So you’ve graduated college and found a steady job. Congratulations! You’re even in a thriving serious relationship to boot. But what if your significant other hasn’t quite completed those big life steps yet? What if you find yourself sticking around a college town for an extra year or two? How do you balance your life with a boyfriend or girlfriend who is still in college when you’re trying to break into the workforce? How do you navigate your life as a college cougar?

  1. Don’t sell yourself short at work. You’ve worked hard to graduate and find a job of your own. You probably have ambitious career goals, and the time to start working on them is now! It can be easy, especially if your significant other goes to your alma mater, to fall into old college habits when you still have such a strong tie to that lifestyle. But believe me, weeknight toga parties can wait. Work on building a positive professional persona and show your superiors what you can do. Make sure you’re looking to the future and continuing to pursue your own goals and not getting lost in your past.

  2. Stay involved with “student life.” At the same time, don’t lose sight of your better half and his or her life. While it may feel weird going from conference calls and board meetings to dorm room parties, being involved in one another’s lives is what being in a relationship is all about. Just make sure you’re not using your significant other as a crutch to squeeze an extra year or two out of college life.

  3. Get your own education. Maybe you’re not in a formal educational institution anymore, but you can still receive a good education! There are so many ways to enhance your skills or learn some news ones, especially on the Internet. Whether you’re listening to Ivy League lectures on iTunes U, learning to code via an e-course, watching a daily TedTalk, or just reading a book, there should be no reason to stop your education with your college diploma. What a better way to pass the time when your better half is cramming for an exam than to do some studying of your own!

  4. Plan for a future, together. If you’re in a serious relationship, hopefully you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have had discussions about life after college. If you haven’t, this should really be priority number one. While it can be comfortable to stay in a committed relationship, if it’s not going anywhere, you’re really wasting your time; especially if it means sticking around a college town when you could be exploring exciting opportunities elsewhere. Sticking out a limbo year while your significant other finished his or her education is not a bad idea at all, but if you see yourself breaking up anyway, what’s the point?

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Being one big life step ahead of your partner can be challenging, but navigating a limbo year doesn’t have to be awkward. You can, in fact, balance both worlds, and even benefit from a transitional year.

Photo via Marina Montoya