18. Relationships


One of the greatest joys of college life are the friendships and romances made — and one of the greatest tragedies is to see these ties broken. Learning to relate to people outside the family circle is never easy at first, but don’t worry, as an international students, plenty of people will be interested in meeting you, and you’ll get plenty of practice.

Tips for Making Relationship Work

All relationships — friend, acquaintance, roommate, classmate, or lover — take time and energy to make them work. Many times, stresses and disagreements can make some friendships and/or living arrangements seemingly unbearable. However, with some effort on the part of each person involved, understandings can be reached. What follows are a few suggestions on making relationships work.

Even though most of us would like to think that we are “every good with people,” when it comes to getting alone with others in close quarters, the rules are no longer as simple as those for the occasional sleep-over at our best friend’s. It’s harder to ignore the missing cap on the toothpaste, the endless piles of dirty dishes, the frequent visitor that turns into a third or fourth roommate, or worst of all, that noise, noise, noise. We allow small things to build up over time, and like a pressure cooker left unattended, we erupt with a single burst of fury, destroying everything in our path, including friendships.

It is very difficult to know when to say something is bothering us and when not to say anything, to “just let it slide.” Nobody wants to feel like the “bad guy,” — as if we are infringing upon other people’s rights by asking them not to take advantage of us. Don’t be a reactive pressure cooker, the first time you encounter a situation which irks you, do not bite your tongue and swallow hard hoping it will not happen again — it will. Instead be proactive. Tell the person involved what it is that is bothering you, and explain why. Make sure you communicate the reason for your discontent; otherwise the other person won’t know what’s bugging you.

Always attack the problem and not the person. We all too often have a tendency to say, “you are upsetting me”, which attributes the fault directly to the person. Instead we should be saying, “the dirty dishes are upsetting me, could you please clean them?” This may be personification, but it tends to eliminate the attack on the individual, and the defensive reaction which follows.

If you find yourself being reactive about a problem, the next time you encounter it, confront it. But confront that one specific instance. Do not dredge up the past by bringing up every example of “leaving the cap off the toothpaste,” at once. It is not fair for the other individual to have to deal with weeks or months of pent-up frustration; it is also equally your fault for not confronting the issue sooner and preventing it from occurring over and over.

There are times, however, when the problem is with the person. For some reason people just may not get alone with each other, because they were raised in different environments and have nothing in common, or “because they just can’t seem to see eye to on anything. At times such as these it is often difficult to be impartial or open-minded enough to resolve differences to the point of being able to live with the other person. See out staff if you feel you truly have a serious issue with your dorm mates or any other students you deal with on a regular basis.

Boyfriends / Girlfriends

Another one of the big “firsts” most of us encounter in college is unrestricted physical access to our boyfriend(s) or girlfriend(s). With no parents, no curfew, and our own rooms, there is great deal of temptation and pressure to rush into things. It is in these situations, when we must be simultaneously self-centered in deciding what is right for us and altruistic in caring for the other person’s worries, needs, and desires, that problems most often arise. Finding the person who fills you with joy and who seems at the moment to make your life more complete is a wonderful thing. Along with this joy, however, comes a great deal of responsibility and the need for time for both people to become comfortable with the emotional and physical aspects of relationships. See related sections on Friendship Building, Where to Meet People On and Off Campus, and Assertiveness for more information.


When dealing with relationships of all sorts it is often difficult to know what is right and wrong. Buy by being proactive and honest with others it’s possible to learn about yourself with making your interactions with others easier and happier.