Should You Break Up Before College?

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If you want it straight up: the common wisdom is that you should almost always break up before you go to college. We know it’s harsh, but the odds are just so against it working — SO much of your life changes once you move into your adult life, and sometimes it’s just that much more pleasant to part ways amicably and maturely beforehand, instead of in some tearful “I just cheated on you” phone call three days into orientation.

That said, some couples really do survive the transition, so how do you know if you’ll be one of them? Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

How good is your communication? If you talk about ALL aspects of your expectations beforehand, keep in consistent communication (and hopefully have a decent amount of face time that won’t cost more than your college tuition), and remain flexible, forgiving, understanding, and loving, there’s a chance. But, just so you know, there’s also a chance you could amicably split now, both try out the single-life in college, and reunite later with more perspective and experience in your toolbox. You know how they say “if you love someone, set them free?” Well… if you guys set each other free now and then reunite, you’ll both know you REALLY want to be together.

Are you just scared of breaking up? People want to keep their high school relationships into college for a lot of reasons — many of them fear-related. Like: fear of the unknown, fear of break-ups in general, or fear that you will never meet another awesome person again as long as you live). If this is an issue for you now, try to imagine how much harder it will be to deal with from a distance and in an unfamiliar new environment; it can be even more depressing than you think breaking up beforehand would be. The upshot to breaking up, as hard as it may be, is: you both enter this huge new phase in your life independent and un-tethered; you participate more freely in your new social environment; and hey, depending on how things go, maybe you’ll still have a comfort hook-up when you go back home for Thanksgiving. Our point is: if either of you are unsure about whether to break up now, you will probably get sure when you hit your new campus full of new people, and then you won’t be able to have a comfortable, amicable, in person break-up decision. This goes back to that “if you love someone set them free” thing.

Are you both super, super dedicated the idea of staying together? If either of you are unsure about whether staying together for college is going to work, we hate to say it but: it’s gonna be a really hard road. There are just too many new influences and environments, new sides of yourselves to explore… it’s going to be hard enough to stay together when both of you are sure about it and preternaturally mature communicators. If either of those things are missing… it’s going to be extra hard.

Keep in mind though: a break up is not as horrible as it might seem at the moment! The reason all those people end up breaking up is that they find out: college is rad. There are SO many new people to meet, there’s this whole new version of life to enjoy, and the world is SO MUCH BIGGER than high school ever was. You guys shared something really special in high school to even think about staying together past graduation, and that’s amazing, and a wonderful part of your life story. And there’s so much of your life story left to write. So don’t think of it as some sort of failure or heartbreak if you decide to let go — think of it as a liberation, for both of you. If you guys really are destined to be, you’ll totally find each other again. Promise.

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Mary Chen

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