Q&A Leave high school boyfriend move to college

I’m off to college, leaving my high school boyfriend behind. Should we break up?

Lisa McKay Advice, Q & A 2 Comments

In this week’s Question & Answer, a new college freshman writes about leaving behind her high-school boyfriend and how sad and lost she’s feeling in her new adventure. She doesn’t want to break up, but she doesn’t see how four years of long distance can possibly work, either…

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Hi Lisa,

My boyfriend and I have dated for 10 months—most of our senior year of high school.

We both live in North Carolina. I planned on going to a college in Georgia before we even started dating. He said he was planning on coming to Georgia, too, but about a month ago he got a baseball scholarship to a college here.

I was devastated. Now I’ve just moved to Georgia and he is back in North Carolina, 6 hours away.

I would be okay with doing long distance for a year, but the fact that we have to do it for four years is discouraging. We hung out almost every day for ten months, and I’m so used to being with him all the time.

I’ve only been in Georgia for three days, but I’ve been in my room almost the entire time, sad about the whole situation. Although it sounds pathetic, I feel so alone without him because he was my best and only friend in high school. I don’t want to leave him, but I also don’t want to be sad for 4 years, either.

I don’t know what to do and no one else really understands where I’m coming from. Can you help?


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Dear Miserable,

I’m so sorry you’re having such a sad start to your college experience. Moving away to college is a really big deal. It can be exciting, overwhelming, and scary all at once, even without leaving a boyfriend behind! You have a lot going on right now, and I’ve got a couple of pieces of advice for you to consider. Here goes…

1. Don’t make any quick decisions about breaking up

Now is NOT the time to decide to break up with your boyfriend. Not this week. Not next week. Not this month.

Give yourself some time to catch your breath. You are going through a season of huge changes—you’re off to college (a brand new adventure) and you’ve left behind your family and your boyfriend at the same time! That’s massive, and changes like these are stressful even when they’re also exciting.

All of your feelings are super-charged right now, and you are not in the best state to make a sensible decision about your relationship with your boyfriend. So take a deep breath, hang in there, and wait to see what you are thinking and feeling down the track a little.

2. Trust that it will get easier

Remember that this is a time of really intense emotions. But you know the funny thing about feelings? They come, and they go. They change and shift over time, even when our circumstances don’t change all that much. Emotions are transient.

So, remember, how you feel today is not how you’re going to feel every day for the next four years, even if you stay together-but-apart for that entire four years. You will feel happier again.

3. Lean into change

You are in a season of massive change. Pretty much all your old rhythms and habits are up for renegotiating—from who your friends are to what you eat for breakfast and what time you go to bed. You’ve gone from seeing your boyfriend every day and having him be your best friend, to being without him and feeling quite alone.

Your whole world has shifted and changed, and your relationship will change during this season, too. It will help to lean into that change rather than resisting it.

You’re in a brand new stage of your relationship, and that’s going to mean new patterns and habits need to be formed—a talking, texting, video-chatting rhythm that works well enough for both of you for now and also leaves you time to focus on other new things in your lives.

Things are going to feel awkward and “second-best” at first—finding a new groove is like that. Hang in there. Try to focus a bit more on finding the new normal and a bit less on grieving the way things were.

4. Put time and energy into establishing your new life in Georgia

You are at college!! A college you wanted to go to—a place of new learning and new adventures. A place that (for better or for worse) will become an important chapter in your life story.

And, dear Miserable, you will be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t start focusing on building a life there.

You know something that concerned me in your letter? It was when you wrote that your boyfriend was your best and only friend in high school.

I know how that feels. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. A lot! I lived in places where I had virtually no friends, and I lived in places where I had lots. And I was always always happier in places where I had good friendships. I cannot even begin to tell you how important having friends is, and college is a fabulous place to make new ones.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily easy to make new friends, even at college. But it’s easier. Everyone is in transition at college. Everyone is forming new relationships and friendships.

You should be, too.

If you don’t remember or act on anything else in this letter, I hope you follow this one piece of advice: Make friends. Find people who spark a certain interest in you. People you share some interests with. People somewhat similar to you. People who seem kind.

Make friends with these people. Keep showing up and spending time with them, and it will happen. With some of them, at least.

If you only focus on making new friends, OK. That’s the most important thing. But if you want some other ideas of ways you can help yourself feel happier and healthier along as you start college, check out this post on 10 Things You Can Do Today To Make You Happier And Healthier In Your LDR. There are lots of good practices in there.

5. Take it a couple of months at a time

Once you put the first four pieces of advice into action, take a breather. You’re not going to make a quick decision about breaking up, so tell yourself you’ll see how things are going in a couple of months, during Christmas break.

Don’t focus on the fact that you might have four years of long distance ahead of you if you choose to stay together. That will overwhelm you. Just focus on the next couple of months, and then you can focus on the couple of months after that.

(And, don’t forget, you might not have four years apart ahead of you, either. One of you could seek a transfer a couple of years down the track. But don’t think too much about that now, the point is not to focus too far into the future at this stage.)

6. Meet halfway

You’re probably going to do a lot of “meeting halfway” in the next couple of months.

Some of the meeting halfway will be figurative, as you have to compromise and adjust to new ways of connecting and communicating.

But some of the meeting halfway can be literal, too.

Figure out what towns there are between you, and scope out the ones that are about halfway. A three hour drive for each of you (if you both have a car. or if there are bus or train connections) is a lot easier than a six hour drive. If you can find a budget place to stay, or crash with friends, you’ll be able to see each other more regularly. But, remember, don’t schedule visits every weekend, or even every second weekend! You need some time to focus on finding fun and new friends in Georgia, too.

Oh, dear Miserable. I hope so many things for you. I hope that you find your feet quickly in Georgia, that sunshine returns to your heart and your life, and that you find fabulous new friends to share your college years (and beyond) with.

And I hope you and your boyfriend find a new groove that works for you both.

Hang in there.


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Comments 2

  1. I think these tips are WONDERFUL! Especially taking it a few months at a time. I am almost 3 years into a 4 year LDR (I’m in Canada and my fiancé is in New Zealand) and it has been hard, but not as hard as you think it will be. The distance will enhance your communication and the time together will be SO rewarding!! 😀

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