Behind Closed Doors: Losing the training wheels, whether to stay together or break up before college

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August 23, 2012

7:42 PM

Going to college with a significant other from high school can feel a lot like riding a bike with training wheels. It’s comfortable and safe, but you can’t go much of anywhere with them. It’s tempting to use that person as a security blanket for when things (new classes, new places, new people) just seem like too much to handle. On the other hand, some relationships that start in high school grow and prosper with the space and freedom inherent in starting college. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know whether your significant other is going to be the wind beneath your wings or a pair of training wheels you eventually outgrow.

How do you decide whether or not to try to stick it out, especially if you’re at different schools? If you have already been together for a long time and everything seems to work, and if you’re happy more than 80 percent of the time, I’m of the opinion that you owe it to yourself and to your partner to at least give staying together a shot. Don’t just toss something great aside for “the typical college experience.” If you find that your relationship is no longer making you happy and becomes a source of stress and frustration, you can then let it go with the knowledge that you did everything you could. Conversely, if you haven’t been together that long, if your partner (or you!) are possessive and jealous, or if you just can’t imagine a future with your significant other, let that security blanket go. That person is not likely to help you reach your full potential —academically, socially or otherwise.

The decision gets especially tricky if your significant other is still in high school, because he or she is almost certainly going to want to stay together. And why not? His or her life isn’t about to change drastically and you already have a very comfortable and well-defined role in it. To that I say, good luck. If the relationship meets the aforementioned stipulations (happy, long duration, etc.) by all means, try to make it work. However, I recommend being observant and open minded, because a lot of change happens between high school and the end of your first semester of college. This fact is why many, many, relationships end at, or around, Thanksgiving break. If you make it past Turkey Day with your high school relationship still intact, you are at a great advantage in making it work past that point.

All that being said, life is completely unpredictable and if I had listened to my own advice, I would not currently be with my significant other of three years. The summer after I graduated from high school, my best friend, who’s a year older than I am, ended his four year relationship at the same time I got dumped after three years. We hooked up, while drinking, for the first time a week after my relationship ended. We decided to just have a summer fling and spent the next three months attached at the hip. At the end of the summer, neither of us wanted to call it quits, so we decided to try to make the 2.5 hour distance work. Three years later, we’re very happy, very in love, and our seemingly doomed romance is still going strong.

To recap: my partner and I got together as drunk rebounds the summer before I was a college freshman, and against all odds have made it through three years.

On the other hand, nearly all of my friends who had steady, sober, relationships through high school broke up before Thanksgiving freshman year. That does not mean that I would suggest taking the route that I did as far as romance goes, but I do hope you keep an open mind and an open heart when it comes to your relationships. You’re just as likely to have a failed relationship as a successful one, and all you can do is give it the old college try. Just try not to hang onto those training wheels if all they’re doing is holding you back.

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