Making true love last

Brittany Wasko

Couples find ways to persevere as their days in college come to a close

Alison Ramsay, senior deaf education major, and Kellen Bellis, senior human development and family studies major, sit together at a table near the Student Center. In a few months Ramsay will be graduating and moving to New York to persue her career while

Credit: Ron Soltys

It’s no secret that a successful relationship in college requires true dedication. However, the real test for love and strength for a couple comes in the spring of senior year. Although they’ve seen each other through the stress of group projects, papers, internships and finals, there’s still one more obstacle to tackle: What happens to the relationship after graduation?

Travis Schermer, teaching fellow at the Counseling and Human Development Center in White Hall, said it’s important for people in relationships nearing graduation to talk to one another ahead of time.

“Talking about it beforehand is a way of exploring both partners’ needs before the stress of those outside factors become so much that it impacts the relationship,” he said. “This is a scary time — it’s a huge transition to go through.”

Ending a relationship because of career differences, sacrificing a job opportunity to follow the other person or even compromising on a middle ground to maintain the relationship are just a few options for couples facing graduation.

Schermer said both people should know their own priorities, which will affect the final decisions.

“I think that everyone has that difference in terms of what’s important,” he said. “Some people are going to be more willing to sacrifice that relationship in order to make their career work. It’s how they identify what’s important to them.”

Schermer also said it’s common for graduated students to move back home while searching for a job, causing a temporary geographical split for some couples.

“You see a lot of people going home for that support before they take that next step to find that job — to their career really,” he said. “And if they’re in two different places, it’s that much harder.”

If staying together is important to a couple, Schermer said both partners will take the steps to find a way to make it work.

“Hopefully they’re talking to each other about their career plans,” he said. “And if they want to stay together — that they’re making those career plans kind of coincide and kind of work together so they can take that next step together.”

Barbara Hugenberg, assistant professor and basic course coordinator for the School of Communication Studies, said that students who are graduating should be honest while making decisions regarding the relationship and their separate careers.

“Be very honest with the self, even if it takes you down avenues that you don’t like thinking about,” she said. “Go there, because these are big decisions.”

Hugenberg also said it’s important for couples who want to stay together after graduation to not get completely caught up in the idea of being in love.

“We have to be very careful that it isn’t an infatuation or an extended version of an infatuation, which is kind of blinded by the light of the person’s youth and beauty,” she said. “Or blinded by our own desire to be in a permanent commitment.”

Having to choose a career over the relationship can be difficult for anyone. Hugenberg said that if a couple separates and puts careers first, they might lose the “loves of their lives.”

“What if in a few years you realize that, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not meeting anybody who’s like that person’?” she said. “You don’t want a life of regret where you have let someone who is your soul mate — you let that person go.”

Hugenberg said a relationship is worth maintaining after graduation if it boosts one’s self-esteem.

“You have someone in your life who is committed to you, who likes you regardless of the mistakes you make, loves you no matter what you have on that day,” she said. “Those kinds of relationships help us with our confidence.”

Like Schermer, Hugenberg also said communication is necessary for all couples, especially when making life-changing decisions after graduation.

“Take your time,” she said. “Think about it very carefully. Talk openly and honestly. Communication really is the key to this.”

Moving away, but staying together

Alison Ramsay may be moving to New York after graduating in May, but she and her boyfriend, Kellen Bellis, have no plans to end their relationship because of her career move.

Ramsay, a senior deaf education major, has been dating Bellis, a senior human development and family studies major, for almost a year and a half. Although Ramsay has not interviewed with any schools in New York yet, moving there in June is something she would like to do.

“It’s just where I’ve always wanted to live, so hopefully I can find a job there,” she said. “I mean right now, it’s kind of wherever I get a job first is where I’ll go, but my ultimate goal is New York.”

Although Bellis will be taking classes next semester, he said Ramsay’s move will not break up their relationship.

“I think we can make it work because I’m only going to be here for an extra semester,” he said. “We’ll figure out something to make it work.”

For Ramsay, talking about the future comes naturally to her.

“On that viewpoint, we’re completely different because he’s very much like, ‘What’s happening today? I don’t want to think about tomorrow yet because today’s happening,'” she said. “I’m very much more future.”

Bellis said he’s recently come to terms with the fact that he isn’t a little kid anymore, and that he has to start thinking about Ramsay and his graduation.

“I don’t even know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow,” he said. “But I know that with this relationship recently, I have begun to think more about the future because I wanted to. I know I do eventually have to get my butt in gear and start thinking about what’s ahead.”

If Ramsay does find a job in New York, she said she doesn’t want Bellis to feel obligated to follow her after his graduation, but Bellis said he would be willing to join Ramsay in New York and look for a job there.

“I’ll go there and see what it’s like and try to live there and see what’s going on,” he said. “If nothing presents an opportunity for me there, I’m going to have to go elsewhere to figure out something to do with my college degree.”

While their relationship is important to them, Ramsay said that nobody can predict the future.

“We plan on being together for a really long time, but it’s also like that’s kind of a time when you have to make a very strong life decision,” she said.

Bellis said the decisions they make might not be the best options for both of them.

“We do have to come to a compromise and figure out what we can do because we both see being with each other for who knows how long,” he said. “But we just have to realize that what we want to do may be different than what the other person wants to do.”

Whether Ramsay finds a job in New York and Bellis moves there after he graduates, or they agree on a different compromise, they both said that their love for one another makes their relationship worth being together now and in the future.

“We have been through a lot together, and that no matter what it was, we’ve always kind of worked through it or been there with each other,” Ramsay said.

Bellis said he would do anything for his girlfriend.

“I think that how much we care for one another, how much we mean to one another, that no matter what happens in our lifetimes, she knows that she can always turn to me and talk to me about anything,” he said.

Engaged and in school

Steve Steele is not only attending his last semester of classes and working with Kent security, but he is also making wedding plans.

Steele, a senior justice studies major, has been engaged to his fiancee, Brittany Sheneman, a junior physical therapy assistant major at Cuyahoga Community College, since May 2007. The couple met at a party during Sheneman’s first year at Kent State before she transferred her sophomore year.

“As soon as I met her, we clicked,” Steele said.

Sheneman said the two grew close early on in their relationship.

“We felt like we’ve been going out forever,” she said.

After dating for a year in a half, Steele said he proposed to Sheneman on her twentieth birthday. After eating at a Damon’s located in Sandusky by Lake Erie, Steele walked Sheneman outside to a pier overlooking the lake and popped the question.

“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Although the wedding is not planned until September 2009, Sheneman said the couple has been working on wedding plans together.

“Guys really aren’t into that, but he helps me out with it,” she said. “He’s pretty good at giving his opinion actually, and I appreciate it.”

The difficult element of this couple’s relationship is the distance from each other. With Sheneman living at home in Parma and Steele living in a Kent apartments, the couple only sees one another on the weekends, Steele said.

“It makes seeing each other that much more fun. It’ll be nice when we can live together and I can see him every day,” Sheneman said. “I’m really excited about that.”

Once Steele graduates, the couple plans to move into an apartment in Kent this summer. During the fall, Sheneman said she will still attend school in Cleveland and commute from Kent every day. Steele said he plans on having a job in the Kent area as a probation officer.

Sheneman said living together before tying the knot will be good for them as a couple.

“I think it’s kind of a good thing to move in before you do get married, so you can work out your little pet peeves about each other,” she said. “You’ll have practiced living together.”

Sheneman and Steele both said their friends and family support their engagement and plans to move in together this summer. Sheneman said their families support them as a couple in whatever they do, and their friends offer to help with wedding preparations.

“I had met a lot of his friends, and they were just so welcoming that all his friends are now my friends,” Sheneman said. “They’re just really all for it, so it’s nice.”

Getting married after they’re both graduated was planned to save money and to avoid the stress of a wedding during school. The couple said they’re both ready to be out in the real world as a married couple.

“I couldn’t imagine myself with anybody else,” Sheneman said. “He understands me no matter what. Even when your parents don’t understand you, your siblings — he gets me.”

Steele agreed.

“It’s the best. I love her,” he said. “I just want to be with her — that’s what matters.”

Contact student life reporter Brittany Wasko at [email protected].