In this special edition of The Wise Lion, learn how to maintain a healthy relationship and correctly identify red flags while dating in college. 

1. How can I maintain a healthy relationship in college? 

Riley Hetherington (R.H.): Maintaining a healthy relationship can be difficult —especially in college. Here are some tips to encourage healthy habits between you and your partner:

Communicate your needs. We’ve all heard the saying "if he wanted to, he would" —but how can they if they don’t know what you want? As much as I wish my partner could read my mind, I’ve realized the only shortcut is to kindly communicate my needs. I recommend taking the Love Language Quiz to identify how you and your partner give and receive love. If your partner prefers physical touch, give them a hug before that big exam. If acts of service is their thing, get those dishes done without being asked. It doesn’t have to be a holiday to make your partner feel special!

Hannah Montana said it first: nobody’s perfect. Many people get stuck on their perfect type, waiting for Mr. Right to sweep them off their feet. I hate to break it to you, but they don’t exist. Do not expect your partner to shapeshift to fit a mold you’ve created. Instead, embrace their differences and seek out ways you can both grow together. College is a perfect time to expand your horizons and try new things, so better yourselves together! However, know the difference between accountability and acceptance to make sure you aren’t excusing a toxic trait as a character flaw. If you do struggle to embrace your partner for their strengths and weaknesses, it may be time to call it quits.

Immaturity is out. I know the pettiness of intentionally cryptic messages was entertaining in high school, but if you want to foster a mature relationship, you have to act the part. If leaving your partner’s Snapchat on read is how you convey frustration, you might want to re-think your communication style. Respectful, clear communication is essential to a healthy relationship. All relationships have disagreements, but it is how you react to those disagreements that will set the tone. After an argument, sit down with your partner and openly communicate how you made each other feel in hopes to avoid miscommunications in the future. In an equitable relationship, fights should not end with one winner and one loser —instead, negotiate openly to find a balance that makes both partners happy.

All in all, maintaining a healthy college relationship will require work and compromise, but for the right person, it is worth it. Make sure you and your significant other are receiving the love and respect you both deserve! 

2. What are some red flags to look out for in college relationships?

Jessica Mingalone (J.M.): We've entered a whole new world of dating with social media, dating apps and "hookup culture," that no previous generation has ever experienced. And, though dating may be complicated for all of us, there are several clear red flags that should not be ignored. When establishing a new relationship, remove your rose-colored glasses and check for these commonly ignored warning flags:

If someone you know warns you about this person you are seeing, maybe it’s best to look into what they are telling you. I know it's juvenile to listen to gossip, but if the majority of the people surrounding you have a thing to say about this individual, is it really worth taking the risk? People on the outside of a relationship may see it for what it is more clearly than those on the inside, so pay attention to those around you.

This should go without saying, but I see far too many individuals enter into a relationship with a person who clearly is not over their ex. You cannot be in a healthy relationship unless you are over the previous one.

Moreover, while I understand that this is college and we all drink a bit too much and do stuff we later regret, if someone has a drinking problem and is constantly acting out and changing when they are drunk, then it's time to let them go and walk away for your own wellbeing. When it comes to dating, alcohol or heavy drug misuse is unforgivable and a deal breaker.

Always trust your gut. If something feels off, confront that issue. This is one of the major red flags I notice missing among my friends and myself. People tend to reject their gut feelings, even though they are usually correct.

I know someone who was once in a relationship, and something didn't feel quite right. Instead of breaking it off right then and there, they continued to see him, only to have him cheat several times during the course of the relationship.

Take it from me: if something doesn't feel right, it most likely isn't, so talk to your partner to set things straight.

A partnership cannot exist without trust. A relationship is meant to be about two individuals sharing their lives together, not two jealous children prying about each other's lives. If there is a lack of trust in the relationship, leave it and save you and your partner the stress.

There are many more red flags you should look out for in relationships. If you ever feel unsafe in your relationship please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).

Click here to submit anonymous questions that you would like advice on.

Asst. Life+Arts Editor

Riley Hetherington ('23) is a communication studies major from San Diego. She enjoys traveling, keeping up with the "Cake Boss" empire, the sunshine and hanging out with her grandma.

Senior Columnist

Jessica Mingalone ('23) is a senior journalism major from Upper Saddle River, N.J. She enjoys filmmaking and creative writing, and is hoping to travel all around the world.

(1) comment


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