A wise man (or woman—since it’s wise, we’ll assume it’s a woman!) once said that all good things must come to an end. And for all of you graduating seniors, that idiom is probably hitting a bit too close to home as you think about leaving your beloved campus and friends behind to start a new life as a college graduate. But what about your boyfriend? The Cappie to your Casey, the Chuck to your Blair—does moving on from college mean saying goodbye to your college relationship, too? Or could you find that your post-grad love is just as great as your undergrad one? HC talked to two relationship experts and laid out everything you should consider before taking (or not taking) the big post-grad step in your relationship.
Where will you both be?
Maybe you’ll both be navigating new cities or you’ll be moving to a new location while he still has a year or more left before he graduates. Regardless of the situation, location is an important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to stay with your boyfriend.
“Long-distance relationships are very hard to maintain,” says Julie Orlov, a psychotherapist and the author of The Pathway to Love. “They’re tough on the relationship.”
If your post-grad relationship will be a long-distance one, think about if it’s worth it to deal with the difficulties of a LDR in order to stay with your boyfriend. Will you be okay with Skype dates instead of in-person ones? Are you willing to travel to visit each other on weekends, or will your time (and travel money) be limited?
Anna*, a senior at a Midwestern Division-1 school whose boyfriend is a junior, says that staying in her relationship will be worth it when she moves to Chicago after graduation to start working.
“We know that a LDR next year will not be easy, but we have immense trust in each other,” she says. “I think the most compelling reason we are staying together is that we understand what we need to do to help each other succeed and that means giving support and love even if we are apart.”
What are his and your future goals?
Do you dream of working on Wall Street while your boyfriend would rather be a teacher in a small town? Think about your dreams for the future (and his) before you take the next step. If both of your goals are taking you in different directions, it may be time to end the relationship, advises Julie Kleinhans, a radio show host and life coach for young adults. Changing your future for your boyfriend could hurt your personal goals and it could also hurt the relationship itself. “Never give up on your own passion and your own dreams to the fear of losing a relationship,” Kleinhans says. “If, down the road, you do continue with the relationship and you feel that you gave up on your dreams and your goals because of staying in the relationship… you may become resentful of what you gave up for that relationship.”
Lisa*, a senior from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, experienced this firsthand. “I knew that after graduation I would want to go to a big city for better work opportunities, but [my ex-boyfriend’s] future work opportunity was in a smaller city that didn't have many opportunities in what I want to do,” she says. “The plan we had is that I would move out to where he would be after graduation. Eventually, the relationship didn't work out because I started to resent him because I started to plan my post-graduation life around him when I knew that I didn't want to sacrifice my career dreams.”
Sarah*, a Bucknell University senior, says she and her boyfriend promised each other at the beginning of the year that they wouldn’t let their relationship stand in the way of a great job for either of them. However, she says it’s getting harder to stick to that promise now that they’ve been together for four years.
“I deeply care about my boyfriend and want him to have the best of everything, so I don't want to stand in the way of a potential great job,” she says. “Yet, I can't imagine life without him and am keeping my fingers crossed we both end up in the same city.”
Are you too dependent on each other – and the relationship?
Whether or not you have a job or grad school lined up already, leaving your college bubble and entering post-grad life is scary. Keeping the comfort of your college relationship could ease some of that fear, but do you want to stay with your college boyfriend because you love him or because you’re scared of starting your new path alone? “Never stay with a partner due to fear of being alone or that you won’t find love again,” Kleinhans advises. If you deeply love your boyfriend, staying together will make you happy for the right reasons. But if you just love having a boyfriend, graduation is a natural time to set yourself free to take on your new life on your own.
How serious is the relationship?
We don’t mean to freak you out, but once you’ve made the commitment to try a LDR after college, marriage is likely somewhere on the horizon. Now that you’re graduating, you need to think about your future and where your boyfriend fits into that plan.
“How much of an investment is there in this relationship being a lifetime partner?” Orlov asks. “If it’s not a lifetime partner for you, this might be a natural time to break away and start to explore new people and experiences and the relationship that you may want.”
Is the relationship healthy?
Maintaining a relationship after college—particularly a LDR—takes a huge commitment and a lot of work. If your relationship is fulfilling, it’ll likely all be worth it. If you’re already having problems with your boyfriend, however, the stress of a post-grad relationship will probably only make them worse.
“[Graduation is] a natural transition time to evaluate, ‘is this a healthy relationship?’” Orlov says. “If it the relationship has been rocky or hasn’t really met your needs… this is the perfect time to break away from someone.”
Do you need space in order to figure out your post-grad life?
Between starting a new job or grad school, potentially living in a new city, and figuring out how to do all those “grown-up things” that are now on your plate (I have to pay how much in taxes?!), post-grad life can be pretty overwhelming. You may feel like you need some time on your own so you can devote all your energy to figuring out your new life. “There are times in your life when you really want to be distraction-free and you don’t want to have to feel the stress between making time for a significant other…and your career,” says Orlov.
Don’t stress! You have options
Figuring out whether your college relationship is meant to last or not can take a toll on your emotions and your brain. But remember, you do have options! If you’re not 100 percent sure if you should stay with your boyfriend, you could stay together for now and just let the relationship play out. The worst thing that would happen is that you try out a LDR, realize that it isn’t working, and you both move on with your lives. But if the relationship is solid, you’ll still have that fulfillment in your life.
Also, keep in mind that “if [your relationship is] really meant to be, the universe really has a way of working things out,” Kleinhans says. If you do break up with your boyfriend and you both realize later that you can’t live without each other, you two could still get back together—if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.
Having the conversation with your boyfriend
Ultimately, you will have to talk with your boyfriend about your future plans. It’s better to bring the topic up sooner rather than later—definitely don’t wait until the night before graduation!—because if you’re secretly worrying about your post-grad plans but haven’t talked with your boyfriend about it, that could put stress on your relationship. After all, guys aren’t exactly the best at picking up the hints we collegiettes drop ever-so-subtly, and he could assume you’re upset with him, not the situation. The sooner you figure out what you’re doing, the sooner you can relax about the situation.
When bringing up the subject of your relationship, Orlov advises being “simple, specific, and direct.”
“Put it out there like there are options. It’s a discussion, it’s not like, ‘you do this or else,’” Orlov says. “‘Okay, graduation’s coming up in a month or two—what do we want to do? Do we want to keep this relationship going, and what would that look like?’”
Orlov advises keeping the conversation positive and open. “It’s nice to bring it up as a discussion without judgment or fear,” she says. “Everybody needs to have permission to do what’s best for them.”
Deciding what to do about your relationship after graduation can be tough, particularly when you already have to deal with the stress of adjusting to post-grad life. But ultimately, every relationship is different, and after considering these factors, the best thing for you to do is look deep within yourself and decide if your relationship is worth it. Not every college relationship is meant to last, but if you truly feel that you belong with your current boyfriend, you’ll be able to make it work for the two of you.
“Here's the thing: You can talk about staying together or breaking up logically. You can discuss it for hours. You can come to a conclusion. But love and relationships aren't logical and if you believe you are meant together, a job an ocean away or the major step you’re about to take in your life isn't going to change your feelings towards your significant other,” says Sarah.
*Names have been changed.