The Happy Trail

Tips on getting together

For some, the dating world is easy to navigate, but for the vast majority of us it’s an exercise in dealing with one’s own awkwardness. How do I know if they’re into me? How much are they into me? Is this a date, a one-night stand or a casual fling? Sex education isn’t only about the mechanics of sexual activity or the options available for birth control. Sometimes it’s about how to make sure your interactions with your intended partner are positive for everyone involved both in and out of the bedroom. They don’t teach you hook-up etiquette in sex ed, but if they did, it might look something a bit like this.

Lesson 1: Be honest about what you’re looking for in the relationship. Whether you’re down to date, cuddle for an evening or keep things casual for an extended period of time, it’s best to keep things out in the open. While it may feel safer, ambiguity is your enemy.

Whatever you’re looking for from your partner is something you should be able to talk to them about so that you remain on the same page. I can’t guarantee that feelings won’t get hurt in the end, but you can decrease the chances of hurt feelings if you keep the modes of communication as open as possible. Plus, your partner saying “no, thanks” is really the worst thing that could happen, so what do you have to lose?

Lesson 2: Be mindful of how your sexual activities influence others. Here I’m not talking about how others feel about your sex life but more about how where you choose to carry out your sexual acts may affect others. Roommates are always a conundrum when it comes to getting down with your favorite friend-with-benefits or significant other. It’s helpful to set ground rules early on in your cohabitation if you notice that you may be  needing the room to yourself for more than just studying.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to be mindful of how often you invoke this privilege in your shared space. This also goes for having sex in public; while you may find it arousingly dangerous to be in view of others when you’re getting down, the probability of passersby enjoying the view is very low. As long as you stay considerate of others, you’ll be good to go.

Lesson 3: Keep cool in the aftermath. Regardless of how it ends, the finale to your relationship or hookup will come with at least one of the two involved feeling some combination of anger, sadness, inadequacy or at the very least boredom and annoyance. While at the time it sucks, keeping things in perspective can make the transition back into singledom easier.

Whether or not you want to maintain a friendship with this person is dependent on the circumstances of the breakup and how well both parties deal with the devastation (or lack thereof). Keep the high ground by remaining calm and collected in the face of probably the most awkward part of your relationship with this person. This will work to your advantage; in the best case scenario you might even become life-long friends. And even if it doesn’t change their behavior, it will put you in the best place possible for future romantic prospects.

While this primer probably doesn’t cover every situation you might face when it comes to appropriate behavior when you’re getting intimate with someone, it does lay the groundwork for a positive experience for all involved. Regardless of what it is you feel about your partner, they have a right to know your intentions just as you have a right to know theirs. As long as you’re respectful of those around you when you’re in the act and you keep your cool post-coitus, you’ve avoided the majority of the pitfalls that many college students have to navigate when they make their move.