University culture can make a student feel alienated around those who are not synchronously entrenched in the stress of midterms. This can be emotionally amplified when discussing romantic relationships. Committing to a relationship takes compromise and understanding. It can be difficult when you and your partner are in different environments, such as studying for and taking midterms at UC Berkeley and struggling with getting a promotion at a full-time job.
As a senior at UC Berkeley who has been here for three semesters, during which I was involved with two significant others who had never been enrolled in higher education, I have some tips to share (without being didactical) that may help those tense situations between you and your partner when you feel like they just aren’t understanding the pressures of being a full-time student at UC Berkeley. And, don’t forget, you may not be understanding their pressures as well — it’s a two-way street, after all.
Do consistently check bCourses to remind yourself of what is due and when it’s due. This allows you to know what is expected of you and assess how much time it will take you to get it done, and then you can figure out a time to see your significant other without panicking. Your partner deserves your anxiety-free attention during your scheduled time together, and they should reciprocate by appreciating the time you spent yesterday studying to be able to chill out and watch “Step Brothers” (or whatever movie) with them today.
Don’t convey an attitude as if your life is more stressful or challenging than theirs. People experience stress in completely different ways and every arena of life has its obstacles. You should be able to communicate to your partner that you are stressed from midterms or you’re struggling with a difficult essay, but too much emphasis on attending a top university can be condescending to others and can make your partner resentful. Always remember that they also have stressors — don’t compare and contrast who has it worse.
Do attempt to intertwine the two worlds. In my situation, I told my partner that I would allow our “bedtime” movie to be anything he wanted, with no argument from me whatsoever. I even went a step further by promising that I wouldn’t make snarky comments about the complete lack of character development or meaningful dialogue in the superhero film genre. In exchange, I could work on my computer without any interruption or nagging about “not being present” or “not putting any effort into this relationship” or being too “obsessed with school.” This has worked out very well for us and I recommend it, even though I know far too much about blockbuster superhero films than I would like. So, it’s up to you to negotiate the cost of compromise.
Don’t get upset with your partner because they can’t understand the pressure. You might hear things such as “You could put your work down if you wanted to” or “You don’t need the best grade in the class, I’m important too.” Your stress isn’t your partner’s fault and you can’t blame them for not understanding the environment of UC Berkeley, especially during high-pressure weeks such as those in mid-October. In my experience, screaming “Get out of my face, you don’t f—ing get it!” was not the right move. Stay patient, don’t project your frustration and anxiety onto them and realize they just want you to be mentally healthy and for your relationship to be solid.
Do remind yourself and your partner that college is ephemeral and a relatively tiny period in the arc of your life together. If your relationship is strong, you can see past the insanity of college stress and envision a world you two can share together.
Don’t think I’m a relationship guru. I’m speaking from my own experience and have no credibility whatsoever. I don’t even know where my boyfriend is right now. But perhaps some of these tips that have improved my situation can help yours if you are struggling with similar issues. Don’t doubt that intuition of yours. You can take all the advice from others outside of your situation, but make sure to listen to your internal guide.
University life is intense and difficult to understand if you aren’t currently living it. You can’t expect your loved ones to fully understand an environment they aren’t a part of. Be patient and remind yourself of what is truly important; your GPA doesn’t wipe your tears away or ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Keep everything in perspective and don’t be too hard on yourself or your partner.
Contact Morgan Saltz at [email protected].