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 prolific DW commenter and social media consultant, Sarah Huffman.
Do you know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is? It’s you being nervous making your relationship a long distance one, so you change your behavior to make moving seem like it was a wrong decision the whole time. It’s being scared that you and your boyfriend might break up, so you emotionally shut him out and don’t confide in him which could easily end the relationship on its own, with or without distance. It’s knowing that being in a new place alone can make a person feel lonely, so you shut out any chances at hanging out with classmates therefore making yourself feel lonely and anti-social. Grab a crystal ball, girl, because you are creating your own prophecy.
But don’t let it discourage you. We all have self-fulfilling prophecies. I warn myself that if I buy Pop-Tarts, I’ll gorge myself on them til I’m ill. It isn’t until I’m staring at the bottom of my boyfriend’s Pop-Tart box in the bathtub crying with the lights off (that’s my secret eating place) that I realize that I was the one who talked my boyfriend into buying Pop-Tarts in the first place. But somewhere between crumbs stopping up the bathtub drain and my boyfriend not eating breakfast for a week, we have to learn to stop the problem in its tracks.
A big part of your problem is in your statement: “There is really no time to balance school work, social life and a long-distance boyfriend – something’s gotta go.” You see, you haven’t actually balanced anything. You spend too much time without breaks doing schoolwork when you’ve already said it’s stressful; you reject going out with classmates because you think they have different priorities (I’m sorry, but fun should not be a different priority to you) which makes you feel anti-social; and you’re pushing yourself away from your boyfriend even though you miss and love him so much. I wouldn’t call that “balancing” as much as would “hanging for dear life over a pit engulfed with flames and chimps (what? Chimps are scary)”.
Get a calendar, get a pen, get a Pop-Tart, and start adjusting. Your whole schedule needs a reboot. From now on I want you to treat your free time like the most precious thing in the world. Your free time is Unicorn tears. Include as much time as possible to balance out school, LDR, hanging out with people, and hanging out by yourself. Yeah, that means less time to drop everything to see your boyfriend. But guess what? If your boyfriend is any kind of a stand-up guy, he doesn’t want you to make yourself miserable to see him more. In fact, a good boyfriend would want you to see him less if it meant your life was in a better place. That doesn’t mean being more distant with him; in fact, just the opposite. Call your boyfriend more, and for sweet Pete’s sake, start confiding in him. The more things you do to make yourself happy while you’re there, the easier it will be to tell your boyfriend about your life. Have HIM come out to YOU. If he can’t, *heavy sigh*, then spend more time emailing him. Plan Skype dates. Plan naughty Skype dates (is there any other kind?). Plan weekly time to hang out with other people. Force yourself. Every week it will get easier.
Give it your best try there and if in a semester you really don’t want to keep up your LDR or you want to transfer schools, you’ll know that you gave it your best shot and you wont have any regrets.
* Sarah Huffman is a social media consultant who is freelancing art and photography along the way. She lives in Hollywood with her boyfriend, David, and their two cats, Mia and Daphne. She likes spending her free time spying on the neighbors through her window and ruining her boyfriend’s Netflix recommendations by watching bad reality wedding shows and movies starring Sarah Jessica Parker.
theattack October 27, 2011, 7:23 am
As someone else in a long distance relationship while finishing school, I respectfully disagree with Sarah. The LW isn’t worried about her boyfriend being sad when she doesn’t get to see him. She WANTS to see him! And balancing an LDR, schoolwork, and in-town friendships is almost impossible, I agree. In order to see a bf, you have to use weekends. If you leave town on the weekends, you don’t have time to do things with friends then, which is what gets you in their close circles. I feel that this advise is dismissive of her real problem here.
LW, my main question is about how long your program is, and how serious you are with your boyfriend? If you have an amazing relationship, I wouldn’t want to give it up either! And it truly is much easier to balance everything when you’re not driving all over the place every other weekend, belieeeeve me! If your school program is only a year, I would go ahead and push through. Two years or longer? You’ll truly just have to weigh it out on your own. I know myself that if I had an opportunity to be close to my boyfriend while finishing school, I would. You say that your current school is great, but I”m wondering what the schools close to him are like. In most cases, a degree is a degree. Unless your opportunities at your current school are crazy awesome, I wouldn’t hesitate so much to transfer.
And don’t worry about what your boyfriend thinks about you for transferring! Don’t explain it that you couldn’t do it, because you CAN. But why waste X years of your life being miserable when you could make a change to alleviate some of that stress?
BecBoo84 October 27, 2011, 10:16 am
I agree with everything you said x100!
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:23 am
I’m glad someone does! I was feeling pretty alone being the only person who thinks she should transfer if she wants to be with him!
Betsy October 27, 2011, 10:25 am
“Unless your opportunities at your current school are crazy awesome, I wouldn’t hesitate so much to transfer.”
I imagine that these opportunities rely heavily upon networking, which she can’t do well if she isn’t making friends and skipping town on the weekends. I vote for transferring to a school closer to the boyfriend. As stated above a degree is a degree, and great career opportunities can be hollow without having a fulfilling homelife.
caitie_didn't October 27, 2011, 11:13 am
You guys are all assuming that transferring at the graduate level is easy. It’s really not. Particularly if you’re a researcher and the school is paying you to be there, quitting a graduate program (barring a SERIOUS extenuating circumstance- this would not count in the eyes of the admissions committee) indicates a serious lack of forethought and commitment and that is typically not something graduate programs want associated with them when there are lots of other really committed candidates.
Not to mention that I’ve never heard of a graduate program that will let you transfer in from a different school after your first year. She’d most likely have to re-apply to a different program and start from square one.
Rachel October 27, 2011, 12:41 pm
Ah, thanks Caitie. I made the same point below but you had already made it better!
Sarah October 27, 2011, 11:42 am
She wants to see him, so she makes herself miserable by having no friends, working too hard without breaks, and then emotionally withdrawing from said boyfriend?? Transferring to a closer school wont make her stop giving up too much of herself for a relationship she’s afraid of losing, she needs to learn how to not do that wherever she is. And potentially sabotaging her school year for her bf and leaving wont make things easier if she can’t enroll in a new school as easily when she gets home, that’s why I told her to wait a semester. That way she gives it a good college (lol) try to adjust what she needs in her life without making a rash decision.
And everyone has time to balance school, friends, and a boyfriend, even grad students. Hell, a lot of people do it with a job to boot.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 12:20 pm
I found graduate school with a LDR to be easier than the day in day out stress of small children. If their relationship can’t weather a long distance between them I’m not sure that it could weather children if they got married and had them. I’m curious if other parents feel the same way?
GatorGirl October 27, 2011, 12:43 pm
I completely agree. LDRs are very challenging and require a ton of communication and trust. My BF and I learned so much from ours, and we’ve become a much strong couple because of the 900 miles that were between us. We like to think we learned a lot from our LDR phase that will be useful for during other challenging times in our relationship (moving in, kids, mid-life crises).
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:09 pm
Maybe it can weather long distance, but why put yourself through it when you don’t have to? My bf and I are certainly MUCH stronger because of all we’ve gone through with the distance. But do I want to move to be closer to him regardless? Hell yeah I do. Hardship makes you stronger, but it doesn’t mean you have to go through it just to prove that you can. That’s absurd.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 12:22 pm
“Transferring to a closer school wont make her stop giving up too much of herself for a relationship she’s afraid of losing, she needs to learn how to not do that wherever she is.”
THANK YOU. I think this is what I’ve been trying to say, but just couldn’t figure out what exactly it was. I think people are under the impression that moving to be with her boyfriend will magically solve all of her problems…but it absolutely won’t. Balance can be off when you’re 3,000 apart…or when you live a mile down the road.
Painted_lady October 27, 2011, 12:42 pm
And also, there’s ALWAYS going to be a lot of work, and she’s still going to not have any friends if she’s spending all her spare time with her boyfriend. In grad school I had fellow students who were married who still put the networking relationships and friendships at a premium, and then the ones who went home every night to their SOs. Sure, the marrieds’ priorities were different than a lot of the single folks, but then all the single folks all had different priorities, too – some were looking to hook up, some wanted to make lasting friendships, and some were just hoping these people would get them jobs come graduation. Either way, the ones who made grad school and those relationships one of their priorities, spouse or no, were the ones who did well after graduation.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:06 pm
I don’t see any other problems to solve here besides the distance. We don’t know that she gives too much of herself for the relationship in general. When the main problem is distance, yes, moving will fix that problem. And yes, she needs to find a balance, but there is nothing wrong with taking one of the major barriers to that out of the picture. It absolutely IS easier to find a balance for stuff when your relationship is in person than when it is long distance. When it’s in person, you can spend time together without really using up your time for other stuff. You can brush your teeth together, eat dinner together, meet up for lunch, grocery shop together. With an in person relationship, you can multitask your relationship time with the stuff you’re already doing. With long distance, you have to set aside more time for each other than you would otherwise, which means that you’re losing time you could be doing other things like studying or making friends.
Rachel October 27, 2011, 12:40 pm
I don’t know what field she’s in, but if it’s any sort of research field, you can’t just transfer. It’s not like undergrad where you have credits that transfer over. You get in because there is a spot for you to work on a project, and if you decided to up and go somewhere else, you would have go through the application process all over again.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 1:08 pm
I’m sorry, but most times “a degree” is NOT “a degree”. I am certainly not looking down on anyone, and I hesitate to even mention it, but that attitude has gotten a lot of people into a lot of debt and not a lot of job offers. If she’s going to the top school in her field, and the other options are pretty good, but their departments aren’t as strong in the particular field, or just kind of good schools but not noteworthy, her options afterwards are really going to be different.
cporoski October 27, 2011, 2:36 pm
I totally agree. I think this sacrifice will hang over thier relationship for a long time. If he loves her, he will think she is worth the wait. It is short term so why not just stick it out. Plus, is there any way he can move closer to you? What is holding him to his location?
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 7:37 am
Here is the source of the problem: “…and because of…pressure from everyone (including him) I chose the more prestigious, far-away program. ”
You weren’t comfortable in making the decision you wanted, so you allowed yourself to be persuaded by others into making the choice. So, YOU need to either decide that you’re going to stick it out at that more prestigious, far-away program, or you transfer to a local one. But, it has to be the choice that you want, not one that you feel you think others think you should make. This is your life, and part of being an adult is not only making your own decisions but being accountable for them.
A strong long-distance relationship can be maintained through a several year separation, if both parties are content with it. It helps that you know of an “end date”, and you can focus on your studies and developing a social network. However, if you are not content with a long-distance relationship, you have every right to decide that you want to move closer to your boyfriend. Again, you have options. Don’t be miserable because you feel like you’re going to disappoint others, especially your boyfriend. No one – especially him – would want you to feel like that.
Good luck, LW.
Budj October 27, 2011, 9:26 am
This…if she didn’t want the prestigious school, but a more balanced life (balanced is relative for everyone) and felt being closer to her boy friend would have gotten that then the whole issue started when she didn’t listen to what she wanted for grad school in the first place.
It’s probably a pain to transfer out at this point, but if this program is ~1.5 in the grand scheme of life that isn’t that hard to work through if you have a strong relationship with your BF and a mutual desire to see it through.
Also work on letting your guard down…it’s tough to be in a relationship with someone that hides all of their weak moments and I agree with Sarah that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that aspect. Your BF can’t be there for moral support if you are secluding these feelings to yourself.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 9:51 am
At this point in time it’s also too late to transfer to a program closer to home so she would have to wait until next year to start over and so would be a year behind. She would also have to explain why she quit her prestigious program. I was homesick, found it too difficult or missed my boyfriend don’t sound good to the people considering her. It sounds too much like I quit easily. Also, if she has student loans she would have to start repaying them within six months of leaving school and she wouldn’t be able to start a new program that quickly and once you being paying your loans you can’t quit until they are paid in full.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 9:53 am
Tried to say, once you begin paying your loans you can’t quit until they are paid in full.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:05 am
Transferring and loans don’t work like that. If you’re still in school but it’s just in another place, you don’t have to start paying it yet. She could definitely still get into school for next year if she applies to transfer in the next couple of months.
And of course you don’t tell the truth about why you’re transferring like that. You can say that you re-evaluated your priorities in what qualities you prefer in a program. You can say that you enjoy opportunities X, Y, and Z that new program offers. You can even say that you’re passionate about the community where the program is located (Depending on your major, this could be an asset to the program). When I transferred schools, I never told my new professors that I transferred because I was incredibly depressed in my last school and I had experienced sexual assault and trauma while I was there that made it impossible for me to stay there. I told them that I preferred the environment of the new school. That I wanted a new major that the old school didn’t offer (but this was actually true for me). That the program I was in had differently philosophies than the program I was transferring to, and I was passionate for the new one.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 10:13 am
It sounds like you had a terrible trauma at your original school and I’m sorry that happened to you and glad you made it to a better place.
If she drops out now and doesn’t start again until next fall then she will be out of school for over six months and have to start repaying loans if she has them. If she stuck it out for this academic year and then transfered she wouldn’t have to start repaying loans because she would only be out of school over the summer.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:21 am
Ohh, I misunderstood what you were saying. I definitely think she should stick out the rest of the year until she can transfer. Otherwise she’s wasted her time taking her current classes. Most of them should be able to transfer probably.
Christy October 27, 2011, 10:29 am
In grad school, classes don’t really transfer at all, actually. You might be able to get a couple of credits out of it, but the likelihood of a whole year transferring is slim.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
And the research doesn’t transfer at all so even if the classes transfer it’s irrelevant to the amount of time it will take to get through.
My husband ended up moving countries because after he started his PhD his advisor moved from an English university to an American university and my husband had the choice of moving or starting over. The entire group moved because a graduate degree is completed under one person.
Budj October 27, 2011, 10:16 am
Well I was thinking more along the lines of she is already there…and the first year is about half over…so if it isn’t a phd program, but a masters then she should just suck it up. It would be terrible to waste a year of grad school payments at a good school because you missed your boy friend…not to mention most of the time if you transfer programs you start back at 0.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 1:21 pm
We should consider that it may be med school or law school. In those cases, the credits totally transfer and transferring is common place. Just worthy of noting in the “you can transfer”/”you can’t transfer” discussion.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 1:22 pm
And those are 3 and 4+ years, which is a little long to “stick it out.”
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 1:35 pm
Med school and law school aren’t master’s programs.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 1:59 pm
very astute. And I should learn how to read.
Addie Pray October 27, 2011, 7:46 am
Another question that I think is important: where do you want to end up? Back in the city where your boyfriend is? Or some cool, faraway place where you’d absolutely need a degree from a fancy school to even be considered? I ask because if it’s the former, you may very well be better off with a degree from a school in that same town, even though it’s less prestigious. I don’t know what program you’re in, but I went to law school and can say: if you want to end up in the town where your boyfriend is, go to a lawschool in that town. It’ll be easier to get a job there; firms recruit locally. If you guys want to move to NYC or London or some other hip city where everyone wants to go, stick it out, get your degree from the fancy place. … Or maybe you guys haven’t even broached the subject yet. From how much you love and adore him, I would think that you have. But you also say you’re afraid to confide in him about this, so maybe you’re not that close yet. And if that’s the case — YOU KNOW WHAT, WE MAY NEED A DENNIS FLOW CHART HERE — then I say follow Sarah’s advice, first, give it your all and see after a semester if you’re still miserable. It sounds like you haven’t really given it a shot yet.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 10:42 am
I second the Dennis flow chart idea.
FireStar October 27, 2011, 8:30 am
Your boyfriend encouraged you to go to the better school and in doing so he knew sacrifice would be involved. If you are not sharing with him about the pressure you are under, you are doing him the disservice of not letting him sacrifice anything for you. How do you know he doesn’t have a brilliant idea to lessen your stress? I think Sarah is dead on. Maybe set a schedule for visits etc. so that you have time when one of you isn’t visiting the other to shore up your local social life. I’ve done long distance with a boyfriend while in school. It is not impossible – not unless you choose to make it so. You priority shouldn’t be your boyfriend it should be YOU and making sure you have balance in your life. If your boyfriend loves and supports you that is exactly what he would want.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:11 am
While her priority should be herself, one of the ways she can put herself first is by seeing him when she wants to. I know that if I don’t see my long distance boyfriend for a few weeks, I get distracted from other stuff because I miss him so much. Part of taking care of myself is seeing the people I love. It seems that it’s the same for the LW.
I agree that she should bring this up with her boyfriend first, but if she needs him in her life more, then by all means, she should make the necessary changes to make HERSELF happy.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 10:44 am
While I somewhat agree with prioritizing herself could include moving to make herself happier to be by him, I have to wonder how HE would feel. It seems like he really wanted her to go to this amazing school. She should discuss it with him first, talk about options and how each one would play into the grand scheme of things.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:52 am
Of course she should discuss any major changes in their relationship with him first.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 11:14 am
She should, but she’s not. She’s worried about ruining his image of her being able to do anything by confiding in him. Honestly, she may not have needed to write in to DW at all if she had discussed it in depth with him.
FireStar October 27, 2011, 11:06 am
To me her letter wasn’t I miss him so much I can’t function – her letter was I don’t think I can balance all of these things in my life. The way to do that is scheduling. I agree with Kerrycontrary – I found the part about having MORE time with a LDR to be true for me too to since I could schedule the visits – look forward to them – and have my other weekends free and my evenings free for school work or friends. What was important was that my then BF and I had clear expectations regarding the time we could spend with each other. No one felt torn or neglected because everything was already agreed to. I’m not someone who believes my partner should be EVERTHING to me. In my case I dated my then BF for 3 years long distance and another year and a half in the same city. He was a great guy but I’m not with him anymore… but I still have my degree and am still good friends with some of the girls I met when I was in school.
Kerrycontrary October 27, 2011, 8:31 am
LW, I’ve been in a similar situation and thankfully just finished it!! I went to grad school 3 and a half hours away from my boyfriend. I had made the decision to go there before we had even met so I hadn’t made the decision based on anyone other than me. I had to balance full-time course load, reading and papers, a 20 hour a week job, and my LDR the entire time. I understand where you are coming from when you have difficulty making friends and forming relationships. I could see people from my classes at happy hours during the week, but I was usually gone or doing fun stuff on the weekend with my boyfriend. While this should not stop you from being friendly to everyone and going to the occasional happy hour, you are right in that you have different priorities. You want to breeze through this master’s program and be with your boyfriend. If they are single, they are enjoying this time and the new experience and probably looking for a boyfriend (or girlfriend) along the way. But if they are married with kids, and many people that attend graduate school are, they are just trying to get through it to improve their career. What I’m saying is, everyone in your program has different priorities from one person to the next and yours are not wrong. Oh, and being in a LDR during grad school was actually EASIER than a relationship where my boyfriend was close. I could just focus on work/school/homework during the week rather than throwing a boyfriend into the mix as well. So try and focus on the positives. My advice? Stick out the 2 years (I’m assuming your masters is 1-2 years). They will go by quicker than you think and as long as you and your bf have an end plan, your LDR won’t be permanent and the wait will be worth it. Plus, there is an OFF chance that you and your boyfriend won’t work out. So you might not always have your boyfriend, but no one can take your education away from you.
FireStar October 27, 2011, 9:31 am
NOLAGirl October 27, 2011, 8:42 am
I agree with Sarah here. As someone who was in a LDR, in graduate school AND holding down a job it’s possible to juggle and to get the best of both worlds. The key is that you have to WANT to make it work. I managed to have friends, a social life and see my boyfriend. Granted, I didn’t see him as often as I probably could have (and that is part of him being an ex, hah. There were plenty of OPPORTUNITIES to see him and I saw him relatively often). But you have to find a way to compartmentalize your life. You have specific times for work, for friends, for BF, for school. The biggest key in this whole thing is to schedule things. Schedule, schedule, schedule. When you’re in graduate school most of the socializing ends up being lamenting the fact that you have no life because you sold your soul to the Department. Here’s a secret, most graduate students that I’ve known feel overwhelmed, stressed and never feel like they have time. They won’t hold it against you if you don’t have time either. Plan to get drinks after class, or get together to talk about Gramsci and lament not being stuck in an Italian prison. oh wait.
But seriously, even juggling all that I ended up making friends with a couple people from grad school who I am still friends with to this day (even though we’re half way across the US from each other). Have people over to your house, cook dinner, do something low key and find a way to make the most of your time. Everyone has to eat. Why not use your week nights to socialize and keep the weekends for school and the boyfriend. If your program is anything like mine was, you spend SO much of your time with your cohort while you’re at school, it kind of bleeds over into the outside world.
My suggestion is to sit down with your calendar and seriously plan out your week. Take school and your extra-curriculars and make them like a job during your week and save your weekends as best you can for your boy. Good luck!
amber October 27, 2011, 10:55 am
i’ve worked at two graduate schools and i completely agree with your comments. we all know grad students are busy, but the ones i was friends with managed to go out to see movies, have parties, cook dinner with each other, etc. and some of the them did have SOs and were in a LDR. and you know what, they still managed to attend some of these events. like you said everyone is in the same boat, they know you don’t have a lot of time. and if they don’t yet, and you’re in a program where you have to do you own research, they will soon.
GatorGirl October 27, 2011, 9:11 am
LW, like many of the other commenters, I’ve been in a similar situation to yours. My BF was (still is) in a Phd program in Florida and I lived in Pennsylvania. We made a commitment to go no longer than 6 weeks with out seeing each other and to make daily phone calls, e-mails and texts. It was a struggle, but we made it through almost 3 years of this and I moved 4 and a half months ago to FL.
My advice would be to stay in your program and spend your weekdays focused on schoool work and your weekends focused on your relationship. Sit down and talk to you BF about your concerns and struggles. Make a plan with him for when and how you’re going to stay in touch AND keep up with it. Make countdowns for each visit and get excited for them. Buy new undies and go on a hot date, keep your spark alive. Don’t scarifice your education, you can have both.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 9:44 am
It sounds like you’re asking for permission to use your LDR as an excuse to run away from your graduate program. I can’t think of a worse thing you could do to your relationship because you then transfer the hopes and aspirations for the graduate program to the relationship. It becomes a situation where the relationship just has to work because look at the prestigious degree you gave up for the boyfriend. Also, if you can’t confide your fears to your boyfriend then your relationship hasn’t got the depth or the intimacy needed to be a lasting relationship. You can do more for your relationship by starting to confide in your boyfriend than you ever could gain by quitting your program. Say something along the lines of…I’m worried about this (test, paper, research) because….then tell him all about it. You’ll develop a new level of trust and intimacy in your relationship that will allow it to grow into a partnership that can last a lifetime. If you can’t tell him about this how will you talk to him about anything important in your life?
When I was in grad school and in a LDR (over 1000 miles apart) the grad students mostly socialized at lunch because we lived over a scattered area and many of the students were married and went home to their spouse in the evening. You probably won’t be friends with everyone but you will find that there are a few students you have a lot in common with or can sit and talk with and you gravitate to those students and they can become lifelong friends. It does take a little time for that to happen and you have to give it the opportunity to happen.
As far as the program being difficult, of course it is, that’s why it’s prestigious. But, they looked at your application carefully and felt you had what it takes to be successful in their program. Probably most or all of your fellow students are also stressed and having to adjust to the workload and demand of the program. Most will be successful and you can be too if you hang in there. You’re surrounded by other top quality students and you are their peer, you’re one of them because you worked hard to reach this point. I think graduate school success is based on focus, drive and determination.
Kerrycontrary October 27, 2011, 9:48 am
Love your first paragraph!!
RunsWithScissors October 27, 2011, 10:01 am
I agree with all of this, particularly about making friends with other grad students. Not only will it make you feel better to get out and socialize a little bit (perhaps with people who are going through exactly the same thing that you are at the moment!!), but these people will probably be colleagues in one form or another (it’s amazing what a small world it can be) for the rest of your career.
Starfish13 October 27, 2011, 10:42 am
I totally agree. It sounds like the LW is rationalizing a lot of things:
1.) Why not to make friends (“they have different priorities” – in grad school that is bound to happen, you have a big group of people that are all very different, with different motives and reasons for being there – that is why is grad school and not the rest of your life. But you have to get through it.)
2.) Why to potentially leave the program – Why do you have to be in the same city to get through the program? (In someways, LDR might be better for your grades, time management, and social life.) Also, why can’t he move to where you are, if location is SO important to you?
Painted_lady October 27, 2011, 2:40 pm
While the bf may not be able to just pick up and move, proposing that as an endpoint might be a good way to gauge whether this relationship is evenly matched as far as commitment goes. When I was in grad school, I posed that question to my boyfriend at the time – long-distance in ENGLAND! – framed by “Where are you going to go after you leave England?” His answer, a string of places that I didn’t want to live while strongly negating a bunch of places he knew I wanted to live, let me know he didn’t see the relationship in a long-term context. Granted, I wasn’t planning on leaving grad school anyway, but if the LW and bf have this conversation and it doesn’t even occur to him to factor her into plans, she sure as hell ought not to plan her grad school plans around him.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 5:30 pm
Your question was a great idea and let you know exactly where you stood in the relationship. Good for you!
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 10:00 am
LW – repeat after me: It is only a few years. In the grand scheme of things, a masters program is only between 1 1/2 to 3 years and if you are really serious with your boyfriend, maybe you’ll be together for 50 years. I’ve discussed the situation I’m in with my husband being in prison before and while its daunting to think of how long he’s been gone (nearly 22 months), how long he will be gone (another 12 months), and how little I get to see him (3-4 times a month for a few hours), I know its only a small chunk of the long life we get together. Yes, I know its not the same situation since you can “remedy” your problem, but if you sit down and figure out a good schedule to get good balance, you can do it and its only for a little while. And for Pete’s sake, confide in him! Tell him your concerns and your fears. That’s what a relationship is all about – open, honest communication.
Christy October 27, 2011, 10:35 am
My best friend in my grad program is in an LDR with her boyfriend 3 hours away. They see each other literally every weekend–either she’s down with him, he’s up with her, or they’re on a trip together. Even though she’s out of town most weekends, she’s still an active part of the school’s social life. She and her bf talk all the time and spend time together, but she still made the effort to make friends in the program. It can definitely be done.
caitie_didn't October 27, 2011, 10:54 am
I was in an LDR while finishing my last year of undergrad, which was a really busy year. It was actually great for me because it allowed me to be really, really efficient about prioritizing, and not feel guilty that I was constantly neglecting an in-town boyfriend. Now, I’m in grad school, so I know how the LW feels. Grad school is a friggen LOT of work.
So, some questions for the LW:
1). how long is your program? If it’s two years, you might as well stick it out.
2). Most grad schools don’t offer deferred acceptances or the opportunity to transfer. Are you okay re-applying and risking not getting in to a closer school? what about giving up on the program altogether? Would you still be okay with your decision if you and your boyfriend don’t stay together? How much are you willing to sacrifice for your boyfriend and is this reasonable? I think the best advice I ever got was “your education determines who and what you will be for the rest of your life”- think about how you’re defining yourself.
3). I don’t know about your grad program but mine is small and very collaborative. We spend a lot of time doing fun stuff, but also time working on assignments together and studying together. This is a great way to get to know your classmates AND get work done! You get the social aspect and the work aspect rolled up in one awesome package.
4). How do you and your boyfriend stay in touch? are you talking on the
phone and skype every single night? You might need to cut back on that and start texting more instead. I know some people hate texting and I get it, but it’s a low-stress, low-involvement way of staying in touch. Maybe replace nightly skype chats with texting and a quick phone call before bed?
5). When your boyfriend comes to visit, you should still make an effort to hang out with your classmates. I know how valuable “alone time” is in an LDR, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your boyfriend to happy hour on friday to introduce him to your classmates, and then spend the rest of the weekend by yourselves.
5). Use the resources available to you as a student to develop better strategies and coping mechanisms. Every university will have peer and academic support centers and counselling services available for graduate and undergrad students.
You MUST make friends and you MUST learn to balance all the facets of your life or you will burn out quickly. And you need to think long and hard about what dropping out of this program means for your future and for your relationship.
Wow, this is long. Sorry dudes.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 10:01 am
I’ve been you before, LW, and I URGE you to think long and hard before leaving your program and moving closer to him.
I went to a different college as my first serious boyfriend, and I was miserable. I missed him SO much and loved him SO much that I would decline to do social activities with other people in favor of staying inside to chat with him online. I convinced myself that I didn’t like the school because I hadn’t made any friends (which was MY FAULT) and that I would like the school he went to more, anyway, and so I transferred there.
Long story short, we broke up. Why? Well, because it wasn’t the right relationship for me from the start, anyway. But also – because I smothered him. I was so head over heels in love with being in love, that I smothered THE SHIT out of him when I got there. Do you know what’s funny, LW? He would have NEVER transferred for me. He loved his school! He loved is independence! He wanted me to make friends at my school! He wanted to work through the LDR and build a happy, healthy relationship with me!
But no, I was miserable without him and so I dropped everything and left, for him. Do not do this. PLEASE, do not do this. Your career, your education – those things are guaranteed to last longer than most relationships you have. And hey, maybe this relationship is the real deal. But if it is, it means you can work through the long distance. You can work through it with BALANCE – making friends, dedicating some time to having fun, and having healthy communication with your BF. Don’t sacrifice a degree from a great school, and perhaps the trajectory of your future career, all for a dude. Your future self might just end up slapping the shit out of you.
GatorGirl October 27, 2011, 10:10 am
This might be my favorite post of yours, RR. We all had to learn this the hard way- never put yourself second to your BF or GF.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:18 am
Why is it sacrificing her career and education to move? She’s still going to get a good education. When it comes to masters programs, a degree is a degree. I seriously doubt there’s so much of a difference between her amazing program and the other ones that her career would suffer from transferring.
You smothering your boyfriend is your separate issue with him. It has nothing to do with transferring unless he just didn’t feel as strongly about you as you did about him, which is, again, your own relationship issue. If the LW’s boyfriend is missing her as much as she is missing him, then this isn’t going to happen. Your example has nothing to do with her.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 10:43 am
I agree with your overall comments on this, but not necessarily “a degree is a degree.” It depends on your field and where you want to work. I worked in a field and for a firm that would only interview those that came out of certain selective colleges and universities. So, it may not matter that much if she attends a less prestigious program, but it may matter a great deal. We don’t know, but that should be part of her decision-making process.
theattack October 27, 2011, 10:47 am
It’s true that it definitely depends on what her field is and what she wants to do with it. In most fields though, people can build careers after graduating from any legitimate university.
oldie October 27, 2011, 11:12 am
Now you are back pedalling, as you should be. A graduate degree is not a graduate degree and the term ‘legitimate university’ is meaningless. There are top rank schools, mid-rank schools, and the bottom tier. The bottom tier are still legit universities, but their degrees most definitely are not valued as highly in most career settings. Yes, if you are going to be a public school teacher, where “do you have a Master’s degree?” is solely a check the box issue, with school and even grades being irrelevant, then where you go won’t matter. Most employers don’t hire or pay on a union scale for their professional staff — so school and grades do matter, generally a lot, at least early in your career. So, yes people can build careers after graduating from lower tier legitimate universities. It just won’t be as easy and the career may not be as successful. A grad degree from a prestige upper tier U does still open doors.
One of the reasons a top degree continues to open doors throughout your career is the networking you do in school. The top tier schools are far more competitive for admissions, so you are with a lot of very smart, type A folks, who have a better chance of getting ahead in their careers and helping you out in yours. They also have alum, who can do the same, and a placement office that has clout with recruiters. LW is missing out big time by avoiding her classmates. The ties that she cultivates in her prestige grad school are one of the big advantages of being there. She is throwing that away.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:15 pm
I am not backpeddling, as I had already stated that it depends on what her field is. In my field, it won’t matter where I get my degree. In hers, it might. And no, “legitimate university” does mean something in some fields. In mine, a university needs to be accredited by the professional organization’s standards for your education to be considered legitimate. But there are still many, many programs that are not accredited.
Like I said, it depends on the field to what sort of difference it makes. Some master’s programs don’t require any research, and many of the classes with transfer. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because of the nature of the program.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 10:46 am
I don’t think its necessarily true that a “degree is a degree”. I went to a smaller, although great graduate school and opted out of an Ivy league one. Do you think a potential employer (especially in certain fields) doesn’t look at where you got your degree? When I was a supervisor, I took that into consideration.
FireStar October 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
I promise you I look at education – what and where – whenever I hire anyone.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 3:28 pm
I think most people do (as I said, I did), but I will admit some don’t – my current supervisor doesn’t care what your degree is in or where you got it from, as long as its a degree (preferably a Masters). Mind you, the position he was hiring is technically a bottom rung job with pretty crappy pay considering and is very heavy on statistics and numbers, but he hired 3 people – 1 with a masters in children and family therapy, one with a masters in poli-sci and one with a bachelors in english.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 10:57 am
I’m just getting the vibe that she’s rationalizing a lot in order to convince herself to transfer in order to be with him. And I think transferring JUST for the relationship is a huge mistake, because it lacks a lot of foresight. Where she gets her degree from DOES matter – it could be the difference between a lot of opportunities for her in her career.
Your life is more than just your relationship. Your relationship is but a PIECE of your education, your career, your social life – and making a huge decision like transferring – for that ONE piece (the relationship) means you’ve shifted the priorities and balance of your life. Your relationship is now the most important thing to you, instead of one piece of a series of important things. It’s just…very, very risky.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 11:00 am
I guess what I’m trying to say is…when you put other huge factors of your life second to your relationship, you’re setting yourself up for (potential) failure. Your life simply can’t revolve around your relationship…that’s how codependence is born.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 11:15 am
“Your life simply can’t revolve around your relationship…that’s how codependence is born.”
Codependence is much deeper than what we know about this situation from the LW. Many people have their relationships be their primary focus, yet they still live full, rewarding, healthy lives that they are enjoying. Just because she’s considering moving to a program close to her boyfriend does not mean that she’s sacrificing herself or her future, or that she and/or her boyfriend are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy.
Rachel October 27, 2011, 1:01 pm
“Just because she’s considering moving to a program close to her boyfriend does not mean that she’s sacrificing herself or her future, or that she and/or her boyfriend are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy.”
No, it doesn’t. But, the LW doesn’t seem to be working towards improving the other aspects of her life. If she thinks that being near her boyfriend will solve her problems, when her problem is probably more related to time management and balancing different parts of life, then it is quite possible that she will be sadly disappointed if she quits her program for him.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:20 pm
Thank you, PFG! For some reason, the attitude here seems to be that the relationship should come last no matter what, and you’re throwing your life away if it doesn’t.
Sarah October 27, 2011, 12:57 pm
Couldn’t agree more. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to hear your story about of giving up too much of school/social life/career for a relationship, because I did the same thing and I wish so freakin hard that I realized how I was sacrificing too much and hurting myself and my chances long term. But at the end of it you find out that the right relationship wont require you to give up other parts of your life and that if you feel the need to, then you have to readjust your priorities.
SpaceySteph October 27, 2011, 4:21 pm
Same here. When I started my job, several other coworkers had long distance boyfriends. I, like RR, did the obsessive, smothering, stay on the video chat for hours instead of leaving my house thing. I hardly hung out with my coworkers, my one night away from the video chat was Thursday night softball which my bf practically begged me to do because I was more interested in staying home. We broke up.
One of my good friends (now) is still long distance 3 years later with her bf. She bought a house which she enthusiastically decorates, she goes out, she has friends. From the start she was way happier here than I ever was. And they are still going strong.
I agree with Sarah and RR, you need to develop your own life and own space separate from your relationship, no matter how far your SO lives. If you see your boyfriend every weekend, stop it. Thats too much. Agree on a set interval- be in once a month, every six weeks, every two months. Now, on the weeks your are seeing your boyfriend, you can beg off plans, get all your work done during the week, so you can have the weekend to spend with him. But on the weekends you’re not seeing your bf, save some school work for sunday and accept a Thursday night happy hour invite, plan a girls night out, do something FUN.
Take these tips and tough it out for the year; if after that you still hate your program and your LDR so much that you have to quit your program, do it. But you have not even given it a chance.
theattack October 27, 2011, 7:38 pm
I disagree with everything you said about long distance relationships, and I’ve done it with my guy for a total of four and a half years. We’re almost professionals at long distance. If your relationship is serious and long distance, you can’t say that seeing each other once a week is too much. Having your own separate lives is important in any relationship, but you HAVE to be an active part in each others’ lives if you ever plan to make it work together.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:19 pm
Likewise, it could be said that putting school before her relationship is a risk, because she could lose that relationship by doing it. There’s nothing wrong with making your relationship one of your top priorities. If you have something good with someone, you have to take care of it if you want to keep it. If that means moving closer together for some people, then that’s what has to happen. I’ve personally already decided not to go to a better university for grad school and to instead go to one closer to my boyfriend. As long as I’m still getting the education, it’s worth it to me in a cost-benefit analysis. And that’s how the LW needs to weigh this out.
Sarah October 27, 2011, 4:18 pm
The issue isn’t as black and white as that. It isn’t either she stays and puts her relationship on the backburner or she goes back and their relationship is fixed. Its that, no matter what she chooses, she needs to get a way better handle on how to manage what she needs to be happy. Giving up all your free time for your boyfriend is never healthy. Never! Can you imagine the pressure on a relationship that makes? I think its that pressure/her lack of communication is what could really be the end of this relationship and not at all the distance. Moving closer to him could literally do nothing more than them seeing each other more. Can that feel better? Yes. Does that make their relationship more solid? Probably not, if there are already cracks in it. Nobody is saying the LW should put school or a social life above her boyfriend, but for goodness sake, make a little room for all three.
theattack October 27, 2011, 7:25 pm
You and I are clearly not reading this letter in the same way at all. I don’t see any other cracks in their relationship besides the fact that she wants to be with him. And yes, I can imagine using all of your free time for your relationship, because the LW and I are in nearly identical situations right now. Which is why I understand the difficulties here are far more intricate than just “time management.” The LW is not reporting relationship problems besides a little miscommunication here, which is common in all relationships. She just needs to rack up some courage to show her vulnerabilities. Her only fault is that she wants to impress her boyfriend. She just needs to communicate this with him, and then do what she wants to do.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 8:49 pm
I think the lack of ability to confide in her boyfriend is a serious red flag indicating a huge flaw in this relationship. If you can’t fix that flaw I don’t think this relationship can last.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 10:39 am
I’m always cautious to assume that what works (or doesn’t work) for one person/relationship will work for another. Every person and relationship is unique.
On paper, I’ve done everything “wrong” – I went to the college that my one year older high school boyfriend was already attending. We dated all during that time. We got engaged my senior year. We got married the next year. While it certainly doesn’t work for everyone, it worked for us, and we’ve been married over 15 years, I spent over a decade building a very successful career and now, we have three kids. Sometimes “wrong” isn’t wrong.
My observation above is that the LW felt pressured into her choice, but didn’t seem that she would have made that one originally. Maybe she should stick it out there, but maybe she shouldn’t. It’s not something any of us can answer for her given that we don’t know her/her relationship, especially based on “well, this is what I did, and it did/did not work for me.” I think those cautionary tales are worth sharing, but not when portrayed as absolute.
honeybeenicki October 27, 2011, 10:48 am
I’ve wondered if maybe she is trying to make reasons to leave this school/program because she was pressured into going there. In that case, by all means LEAVE! If the real issue is that you aren’t where you want to be, its a no brainer.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 10:55 am
That was my point in my first comment above – she states quite clearly that she felt pressured by “everyone”, including her boyfriend.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 12:29 pm
She should take this as a lesson in decision making and learn to trust herself and her own judgement more in the future. Ultimately, she made this decision for herself, no matter who encouraged what, and she needs to own it. She’s in graduate school, way to old to blame other people for her decisions.
Sarah October 27, 2011, 1:38 pm
Let’s say that scenario is true. The LW’s friends, family and BF convinced her to go away to school when she wanted to go to a different school. This COULD mean that everyone in her life is too dominant in her decision making, but it could just as easily mean:
1.) She has an issue with making decisions for herself and everyone in her life felt the need to give her a push.
2.) She has an issue with how to take other’s advice and treating it with more validity than her own wants.
Combine this scenario with that fact that her schedule right now looks purposely set to combust to justify her going back home and I think you have a girl who doesn’t put herself first. However, this is even more of a reason she should stick it out. If she feels like she has to justify her reasons for going back home, that means she knows she’s not giving it a fair chance to work. Putting an effort to balance her life and taking control of that will do way more for her than moving back right now.
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 11:40 am
I view this as a risk assessment.
Best-case scenario: She gets a degree from a highly prestigious program and gets to keep her amazing BF. Having the proverbial cake and getting to eat it too.
Worst-case scenario: She gets a degree from a less prestigious program (or no degree at all, if there are money/transfer issues) and BF dumps her anyway. No degree, no boyfriend, no cake.
By transferring from more prestigious to less prestigious (all other things being equal) to be with BF, she automatically rules out the best case and opens up the possiblity of the worst case. Now, how good the “best” case is and how bad the “worst” case is depends heavily on the field she’s in and the type of degree she’s getting. But on principle, transferring seems like a bad idea. I think that’s what RR was getting at.
lets_be_honest October 27, 2011, 2:06 pm
Love this. easy, precise, clear.
Don’t ever in any situation rule out the best case scenario. I’ll have to bank that in my memory.
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 2:35 pm
Well, I would caveat that statement (because I like exactitude) like this:
Eliminating the best-case scenario can be worthwhile if in doing so you also eliminate the worst-case scenario. Then your new best case isn’t as good, but your worst case isn’t as bad and it’s a nice, symmetrical trade-off.
For example, if she wasn’t sure she could make it through the more prestigious program but was fully confident she could breeze through the less prestigious one, then she’d be making an even trade (possibility of a better degree for certainty of a lesser one). LW doesn’t comment on that or any other factors, so the “don’t give up the ship” risk assessment was how my R&D-brain saw it.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 8:51 pm
I love the way your R&D brain works!
bittergaymark October 27, 2011, 11:55 am
Boyfriends come and go. Seriously. But a degree from a prestigious school lasts forever. Don’t sell yourself short. Trust me, if you bail on this program, you WILL regret it later on. Worse, the person you will blame won’t be yourself — but your boyfriend! Which won’t exactly do wonders for your relationship… Personally, I wouldn’t hinge my ENTIRE future on some newish relationship that has barely lasted a year at this point. Frankly, I remain SHOCKED so many of you would. I mean, come on! For a women to second best her own dreams of an education because of a man is so retro sexist. Why doesn’t he move to her if their relationship is so great. Moreover, why did NONE of you even so much as suggest that?
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 11:58 am
I agree with you on principle and couldn’t have said it better myself!
However, I get the feeling that the LW is spending more time fishing for excuses to leave the program than actually missing her boyfriend…
amber October 27, 2011, 12:07 pm
i agree with you. and like shadowflash i think she’s unhappy in her program and looking for reasons to leave. but, it’s unfair to that person to put it all on them. if she really hates it leave for that reason not to be with the bf. but, i think just like the first months of undergrad when some people get homesick, eventually things will get better and she’ll find herself happier. if her program just started this past august she really hasn’t given herself much time.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 12:07 pm
“Why doesn’t he move to her if their relationship is so great. Moreover, why did NONE of you even so much as suggest that?”
Because we were waiting for you to say it, BGM!
In all seriousness, if she thinks she wants to stay in the area that she’s currently attending her program, that’s a possibility that might discuss. But, if she has no intention of staying in that area – no matter what they see for their future together – him quitting his job and trying to find gainful employment twice in this economy in less than two years is probably not the most practical solution.
bittergaymark October 27, 2011, 12:15 pm
Right. Exactly. However, my point is that is it still really isn’t any more impractical from him to uproot his current life, than for her to settle for second best with regards to her education. She says so little about his life, for all we know he is just some bartender at this point…
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 12:20 pm
All of that should be part of the decision-making process – we just don’t have enough information to know the full story.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 12:18 pm
I very much agree with you. I think if this relationship were YEARS old, I might feel differently. But it’s so new. I’m sure the relationship is old enough yet to warrant this much of a sacrifice for it, especially when LDRs can and do work!
And I know a lot of people are convinced that she’s fishing for reasons to leave her program, but I’m just not convinced of that. I think it’s more like she’s fishing for reasons to move to be with her boyfriend.
PFG-SCR October 27, 2011, 12:24 pm
“And I know a lot of people are convinced that she’s fishing for reasons to leave her program, but I’m just not convinced of that. I think it’s more like she’s fishing for reasons to move to be with her boyfriend.”
I agree that this is about missing her boyfriend. Personally, I just don’t feel that because it’s “only a boyfriend” that she should automatically assume that it’s “wrong” to consider an option to move to a program closer to him.
bittergaymark October 27, 2011, 12:30 pm
As somebody older, and hopefully wiser because of it, I feel the need to point out that I’ve had more than a few relationships that seemed “just great” after a year only to then eventually go south that I simply can’t imagine putting my entire future at risk over something that is so new. Hey, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Seriously. Any relationship that can’t survive an LTR for a year or two wouldn’t survive that long anyway. Think about it. Seriously. Especially when the guy is so supportive.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 12:34 pm
Yeah, a lot of relationships are wonderful after a year! In my experience, it’s taken until the 2 year mark for things to fall apart. Making this big of a move for a relationship that hasn’t even had time to END yet is just…scary to me. It’s such a huge risk…a much bigger risk, in my opinion, than staying put and working through an LDR.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 12:28 pm
I guess in my mind, a graduate degree from a prestigious university should always trump your new relationship of only a year. After a year, most people haven’t had time to get to the point where things go wrong, where you lose the novelty, where you start to notice issues and problems. And in my mind, it’s just very difficult for me to see someone considering giving up something that will benefit them the rest of their lives for a relationship that hasn’t been “vetted” yet.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:34 pm
Boyfriends come and go, especially when you’re not willing to make any sacrifices for the relationship. Deciding that everything else comes before him is certainly a way to guarantee it’s not going to work out.
We don’t know what the boyfriend does. If he’s already got an established career, he would be less flexible in movement than she would be most likely. He would be risking more by moving than she would be.
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 2:42 pm
There’s “everything comes before the boyfriend”, and then there’s “because of future career potential and pressure from everyone (including him) I chose the more prestigious, far-away program”. It’s not like she isn’t willing to make sacrifices, *he* pushed her into making him a lesser priority.
Besides, that knife cuts both ways. How much risk, sacrifice, etc does each side have to make before it’s not worth it?
This reminds me of that christmas story of the couple that has no money so the wife cuts her hair and sells it to buy her husband a watch chain, and the husband pawns his watch to buy his wife a comb for her hair. If they both give up everything, then they have nothing.
theattack October 27, 2011, 2:50 pm
Yeah. This is almost certainly not a situation like that. This is one sacrifice. In fact, a very common one. And I don’t think he pushed her away from prioritizing him. I think he encouraged her to do something he thought she wanted to do.
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 3:08 pm
True, it just seems like it would be throwing *his* sacrifice back in his teeth for her to give up now. I mean, I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that he is suffering in her absence, at least a little bit. If she gives up now, then they’ll have spent however long apart for nothing.
I guess if it were me, I’d be doing everything in my power to get through the program and be brilliant at it so that the shared sacrifice of being apart would have meaning.
theattack October 27, 2011, 7:27 pm
Interesting take on it. This is definitely why she needs to communicate with him about it.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 2:53 pm
“The gift of the Magi”
Shadowflash1522 October 27, 2011, 3:02 pm
thanks! couldn’t think of the name off the top of my head.
ReginaRey October 27, 2011, 2:46 pm
I fail to understand how maintaining a LDR with a boyfriend who seems very willing to make it work is “putting everything else before him.” What exactly is wrong with re-balancing her life, as Sarah suggested, and making the LDR work?
theattack October 27, 2011, 7:28 pm
What is wrong with it is that she doesn’t seem to want to do long distance. That’s the entire point of the letter. He might be willing to make it work, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that SHE wants to go through.
Britannia October 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
Just wanted to say… Sarah, I love your writing style!
“I warn myself that if I buy Pop-Tarts, I’ll gorge myself on them til I’m ill. It isn’t until I’m staring at the bottom of my boyfriend’s Pop-Tart box in the bathtub crying with the lights off (that’s my secret eating place)…”
This made me literally LOL!
ele4phant October 27, 2011, 1:06 pm
Sarah, couldn’t agree with your advice more. I am in a similar situation, I am in a demanding graduate program that is a mid-distance from my boyfriend. You absolutely do need to schedule your time, and you DO need to make an effort to get to know people in your program and have fun. You need stress release, and you need to make friends and get the support that only others going through the same academic experience can give you.
And, I still miss my boyfriend sometimes, but I try to see it not as making me miserable, but as a reminder that I still love him, want to be with him, and that its worth the effort to make this all work.
lets_be_honest October 27, 2011, 1:33 pm
Really, really excellent advice Sarah.
lets_be_honest October 27, 2011, 2:54 pm
p.s. I also do the same thing with Pop-Tarts…smores ones, dipped in chocolate pudding. Ughh
MsMisery October 27, 2011, 1:45 pm
How long is this program?? Not forever, prolly. Another plus is that the boyfriend is SUPPORTIVE! That never happens in these letters. Usually they’re all “IT’S THE AMAZING OPPORTUNITY OR ME!” So at least he’s not a tool. How about writing him letters? You see, people are *so available* with modern technology. Ding! E-mail. Ding! Instant message. Ding! Text… voicemail… video chat… etc. If you write paper letters, you can still keep in touch and be kinda romantic and old-timey at the same time, but it will take the pressure off of “I GOTTA READ AND REPLY TO EVERY SENTENCE NOW.” I dunno. Just one suggestion.
FireStar October 27, 2011, 2:06 pm
One of my best guy friends used to write me letters when I was at university. Now he is my husband and I love those old letters.
Painted_lady October 27, 2011, 2:14 pm
Yes, LW. You are the only person on the entire planet whose SO is disillusioned enough to believe that there is literally no limit to what you can do. So you should totally NOT talk to him about these issues and just drop out of your grad program so he won’t ever figure it out. Aside from this being a completely ridiculous plan, isn’t he going to want to know why you don’t have school when you show up unannounced on his doorstep?
Or you could talk to him. You know, like an adult. If the relationship is newly long distance, you’re going to have to do some adjusting just to figure out how this is going to work. PD and I have been long distance from the start, but in the first few months, we had to regroup a lot. He had some cracked-out idea at first that we could – and should – talk every night. That got really boring after about three weeks, and he finally admitted I wasn’t a completely riveting creature after like six. The other problem was, I get home from school at 8:30 or 9 on nights I go to the gym, and I have to be in bed by 11 so I’m not a total zombie when my alarm goes off at 5:30. Talking on the phone every night meant I had an hour at most to eat, play with the dog, talk to the roommate, watch tv or read, or forego sleep. We finally scaled back to chatting 2-3 times during the week, and that works much better.
Also, I would like to point out that it is currently October. OCTOBER. If you started school in late August, that means you have had two months in this program to decide whether or not this program is for you. When I started grad school, it took me a full semester to feel like my classmates were really friends. And I went to every function, every happy hour, every study group I could. And every friend you are ever going to have will have slightly different priorities than your own; my best friend, whom I met in grad school, really wants a family whereas I don’t see that in my future. My roommate is incredibly career-driven, and I’m a little more committed to my relationship than my job. I can still go out and have a blast with these two girls. Don’t write people off based on where you see your life headed.
Lastly, it’s amazing what you can do – and enjoy doing – when you treat it as something you have to do. PD and I couldn’t choose to be together for the last year – he had school and had to finish his prereq’s for the programs he’s applying to before he could make a big change. I’m a teacher and can’t depend on the job market to catch me if I picked up and moved to be with him. My parents will be spending nearly a year apart this coming year because my dad will be temporarily transferred to another city. He can’t quit his job just because he doesn’t like living where the company put him, and my mom can’t go with him because they just bought a new house. You make it work. You wouldn’t quit a job after two months because it’s a strain on your newish relationship and you didn’t have any friends. You’d try to make it work, and after you had actually given it a go, you’d leave when you found another option. Treat this like a job for now; if you get through the year and nothing’s better, THEN look at your options.
Christy October 28, 2011, 12:26 am
This is great advice, especially your 3rd paragraph. The first few months are hell for grad school for anyone. I bet all the classmates she writes off are also struggling with whether they made the right decision! My advice is to make friends, you might be surprised how much you have in common.
Also, about the degree thing, it is absolutely true that degrees from some universities are valued higher than others. She should also keep in mind that word about her might get around regardless of what reason she herself gives about why she transfers. She might end up looking bad not only to the school she tries to transfer to but also to future employers. It’s a small world sometimes.
mandalee October 27, 2011, 2:33 pm
LW, there are some definite positives and negatives in your letter.
The positives, you have a positive boyfriend, who believes you can do anything and encouraged you to go to this prestigious school. Clearly he thought you and your relationship could survive this. Second, you got into a great master’s program at a great school! From school who was trying to do the same thing a year ago and failed to get funding, that is great.
The only negative letter lies within you. You don’t mention your boyfriend being miserable or thinking this relationship won’t last because you are long distance. You probably just got to this school and are having the initial “Oh My God” panic. You are at a new place, with new people, and the person who you love is far away.
I had the exact same thing happen to me except I was a freshman in college. I spent the first few weeks of college in NYC completely miserable that I left my great boyfriend and friends to move to a new place where “I had nothing in common with anyone”. I would schlep home on the bus every weekend and was essentially miserable. Thankfully, in late October, there was a freak snow storm and I got stuck at school (oh the horror!) and had an amazing weekend with my roommates, who I grew so close to that they were in my wedding this past summer, seven years after I met them.
So, if you are having doubts, I wouldn’t jump into this transfer head first or assume your relationship is doomed if you stay. Talk to your boyfriend, he sounds, from the limited information you provided, that he will get it. Maybe he has fears too, maybe you won’t feel so alone then. Get to know your classmates. No, you don’t have to be their best friends, but you at least have your program in common, so at worst they can be study buddies.
A master’s program doesn’t last forever. If your relationship is strong, it will get through it. You don’t need to give up your social life, your program, and your future goals for your boyfriend. And considering he encouraged and thinks you can do anything, he’d probably be the last person that would want you to do that.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 3:13 pm
Did you marry the good boyfriend from high school?
mandalee October 27, 2011, 11:32 pm
I did not actually. He ended up being a huge jerk who cheated on me. I am so so happy I didn’t base my decision on him.
6napkinburger October 27, 2011, 3:03 pm
Some will certainly disagree with this attitude, but I think you have to look at the situation from a “what if we’re not together in 5 years” mentality. The whole “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” thing. Because while its very possible that you will be together, it is much likelier that you won’t be.
If you can honestly say that you will be comfortable and happy not being with him and having transferred/given up your spot at the prestigious university, knowing that you “gave it the ole college try” (get it?), then maybe that’s what you should do.
But if in 5 years, you think you’ll kick yourself for switching programs so you could be closer to that asshole who broke your heart and ruined your education and life? Then I don’t see how you can do it.
Budj October 27, 2011, 3:10 pm
Pretty much sums up her necessary self-reflection.
heather October 27, 2011, 3:15 pm
I’m in essentially the exact same situation as the LW- I’m in my second year in an engineering graduate program at a fairly prestigious school, and my boyfriend lives 13 hours away. And I have to respectfully disagree with Sarah in one sense. I think you are waaaaaay over-estimating how much free time a lot of grad students have. The majority of us are here working 12+ hours a day, in addition to meetings and work at home. Most weeks there literally isn’t time for me to see my boyfriend on occasion, have dinner or drinks with classmates, AND have me time. I definitely had to sacrifice some degree of bonding with my classmates in order to maintain my relationship with my boyfriend.
I’ve actually decided to leave my current program after this year. But there are a few things I’d say you should really think about before making this kind of move – Most importantly, how much longer is your program? You say it’s a Master’s program, which generally implies 1.5-3 years. That’s a while, but it’s not THAT long. You can do 1.5-3 years! If you think you might want to do a PhD, which obviously takes longer, stay at your current school until you get the Master’s, and then transfer. As many others pointed out, grad credits don’t transfer. Get the Master’s, and then if things don’t work out with getting into another program, you’ll still have that degree to show for your work.
But really I think the biggest issue is that you haven’t told your boyfriend how you’re feeling!?!?! You shouldn’t be planning to move and give up a career opportunity to be together if you’re not at the point where you can openly talk about how miserable/overwhelmed/stressed/etc. you’re feeling. If you were at the stage in your relationship where you should be making that kind of move and sacrifice, you would be having ongoing conversations with your boyfriend about it. This should be a decision the two of you make together, not something you come up with while trying to maintain the illusion that everything is fine.
AKchic October 27, 2011, 4:48 pm
Honey – if your boyfriend is a decent guy (aka – a “keeper”) then you SHOULD be able to confide in him.
School comes first. Period. You need to support yourself should your boyfriend not be a keeper. Or changes later and ends up not being a keeper. You get the idea.
A LDR is that, an LDR. A phone call every day (or every other day, or twice a week), a skype call once a week if possible, etc. Texting when you can. Email daily, whatever. It isn’t “work”, it’s a quick note a day and then a longish conversation to catch up once a week until you can get together. That’s about it. I spent 5 months of my second marriage that way while my husband was across country taking care of his dying grandfather. While I stayed back in AK and worked a fulltime job with 3 kids. Trust me. Getting out once in a while is a necessity. For your sanity. Schedule some “me time”. ASAP.
Elle October 27, 2011, 6:05 pm
I have a hunch that when she wrote this letter, the LW was around midterms. Either before, and she was overwhelmed, or after, when she got the results, and wasn’t satisfied. LW, the first semester of grad school is the hardest. You’re in a new place, away from friends and family, probably getting more and more homesick by the day, surrounded by a bunch of strangers with whom you have nothing in common (yet), tons of coursework, (and in my case, I would have to add getting freaking lost every day for the first two months because I have no sense of direction), the list can go on and on. And you, LW, are an over-achiever. You want to do everything perfect! How do I know? Well, that’s the kind of people that are accepted into prestigious graduate programs. You feel this enormous pressure to do well. And it’s ok. But you should try to balance things, like Sarah suggested, and maybe try to do only one thing perfectly (hint: school), and don’t be so hard on yourself with everything else.
And the good news? The second semester will be easy! Really, the first semester was the hardest period of my life, and all my classmates, and those after me, and those before me, say the exact same thing. Second semester, the course-work was double, but I did better than in the first semester. Hang in there, and try to schedule some fun every now and then.
Looking on the bright side: Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, Christmas is not that far afterwards. You’ll get to see your bf and family and friends soon. In the meantime, do go out with your classmates. They are going through the same thing you are.
LE – I just read the letter again – why don’t you study with your classmates? They seem to be able to study and have fun – study with them, and learn their secret :). Seriously, if I didn’t study with my classmates in the first semester, I don’t know how it would have all turned out.
caitie_didn't October 27, 2011, 9:43 pm
Yup. I’m in my first semester of grad school, and writing my last midterm tomorrow. And oh my goodness, did I feel overwhelmed at the beginning of this week. So, I think your suspicions are right….just like everyone freaks out when they get their first midterms back in undergrad. I’m glad it gets easier!
L October 27, 2011, 6:42 pm
Always always ALWAYS put yourself first. Never ever settle for something that is just ok. When you go to a prestigious university that is respected in your field, you will be able to network and have sooo many more options. When you are a successful working woman, where do you see yourself? If you settle for your second choice in schools, it may be the case that you have to settle for your second choice in jobs. Or worse yet, what if just because you didn’t finish your degree at your current school, what if you don’t find a job in your field?
I know it’s tough. Distance sucks in relationships. But strong relationships are able to survive. And if it’s not strong enough to survive a few years while you are away at school, how can you expect your relationship to survive in the long term? Your boyfriend sounds like he’s supportive of your career pursuits, so take advantage of that! Lean on him a bit. Tell him what you’re feeling. Talk about the future, both career wise and for you as a couple. What do you see in five, ten years down the road?
A good solid degree from a well-respected university will give you OPTIONS. Having that degree will open more doors and perhaps make it possible for you to land a job closer to your boyfriend. Granted, nothing is guaranteed in the crap economy, but it will open more doors and help make you more marketable to employers.
In relationships it is so important to find the balance between doing what’s best for you and what’s best for your relationship. I will say it again: always always ALWAYS put yourself first. YOUR needs come first. Always.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 9:05 pm
I also wonder what options remain close to the boyfriend. If she was already accepted once into those programs and didn’t choose them will they be willing to make her another offer or will they no longer be interested? Those programs may no longer be options.
L October 27, 2011, 9:44 pm
I don’t know about the schools that she decided not to go to, but I was referring to career options. If someone takes a chance and goes to a prestigious university — especially one that is well-known in their field — she may have more work options once she graduates from that program.
Skyblossom October 27, 2011, 10:26 pm
I agree completely with what you said but was also just thinking that her previous grad school options may not exist anymore. The option of going back and doing a master’s degree in one of the local programs may not be a choice. Not completing this program may be very limiting in many ways.
Christy October 28, 2011, 12:31 am
Most programs, if you don’t accept their offer, they offer your spot to the next person on the list. She would most likely have to reapply completely. If she was good enough to get accepted the first time, she might be accepted again, but there’s no guarantees because the applicant pool is going to be different and the program might see her negatively for turning down their first offer.
katie October 27, 2011, 8:01 pm
LW, i think that you are just having a hard time adjusting to a new life. new people, a new school, a new and different relationship with your boyfriend, a new city… ect. i think a re-evaluation of your life and priorities is in order, pronto. right now, you either value your education or your relationship. not that you completely value one over the other, but at this point in your life, you have to choose. you have an opportunity at a great school, and you have a great relationship. i had to make this choice at the end of high school (high school, very different, i know, but still similar). i had the opportunity to move across the country to an amazing school, but in doing that i had to leave my high school boyfriend. i made the decision to go to school, and i did it for ME. that was the biggest thing- i was going to this school of my own choice. no one influenced me. i decided. now, you say that you were influenced a lot in your decision, and maybe that is where the confusion is coming in for you. i had a clear vision of what i was getting into; you seem like you were pushed into the pool….
i think you just need to think very long and hard about YOURSELF, not necessarily you and your boyfriend as a unit, but yourself, and the life and dreams and aspirations you have, and then fit the boyfriend in from there. if he is a great guy, if it is meant to be, it will be. you guys will find a way- but you have to know your own way first.
katie October 27, 2011, 8:02 pm
oh and- if you honestly cant tell your boyfriend about how stressed and sad you are, then stay, because this relationship isnt the right one for you.