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Balancing college and a relationship: How can students bend and not break?

Photo+of+Hailey+Toth+and+Henry+Spencer+on+a+family+vacation+in+Cancun%2C+Mexico%2C+on+Monday%2C+Dec.+20%2C+2021.+The+couple+prioritizes+giving+each+other+space%2C+but+still+keeping+one+another+in+the+loop.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Hailey+Toth.%29

Photo of Hailey Toth and Henry Spencer on a family vacation in Cancun, Mexico, on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. The couple prioritizes giving each other space, but still keeping one another “in the loop.” (Photo courtesy of Hailey Toth.)

College and adulthood are all about balance. Balancing a job, school work, self-care time and for some, a relationship. How do students handle all of the stress of trying to manage their time?

University of Arizona sophomores Hailey Toth, 20, and Henry Spencer, 21, started dating when they were in high school in Parker, Colorado. Toth was a junior, and Spencer was a senior. After Spencer took a semester off, they decided to attend the UA together.

Mental health clinician at UA Counseling and Psychological Services, Hector Reyes, encourages building a foundation on deep trust and communication for a strong relationship.

“If you can build that foundation on trust and communication, it’ll be a lot stronger than just love which may be confused with lust,” Reyes said.

Some couples may struggle with finding both of those, but Toth and Spencer advocate strong communication and trust in their relationship.

“Something that I’ve learned coming here, with a lot of the people that I’ve interacted with around me, is [that] Henry and I’s relationship is almost crazy to them; that we still have so much love for each other, but we allow each other a lot of freedom,” Toth said.

While the two have busy schedules and don’t live together, they try to see each other at least once a day, whether it be in passing or one of them dropping off food for the other. When they’re not together, they like to keep each other “in the loop.”

After being in a relationship for a little over three years, Toth and Spencer still find it important to make time for each other while also having their own social lives. While the two find it necessary to be close with each other’s friend groups, they like to give the other the space to be on their own.

“You want to give them as much freedom as possible,” Toth said. “I don’t always need to be there.”

On the other hand, UA sophomores Meredeth Crabtree, 20, and Daniel Wittenberg, 20, started dating while they were already in college. They met on their first day of their freshman year during Bear Down Camp 2021. In December 2021, the two made it official.

Photo of Meredith Crabtree and Daniel Wittenberg sitting on a yellow chair at Toccoa Riverside Restaurant while Wittenberg was visiting Crabtree's family in Blue Ridge, Georgia, on Thursday, July 21, 2022. The couple emphasizes the importance of self-care in their relationship. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Wittenberg.)
Photo of Meredith Crabtree and Daniel Wittenberg sitting on a yellow chair at Toccoa Riverside Restaurant while Wittenberg was visiting Crabtree’s family in Blue Ridge, Georgia, on Thursday, July 21, 2022. The couple emphasizes the importance of self-care in their relationship. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Wittenberg.)

On top of school and work, Wittenberg is trying to start a new club at the UA. With his schedule being much busier than his girlfriend’s, he understands the importance of time management. He discussed finishing tasks while still prioritizing quality time with his partner.

“It’s about bending, not breaking,” Wittenberg said. “I think the key is just to take a deep breath, stay in the moment and get everything done so that you can still be really present for that other person.”

Crabtree and Wittenburg are also co-workers, and working with your significant other can add some additional stress to the relationship. They believe that taking some individual self-care time is necessary for building a healthy relationship.

“Before you can be in a relationship with someone else, you also have to be a healthy person,” Crabtree said.

She advises that people take that time for themselves so that they are in a healthy mental and physical state when they go back to their partner.

“It really just depends on people’s readiness to include a whole other person in their lives,” Reyes said.

Being in a relationship while also trying to navigate adulthood and balancing things like school work, self-care time and work can be difficult. Some tools that can be useful to maintain a healthy balance can be to simply communicate with your partner.

Wittenberg suggests that before going into a new semester, have a conversation with your partner when you’re picking your classes. Compare what your schedules are going to look like and try to plan out a time that you both are free.

“Get creative,” Reyes said. “If you both have time for lunch but aren’t in the same space, maybe FaceTime.”


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