Relationships: What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?

Photo by Francisco Osorio

Photo by Francisco Osorio

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d avoid the cheesy posts and instead offer some advice for young couples who are facing decisions over continuing a relationship at university.ย When I first received my acceptance letters, took those dreaded exams and realised I had got the results I wanted and needed to move on to the university life I had been dreaming about for the past two years of hard slog throughout A-levels. Everyone had been worried – my parents thought I wasn’t spending enough time on my work and revision because of my boyfriend and my friends were worried he would lead me astray. But I sure showed them when I got that A and three B’s – more than I needed to go to the University of Hertfordshire.

Again, my parents were worried about UoH being my first choice because it asked for a lot less UCAS points than I was predicted, even less than I received. I had chosen it based on the course content, the number of live researchers who would be my lecturers, the beautiful campus and accommodation, and of course the great feeling I had when looking around. I’ve always been one for going with my gut when decision-making, and from the second I walked on to the campus and looked around, I just knew this was the university for me. I refused to compromise this for courses that didn’t cover what I wanted to study and for accommodation that looked like a prison, and it worked well because I left with a 2.1 BA Hons in English Literature and Language and Communication.

Photo by Oleh Slobodeniuk

Photo by Oleh Slobodeniuk

But enough about all of that – this post is focusing on the fact that throughout all of my time at university, I stayed with my boyfriend while he lived and worked back at home. I have spoken to several girls since who were just heading off to university and just didn’t know how they would cope with having a boyfriend back at home while they studied – they didn’t know what it would be like. Just as I was asked for advice back then, I will give it again now.

University will test your relationship, probably beyond anything before this time. You will be madly in love with your boyfriend before you go and often can’t bear the thought of breaking up, but at the same time are ready for a whole new adventure – it’s a confusing time for many. For me, it was simple. I loved my boyfriend and wanted to stay with him regardless – I didn’t see why university would get in the way of that. Of course, distance plays a big part in this and I had chosen a university that was just two hours drive from my home town (not chosen because of boyfriend, just coincidence). But if you really want to make it work, it won’t matter the distance.

Becoming an independent woman:

You need to remember that you will be experiencing a whole new world of living away, new-found independence and freedom, making new friends, discovering new passions, keeping up with your course and lots and lots of partying. Your new schedule may not have space for boyfriend time at first with all of the nights out and busy days associated with Fresher’s Week (ours turned into a month). So you have to remember that your other half might find it a bit difficult at first – not only are you off having a new adventure without him, but you suddenly might not have much time for them. It is important to make the effort to keep them updated and make them feel a part of it as well, you wouldn’t like it if they disappeared off to get drunk with strangers for two weeks without speaking to you.

Photo by Elizabeth K

Photo by Elizabeth K

Time-management is the key

A lot of this first month of university (and the rest) is spent getting pretty drunk and the lectures often take up a lot less of your time with more work expected in your own time – often this time is spent in bed, hungover and watching rubbish TV. I know there is a lot of other work thrown in, otherwise how did I get that 2.1? But my point is that your schedules could end up the opposite of each other – I got to a point where I was up all night, either partying or in the library and would sleep most of the day when I wasn’t in lectures – I just seemed to work better at night. This was difficult when my boyfriend was at home working shifts at an engineering company because often I would want to drunk call him after a night out or text him all night but couldn’t because that would wake him up, likewise, he would text in the day but I would be asleep or in lectures. You need to find your own balance that will work for you as a couple.

Don’t forget the importance of alone time

One huge benefit of going to university is having your own space, perhaps you were both living with parents at home and struggled to get time to yourselves. Suddenly, you have your own room in a block of people that won’t disturb you – you can go off for dinner, or cook your own, lay in bed all day and watch movies or do whatever you want. This freedom is great after being interrupted every five minutes at home. Make the most of this time. We had it easier because my university was quite quiet at weekends with many people going home to work in London, so my boyfriend could come up and visit and often we would have the whole flat to ourselves. Likewise, I made sure to come home and visit both him and my family – in my third year I had a car at university so I could nip home at a moments notice, or likewise he could come to visit me without relying on the trains.

Photo by LetMeBeYourSwearWord

Photo by LetMeBeYourSwearWord


This is the main one I get asked about. Yes, there is a lot of temptation at university, especially if you like sweaty blokes who are wearing too much aftershave and have been daring their mates to down dirty pints without being sick on themselves. Not really my type thanks. For some girls, they might feel they are being left out of all the drunken snogging and sleeping around that comes with Freshers but what are you really missing out on other than the Walk of Shame while dressed as Superwoman (as one of my friends had to do) and a bout of chlamydia? It is possible to go to university and not sleep with everyone, it is possible to go on a night out and go home with your girls and a greasy burger, it is possible to spend a night in your own bed. There are a lot of girls out there who get drunk and just need some affection – this was the tough bit, being drunk and wanting to call your boyfriend because you miss him, but not being able to because he’s got work in two hours. But you deal with it and move on. There’s a hell of a lot of other stuff going on that you don’t need to concern yourself with all of this – but if you are tempted, them be sure to end the relationship before making a big mistake and hurting your partner.

Put simply – it is possible to have a happy, loving, long-distance relationship while at university. It isn’t always easy, but in the end it is more valuable than any one night stand. You will have wobbles and strops over seeing each other and missing each other, but you will also have amazing times that you will never forget and you will end up a lot stronger for it. My main advice is to be sure of what you want before you go but don’t be afraid to change your mind when you actually experience university life – choose what is best for you. If you think it is worth it, it probably is. I was two years into my relationship when I went to university and now we are coming up to our eighth anniversary.

Have you been faced with a big decision over whether to break off a relationship or stay together at university? What did you choose?

12 responses to “Relationships: What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?

  1. i can agree with you 100% on this point, its bloody difficult but so rewarding at the end. while most people i know where sleeping around or going out with boys, i would be the one texting my boyfriend at 2am saying i miss him. love this post, im glad i have someone else who was in the same position as me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s definitely tough at the time, but those weekends with someone you love are worth a hell of a lot more than 10 one night stands.. I knew a few girls who came to university with boyfriends and barely lasted a few weeks because they were getting with other guys. Just not nice, but I’m sure there are a lot of couples out there who have been in the same position ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I went the other way… But looking back – and particularly comparing against my current situation and boyfriend – I now know my boyfriend before university wasn’t the one for me. I quite easily dropped him (of which I’ll always have a little guilt about, I wasn’t very nice at all), so I know he wasn’t enough. Does that make sense? I think everyone has a moment in life when they go a bit mad and get it out of their system – it could be at 16 right the way to middle age, but for me it was when I was ‘released’ from my small city and parents to live on my own. I sometimes cringe at myself, for instance, the superwoman story… I have a similar one. Gaaahh I sound like a trollop! But I wouldn’t change my past because I’m happy that it certainly isn’t my life now and I learnt a lot about myself going through that. So my ‘counter argument’ to your well-written post is, by all means stay in a relationship if you are genuinely in love, but if you in any way have an inkling that you want to be a bit wild, then go for it. Otherwise, you’ll wonder ‘what if?’

    • That is such a great point Anna, it is important to be clear whether you really love your partner or not because university is a great time to break things off on good terms (maybe not in your case) but it offers a natural end for some who perhaps were unsure or hadn’t been forced to make a decision at this point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with “getting it out of your system” – this is a great time in your life to cut loose and really have some fun while getting away with it all. You’re not a trollop – just young and having fun, which is what university is all about – discovering who you are. And you shouldn’t look back on it negatively because you’re right, it made you who you are and led you to this point in your life. I completely agree with your counter-argument, as one of my closest friends at university did. At the end of the day, you need to make the decision that is right for you and to make sure that you don’t look back with regrets – because that is the one thing that never goes away! xxx

  3. I got married to my long distance boyfriend of 3 years just after graduating – it was a long way too! He lived in Sussex and I was in Oxford!

    I knew he was the right person for me and no-one else I met at Uni even came close.

    It was hard, all the travelling, and I know I missed out on some of the experiences my friends had, but being with him was the right thing for the rest of my life and not just for those three years.

    • That’s such a lovely story Denise and good for you guys for keeping with it no matter how hard it got. It’s one of those things you look back on later on and just think it really was worth every second to be together full-time later on. I’m really happy for you xx

  4. This is a brilliant blog post. I was lucky that my boyfriend went to the same university as me but when I dropped out and started a full time job I was concerned about how it would work, but it did.

    Denise’s story is lovely and proof that if you’re right for each other and are thinking about the future you can find a way to make it work for those three or four awkward years.

    Rosie x

    • Thanks so much Rosie – I always think that if you really want to make it work you can survive anything! I’m glad it worked for you because you understand quite how much putting in the hard work pays off in the long-run! Denise’s story is a perfect example of why is is so important to persevere through the hard times if you think you can make it work. I also had a friend who met a guy on a night out just after a bad break up, the next day he went off to Afghanistan with the RAF for six months, she waited for him and they emailed and skyped the whole time. Now they are happily married! Just another example, outside of university, of how patience and seeing the bigger picture can really benefit in the long-run! x

  5. Uni really tested my relationship. I had wanted to split up with my (ex) boyfriend for about two years before I moved and just didn’t have the courage, he made me feel like I NEEDED him to survive. I moved two hours away from him (on a train) and settled in. Come January I realised I liked my flat mate and how much I really didn’t want to be with this lad. I split up with him and it didn’t take long for me to truly find love with my now boyfriend. We’ve lived together since I first moved to uni and we now have a flat to move into this September just us too. It’s prefect. It does test you but for the right reasons. Uni is about learning to be an adult and not depending on others. I’m glad you worked all the way through and stayed together. I think pre-18 it can be difficult to find someone you truly 100% love so I give you that!

    Such a true post.

    Laura xx

    • Thanks Laura for telling us about your experience – such a good example of how uni can work well in another way in terms of relationships. I think it is the first real test any relationship faces and it can be good if it helps end relationships that happen more of convenience or ones that fizzle out as the require more effort. In your case it sounds like uni really helped you get your life on track and made you realise what was right for you which, as you say, is bring an adult ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m really pleased for you that you met someone who was better for you! It’s so easy to feel at 18 that the guy you love then will be the one you love all your life, but I think even then my boyfriend and I had the attitude that whatever happens happens and if things don’t work, at least we tried and it doesn’t mean we love each other any less. I think being so relaxed about it all was actually what made it work ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks lovely xxx

  6. Awesome post, you were right – very similar to my own advice on long distance relationships with travel. Really great points there, and I hope it inspires others to realize long distance CAN work!

    Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ Meg

    • Thanks Meg ๐Ÿ™‚ Me too, think so many people give up too easily and regret it, with so much technology available, it is easier than ever to keep in touch and maintain the romance ๐Ÿ™‚ x

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