I don’t know how I feel about having a relationship through all of my years of college, when college is supposed to be that time where you have fun and experiment and be single. When I thought of myself in college, I never thought I would have a boyfriend for all of it. I wish I would’ve met my boyfriend later in life, because my problem is I can’t imagine being with anyone but him in the long run, but right now I’m only 19 and wonder if I want to be single. And then I think about how miserable I was when we were broken up, so I don’t know why I’m even wondering if I want to be single.
I love him so much; he’s my best friend, but recently I feel like we’re just super-close friends who have sex. I fantasize about other boys and imagine what it’s like to be with them. I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I CAN’T STOP THINKING about this. I think about this EVERY DAY. Hope you can send some advice! — Wondering About The Other Side
First of all, it “doesn’t sound so bad” that you are reflecting on a relationship you’ve been in for two years and that you are giving thoughtful consideration about whether it’s right for you, if it fulfills you, and whether you’d be happier out of it. In fact, rather than “sounding bad,” that sounds pretty wise and smart to me. It also sounds like you’re scared and like you feel some guilt and like you realize what it is you need but that, if you ndulge your needs and then don’t feel immediate relief, satisfaction, and fulfillment, you’re going to second-guess your decision and blame yourself for stepping off the path you were on to see whether another path might lead somewhere more interesting and exciting.
If nothing else I say resonates with you, please at least hear this: Just because a change in course doesn’t provide instant gratification, it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. And just because the path you are on feels comfortable and familiar and safe, it doesn’t mean it’s the right path. In fact, it’s when we step outside our comfort zones and let ourselves feel scared and a little panicky that we often find the biggest rewards. It’s when we delay gratification, because we know somewhere deep down that the pay-off will be better if we wait, that we are often rewarded with the biggest gifts. But those gifts don’t come without some sacrifice. It’s important to remember that sacrifice and “feeling miserable” are not hallmarks of bad decisions. They can, in fact, be hallmarks of personal growth. They don’t call them “growing pains” because they feel great.
Here’s another thing I want you to take from my advice to you: That voice you keep hearing in your head EVERY DAY that is telling you, nagging at you really, that maybe you aren’t meant to be in this relationship — that maybe this is the time to be single and not tied down to a future that you aren’t ready to commit to — is called your intuition. This is a perfect time for you to begin nurturing your intuition, listening to it, feeling its power and letting it guide you. You already know what the right decision is. Most of us usually do. But we let fear stand in the way of making it. Our intuition is the fight against that fear, yelling loudly at us to stand up and join it (or at least to follow it as it guides us through the jungle of our doubt and shame and guilt and fear). On the other side of that jungle is a wide open field. The grass isn’t greener there, but there sure is a lot of space to run around and be free. And freedom, if you let yourself discover it, is even better than greener grass. It’s not, as you might wish it were, the absence of pain or misery or fear or any of the stuff you’re scared of feeling. But it is an invitation to find peace with those feelings and to create with them the tapestry of who you’re meant to be and the life you’re meant to live. It’s a ticket to the best show in town, where the music is a symphony of all the notes you’re meant to hear — the light ones and the dark ones. The soft ones and the heavy, booming bass notes.
Finally… and this is a hard lesson to get so it may take you a while: This is your life and there is no script. That means that college is what YOU make of it. It’s whatever you need it to be. It’s whatever you decide to take from it. It’s as much a time to be single and date around as it is to find the person you’re meant to be with forever and settle into your life-long relationship at 19. There are no rules. There is no script. It’s all ok, it’s all allowed. Because, freedom.
Freedom is a little scary, right? Without a playbook, without rules, and without a script to follow, we have to embrace our personal responsibility. We have to live with the knowledge that much of our life is a result of our own decisions. And if those choices make us miserable, it’s uncomfortable to accept responsibility for that, isn’t it? I know. I get it. But that’s where that voice comes in. Our old friend, Intuition. We aren’t completely alone out there floating around, untethered. We have our intuition guiding us along. And it does a pretty kick-ass job if we let it, naggy voice and all.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.