Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by film and writing student, Callie Schuette.
I have been seeing my boyfriend for about a year and a half now, and am really happy to be with him. We respect and love one another, plus have a lot of fun together. We’re in our senior year at college and he is applying to go to graduate school in the UK, which I’ve known he would do the entire time we’ve spent together. Despite this knowledge, I’ve only recently started to think about whether we have a future together, for the obvious reason of impending graduation. The more I thought about it, the less I could imagine losing him, even if he does get into school abroad. Basically, I realized that I’d be willing to entertain the idea of moving with him or temporarily having a long distance relationship until moving became feasible. I don’t have an attachment, professional or personal, to any particular part of the world and I’ve always wanted to move to a new city after school anyway.
The problem is, it turns out he doesn’t feel the same way. He says he loves me and that I am the number one person in his life, but that at our age and in our situation, he didn’t like the idea of either one of us building our life around the other, that we should take the example of so many others before us who met disastrous ends by doing so. He has a valid point, to be sure, but it doesn’t stop the reality of our imminent separation from hurting me. He says we have a long time and shouldn’t worry about it, and I can tell he hasn’t allowed the same reality to sink in for him yet.
How do I stay in this relationship with the knowledge that in nine months it will be over? Are we really supposed to live and love with the knowledge that, after we get our diplomas, we may never see each other again? Do I stay with him knowing this hurt will come, and if so, how do I deal? Or do I cut my losses now and live without him starting a little sooner, even though our lives here are so intertwined and trying to separate them will be hellish? — Senior Love
The sad truth: breakups are hellish. It’s going to be hard no matter when you choose to do it. However, each option does provide its own unique set of challenges. If you choose to break things off now, you will likely have to deal with seeing him around campus, occasionally hearing about him from mutual friends, and simply occupying a space where you have spent a lot of time together. If you choose to put it off, you will circumvent the mess for a while, but you will be living the next nine months with a pit in your stomach.
It speaks volumes for your relationship that your boyfriend respected you enough to be upfront with you, but the result is that you are both blessed and burdened with the knowledge that you two are simply not on the same page anymore. You see a future in your relationship, and he does not. You can try and push that fact to the back of your mind, but in doing so you risk letting your feelings over it fester. You may not be able to see your boyfriend the same way. You may find yourself constantly doubting his feelings/intentions, growing suspicious of him, or becoming resentful of him and your situation. At the very least you will lose a lot of your sense of security in the relationship itself. And of course it will still come to a close eventually.
Regardless of which route you choose to follow, I would suggest that you spend the next nine months focusing on YOU. You mentioned you “don’t have an attachment, professional or personal, to any particular part of the world.” while I respect your openness to moving somewhere totally new, it concerns me that, when contemplating your postgraduate life, the only plans you came up with were to remain tethered to your boyfriend. This is your senior year of college! A time when you are supposed to be really nailing down where it is you might like your life to go. This is the perfect time to really begin to discover yourself and your path. I recommend you research graduate school programs, look up internships in fields you might like to try out, or look into programs that would allow you to travel or spend some time overseas. Look for something YOU want to do after you graduate. You have the chance to reclaim your independence and rejoice in the fact that you are in a position where you can really make decisions just for you. Trust me, it may be wrapped in scary packaging but it truly is a gift.
On the personal side, you can work to expand and strengthen your support base outside of your relationship. Nurture your old friendships and perhaps even foster some new ones. Check out some clubs or take a course in a subject you’ve always wanted to try – you may just find some people with common interests there. Having a wider network of people to rely on will do wonders for confidence and security. Overall, whether you choose to remain in the relationship for now or not, you will benefit greatly from focusing on your growth (and your direction) and really making the most of your time left at school.
On a final note: I may be wrong, but I suspect part of the reason you want to stay in the relationship until graduation is that you hope your boyfriend may change his mind in the coming months. While I won’t say that outcome is impossible, I will remind you that he’s already had a year and a half to make up his mind. What you can certainly look forward to is eventually reaching a place where you feel grateful for your relationship, the experiences, and the growth it has provided you, but you accept that it may no longer have anything to offer you.
*Callie is a 21-year-old student and aspiring comedic screenwriter from Austin, Texas. She’s pretty well-practiced in the art of giving advice (thanks to her friends, family, and the odd stranger) and attributes her enjoyment in doing so both to her deep sense of empathy and her somewhat nerdy love of analyzing things. She also enjoys excessively long car rides, sweet thai chili sauce, and space westerns.