Features
Launch Slideshow

Candle-lit Kraft Dinner

Two-timing with textbooks: surviving a long-term student relationship

Publication YearIssue Date 

It's spring! Someone get a relationship article out- stat!" you were saying right as you opened up the paper. To your delight, you find one right here! Oh joy of joys! Yes, I know, it's everything you ever wanted. Because right here we are going to navigate the complicated yet beautiful paths of student long-term relationships.

Getting a date is hard enough, you might say, but the first date is definitely not as challenging compared to what might follow. You may pat yourself on the back if the date goes well, but then what? Second date? Third date? First kiss?

These are all exciting but precarious situations because you just might find yourself in a full-out grown-up relationship.

So you're in an exclusive relationship. Congratulations, but you're not home free. You can't kick back and relax now that you have a significant other. You've got to make an effort to keep that person around and see how well the two of you work together.

And then, one day, you realize that while the second or third dates seem like they happened yesterday, they actually happened two or three years ago. In that time span you worked, played, hung out, made out, talked, fought, laughed and cried with this person- this wonderful person that, for some reason, doesn't think you're an idiot.

What now? You have scary and exciting talks about "the future" over Kraft Dinner inbetween writing essays, lab reports and studying for finals.

At least that's the situation my boyfriend and I have found ourselves in recently- maybe you can relate. It's a hard topic to address when you're in the middle of school, but it can also be hard to avoid once you reach a certain point in your relationship.

Our active imaginations yielded nice ideas about "the future" that, unfortunately, didn't seem very plausible. Or did they? I decided to enlist the wisdom and aid of three student couples to get more perspective.

The first couple I talked to was Kelly Thomas, 22, a fifth-year anthropology student and Daniel Gill, 22, a fifth-year software engineering student. They started dating in high school and had been together four years before they decided to move in.

Near the end of 2008, Dan's parents left for a year and gave him and Kelly the keys to the house.

They didn't have to pay rent, but still had to go grocery shopping, plan meals, do chores, do homework and go to work (Dan was finishing an internship during the first six months).

We met at Higher Ground, a cozy coffee shop in Kensington. Nervously, I welcomed them and started asking questions, completely forgetting to offer them a tea or coffee. After about 20 minutes I ran out of questions, but the conversation lasted an hour.

Dan and Kelly were extremely comfortable with each other and with answering any questions. Together they had found something special and were excited to share it with me.

Dan and Kelly now live separately, he with his parents and she with roommates, but they knew beforehand their time living together would be temporary.

Kelly: I think you have to be really good friends with your boyfriend, otherwise it's not going to work. When you're living together you can't be together all the time, like, it's not romantic all the time, so you need to have that level of trust . . . You need to be able to not be a girlfriend sometimes, you need to be a friend too. I think if it's just a sex relationship, I don't think it would work.

Dan: It's a 'I'm going to sit on the couch and watch a movie in my undies eating Cheetos,' kind of thing.

Even though Dan and Kelly took turns making dinner, cooking and planning meals ahead of time was still a challenge, although they managed to stay on top of most chores.

Dan found frequently inviting people over for dinner was good motivation to clean- that way the cleaning had to be done before company arrived.

I asked if they ever had any fights, and they said that there were a few, but nothing major. Generally they tried to address problems before they turned into big arguments. Being honest and easy-going helped them deal with conflicts before they escalated.

"How did you keep up the romantic part of your relationship?" I asked.

Kelly: We went out for dinner, especially when he was working. He had money which was . . . weird. Like my mom always said, which bothered me, she always said we were 'playing house' . . . which made it seem like we were kids pretending to be together. But it was kind of nice to pretend that we were like, an old couple living together- and that was kind of romantic.

Dan: Yeah, coming home to that person…

Kelly: It's a different kind of romance.

"Do you think it's a good idea for all couples to move out together before marriage?" I queried.

Kelly: I have a lot of very conservative Christian friends who, like, you don't kiss your boyfriend until you get married. I would not recommend it for them because that's how they're raised and their relationship works because they're both on the same page. I think it's very specific to each couple.

Dan stressed logistics. He and Kelly discussed moving in together during their second year of university, but he's glad they didn't.

Dan: We would have been really stressed out. I'm really glad we didn't 'cause there's just no way we could have handled it, and I could imagine we'd have taken that

out on each other, at least sometimes.

Don't move out if it's going to ruin your

life. If you're going to spend so much time just trying to pay the rent, then you're not getting that learning experience that it's supposed to be. You're just stressing out the entire time.

I was uplifted after our interview. My impression was not only that they were very much in love, but that they had grown closer.

Their love was not just one of roses and candlelit dinners, but developed support and trust for when times were stressful or mundane.

My next interview was with Jon and Erin Delamonte, a wonderfully enthusiastic married couple. Like Dan and Kelly, both are only 22 years old.

Jon is completing his honours degree in linguistics at the

U of C, while Erin is in her fourth year of business administration at Mount Royal University. They dated for two years and then were engaged for two years before they got married.

They were both very busy at separate campuses, which meant that our interview had to be a conference call. Even still, I could hear their eagerness to share their story.

Erin: We clicked so well right from when we first started dating in Grade 12. Our relationship advanced so quickly- we knew that we were right for each other . . . We were emotionally ready to be married and after being together for as long as we had, it definitely didn't seem

unreasonable.

Jon: We just didn't see why [we] should wait before we finished school to see that happen . . . [Finances were] definitely an important part of deciding whether or not it would be good timing to get married. We did a lot of budgeting to see if it was financially responsible. We actually wanted to get married a year earlier but it didn't seem financially feasible.

Jon and Erin live together in a basement suite in between MRU and the U of C- a result of some intense budgeting and helpful scholarships. They have one car and take turns driving and using public transit. Many people were generous with wedding gifts as well, so the couple received enough household items to get them started. They also often receive restaurant gift certificates for birthdays and Christmas, which help make dates cheaper.

Erin thinks it is important to keep the house clean so it's easier to focus on school or each other, but admits that she and Jon took awhile to adapt. Cooking and meal planning is also a logistical challenge since they are both so busy with school.

Even though it is hard to do homework instead of spending time together, they encourage each other and know they will get to see each other at the end of the day. They also make a point to go on dates, usually on the weekends.

Erin: We're both really easy-going people; we're not really fighting people. We definitely have disagreements, but it's not like we have yelling matches. It takes a lot for us to get angry at each other.

Jon: When things do come up we do our best to talk about it rationally. We read a lot of marriage books, which is fantastic. It's a great resource- they help you communicate. So I think we have a great skill set in being married.

While they haven't had any revelations about each other, they have had to grow accustom to respective habits around the house.

Erin says that when she comes home from school she's usually tired and maybe a bit grumpy, needing some alone time to recuperate by just checking e-mail or watching TV.

Erin: When we were dating Jon didn't see that side of me, so he thought it was something he did.

Jon: She would come home all tired and I would think, 'Oh you must have had a bad day, you must want to talk about it.' But no, she didn't want to talk about it then. She'll talk about it in half an hour.

The fact that they were both very family-orientated aided in their decision to get married.

Jon: One thing I really like about it is most university students, and I guess us included, end up having roommates. I like that I have one consistent roommate that I happen to really, really like. It's not like I have a jerk to live with or people coming and going. Doing life together is really a huge benefit.

Erin: This isn't for everybody, not everyone can do this. Just because it's right for us doesn't mean its right for everyone else [but] it's a lot more attainable than people think it is. It's about priorities. For example, we don't have cable. So little choices like that can make it a feasible option for those considering getting

married.

I'm not going to lie; student married life sounded a bit terrifying after I talked to Jon and Erin, but I was impressed that they could pull it off and maintain their level of passion. Clearly this is a very determined couple who believe they have what it takes to endure extremely challenging situations during the first years of

marriage.

Even after such a brief conversation, I got the impression they were more than capable of doing so.

My final interview was with U of C students Stephan Normandeau and Kelsey Kublik. Stephan, 21, is a third-year geomatics engineering student, and Kelsey, 20, is a third-year chemical engineering student. They've been dating for almost two and a half years after meeting in first-year engineering.

They met on campus in the ICT building, conveniently next to the engineering building where they have spent many, many hours together. In fact, during the first year and a half they knew each other, they shared most of the same classes, bonding over [insert engineering stereotype here: foosball, Schulich calculators, hoe-down, bad puns, Supercow].

All jokes aside, Stephan and Kelsey arrived holding hands and smiling, despite having just finished a midterm. After getting a brief rundown on their history, Stephan said that despite their compatibility, they currently live with their parents and plan to wait until they graduate before living together.

Stephan: It's mostly the money issue. I mean, I have no income coming in during school. It's all in the summer and then all that goes to school, so I wouldn't want to come up short on payments and stuff like that living somewhere. And my parents can't help me in that sense, so it'd be tough.

Kelsey: And then by waiting a bit we'd be able to buy a place instead of renting.

Stephan: And get a better place too. So I'm okay with waiting a few years or whatever.

They also said they would try living together before getting married.

Kelsey: I think moving in together first just separates the two things 'cause they're both huge life events. Getting married and moving in all at once to me is just- holy, that's a lot of stuff going on!

I asked them what they thought the difference was between living together and getting married, and for a moment they didn't know how to answer.

Ultimately they agreed it came down to the level of commitment, but other than that, there wasn't much of a difference.

Kelsey: We've definitely talked about it. Nothing short term though. It's definitely, 'Let's get through school first' and go with that.

Since they are both in engineering, Stephan and Kelsey say that they have a good support system and have learned how to balance school and their relationship.

Stephan: If we're both really busy, we'll both do homework together, then make dinner and go to a movie or something. But if it's not busy we both try to keep it separate if we can.

Kelsey: We're always at school together, so we'll kind of meet up in between classes and go for coffee to kind of fit in that time somewhere.

Another way they keep schoolwork separate from their love life is bonding over food.

Stephan: For a good while there, actually every week, we'd just pick a good recipe and cook it on Fridays and if our family's around we could cook it for them, and then go to a movie or something and just not do any schoolwork for that night . . . talk about our week and stuff.

A common theme among the couples I talked to was strong communication. They all said that the best way to stick together was to address smaller problems before they turned into big ones.

Stephan: We talk a lot. If there's anything bugging either of us we'll talk about it right away and try not to let it simmer.

Kelsey: We're both pretty pestering if we know the other one's mad. We'll try to get everything out in the open, so I think that's good.

They said the only larger conflicts they could think of involved being in a particular group project together and deciding where to apply for internships.

Kelsey: Trying to decide what kind of internship to go on . . . like both of us at one point were considering going away, so that's kind of a touchy point. But we talked about it and it's all good now.

I admired that Stephan and Kelsey seemed to be totally crazy about each other, while at the same time they were willing to be patient about taking a step further in their relationship. They both agreed that emotionally they would be ready to live together, but wanted to wait for financial stability before doing so.

Needless to say, at the end of all my interviews, I was overwhelmed by their cuteness. Each of these couples had different perspectives and different experiences, but all had something valuable to offer.

If anything is to be taken away from this, it's that each couple is different and needs to discover what works best for them, relying on good communication to come to that conclusion.

So I will do just that and leave you to come to your own conclusions, but I hope I have helped provide you with a taste of some of the options available.

Section: 

Issue: