Breaking Up With Your Uni Partner

Emma Tonny continues her column with comedic insight into what university break ups are like. Whilst, everyone experiences break ups totally differently there is something we can all learn from this. Whether flings or forging on are your speciality - we’ve all had to learn what it’s like to not look back.


My longest relationship was 18 months- my last 18 months of a four-year university course in fact. (Trust me, my university dating antics could not be contained to a column.) For the last six months of that, we were in an open relationship. Open relationships can and do work! They can also be a symptom of a much larger problem. For me, the fact that I was struggling with questions about my sexuality and specifically about whether or not I was actually attracted to my current partner. My pearl of wisdom from six months of feeling like grit bashed about in the sea? If you’re questioning whether or not you’re attracted to someone for six months. You’re not. You need to give it up.

One of the people I slept with during that time was a guy named Dan. Dan was a lefty. He played guitar sat in a swirl of smoke. He was argumentative. The first time we hooked up was when he showed me the books in his room: organised from left to right according to the way in which he perceived their politics. I was wearing one of my girlfriends’ sheer tops at the time, and the girl he would later go on to date was trying to hook up with him. On that night though, Dan wasn’t interested and his extraordinary ability to make you feel special was focused, temporarily, on me.

Inevitably, my relationship with Kate, my girlfriend at that time, broke down shortly after our grad trip together. It took her falling for someone else for me to finally feel free from the ties that had been holding me there. We broke up while I was on holiday with my family in Wales and I remember going for a long walk- laughing to myself at the freedom I suddenly felt. I loved Kate very much and respected her enormously but hadn’t felt any attraction for far too long.

We stayed close, however, and I visited her and other friends back at our old university stomping ground. Another pearl of wisdom? Don’t go back to your university too soon after graduating or try too hard to live like a student when you’re not. I don’t mean give up partying- god forbid- but the future is yours to seize so don’t stay stuck in the past.

It’s not really surprising that we felt a pull back to our old haunts, especially when launching your career can feel like a dizzying whirlwind of confusion. It’s also not that surprising that I ended up hooking up with Dan again. I never wanted to date him, but he was my idol of what I thought a student fling should look like. Devilishly handsome, disorganised, funny, spontaneous and totally unlike me in so many ways.

While I was seeing him, we fell into a kind of routine: we’d cook together, drink wine, eat, kiss passionately and watch a lefty, massively depressing film. I’d cry, we’d debate, we’d kiss passionately again. We’d fall asleep late and then fuck in the morning. He’d make me amazing breakfasts and always remembered just how I liked my tea. Honestly, he was very lovely, and absolutely useless at getting his life in order.

When I went back to visit, it took him two days to reply to my text and arrange an evening to meet. It took him two hours within that evening to make any kind of plan. I remember the feeling of frustration at how totally disorganised he was; but he hadn’t changed at all, I had. Even if it was only a slight shift, I was now an ‘adult’ in the ‘real’ world. He wasn’t. And it was on that night, whilst waiting for him to confirm the plan that I met someone else. But that is the story of another dating disaster.

Don’t: try and replicate your life at uni, move on and make new mistakes.

Do: allow yourself to have flings that you never intend to become a relationship.

What I learnt: a clean break, and break up, after university is often for the best.