“Help: I’m afraid my boyfriend and I are growing apart”

Dear Sarah,

I am stressing about losing my boyfriend. I’m in college and we have been in a relationship for two years. At first, things were great. He’s two years older than me, but it was early enough that we that we didn’t have to take life too seriously. However, he’s graduating in the spring, while I am still only halfway through school. Because we are at very different places right now, he is starting to think about our relationship longer-term, and I don’t know if I am ready for that.

Also, I am the kind of person who likes to be involved in a lot different activities. I am the president of a club, I’m majoring in two subjects, and I have a part-time job—so I am pretty busy! He feels that I am putting my club friends before him and I don’t really know what to do. School and and extracurriculars are super important to me—I enjoy my life and also want to have a lot to put on my resume to help me in the future. Sometimes, I guess I do prioritize other things over him, but I don’t know how to change that. We have a great time together, but he’s not the only person in my life. I feel like this makes me a bad girlfriend! At the same time I’m in still only college—I feel like it’s unhealthy for a relationship to be the most important thing.

I feel like we are simply growing up and becoming our own people—but he thinks that I just don’t care or have fun with him anymore. I’m at a loss, because I DO care about him a lot, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe we aren’t right for each other for the long term. I’m really afraid of hurting him. Please help me calm my brain!!!

—Worried and Confused in Phoenix

Dear Worried and Confused,

You may feel worried, but I’m not—about you. You seem like a smart, practical young woman who is squeezing the most possible juice out of her college experience. If I’m reading between the lines of your letter, I think the question you are really asking is: “Is it possible to break up with someone and not hurt their feelings?” To that, I would answer, “No.” Hearts get broken, but in healthy people (which it sounds like you and your BF are), they magically fix themselves up again.

Maybe you and your boyfriend will last beyond his graduation—though it doesn’t really sound like you are keen on that. A couple of questions to ask yourself right now: Is he being extra clingy because he’s nervous about the grown-up world he’s facing just around the corner? Is that turning you off and are you retreating into your busy-ness to avoid him? If so, that’s not really fair. Relationships do require regular sunshine and watering. If you plan on staying with him this year, do try to make special time for him—maybe a regular, sacred, weekly date night. And be supportive if he’s feeling insecure.

But, all that said, while taking his needs and feelings into consideration, you continue “doing you”—don’t sacrifice yourself and all the things that spark you up in life; you’ll only end up resenting him and souring the relationship.

Love, Sarah

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