Francesca, a soon-to-be graduate of WITS, shares some of what she’s learnt about relationships during her time at varsity.
University is a majestic pool of opportunities – opportunities to enhance your future career, opportunities to find yourself, and, of course, opportunities to build on new relationships and perhaps to even find ‘the one.’ Yes, I was one of those first-year students who thrived on every chance to find my soul mate, the infamous one. Apart from that, however, I wanted to find my clique, as most new students do. I wanted an en vogue crowd that would welcome me with an open heart. Initially it all seems very simple: find your partner, find your mates, and varsity life will be nothing but bliss. Too good to be true? Definitely. The truth, my friends, is that people change, relationships take work (a lot of work), and life, although full of so much possibility, will not always be plain sailing.
Regardless of the fact that any relationship experiences rocky roads, creating strong and meaningful relationships has always been a priority for me, especially upon entering varsity. It’s always important to be an individual and not to have to depend on relationships to keep you happy. On the other hand, I also believe that no human is a desolate island and that fruitful connections of the soul, mind, and body are vital for human existence. Maintaining healthy relationships in any setting, specifically varsity, can become rough at times. Observing these relationships over my last three and a half years as a Witsie has allowed me to re-examine the way I approach any relationship I choose to commit myself to.
Kaleel Jamison writes, “Relationships – of all kinds – are like sand held loosely in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
Jamison’s quote resonates with me completely and creates the basis for how I believe all relationships should be treated. The individual is always important and relationships, in my view, are formed through individuals finding connections with others based on who they are as people. Therefore one should never try to inflict on that individual sphere. In my past experience I’ve often felt taken advantage of due to my nature and thus had my individual sphere compromised. Loving someone for who they are, as well as respecting your partner or friend for how they choose to conduct their life is all part of a functioning relationship. Compromise, however, is also paired with this and needs to be considered.
Here is a concrete example. If a friend and I are caught between deciding where to eat for lunch and I really feel like sushi that day but she doesn’t have the slightest desire for sushi, her suggesting that we go for sushi anyway or vice versa would be an appreciated compromise on her part. As trivial as the example seems, beginning to compromise with simple things, such as sushi, pave the way for larger ones. Yes, I believe in compromising to feed a budding relationship. Your personal values, morals and beliefs are very important and compromises should be considered well and whichever choice you make in a situation should still be respected.
5 Tips for Romantic Relationships at Varsity
Varsity is one of the places where you could possibly meet someone who will sweep you off your feet. An ideal place indeed with the assortment of different and interesting people you’ll come across. However, things can often get rather tricky if you aren’t careful.
- Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new things. Varsity is meant for exploring and going on adventures. Don’t forget the essence of why you’re there though. While adventuring, don’t lose sight of actually getting an education and furthering your dream career.
- You’re allowed to be selfish (advice I recall being given). You’re young and you’re allowed to look out for yourself first. Don’t feel compelled to stay in a relationship if it no longer makes you happy. Varsity and the world is wide; you’re sure to find someone else who makes you giddy.
- Be understanding. Most people have a lot on their plate while completing a degree. Entering into a relationship with another student requires you to be understanding and compassionate. If your boyfriend or girlfriend have had a crazy week and all they want to do on Friday night is stay in and watch movies, go with that (a little cuddling didn’t hurt anyone).
- Time management is key. Arguments can easily occur if you and your boyfriend or girlfriend are always too busy to spend time with each other. Make your varsity work a priority and then set specific dates with your partner so that you have personal deadlines set for yourself. Example; my boyfriend/girlfriend and I are spending the day together on Sunday therefore I need to make sure my assignment that is due on Monday is completed by Saturday the latest.
- Learn from your experiences. Not everyone is lucky enough to strike gold with the first person they meet. Regardless of a relationship leaving you hurt or angry, there must be at least one thing from it.
5 Tips for Platonic Relationships at Varsity
Just like romantic relationships, varsity is one of the most exciting places to find people who you gel well with. As quoted from C.S. Lewis “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”. How satisfying it is to find someone like this yet also how difficult it may be to actually find someone who you can truly call your friend rather than just another acquaintance.
- Be open to getting to know people who you wouldn’t usually. Sometimes finding those lifelong friends requires you to step out of your comfort zone and meet people who might be completely opposite to you.
- Respect people’s beliefs and share yours with them. Varsity is full of people from all different backgrounds, beliefs and values. Just because you don’t believe what someone else believes doesn’t mean you wouldn’t make good friends.
- Almost everyone will go through a period of self-discovery sometime during their varsity experience. Your friends may become distant during this period or may not want to share what they’re going through at that time.
- Respect their decision and support them in the way that you think is best. Certain friends are only seasonal and eventually you’ll be able to sense this. I remember reading somewhere that if you’re losing friends you’re growing up. As sad as it sounds, it happens. People outgrow each other and if the friendship is meant to be you’ll find your way back to each other.
- Don’t be the clingy friend. Varsity keeps people very busy and just because someone hasn’t spoken to you in while doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about you, or that they don’t value your presence anymore. I believe that the best friendships are those where you can go a year without speaking to each other and when you do speak it’s as if you were never apart.
In my experience, varsity is an interesting setting to address the individual and perhaps makes being in a relationship a bit trickier. Entering into first-year I saw myself as Francesca Matthys, lover of acting, anything floral, and a total hopeless romantic. I still adore floral things, but a lot of things about me have changed, and are still changing. I’ve realized that looking out for myself is important. That my individuality is important and should never be compromised, and that everyone is very different and no one thinks like you and you should be aware of this.
Varsity and the first few years after high school are packed with self-discovery. We’re all trying to “find ourselves,” as naf as it may sound. Being in a relationship during this time; romantic or platonic could become complicated for this reason as not everyone is a 100 % sure of who they are and what they stand for. I think that knowing yourself and being content with who you are is valuable for anyone entering into any relationship. Although all relationships, specifically romantic ones, undergone during our undergrad years won’t all be a complete failure, it’s essential to be cautious with the people you encounter and be sensitive to this period of self-exploration as well as being sensitive to yourself.
Although this is only one of the many ways to approach relationships and often one has to find your way through to see what works for you.
Wrap up Relationship Rules
- Communicate. As simple as it sounds, I’ve often found myself avoiding a friend or partner because I either didn’t want to address the issue at hand or wasn’t sure how to. Bottling up feelings doesn’t serve anyone and, instead, makes everyone feel very awkward. When expressing your feelings though, be sure to always be tactful and think before you speak.
- Be compassionate. Varsity is about finding people to share your new experiences with. A relationship with a friend or a partner is essentially that – sharing your life with someone. When someone is experiencing something difficult or painful, a little bit of compassion, understanding, and support will do a lot of good. You’re human too.
- Be honest. Lying just creates a world of problems, we all know this. Also, you’ll sleep better. Friendships formed in varsity may last for years after and to keep these close it’s important to base these friendships on honesty.
- Be loyal and trustworthy. Every relationship is built on trust and as cliché as it sounds, if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything. Most of the time you get what you put in, so really make an effort to show that you can be trusted. It’s the most amazing feeling to know that you can open yourself up to someone and that they can do the same. Yay for trust!
- Be sensitive. People have feelings. You’re in a relationship with a living being, not a doll. Agree to disagree. Varsity is where we’re taught to think critically about ideas and form our own opinions on them. We’re not all the same and if we were we’d die of boredom. Enjoy and respect your differences, challenge each other. There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate now and then.
- Commit. Relationships, especially romantic ones, require commitment, even friendships require you to know that someone is a hundred percent on your team. Don’t immediately lash out at your friend if they suddenly go MIA during a stressful exam period, try and be supportive.
- Love. Yes, I’m sometimes mistaken for a love-drunk hippy, but love is at the core of humanity. Love really does make the world go round. Yet another valuable cliché.
In my time spent at Wits thus far I have come into contact with so many different people and have formed such special relationships amongst these. Even relationships with friends that had started before varsity have taken on new forms due to my new surroundings.
I’ve learnt that a lot of the people you meet here are some of the people who you see yourself growing old with. I’ve learnt that I’m allowed to be a little selfish. My twenties are about looking out for myself whilst also respecting others. I’ve learnt to love and really love. I’ve learnt to heal. And lastly, I’ve learnt to treasure the close bonds I have stitched so far.
Relationships are difficult but important. Respect yourself and the people around you and always be conscious of things you say or do and how that may affect someone close to you. Love in all forms is important and you shouldn’t be afraid to experience it.