Tips for managing relationships when school gets crazy

Last term, due to some miscommunications and misunderstandings, I wound up taking double the suggested course load for graduate students. While it is nice to effectively have two terms under my belt after one term at Portland State, I didn’t exactly have much free time.

Needless to say, this negatively impacted my relationship with my girlfriend. I became upset because she was going out to do things, and though I was invited, I was unable to go. Being stuck at home working on yet another damn paper was incredibly depressing. We were both upset because the volume and quality of our sex declined. For the roughly 70 percent of women who can’t orgasm just through vaginal intercourse, it takes time and concentration to bring them to orgasm; neither of which I had.

However, we worked through it. Things between us are just as good as ever, and probably even better now that I am not on an insane schedule. As college students, it is almost certain that you will find yourselves in similar situations, where you or your partner—or both of you—will have little time for each other. It is important to realize that those situations, while never pleasant, need not end your relationship.

First, there’s the sheer importance of communication with your partner. Talk to them as often as you can. Talk about your schedules, what you have to do and what you need, both in a personal and professional sense. It is worth mentioning that you do not necessarily need to talk a lot, but rather shoot for quality over quantity. Obviously if you are a quieter individual, it can’t be expected for you to be a chatterbox.

Anyway, discuss your feelings and your needs, and also listen closely to what your partner is needing and feeling themselves. Do you need more time alone to work on school stuff? Tell them. Do you need more attention? Tell them. Do you feel like your needs are not being met? Tell them. Many of these topics can get touchy, so remain calm, rational, open-minded and understanding. Also, if you want to keep things calm or de-escalate a brewing argument from one of these discussions, never ever include these phrases in your conversation:

1. Calm down.
2. I don’t see what the problem is.
3. I don’t see why you’re upset.
4. You’re being irrational.
5. Are you on your period?

It’s important to be honest, too; it can become easy to just respond “I’m fine,” when asked, “Are you alright?” because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or don’t want to burden them somehow. An astute partner will be able to tell you are not telling the truth, which will only distress them further. Or, if you are like me and wear your heart on your sleeve, it won’t take an astute partner to notice you are not being honest.

Also, make time to do romantic things with your partner. Figure out when you have some leeway or free time and do something thoughtful and fun with them. Having fun together is essential, and the effort you have made will mean a lot to them. To be fair, this is a general relationship rule as well, it just takes on an extra level of importance in times of stress and busy schedules. Small things are doable and make a disproportionate impact. Snuggle, eat ice cream, watch an episode or two of a mutually-loved TV show, etc. These small things often make all the difference.

Lastly, it is often helpful to talk about or generally plan what you are going to do when your schedules open up. Depending on you and your partner’s relationship, tell them with a dash of humor, sugar or spice what you want to do with or to them when you have free time again. I’m personally a fan of the saucy type of talk. Conversations like that can be funny or titillating and will serve to act as a moment of levity, in addition to reminding all parties involved that the situation you are in is temporary and surmountable.