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Should You Break Up With Your High School SO Before College?


To LDR or to not LDR? That is the question. And it’s one that many soon-to-be collegiettes in relationships have to start asking themselves as high school days quickly start dwindling. Why? That’s when you and your SO may find yourselves heading off to colleges in different directions. Should you break up and seek new experiences? Stay together and try to push through? Which is the right decision? How do you know?

Option 1: Break up

How to tell the relationship just isn’t for you anymore

Sure, no one really likes a breakup, but it can oftentimes be the best thing for you as you transition to a completely new part of your life.

If you’re not sure what path you and your partner should take post-high school graduation, ask yourself which aspects of college you’re most looking forward to (besides academics, of course!). Parties? Greek life and formal dances? Meeting new people and becoming a more independent version of yourself? Now, ask yourself: Are those things going to be affected if you stay with your current high school SO?

“I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I realized we weren’t serious enough to make it long-distance,” says *Joanne, a junior at Notre Dame. “I couldn’t see myself missing out on classic college experiences to stay in and Skype with him or take a weekend away to visit.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decision to stay with or break up with your SO. After spending part or all of high school together, you may feel like no one could ever understand you more than the person who was always there for you. But what if you start feeling like you want something more?

“It is simply human to not want to lose the person [who] has possibly been your best friend throughout high school,” says Rhonda Ricardo, a columnist, screenwriter and author.

If you’re starting to have doubts about the future of your relationship, you are just like everyone else. “If your romantic feelings for your high school sweetheart have faded by graduation, you are in the over ninety-percentile of all teenagers on the verge of adulthood,” says Ricardo.

If you are starting to resent the fact that you are going to miss out on new college experiences or if you simply find yourself not feeling the same way towards your SO as before, the relationship may not be the best thing for you. “I started to feel differently weeks, if not months, prior to breaking up with my boyfriend,” shares Lucy*, a sophomore at John Carroll University. “I think the main thing that made me realize I needed to end the relationship was that I wasn’t excited for the future anymore. We were both going to different colleges that were very far away from each other, and all I could think about was how difficult and time consuming it was going to be. I kept thinking, ‘This really isn’t worth it.’”

Lucy adds that not everyone will have these thoughts so far in advance; many people will suddenly realize even the week before they leave for school that this relationship isn’t what they want. The most important thing is to trust your gut and do what’s best for you, no matter when you realize it.

When should you break up?

How would you feel if the night before you left for college, your SO dumped you totally out of the blue? Hurt? Angry? Confused? Completely depressed and totally not in the mood to fake being all smiles and sunshine at tomorrow’s orientation? We thought so. Lesson: Don’t do that to him if your only reason is that you couldn’t bring yourself to do it earlier. After what was hopefully a great relationship, why hurt each other?

While that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break up before graduation or even before summer, it does mean that you should seriously start thinking about what you want to do well before it’s time to pack your bags and head in separate directions.

This was a lesson Karina Reddy, a recent graduate of Boston University, had to learn the hard way. “I dated someone for my junior and senior year of high school, and we broke up when I went to the East Coast for college (I'm from Washington state),” says Karina. “I would suggest, if at all possible, to break up with enough time to allow yourself to adjust to being single again before you have to jump into a new environment. This will also keep you from feeling held back when you're immersing yourself in your new college life!”

Then again, if you have a strong sense of what your heart wants well in advance, there may not be a point in wasting any time. “I broke up with my high school boyfriend before graduation,” says Joanne. “We ended things before summer even started because I didn’t see the point in staying in a relationship when I knew there was an expiration date.” While there is no real deadline by which you have to break up, you should definitely be thinking about your options before ‘breaking up’ takes your SO by surprise.

How to communicate a break up

Communicating your thoughts about potentially breaking up with your SO is a touchy subject, especially if you still aren’t sure of whether breaking up is definitely what you want to do.

Ricardo has found that the best thing to do when talking about potentially breaking up is for both parties to take a moment and think about the future, rather than getting caught up in the emotional situation they’re currently in. When you see your potentially future ex-SO at your high school reunion, do you want things to be awkward because of how things were left, or do you want to continue to have a great relationship?

“Simply be kind, loving, caring, friendly and respectful of the relationship you have shared,” Ricardo shares. “If you use the exact words and actions you would want your high school sweetheart to employ while breaching this tender subject of parting ways with you, you can be confident that you treated your sweetheart with your very best and that your friends will also know that you handled the breakup honorably.” That’s especially key given that you likely have shared high school friends, and you don’t want to lose more than one person in this breakup.

Lucy agrees: “Communicating a breakup, or a potential breakup, is all about respect. Let your partner know that you are simply thinking things out in a rational manner, and that you want to have a chance to lay everything out on the table and know exactly where each other’s heart and mind is on the topic.” Failing to do this will result in very hurt and confused emotions later down the road.

Making sure that both you and your partner have had the chance to share your feelings on the possibility of staying together through college is key; don’t just avoid the subject until you both go to your separate colleges and try to figure it out from there.

How to get a fresh start for college

A breakup can certainly take a toll on you as you begin your first year at college. Being surrounded by new strangers who you are trying to befriend and attempting to pass classes you never knew could be so hard can make you start thinking about those carefree high school days when you were head over heels for your ex-SO.

One of the best things you can do for yourself before you transition to your new college life is to get some emotional and physical distance from your ex.

Karina shares that although she and her SO had broken up when she left for college, they would still remain close in contact. “We continued to text constantly and tell each other ‘I love you’ until he got a new girlfriend about two weeks after I left,” she says. “And then a horrible breakup ensued, along with the transition to living on my own across the country from my family, trying to make new friends and navigate college classes.”

“There are so many new people to meet when you get to college,” Karina adds. “It's hard enough to adjust to a new place where you know no one. It's even harder when you're going through a breakup.” Getting some distance from your ex and focusing on some ‘you time’ after the breakup is imperative.

Plus, a fresh, drama-free breakup can actually benefit you later on down the road! “When your first college crush asks you about your last breakup, your story of a drama-free friendly breakup will warm his heart and give him the confidence to trust you will treat him with honor too; which is a key to a long-lasting romance!” says Ricardo. Sounds good to us!

Option 2: Test it out

Should you give your relationship a test run?

Not everyone can be absolutely sure of her decision to break up with or continue dating her high school SO. If you don’t want to break up with your partner, but you don’t necessarily know how you’re going to feel after the first couple weeks or months of college, giving your relationship a test run may be the best option.

“If you really, really like each other, and you both understand what being long-distance will require, then absolutely give it a shot,” says Amanda*, a senior at William Paterson University New Jersey. “Don’t let the ‘fresh start’ college stigma influence your decision. Make sure any reservations you have come from you and not from what other people might want or think.” Hey, some people don’t want to start completely fresh when beginning college; there’s nothing wrong with bringing a little piece of home with you!

Not everyone can have such successful experiences, however. “My high school boyfriend and I tried to maintain an LDR my freshman year, but we really only made it to winter break of that year,” says Amy*, a sophomore at St. John’s University on her attempt at giving her Texas/New York LDR a shot. “We tried to have Skype dates, and he even visited me over Thanksgiving break, but our relationship just didn’t feel the same anymore.” Giving your relationship a test run see how it will play out is a great way to see whether you and your partner will both be happy given your new lives; just be sure that you don’t set your expectations too high!

What if you still don’t know?

Starting college can be scary enough. Thinking about also saying goodbye to your SO can make the future seem all the more worse. If you are totally unsure of the idea of staying with your partner, then you have some thinking to do.

Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of staying together, including being realistic about when you will be able to see each other and if the both of you will be okay if it’s not as much as you would like.

“My advice to any girls thinking about going through an LDR is to be smart about it,” says Amy. “Don’t expect things to stay the same as they were in high school, because chances are they won’t. If you think it won’t work out, even before you leave for school, don’t force yourself or your SO into trying to make it work. Talk to them about what they want too, because like in any kind of relationship, communication is key!”

Additionally, make sure you voice your opinion in the process! If your partner is the one who is all for you guys staying together, but you are just a little bit less sure, speak up! “I should have been more vocal about my feelings,” shares Lucy. “At first I thought, ‘Well, I guess I could give it a shot!’” She adds that if you are even a little bit hesitant about staying together, the best thing may be to break up.

Option 3: Stay together

Committing to each other

Every couple is different. While some may find themselves fizzling out or wanting different experiences come college, others are perfectly content staying in love with their high school SO. Neither option is better than the other; it simply depends on preference and individual’s different needs and wants. If you and your SO have been dating for a while (or just recently got together but still want to give it a shot), then go for it!

“I’ve been with my high school boyfriend for six years now, and we’ve made it long-distance despite going to schools that are four hours apart,” says Amanda. “At first it was rough (at no point would I ever want anyone to think it’s an easy thing to do), but it got easier.” While it’s difficult in a relationship where the both of you go to separate colleges, staying together is still an option!

What’s the downside?

Obviously, going to a different college than your partner comes with its pros and cons. “If you do go for a long-distance relationship, I’ve found that you really miss the little things, like being able to see each other on a bad day,” says Amanda. “That’s one of the biggest things to realize: You may go for quite some time without seeing each other.” If she’s lucky, Amanda gets to see her boyfriend once a month.

She also comments on how being at separate schools is significantly harder. “It’s already tough to not be able to see the person you love, but to also have responsibilities and obligations for your own life weighing down heavily on you makes it all feel much more difficult to handle,” she says.

Having a boyfriend who goes to a different school can definitely cut into your social, academic and personal lives. It may take more organization and effort to keep yourself from getting spread too thin.

How do you stay in touch?

Staying in touch with your SO while you’re at different schools can be difficult, especially if you’re both involved in sports, clubs, or if either of you have a job. If you’re trying to keep things fun and fresh, do more than the routine morning-to-night text conversation.

For example, if you know your SO’s exam week is approaching, send a care package filled with comfort food, a framed picture of you two and a nice, encouraging good luck card! If you’re both hopeless romantics, send love letters back and forth. Amanda also suggests setting up regular Skype dates and picking a TV show to watch each week and then to call each other on commercials. “These little things make the distance seem less severe,” says Amanda.

Ricardo suggests introducing your SO to your new college friends whenever possible, which can be done over FaceTime, Skype or even just over the phone. This is a great way not only for your SO to feel well acquainted with your new social circle, but it can also help you feel like the distance between you two is not so large after all.

How to keep it healthy, happy and growing

So, you’ve decided to stay with your high school SO. Congrats! Now, how do you prevent your relationship from getting boring? How do you stop yourselves from always thinking about the distance between you? Perhaps most importantly, how do you stop yourself from getting so focused on your LDR that your relationship starts to interfere with your academics or social life?

“Make sure that you’ve each got your own life,” says Amanda. “Set up parameters and rules and stick to them. If nightly phone calls are too much (and for some people, they are), then make adjustments so that you’re both comfortable. [For example], ‘No phone calls after 10 p.m., finals week is off limits.’ Understand that, just as you’ve got homework and club meetings and jobs, so does he.” While spontaneity is a great thing to have in relationships, sometimes it’s just not possible with an LDR.

Another thing that’s important to recognize is that you both have your own lives. “Pushing too hard to monopolize his free time (or having him try to monopolize yours) will lead to resentment,” advises Amanda. She also suggests you ask each other for best and worst times to call or text.

What about when your boyfriend visits your campus or when you visit his? This can be tricky, Amanda explains. “Because you see each other so infrequently, it may feel like there’s more pressure to ‘make the most’ of your time together,” she says.

However, don’t feel like whenever you are together that you need to go out on the nicest, most romantic date and that if you don’t, your relationship is somewhat subpar. “Sometimes you may want to plan your time together to the minute, but there will be other times when you both need a break from hectic schedules and just hang out with each other,” says Amanda. “Watch Netflix, bake cookies, whatever it is that you want to do—just make sure that you’re enjoying the time you’re spending together!” After all, if you’ve traveled a couple hours to see each other, the best thing to do may just be to relax!

No one has her life planned perfectly by her senior year of high school. Knowing whether to stay with or break up with your current SO can be an extremely difficult decision. Knowing your options, however, can get you one step closer to figuring out what is best for you, so take stock of what really matters to you.

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