sex & relationships

University relationships: Advice from an expert


At first, I can’t get through to Julie-Anne Shapiro when I call, but her voicemail is a real testament into her bubbly and positive p

At first, I can’t get through to Julie-Anne Shapiro when I call, but her voicemail is a real testament into her bubbly and positive personality she proclaims “keep smiling!” to the anonymous caller at the end of the line.


When we do get in touch (scheduling problems that weren’t entirely my fault), Julie is every bit as happy as I expected her to be. We chat briefly about her beginnings as a Relationship Coach and her time spent in LA – that explains the relentless enthusiasm.


What I really wanted to learn from Julie-Anne is the things I wish I had got advice on before I went to university, when I was happily in a long-term relationship I thought would never end. So, I asked a few key questions that I hope readers at Kettle, seasoned or soon-to-be students would want to know about.


Long Distance: I started university in a relationship with someone from back home, and it didn’t work out. What advice would you have for students who want to make their relationship work with the adjustment of being long distance?


I can really see the challenges with that. So before this new transition happens, before one of the partners is leaving home, it’s really vital that they talk about this new change, before it actually happens. Each partner is going to need the opportunity to express how they feel about these changes and what it means to each of them. And they are also going to need the opportunity to set up and establish some guidelines and even an agreement between them about what they each need, and what they’re willing to give in order for the relationship to work. 


So this is going to be really vital, to really set this up. This may include how often they’re going to be in contact, and what form that contact will take, how often they would see each other. It may also include what would happen if either person met somebody else, you know, these things may not be very nice to talk about, but it really is vital that they get clarity on the situation and what this agreement involves. Long distance relationships really require an extra level of trust and that needs to be established, that each person has the commitment it takes to keep it going. So this means that keeping to the agreement that is set, and honouring the other person’s feelings. 


And they may find that it may be better to drop it now! It really is about being honest with yourself and knowing and understanding what you are willing to commit to the other person – is this worth it? Can I do this? 


Finding someone new: At university, we meet hundreds of new people every day. What steps can a person take in such an environment that will allow them to meet someone special and start a new relationship?


It’s all about getting very, very clear on what you want, need and must have in a relationship when you are searching for a partner. You’ve really got to take some time to sit down and just write about some of the qualities and attributes that you’re looking for. And also what you would need in the relationship so, do you need honesty? Affection?


Get as specific as you can about what you need so that you’re very, very clear. A solid lasting relationship has to do with two people having similar or aligned core values and also core vision – what is important to you? What are you committed to? And of course these may change as people get older, but we can only ever start with where we are right now. 


So you just want to sit down and just get clear on what your core values are and your vision – where do you see yourself going? What do you like to create and experience in your life? What type of work would you like to do? Would you like to travel with a  partner? These are your core values, and you want to get clear on those for yourself first, so that when you’re looking for a partner you can ask the right questions to determine whether somebody else’s values and visions are aligned with yours. 


I must say here as well that when you are looking to meet someone, it’s really vital to look at your own self, or as I call it, “the inner you,” your own belief system about yourself and your relationships. So if you notice there’s a pattern in your relationships, maybe you just don’t have them, or maybe you attract the wrong kind of men, or maybe it never works out, or maybe you’re believing that you’re not lovable, or that you don’t really deserve love. Those are all our beliefs, if you like, and actually, our thoughts and beliefs run our love life – if we believe that we’re not good enough, then we will probably keep meeting people that reflect that. 


It’s a good idea to really stop and do some inner work before you start looking for somebody. So when you do start looking for somebody, you’re really clear and really confident that you’re a great person and you have a lot to offer. And that way you’re going to be much more successful in love, especially when it comes to meeting new people.


On a similar note, what about online dating? Do you think it’s a good or a bad thing to try at university?


I think it can be a great thing! You’re putting a signal out that you’re ready for love and can reach a lot of people so I think it can be a good thing. What I would say, is going back to the inner work, is that it doesn’t work to try and date on top of old relationship patterns, and negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. So it’s really important to do that inner work first, so when you do date, you’re doing it from a place of confidence and happiness within yourself but I think online dating is great, and I have five top tips for your dating profile:


1. Get clear on your values. Put some of those key points in your profile as that’s going to attract somebody that also has those values. They are going to recognize themselves in your profile, which is a really positive thing.


2. Ask a friend to evaluate you. Asking you friend what their experience is of being in a friendship with you is a great way to add to your dating profile. This gives your reader an idea of what it’s like to be in a relationship with you.


3. Photo: Lead with your smile. Lead with your warmth, have smiling and approachable photos. Have a range of close ups and full length, and even better if you can reveal what you’re passionate about – passion is a very attractive quality.


4. Know the top three things you need in a relationship. Make those things clear in your dating profile, to avoid people wasting your time.


5. Use sensory language. So rather than saying, “I like hiking” say “I like hiking so I can feel the wind in my hair, feel the sunshine on my face and really feel alive” and that gives somebody the whole feeling of who you are rather than blanket statements 


Rash Decisions: Being far away from home, students may be tempted to cheat on their partner, assuming they would never find out. Would you advise keeping an indiscretion to yourself, in the hopes the issue would just go away?


Unfortunately, in my vast experience, I’ve learned over and over again that it doesn’t just go away. Even if you try and keep it under wraps, unfortunately the other person usually picks up on it, in differences in you, that there’s something that a little off, or there’s something not quite right. And all it does usually is just makes the gap wider and wider, and you become more distant and alienated.


Unfortunately in my experience it doesn’t work to keep it under wraps. It would be better to do some self-reflection and think about why did you go in that direction, and do you value the relationship enough to want to make it work? And this really calls for honesty with yourself and with your partner. It is possible to repair a relationship after that has happened, but it really does take a commitment from both people. It’s even more difficult with people so young sometimes because they just don’t have the experience to be able to navigate these types of situations.


To learn more about Julie-Anne and her dating tips, take a look at her website and you may want to think about attending her live event, Magnetizing Love, on 8th February. See her website for further details.

What do you think? What is the best way to handle a relationship at university? Have your say in the comments section below.


Image: Miramusa / Wikimedia Commons