Your pals, parents, and professors might call it the “real world,” sometimes we call it “adulting,” but many pre-graduates leading up to the day of commencement deem it as just plain scary.
It is completely normal to feel stressed about figuring out what the next step is after you graduate, however, it can be even more daunting when you’re trying to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner in the same graduating class.
Graduating college and leaving the uniformity of campus life is uncomfortable, to say the least. You’re used to waking up and seeing familiar faces in your dorm, getting food with friends in the dining hall, and pulling a few all-nighters to finish that paper you’ve procrastinated on because you couldn’t say no to binge-watching that new series on Netflix with bae. Trust me, we’ve all been there; who would want that comfortable lifestyle to end?
Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to fearing the unknown but it can also create unnecessary friction between you and your partner. You may become anxious and hostile as a result of this stress and find that over time you’re unable to resolve conflict in your relationship as easily as you used to. After all, how can you be the adoring and compassionate partner you usually are when you’re uncertain of your future post-graduation?
No one said change would be easy but here are a few super effective ways to hone in on your post-graduation anxiety and keep it from messing with your relationship.
Dive into Your Thoughts. What Are You Afraid Of?
The first step is asking yourself, “what exactly is making me anxious?” Before springing into action, it’s important to identify the areas of life post-graduation that you’re most worried about. Is it housing? Is it income? Or are you afraid the dynamic of your relationship will drastically change once you graduate?
All of these “what-ifs” are difficult to maneuver unless you take a moment to sort through your thoughts before discussing with your S.O. You don’t have to tell your partner more than what you’re comfortable with, but you should let them know that something is going on.
The next time feel your anxiety setting in, try this:
- “I’m afraid that I won’t get to see you much because we live in different states.”
- “I’m excited to graduate because I’m ready to finally put my degree to use, but I’m feeling stressed that I won’t be able to pay off my student loans.”
Remember your post-graduation anxiety doesn’t have to be a secret and being open and honest with your partner can help demystify some of your concerns and stress-induced misunderstandings.
In college, you worry about covering your tuition and daily expenses. After college, you scramble to pay off student loans, rent, and additional living expenses, like transportation, take-out, and Netflix.
Simply put, adulting is stressful but if you’re making sound financial decisions in anticipation of your first year out of college you’re in good shape, just try not to be too judgmental when your partner spends money frivolously while you opt to stick to a tight budget. Sure it would be helpful if you were both on the same page about saving on dates by staying in but if you aren’t, you’ll need to compromise and that’s where healthy relationship practices come into play.
If your partner has a bigger budget for fun, that can be tough. In our society money has a direct correlation with power and if you’re a guy, you never want to be seen as powerless in a relationship because your partner has more money than you, at least that has been my experience. Talk to your partner about your financial concerns or cut straight to the point i.e. what you hope to save by graduation. You don’t have possess the same budget to have a great time.
Side Note: Don’t feel that you aren’t contributing to your relationship because you make less money than your partner. Your value in a relationship isn’t based on financially supporting your partner.
Moving in Together?
Planning for the future as a couple is super important, especially if you and your partner plan on sharing an apartment after graduation. Why? Because moving in together changes the dynamic of your relationship and forces you to take on certain obligations that you weren’t used to working through together. This may look like assigning chores, paying rent, and other things that require clear and consistent communication.
Side note: plenty of young couples decide to live in separate apartments (or even stay at home to save money) until they’re ready for a bigger commitment, which is totally normal and might even work better so that you can remain financially independent for the time being. For more details on moving in together, feel free to read “5 Lessons I Learned from Living with My Significant Other,” by Alyce Hayes.
Maintaining Other Relationships
Chances are you aren’t alone in your post-graduation stress so why go it alone? Plan a night with friends where you can all get comfy and talk through some of your fears. Are you afraid you’ll lose touch? Are you afraid of losing your network of support?
Your friends have been there through thick and thin and so there’s no reason to assume that relationship will completely end post-graduation. Have an open discussion with your friends about how you plan to keep in touch along the way. Keep in mind that you will continue to make friends post-graduation and build more social circles too!
Your First ‘Real’ Job
Listen, let’s first get this out of the way… It is OKAY to not have your career completely figured out after you graduate! Often times we feel pressure from family that we need a stable job with benefits and a pension plan straight out of college. These things are great to have but unrealistic for many young professionals that are just trying to get on their feet.
In fact, Millennials are ditching traditional 9-to-5 jobs for self-employment opportunities doing what they love. According to INC.com, this survey of 2,700 full-time employees, conducted by Freshbooks in cooperation with Research Now, indicates that “the number of Americans who plan to work for themselves could triple to 42 million workers by 2020. That’s an increase of 27 million workers who say they are ready to abandon traditional work for full-time self-employment.” Of this number, “42 percent are expected to be Millennials.”
So… how does getting that first job affect your relationship? If you’re getting closer to the day of commencement and you’re struggling to find any leads, this can certainly cause anxiety as you feel like you’re running out of time. But don’t worry, as long as you’re actively working towards finding a job, you’re doing fine.
This is a good opportunity to open up to your partner about the type of job you’re looking for and what you’ve been doing to find one. Maybe you both could sit down and look for jobs together. Even if your first role is not a dream job, keep in mind that the knowledge and skills earned will help you find a better position in the near future.
Side Note: Getting that first job might take time. Utilize the resources you have available to you at your schools, such as your career center, professors, and advisors. Keep in touch with people you’ve interacted with, maybe off-campus, for tips or connections. Attend industry events that will help you get your foot in the door. Plan meetings and events on a calendar so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed and can better manage your time because searching for a job is a full-time job within itself (especially while still in college).
Don’t Forget to Celebrate!
You’ve put in the time and effort, now you’ve graduated. Woohoo! Don’t forget to celebrate your wins (no matter how big or small) because that’s what will keep you level-headed. Now that you’re free from the responsibilities of college, celebrate by doing something special – whatever that means to you and your partner. You can go to your favorite restaurant, host a party, have a spa day, or even go on a vacation. If you don’t have much of a budget, look into vacation packages like the ones on Groupon. Enjoy wherever life leads you, take things one step at a time, and be excited about your goals in life. Congratulations on making it across the stage – we’re thrilled that you’re ready to launch into the next stage of your life!
While you’re celebrating, make the pledge to #LoveBetter to bring more healthy behaviors into your relationships for the people you love. You’ll learn as you navigate life and that you can always strive to do better, so why not start now?
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