Your SO just finished up with his teaching degree; You’ve got another year left at your university. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, one of you is gone while the other is still going for that higher education.
Break up or stay together? Here’s how to decide
Consider the challenge
If you do decide that, hey, your SO is worth it, don’t go in with a completely happy-go-lucky attitude. Optimism is recommended, but keep in mind that it’s going to take some serious work to make this last.
“Continuing a relationship when one person is still in school and the other has graduated can be a tremendous challenge,” says Abiola Abrams, author and publisher of the women’s empowerment blog Sacred Bombshell. “Although you are not separated that much by age, you are really living in two worlds. When your issues include whether the caf serves enough gluten-free offerings and your partner is concerned with real-world survival issues like paying bills, there can be a chasm in your relationship.”
Suzanne Oshima, dating coach at Single in Stilettos, echoes these sentiments. Priorities will differ, and this could create a gap, however big or small.
“When one person has graduated from college and the other is still in school, it may be difficult to maintain the relationship, as they are going to be at different stages in their lives and their priorities will be completely different,” she says. “The person who graduated from college is going to be taking a big step in his or her life. This is the time where he or she is going to be making some very adult decisions on his or her own. The person who is still in college will have completely different priorities, depending on what year she or he is in school.”
You’re off in New York trying to make it in the magazine biz and he’s just trying to pass his chem final. That can create a bit of an awkward gap in the relationship, and it’s important to recognize this upfront. You’re at different points in your life, and therefore, different maturity levels. This is something that needs to be understood and taken into consideration. If you think your connection with your SO is tough enough to survive this, great! It’s worth a shot. If you’re looking for an easy-peasy love affair, it’s probably best to let this dude go.
Be honest with each other
Again, continue to reflect on this. Does your SO want to continue what you have going? Do you? Keep thinking before you decide to have a serious talk with him or her, and be sure to write down your thoughts and feelings! It’s important to sort out all of your reflections beforehand. And then, be honest — with yourself first, and then with your SO.
“First, you should both be honest with each other about who you are and where you are in life,” Abrams says. “Don’t just cling to the relationship because it’s the safe choice. Open and honest communication is key to helping the relationship survive.”
Dating coach and speaker Sandra Fidelis agrees that having a free-flowing conversation is essential.
“It’s important to have an open and honest discussion regarding the direction in which the relationship is headed and about what each partner expects going forward,” she says.
Before the big change happens, meet with your SO face-to-face in a quiet environment. As Abrams suggests, don’t hang on just because you feel like you need someone; If you know you’re only hanging on because of this, voice it. And if you really and truly do want to keep your SO? Tell him or her and encourage total communication on his or her end: “Hey, Trevor, I love you and I want this to last. What are your thoughts on this relationship? Are you at all concerned about the distance? Please be entirely open with me.”
Staying together? Here’s what to do
Cut out relationship time
Hooray, you decided to go for it! Next step: cutting out specific time for this guy (and he for you).
“Be sure to create dedicated ‘together time,’” Abrams says. “Learning something new together will help keep you bonded. If you are separated by distance, schedule your phone calls so that you’re not intruding on each other.”
Try a phone call a day, or (of course) Skyping every other day. Work out times that are good for the both of you—a time when he’s not stressed by his new big-boy job and you’re not frantically studying for that Spanish vocab quiz. Whenever the both of you have some downtime, communicate! Technology is totally awesome and key for LDRs.
Find a shared interest
As stated by our experts, your priorities will begin to differ from his, or vice versa. This is why it’s so important to find something in common.
“Since the school experience will no longer be shared, it’s a good idea to find a common interest, a hobby or an activity that both partners enjoy,” Fidelis says. “This new activity can serve as common ground just as the shared school experience had done before.”
If neither of you know how to play chess, make a pact to learn and play over Skype. If you’re not much into throwing tiny knights off platforms, read books, flip through magazines and skim articles and YouTube vids together — Skype allows for those type of things! You could also start a blog together. It could document both of your diverse lives and the challenges (plus rewards) of staying together while apart. So aww-worthy.
Have actual dates
Who says date nights are dead once the change strikes?
“Date nights are a great way for the couple to regularly connect and maintain the bond as strong as it was when they shared their school experience,” Fidelis says.
Whether you’re across the country or a couple of cities away, make clear-cut visit time. You or your SO could be traveling a half hour by car or three hours by plane, but if this relationship is important to you and your SO, both of you will (literally) go the distance for the other.
And for those nights when you simply can’t be together? Skype, Skype, Skype—we can’t reiterate it enough. Watch a movie together. You can start a Netflix film at the same time, or you can try using Rabbit, a great site for watching videos with someone who’s not in the same room. Eat dinner together! Wear something sexy (your favorite little black dress?), set up candles and cook something awesome. Have him do the same (sans the little black dress—a nice shirt will do). It may not feel exactly the same as being together in person, but hey—LDRs are about a thousand times easier than they were 20 years ago. Keep that in mind. You can do it!
LDRs are never easy, especially when the both of you are at completely different stages of life. But if you both see a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s worth sticking it out. After all, college is only temporary!