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Dear Em & Lo: Should I Break Up with My College Boyfriend?

Fri, Nov 6, 2009

Advice, Dear Em & Lo

couple_bench_421photo by jeroen_bennink

Dear Em & Lo,

Some may call us v-card clingers, but my boyfriend and I have been together for three years now. Giving our virginity to each other was not our first first–we were incredibly inexperienced before meeting. Although the relationship began out of lust it has blossomed into much more. He’s my best friend, and without him I would be devastated. We currently attend the same college, and I sometimes feel as if my potential (sexual, personal, academic) can sometimes be limited by our relationship. I have passed on opportunities to study abroad, to fully explore my sexuality in my prime, and to make male friends. I am the type of person who is tortured by the “what-ifs.” I just want to know if there are any solutions where I can have the best of both worlds–a loving relationship with my best friend and the maximization of my potential.

– I Want a Pony Too

Dear IWAPT,

“V-card clingers” — that’s good! But if you have a loving, satisfying relationship that works for both of you, then it’s not clinging, it’s just common sense.

Unfortunately, your letter sure sounds like you’re not quite satisfied. We’re all for serious, long-term commitments, even among young adults like yourselves. But there’s something to be said for opening yourself up to new experiences in college. We certainly don’t see why a committed relationship means you can’t study abroad or make male friends — just because you’re occasionally connected at the hip in bed doesn’t mean you should be connected at the hip.

Of course, there is a chance that spending less time with each other will only fuel your sexual curiosity — out of sight, out of mind, into someone else’s pants. And having sex with other people while in a committed relationship can get a little tricky. Unless you have an open relationship, it’s not going to work. You can certainly try to negotiate that kind of situation with your boyfriend, so you can have your cake and eat it too, but it takes a certain breed of evolved, jealousy-free human to make that work and you don’t find many of them in college. (Drunk douches who never commit on the other hand…)

We’d recommend just taking a break, with the understanding that you’re free to see other people, and the option of getting back together if you can’t live without each other. Actually, that option always exists — and almost every advice column and your mother will tell you that if it’s meant to be, you’ll eventually end up together, even after some time apart. Which is just code for “you’re too young to be so serious so break up with him!” Chances are you won’t end up back together, but that’s not a good enough reason to indefinitely stick with this guy. You’ve got a lot of living to do before you settle down and get married, and you’re certainly not going to get hitched to this guy without ever taking a break, right? (Talk about a lifetime of what-ifs!) So why postpone the inevitable, especially when you’re in an environment with so many awesome opportunities to take advantage of? (Seriously, hooking up will never be easier than it is in school.)

But be warned: You WILL have regrets about breaking up with an awesome guy who loved you, especially when you start exploring your sexuality with those drunken douches. And when you see him holding someone else’s hand. And when you just want to watch a movie and cuddle. On second thought…

Em & Lo

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4 Responses to “Dear Em & Lo: Should I Break Up with My College Boyfriend?”

  1. swipe Says:

    IWAPT,

    If i could have read my ex gf’s mind this is the exact thing she’d be saying to herself 4 months ago. This is eerily similar to our situation, right down to the amount of time you’ve been together. We had just celebrated our 3yr anniversary a few weeks before she broke up with me. I don’t know how much of her reason for doing it had to do with sex, but she definitely felt that she was missing out on things people her age are doing. She felt we were too young to be so serious.

    It sounds like your mind is made up, you just need to pull the trigger. I think Em & Lo are exactly right. Don’t postpone the inevitable. I’ll also say that it’s really not fair to him. He shouldn’t be led to believe that he’s with someone that is 100% committed to the relationship, when there’s a small part of you that actually feels he’s holding you back.

    I think the only way you can have the best of both worlds is by ending it and experiencing all that you feel you’re missing out on. Then you just have to hope that the “best friend” aspect can survive through the break up and you can get back to that someday. It’s not going to happen right off the bat. You will lose your best friend. I’ve found that losing that best friend relationship is the hardest part. My ex was the best friend I’ve ever had. It kills me that I don’t have my best friend to laugh with anymore. I don’t want my ex to be out of my life completely. I don’t want her as my gf anymore, but I do want my best friend back. We’re going to have to work at it though. It doesn’t come easily. The few times we’ve seen each other have been awkward. I don’t know if we’ll ever be best friends again.

    I’m not telling you to break up with the guy. That’s totally your call. I will tell you that he’s going to go through hell. He’s going to feel that he was a burden, that he couldn’t offer you enough to make you happy. On the other hand if he’s anything like me, your happiness means as much to him as his happiness does. Hell your happiness might mean even more to him than his own. As much as I loved my gf I can’t be mad at her for doing what she felt was going to make her happier person. It sucks that it means I’m out of her life, but why would I want her to stay with me and continue being unhappy? I’d never want her to be anything but happy. If she would of stayed with me she would’ve continued to live with those “what-ifs”. It’s better this happens now, than to find yourself married with kids, and holding some resentment towards him for keeping you from experiencing life.

  2. Spes Says:

    Though, I personally have no experience with this, I have watched my cousin go through it. For them it has been ten years, and now her life is so intertwined with his (living together, shared finances, etc) that it’s even harder to let go. She confessed at wondering what it would be like to have been with someone else, what dating would have been like, and all the big and little things she missed because she was living her life for them and not her. You sound like you’re in one tough situation, but if you take this further it’ll only get more difficult. I’m not encouraging you to leave him, instead I am encouraging you to make sure this is resolved before you get your life completely tangled up with his. It wouldn’t be fair to either of you otherwise.

  3. Lisa Says:

    I had this particular experience, I am not in my early 30′s. I broke up with him for all the same reasons that you are thinking about. Needing to explore my college life, other men, partying, just being young. Most everyone I know encouraged me to do so. I loved him, we had dated all through high school and first year of college.

    There are pluses and minuses. I did have experiences I probably never would have had if we stayed together. I had a great time. But he’s now an excellent father, and a great husband to somebody else and me well I’m a very sucessful lonely professional women who has dated more men than she cares to remember. Most of which are losers or mentally insane. So do I sometimes wish I stayed with him maybe. But one can never know what would have been.

    Good luck.

  4. tx_guy Says:

    I’ve been in this situation for the past few years. I’m 27 and have been with my girlfriend for the past 8 years and while I love her, I can’t stop thinking about several “what if” scenarios. Those thoughts have been occupying my mind for the last 3 or 4 years.

    I couldn’t possibly end it with her. There have been times when I’ve wanted to, but I don’t have the guts to do it.

    As time goes on, it only gets harder. We’re currently living together and I’m supporting her. She is very dependent on me emotionally and financially so I would be ruining her life if I broke up with her. It’s difficult to justify doing that.


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