Exams, final papers, summer internship searches, travel plans—there are tons of end-of-year stresses for every collegiette, and deciding whether or not to stay with your boyfriend over the summer is definitely one of the worst. If you’re fortunate enough to be from the same place as your partner, you probably don’t have much to worry about. But for those of us who aren’t so lucky, it can be tough to figure out if it’s worth sticking it out for the whole summer. Here’s what to do!
Know What You Want…
We always change our mind about which fro-yo toppings we want or our feelings about Miley’s behavior, but when you’ve figured out what you want your relationship to be like over the summer, you shouldn’t keep changing your mind.
It’s easier said than done, but before beginning a conversation with your SO, be sure that you’re at least leaning in a certain direction about what you want to do. Take some time before you have the talk and really think about what you want and what would be best for you.
Lauren*, a sophomore at McGill University, has to decide soon if she wants to stay with her boyfriend or not. “I think I do, but I keep going back and forth thinking about positives and negatives,” she says. “One minute I’m sure I want a summer free of commitment, and the next I know I’d be happier staying with him.”
Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, suggests you try not to make any unnecessary sacrifices on either the job end or the relationship end of the spectrum.
“College is such an important transitional time… [Pursuing both goals and relationships] can be a tough balance,” she says.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about where you see the relationship potentially going in the future. If you see a future together in the fall, try to keep the fire burning while you’re apart. On the other hand, if you’ve been having a great time but your interest in the relationship is waning, there’s no point in dragging out the ending. Have the conversation before you head out for the summer to give both of you the freedom to pursue other interests.
…But Keep an Open Mind
While it’s great to have a strong idea of what you want to come out of your conversation with your SO, it’s important to stay open to possibilities and to listen to what your SO has to say on the topic.
April Beyer, matchmaker and dating and relationship expert, says you should always listen to what the other person has to say, because it could influence your decision to stay in the relationship or get out of it.
“Unless you’re 100 percent sure you don’t want to maintain that relationship… having a conversation with your boyfriend might lead you to a completely different [decision],” she says. “It takes two to tango.”
Jessica, a junior at the University of Michigan, says that last year she wasn’t sure she wanted her relationship to continue over the summer.
“We have a really long summer break, like four months, and I was pretty sure I wanted to try long distance, but I wasn’t sure about his commitment, so I was preparing myself to tentatively bring up the breaking-up option,” she says. “We finally had the talk, and the amount of dedication and love he showed me in that conversation made me much more confident in our mutual ability to deal with the distance.”
Evaluate the Quality of the Relationship so far
So how do you know if you should be staying together? Unfortunately, it’s different in every case, and there’s no surefire way to know that your relationship can withstand the summer. However, there are important things everyone should consider, like the amount of time you’ve been together, the amount of trust you’ve built and how deeply committed you are to each other.
Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, suggests you ask yourself some questions.
“The longer he’s been sending you loving texts, giving you romantic gifts and saying ‘I love you,’ the more reassured you can be that it will last,” she says.
If you can’t make up your mind one way or the other, Beyer suggests writing down a list of pros and cons of staying together over the summer. She says you should try to figure out why you’re unsure about it: “Is it that I want freedom? I’m not sure how I feel? The relationship feels unstable? Is it too much pressure?”
Beyer says that relationships take a lot of thought and care. “Nothing is ever black and white in relationships,” she says. “If you question why you’re questioning, that will lead you to the answer.”
Beyer also notes the importance of the quality of the relationship and the time that’s been invested in it. “If both [of you] feel that [you] have a relationship [you’re] both invested in and it’s working really well, the summer is not that long,” she says.
She also makes an important point in her advice about potentially deciding to stay together: “It has to be mutual,” she says.
There’s no point in guilt-tripping, bribing or even convincing your guy against his will that the two of you should stay together for the summer. Respect his own views about the relationship, because chances are if you have to convince him to stay in the relationship (or vice versa!), it won’t last very long.
Think About the Logistics
It’s obviously crucial to make sure you’re taking both your feelings and his feelings into account when making the “are-we-going-to-try-long-distance” decision, but you also have to think about potential long-distance logistics.
“Long-distance relationships can be emotionally challenging, expensive and frustrating,” Durvasula warns. “It may be … impractical to keep seeing each other.”
If you do decide you want to continue the relationship, Durvasula suggests you make a plan for it. “Tensions can rise when neither of you know what happens next,” she says.
Some possible plans include setting up Skype dates and finding a weekend to visit each other during the break, which helps you get to know each other on new turf and explore cities and childhood hangout spots together.
Spontaneity and surprises are always great, too. Spur-of-the-moment phone calls or FaceTiming can help you both stay connected. Surprise him with care packages full of his favorite treats and mail him thoughtful letters to keep the spark alive while you’re not together.
Tackling a long-distance relationship is no easy feat, but at least you can breathe easy knowing you’ll be back in the same place in the fall. Everyone’s situation is totally different, so in the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer—it’s on you two to make the decision for yourselves. Make a joint decision that will make you both the happiest in the short term and the long term!
*Name has been changed.