[erika]College graduation can mean saying goodbye to late nights at the library, Saturday tailgates with friends and … your significant other? For graduating seniors, leaving college can lead to some pretty big relationship changes. Partners that were once down the street could end up across the country, or in Erika Huerta\’s case, across the ocean.
The medical technology senior has been dating Lucas Stump for over a year, after they met in the Army ROTC program at MSU. Stump, who graduated in May 2006 with a bachelor\’s degree in criminal justice, is now in the U.S. Army. Although he is currently stationed in Kentucky, he will be deployed to Iraq in August. \”We actually just kind of started going for runs together,\” Huerta said. \”I think I asked if anyone wanted to go for a run after an ROTC event, and he said he would.\” So after about nine runs together, the couple started to develop a relationship rooted in admiration and common ground. \”At first, I was like \’this doesn\’t seem promising\’ but I will give the relationship a chance,\” Huerta said. \”The more we hung out, the more I realized we had a lot of things in common.\”
Huerta is walking in graduation this May and will be completing her bachelor\’s degree for one more semester. Since Lucas left for Kentucky, their relationship has become long-distance with periodic visits, a change from when they spent as much time as possible when they first started dating. After finishing her degree, Huerta plans to go whereever the army leads and is uncertain what that means for her future with Stump. \”It\’s hard to say, we are thinking about getting married before he leaves [for Iraq],\” she said. \”I just don\’t want to make a wrong decision.\”
According to marriage and family therapist Tina Timm, this stage in a person\’s life can be one of the most challenging. \”Graduation can be one of the most awkward times in a person\’s life, but if a relationship is strong enough it can survive the competing needs,\” Timm said. \”A couple showing commitment to one another and to the relationship always makes things better. It means they are making joint decisions on how things affect both [people], not just one person.\” Timm is an assistant professor in the department of family and child ecology. She has experience in couple and family therapy, as well as sex and internal family systems therapy, training she feels may be in order to help couples deal with life issues. \”Getting therapy or self-help could be the reason why some marriages or relationships succeed or fail,\” she said.
However, earth science senior Kristin Bergeron said she will not let her relationship with MSU alum Dudley Delcamp get to that point. \”We are both very independent, and even though we want to be together we understand school comes first,\” Bergeron said. Bergeron and Delcamp have many things in common, one being that they both have a want to become teachers, and according to Bergeron this makes their relationship very strong. \”For us going into the same field, I really know that he understands what I need to do because he has been there before,\” she said. \”It also helps with the stress because we are going through the same exact thing.\” Bergeron is graduating in May and looks forward to staying local to do her student teaching internship next year. [kristin]
Delcamp graduated in May 2006, with a bachelor\’s in math and is currently pursuing student teaching at Gardner Middle School in Lansing. For the couple, this has made this past year pleasant. \”Even at this time in our lives, we both tend to be really busy, [but] we still make time for us to spend together,\” Bergeron said.
Delcamp feels that couples who do not realize this may be headed for disaster when graduation approaches. \”It seems to me most people break up because … they have no time to spend together anymore,\” said Delcamp. According to Timm, spending time together isn\’t so easy to do. \”In order for people to be able to invest time in both individuals\’ goals and careers, it takes collective creative problem solving.\” Timm advocates finding ways to incorporate your relationship into your personal life goals can be the best way to keep a relationship flourishing.
Timm also said understanding and communication are keys to any relationship and are the determinant of strength, especially at this time during young adulthood. \”Healthy communication can leave the state of many relationships worried or happy,\” Timm said. \”You can\’t talk too much, because it is the base for a secure relationship.\” Timm also feels that the most important part of that communication is the part of listening. \”Even when fighting or in casual conversation, both should be concerned and try to become better listeners. That\’s why people have two ears and one mouth.\”
For some, like Bergeron and Delcamp, graduation becomes a way to put these things into perspective. It serves as a way to test a relationship\’s strength. Graduates, like finance senior Mario Zillner feel that this change in his life will not affect his relationship but only make it stronger. Zillner feels that his relationship with Wayne State University psychology senior Krissell Stevenson will be unscathed after the changes graduation brings. \”Graduation won\’t affect our relationship immediately,\” he said. \”Maybe in the long run, [but] it\’s basically another test of our love. If we can get past this, then maybe we should be together,\” Zillner said. He and Stevenson met the summer of 2003 and began their relationship in the summer of 2004.
Zillner feels that although his efforts to keep a relationship alive have changed over the years, ultimately maintaining trust and being driven hold a relationship together. \”Growing up, a girl was happy if you took her to eat or to a movie,\” he said. \”Now things depend on our trust of each other.\” After graduation, Zillner plans to live in Chicago, and just received a position as an investment analyst with GE Commercial Finance, so he feels the already long distance relationship will not be affected. \”I don\’t think the distance is that significant really, even when I\’m in Chicago, its not that far away,\” he said. \”I\’ve definitely changed as a person due to this relationship, because I think it has motivated me to do well. My life now means more than just being single – I could actually share all parts of my life with somebody.\”

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