Should I stay, or should I go?
March 31, 2009 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm in love, but I'm going to college.

So, in the fall of 2010, I’ll finally be going to college. Granted, I’ll be a few years older than my peers, but I’m content with my decision, and don’t regret starting school a bit off schedule.

My dilemma lies in the fact that I’ve been accepted into a respected liberal arts college in a warm climate (winter has always been pretty difficult for me, and a quality-of-life issue) that’s also a long drive away from my boyfriend. We’ve discussed this many times and agreed that it would be doable, but also stressful to go from seeing each other all the time to having physical contact once a month at best.

I’m now rethinking my options, and am considering just staying here and applying this fall to a few schools that are closer. These schools are definitely not any less good, so I wouldn’t be sacrificing my education, but I would be stuck for another four years in a climate and a city in which I find difficult to live. (But it can be done.)

But then I think, what’s the point of being somewhere I like, if I’m sad and lonely? But maybe the only reason I’m staying here is because I’m scared of the relationship not working out, and that makes me feel trapped by my own heart, and restless, and uncertain, and worried that I’m making the wrong decision.

I would like this relationship to last, and we’ve both discussed the possibility of marriage, etc. We love each other very much, but I do have my doubts sometimes, and that makes it even more complicated. I would be devastated if we were to break up, but part of me thinks that’s only the case because, like I said, I’m scared of losing him. I’m actually a pretty independent person, until I get in a relationship, so it’s not really the aftermath that I’m afraid of (though it would be painful), but the actual process of breaking up, that feeling in my stomach that makes me feel like throwing up. Even just thinking about it has my heart racing.

Again, I won't actually be going to school until fall 2010, so I do have some time. Maybe a wait-and-see approach is the best one (while at the same time applying to other schools near by just to keep my options open).

Part of me is dreading your responses, so, be gentle.

Thanks MeFi.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think its best that you focus on what's going on right now. It sounds like you won't have to make a decision now if you don't want to. Take your time. Apply to some other schools to keep your options open.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:01 AM on March 31, 2009

You'll be in university. If you are studying hard enough to get good grades, you won't have any time to go outside.

I haven't seen the sun in 10 years.
posted by jb at 7:05 AM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I do have my doubts sometimes

Which will only be amplified once you mix in distance and new people.

Look, it's a test of the relationship, not a termination point, but a transition which will tell you one way or the other if things will work with this guy now or not.

In short: Go to college. If it works out, great, if not there are a lot of other amazing guys out there to date.
posted by wfrgms at 7:09 AM on March 31, 2009

I'm not sure what you're dreading from us, there's nothing objectionable about your conflict here. At any age this is a difficult issue, and I think wait-and-see is prudent.

One solution whose viability you should determine for yourself as soon as possible is: How would you feel if your BF followed you to college? Many people would feel cramped and hedged in by this, and perhaps you think he would never move for any reason. But speaking as someone who's been in a similar bind and said things to the effect of "I ain't moving no matter what," if I had been assured that it was 100% what she wanted me to do, I would have considered it.

Apply to nearer schools for sure, but remember that the ultimate decision is yours, and your purpose is long-term happiness.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:14 AM on March 31, 2009

The most important thing in my relationship with my SO is that we each do what we need to do for ourselves, with consideration for each other. If that means being apart (which we are right now) then that's what we deal with.

You have forever to be together; you only have four years to make the best of college. And you have the luxury of being young with no real commitments besides each other. Take every opportunity you can to make your life better, and your relationship will be the better for it.

Also consider the fact that if you stay close just for him, and you are unhappy, you run a high risk of guilt on his part and resentment on yours. And those two things are very hard to deal with.

I have way too much experience in the long distance thing of late, so please feel free to mefi/mail me.
posted by anthropoid at 7:20 AM on March 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

You have plenty of time. Just relax, enjoy the relationship for what it is now, and in about a year you can start thinking more constructively about how you should proceed. You never know how you'll feel then, its a pretty long time for a relationship to develop in one way or another.

You are just torturing yourself worrying about it now.
posted by RajahKing at 7:22 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for you, but I can honestly say that the best decision I've made in life is to treat college like a new beginning. That meant moving halfway across the country and basically building a new life.

I don't know of any long-distance relationships that survived college, and I do think that the people that had long-distance SOs missed out on a lot by not going out as much, not being as interested in meeting people, etc.

But if you're young and have a good opportunity to live somewhere new then I'd really suggest you go, long-distance relationship or not.
posted by PFL at 7:22 AM on March 31, 2009

Dude, this is college. 50% of your incoming class just left behind their significant others, and they will all be there to commiserate about how much it sucks to deal with the first few months of college and a break-up. Maybe you and your boyfriend can resume a connection after you gather your bearings, but I really really suggest that you put a long-distance relationship on hold until you make new friends, select a potential major, and figure out a feasible academic schedule. Otherwise you'll be miserably video-chatting on Tuesday nights, driving long hours on the weekend to see him when you could be studying and meeting people, and generally feeling guilty and depressed all the time because he's not with you and you miss him and oh my god now you can't concentrate on your French paper.

I'm sure he's amazing and marriage-worthy and super special, but that means he'll understand that you have major life decisions to carry out and that missing him all the time will compound your workload.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:24 AM on March 31, 2009

Since we don't know you two, it's impossible for us to tell whether you should be altering your life plans around this guy or not. Any responses you get here are going to be more about the responder's own pre-college dating experience.

Bearing that bias in mind: I think you should absolutely go. If your boyfriend is willing to move to the warmer climate with you, great; but if he isn't, go anyway. If you stay, you'll start to resent your boyfriend for holding you back, and the doubts you're already having will grow. If you go, and your relationship is strong enough to withstand the long distance, great; and if it isn't, you'll be surrounded by fellow students who will in all likelihood be far more compelling than who you're surrounded by now, your boyfriend included.

Seriously: nearly none of the reasons you give for staying around have to do with the boyfriend; they're all to do with your fears of the breakup process. A breakup is temporary. If it happens, you'll get over it.
posted by ook at 7:27 AM on March 31, 2009

To the university, go.

While you're separated, you can focus on your studies and he can focus on building his life, however he wants to do that, and whenever you reunite you'll be really ready to continue.

You'll be surrounded by interesting new people; seriously, there is no easier place to make friends. It's still possible to be lonely, and you might be for the first six weeks or so, but you can pick people who interest you -- most of whom will be largely alone, too -- and see if they want to go get a sandwich or tea or something. Or study for the test. Or whatever. Seriously, you'll be OK.
posted by amtho at 7:30 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you should go to the university. You also have nearly a year and a half before this happens and a lot can happen in that time. Anyway, I think you should go and if the relationship is strong enough you'll make it work somehow. The important thing is that you don't shut yourself off to new experiences and people as that's an essential part of the college experience.
posted by ob at 7:35 AM on March 31, 2009

So, you are going to a college in a warmer climate because you hate the climate that you and your SO live in now... What's going to happen in four years, when he's still in the cold climate? Are you going to move back? Or, if he says he'll be willing to move somewhere warm with you, is he willing to do it now? I'm wondering how this is ever going to work out in the long run if you want to be somewhere warm and he doesn't want to move.
posted by amro at 7:38 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are some details here that are very pertinent that you haven't supplied--namely, what the distance will actually be between you two and what his reasons are for not coming with you to college.

My established relationship became long-distance relationship when I went to graduate school. I knew that I needed to get out of my former living situation/geographic area because it felt stifling and unhealthy for me. I had never lived out of state, something I dearly wanted to do, and for my own mental health, I needed an adventure.

But Mr. WanKenobi, who I'd been dating for five years, had two years left to go on a very long college journey. For a variety of reasons, I knew it would be unfair of me to pull him along with me. I also knew it would be unfair to myself not to go to a school that accepted me, about a thousand miles away.

I was told before I left, by many people, that long distance relationships in graduate school do not work out--that I'd break up with my "college boyfriend" as soon as I left New Jersey. I knew myself well enough to know that it wasn't true, and I knew my partner well enough to know that he wasn't going to dump me because it was the easiest option. It was scary, but I knew that it was something I had to do. After all, what would our relationship be if it didn't encourage us to be the best of ourselves?

Well, it's now two years later. I'm just about done with graduate school; he's just about done with college. We're engaged now and he's coming to live with me at the beginning of June. I'll say this: long distance relationships do suck. It's hard to watch other couples around you and to know that your partner is far away. I was sad sometimes. But I don't regret it. I've made terrific, close friends here, with both men and women. I've produced writing (I'm in a writing program) of which I'm proud. I had a chance to live in a place that wasn't slowly soul crushing. My nightly phone calls with my partner were a great support during this time, but I've become more independent, and emotionally healthier, than I could have ever imagined. It will be a relief to be local again, but again, I don't regret the distance. We did what we had to do and supported one another through it. What more can you ask of a relationship?

That being said, there were three other girls in my program in long distance relationships when we started. Two ended almost immediately. One just ended last month. Then again, there were two girls who brought their significant others with them, and only one of those couples is together today. Your twenties are a tumultuous time, and a move will make things even more tumultuous. Maybe these relationships wouldn't have ended if the girls had stayed where they were, but I'm not sure they would really be happy, either.

I guess my point is that you have to do what makes you happy. If your relationship is a good one, it will help you grow as a person and not stop you from taking necessary risks. But you should try to do what's best for yourself regardless--when you're all said and done with college, you probably won't regret moving to a place where you really wanted to be regardless of whether your relationship works out. But if you stay where you are, and your relationship ends, you might be sad that you didn't take that chance, for yourself.

Oh, and some practical long distance relationship advice: if he's only a "long drive" away--if it's a drive that's doable in a day, do try to see each other more often than once a month. Mr. WanKenobi and I saw each other every six weeks or so in the first year, and we were an airplane's flight away. Call each other daily. And have a set end date, something to plan for, for when you'll end the long distance stuff. But most importantly, trust one another. A long distance relationship needs that to survive even the first few weeks.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:58 AM on March 31, 2009

Being with a partner who's in college is difficult even when you live together, let alone when distance is added to the mix. I think you know what's coming and are wondering why you chose something that was guaranteed to cause this kind of paint to both of you, but I'll venture out on a limb to say that there was are unconscious reasons supporting this decision, and that you won't regret it.
posted by hermitosis at 8:01 AM on March 31, 2009

I've been in your boyfriend's position 4 times. It's the story of my twenties. In 3 of those relationships, we tried the distance thing. Each of those times, it took about a year to fizzle out. Each of those years compete for the "worst year of my life" prize. They were miserable, counterproductive, and expensive years. Time on the phone saying "I love you, I miss you" is time I could have spent throwing frisbees on the quad in the sunshine.

In the fourth relationship, she said, "You're great, but I don't do distance. Everyone who does it is miserable and it never works out. You'll meet another girl, and you'll be fine." I haven't talked to her since, but it was the exact right thing for her to do. She was right. I met another girl, and I was fine. I marvel at her strength and ability to learn from her own mistakes. She ignored her flaky emotions. She used her brain to make a solid decision. And while it hurt like hell, I'm also thankful that the following year isn't in the "worst year of my life" competition.

Assertiveness, directness, honesty, and the ability to decide your own best path- even when it hurts others- takes courage. And courage is never easy. I'm telling you this because I suspect that one of the reasons you are considering a distance relationship is because you don't want to hurt someone you care about.

I can't tell you whether it's worth it or not, or if your relationship is more special than my relationships were. But what I can tell you is that I'm dating a pretty cool girl right now. And I'm leaving for grad school in August. And I've already told her, "You're great, but I don't do distance. You'll meet another guy, and you'll be fine. If you want to hang out until August, then cool, and if not, I understand."

Hope this helps.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 8:06 AM on March 31, 2009

The biggest regret I have in my life is not going overseas for a study abroad program in college. I was in love, I didn't want to be away from him for so long (geez, it was only three months!!), and he didn't want me to go.

Guess what? Yeah, I didn't marry that guy. I married the guy who told me I could do anything and be anything and he would support me and stay with me no matter what. Even through a long-distance relationship, which we did. It'll be 15 years this November.

Go to school. With technology today, you can stay connected in ways that weren't possible before. Relationships that can withstand the distance are stronger in the long run, I think.
posted by cooker girl at 8:07 AM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wish, wish, wish I had not gone to a school based on proximity to a significant other. There were other factors in my decision (my parents pressured me to stay at the school as well) but the main reason that I agreed was the boyfriend. We broke up anyway, and I hated the school. I can't get that time back.

Long distance may or may not break your relationship, but staying close to home will not guarantee its success. Go with your gut.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:09 AM on March 31, 2009

Oh, and also: don't forsake the fun you can have in school for spending hours on the phone or online staying connected. That's not what I had in mind up there. Go out! Have fun! Make friends! It doesn't have to be one or the other, all or nothing.
posted by cooker girl at 8:09 AM on March 31, 2009

When I went away to college, I was separated from my boyfriend who was still in high school. We were separated for three years (yeah, there's an age gap...) but always saw each other during breaks and on weekends when one of us would drive to see the other.

It hasn't always been easy to maintain our relationship across the distance, but we (especially he) worked really hard to make things work. If you love each other enough, you can make it happen.

I say go ahead and go. Yeah, you might spend a lot of your time in college in the library, but what about those lovely weekends you'd have in the nice weather? You should apply to those other schools, but only if you're sure that you aren't making any academic compromises and that it would be the right thing for you regardless of him.

You don't want to look back and regret your decision to stay somewhere you didn't like just to be with someone with whom things eventually fell apart. Being apart will test your relationship, and should it work out, you both will be much stronger for it. That said, college is also full of attractive young men, and you might be glad you decided to break away!
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:25 AM on March 31, 2009

Oh, and also: don't forsake the fun you can have in school for spending hours on the phone or online staying connected. That's not what I had in mind up there. Go out! Have fun! Make friends! It doesn't have to be one or the other, all or nothing.

Oh yeah, I didn't mean you have to be all co-dependent with the phone calls either. Though Mr. WanKenobi and I speak almost daily (sometimes a night is missed, no biggie) sometimes the conversation will be as short as a minute or two. Don't expect, or try, to have hour-long conversations or webcam dates nightly. If you're doing that, it's a pretty good sign that you're letting your schoolwork, or your social life, suffer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:36 AM on March 31, 2009

Well, I was enrolled in Boston University, and decided to stay at a local college instead, over some girl. I now can't remember which girl, and that is pretty sad. I don't regret my decision, as who knows, perhaps the fates were saving me from some tragedy that would have befallen me in Boston. Years later I realized the girl really didn't have much to do with my decision, she was my excuse for being afraid of the unknown and not being willing to push myself. So, make sure it is love for the boy and not fear driving your behavior.
posted by jester69 at 8:45 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go to the university. I saw this situation a bazillion times and much more often than not, those who stayed behind because of a loved one ended up unhappy
/anecdote time
2 different sets of friends who were high school sweethearts. In relationship A, girl gives up chance to go to presetegious college up East to stay with her boyfriend. Relationship B, guy decides to still go away to out of state college.
Relationship A ended up unhappy and broke up a year later, while relationship B is now happily married.

That's not to say it always works out that way. But, there's something about giving up a potential at the future that seems to make people in relationship A. Whenever things are shitty, the first thought is, "Yea, well, I gave up going to university Y for you!" And/or they just start feeling resentful.
posted by jmd82 at 8:57 AM on March 31, 2009

Nthing "go to university". My life would have turned out very differently had I gone away for grad school instead of staying where I was to be with my boyfriend (now my ex-husband). One of the factors in our long-term breakup was that I taught him that I would subordinate my ambitions to his by giving up great grad school opportunity to be with him. The corrosive resentment that situation and subsequent (related) developments caused didn't kill our marriage, but it weakened it so it didn't withstand other troubles.
posted by immlass at 9:11 AM on March 31, 2009

Going will make your world bigger.

Staying for the reasons you've stated makes it smaller.
posted by Kangaroo at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Go to the school in the nice climate. If your boyfriend is the right one for you, it'll work out somehow. My high school boyfriend and I broke up before going to college in separate states, got back together later, and did a long distance relationship for awhile. We've been married seven years now. It's awesome being in the same place, but not at the expense of your dreams.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:21 AM on March 31, 2009

You say nothing about him following you to college, or what would happen if you were still together after, would you end up back in the city you find it difficult to live in?

I don't know how much older you'll be than the average student. Respected liberal arts colleges tend to be pretty immersive experiences. Unless you feel a huge gulf between you and your fellow students, you'll be busy studying, meeting new people and studying with the people you meet. My advice, go away to your 1st choice school with no expectations on either of your parts of a long distance relationship.
posted by Good Brain at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2009

Go far away, to that respected liberal arts college in a warm climate.

Given the dating pool at a good college, you'll either meet someone you like even more...


you'll be that much more impressed by your current SO, once you've compared him to the student body of an entire college, and found the latter wanting.

Besides, as someone above suggested, if you *don't* go on his account, that leaves a lot of room for petty resentment later.

If you don't go, a part of you will always wonder what you missed; if you do go, and then choose to stick with your SO, you'll *know* why he's still your SO.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:06 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

go to school. if your relationship is all you think it is, it will survive the long distance.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:38 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, I stayed nearby. My partner and I stayed together throughout all five years of college, moved in together in my junior year, and got married in my senior-senior year. My education is so-so, but I got an awesome, decently-paying job right out of school due to the practical experience I sought during school and an amazing spouse who I wouldn't dare give up for the world. I realize that by staying nearby, I took a risk regarding my relationship and autonomy, but I'm glad that I took it. If I could do it over again, I'd do the same thing. You can get an education anywhere, but after all, it's the opportunities you pursue during your education (school-to-work, networking and job experience) rather than the school you choose that make what your post-college life will be.
posted by theraflu at 12:25 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I took an amazing opportunity at a university four hours away from my boyfriend, and guess what? It didn't work out. Which sucks. But, on the optimistic hand, it did me the favor of demonstrating how committed (or not) he was at upholding the relationship. If I had stayed in my old city I may not have discovered this for a while.

There are definitely times where I say to myself, "God, if I'd stayed put I would still be with Ex-boyfriend X and we would have been so happy together!" However, contemplating the demise of the relationship I realize that this test showed a different side to X's character.

If you decide to go, please do things to keep each other in your lives! I don't mean talk all the time on the phone and visit every weekend, but make a concerted effort to send each other silly emails or text messages. The little 'I saw this and thought of you!' emails are really meaningful.
posted by amicamentis at 4:52 PM on March 31, 2009

don't be afraid to grow and become a new person. even if you are older than a lot of people who enter college, going to a completely new environment can be a refreshing way to change and learn more about yourself. it's exciting! i think you should go to the college that you were accepted to, but stay in the relationship and cross bridges when u get to them. but do be forewarned, the distance + new experiences + new people will exacerbate tensions that are already present. however, i believe in destiny and i think if u were meant to be, u will find a way to each other even if u do go far away for school.
posted by bengalibelle at 7:49 PM on March 31, 2009

Whatever you do, DO NOT change your plans in order to accomodate your relationship. You are starting college, are presumably around 18, and have a whole slew of experiences ahead of you. You may find out quickly they do not involve this current mate, and you will regret your choice until the end of your days if you do something as silly as staying home because you're afraid of the distance.

I actually made a similar mistake, and to be honest, it still kind of haunts me. Also, just remember: if things with your current beau are supposed to work out, they will. Trust me on this one.
posted by nonmerci at 11:58 AM on April 1, 2009

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