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Should I Break Up With My High School Sweetheart?

A teen questions the future of a relationship.

Key points

  • There are many ways to approach a long distance relationship.
  • The decision to stay in a long distance relationship requires commitment.
  • Many factors should be considered before ending a relationship.

Dear Dr. G,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years. We met when we were 14 and started dating before my junior year started. When I was 16 he moved to another country so our relationship has been a long distance relationship since the very beginning. In addition to that he’s a year younger than me, so he’ll still be in school when I go to college.

I really love him a lot, but I’m scared that maybe this relationship will hold me back from making new connections, or even lead me to cheating. In addition, he’s also a bit on the jealous side, so I’m afraid he’d get jealous of my new relationships. However, I’m not sure if our relationship would change that much since it’s already a long distance relationship. I’m also terrified of breaking up because it would definitely hurt both of us a lot and could take a while for either of us to recover.
This is a massive concern for me and I just don’t know what to do. Please help me.
Thank you,
A Scared Teenager

Dear Scared Teenager,

I am really happy that you reached out to me. This summer, many teenagers going off to college are struggling with whether or not to break up or stay with their significant other. As you are aware, there are many difficulties inherent in maintaining a long distance relationship. You, unlike many of your peers, have already experienced a bit of a preview. Jealousies can develop. Your college social life could be affected and, yes, you might limit yourself from building a social circle because of the relationship with your high school boyfriend. Your concerns are warranted and I have seen them all play out in long distance relationships. Feelings have been hurt. Jealous feelings have gotten out of control and social lives have been limited. Finally, hearts have been broken.

I am not suggesting that you must or should break up with your boyfriend. Instead, I am pointing out the concerns that you are also worried about. They are valid concerns. I understand your high level of conflict about whether or not to break up. You love your boyfriend and certainly breaking up with him would be painful for both of you. Have you considered an alternative to breaking up or being fully committed? Perhaps, you would like to consider an alternative model. You may want to keep your boyfriend in your life with the understanding that you are both free to date others. This seems like a reasonable alternative particularly since you are not only going to be at different stages of your life and education but you also reside in different countries. If this makes sense to the two of you, then discuss this with your boyfriend. There has to be a mutual agreement here and a very clear understanding of expectations.

Ultimately, the two of you will decide what you want to do. If you decide to stay together and be exclusive, make sure that this is truly what you both desire. Do not stay in the relationship because of guilt or fear of hurting the other person's feelings. That would only lead to resentment and the eventual deterioration of the relationship. In addition, if you commit to the relationship then set up clear expectations of how often and how you will communicate. Communication issues have been an issue of contention in many long distance relationships. Similarly, you should both commit to respecting the idea that you will make new friends and that this is both healthy and necessary.

If you decide, on the other hand, to end the relationship then try as much as possible to do so with grace. If you feel that it is likely to significantly interfere with the new experiences that you hope to have and that the relationship may become fraught with misunderstandings and envy, then communicate that clearly and kindly to your boyfriend. Thank him for all of the good feelings and times that you shared. Try as hard as possible to express gratitude for what the two of you shared. I am a firm believer in moving on with grace if you must move on. Respect and kindness should be present in every stage of a relationship.

Good luck and please let me know what you decide and how freshman year unfolds.

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