each other, but feelings can be easily miscommunicated when one person decides that being physical means more than strictly being physical.

That’s not to say that a strictly physical relationship can’t lead to a romantic relationship. I’ve seen it happen for lots of couples, including myself. Communicating your intentions before hooking up can clear up any confusion that the other person might be experiencing and prevent anyone from getting hurt.

Maybe you’ve seen a person you think is attractive in one of your classes, and you strike up a conversation to ask them on a date. Where do I go from there if they say yes? Typically, the answer is the date. Decide if you’re meeting there or if you’re walking or driving together.

Downtown West Chester holds great date locations, but they can get pricey. I’d personally suggest grabbing coffee at Fenn’s on Church Street in a relaxed environment or grabbing gelato at Gemelli’s on Market Street while the weather is still warm. It’s nice to remove yourselves from the school setting. Consult your date on where they’d like to go. Maybe they don’t like coffee or gelato.

How do you decide who pays? Ask your date how they feel. Typically, if I ask someone on a date, then I pay. You might want to go Dutch. Tradition where a man pays doesn’t work in relationships that aren’t straight. It shouldn’t have to apply if your relationship is straight.

I’ve had a history of getting bad date anxiety. I use three tips to avoid a bad date: be on time, don’t use your phone and talk, talk, talk. First dates especially are about getting to know a person to decide if you like them and you can’t know a person if you’re on your phone for an entire dinner.

“Be honest. Tell them exactly how you feel.”

Topics to talk about shouldn’t be anything too heavy. Ask typical icebreaker questions like how they chose their major, what classes they’re taking and how they feel about West Chester University. Ask how their day was. Everyone loves that. It shows that you care about how they feel. It’s best to stay away from controversial topics until you get to know them.

I still use these three tips with my boyfriend. We’v been dating for about eight months, so we’re at a point where we don’t mind if the other is a bit late; there is probably a reason for it. If that happens because of a class running late or traffic, there’s not much you can do about that. Try to shoot them a text to let them know ahead of time.

John Bilcik, a good friend of mine, offers more advice on dating. “Establish what you’re looking for before you look. If you realize someone you’re dating isn’t what you’re looking for, be okay with that and keep looking.” said Bilcik. “Be sure to be as honest with the other person as you are with yourself. Tell them sooner rather than later.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my love life about relationships, it’s all about communication. That applies to friendships and family relationships as well. Best of luck!

Kirsten Magas is a third-year student majoring in English with minors in biology and creative writing. ✉ KM867219@wcupa.edu.

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