"My BF is away for two years—should I date other people?"
I am head over heels in love with my best friend, and it’s awesome. He’s my video game partner and my Netflix buddy. He’s incredibly sweet and absolutely hilarious. I’m now a freshman in college but we went to high school together and share the same friends. He loves to cook for me and even makes me treats and gets me Advil when I have PMS! I feel our relationship has helped each of us grow into better people and I can picture us staying together forever. Essentially, he is the best guy I have ever dated and I love him more than I can say, but there’s one big problem: He had to go away for two years to work on a humanitarian project. We can write letters and email, but we can’t talk on the phone and we can only Skype twice a year—that’s a total of FOUR TIMES until he gets back. He’s been gone for six months now, and its easier for me than it was at first, but its still hard.
But here’s my real problem: Now that he’s gone, I don’t really feel like dating anyone else, and this really bothers a lot of my friends and family. They aren’t blatantly unsupportive, but I hear a lot of things like, “Are you really sure about him? and “Shouldn’t you be using your freshman year to have fun?” and “Are you just waiting for him because it’s easier than finding someone else?” Is it crazy waiting for him for two entire years when everyone around me seems to be so against it?
I mean, I love him and our relationship is something that I’d really like to last, but no one around me seems to accept that. Even my mom—who was in a long distance relationship with my dad—is telling me that I shouldn’t limit my options and I should date other boys while I’m in college (which she didn’t do while they were apart). Part of me understands her, but another part of me feels like I’ll never find anyone who I love as much.
I wish that my friends and family could realize that it’s hard enough to be without him, and what I really need right now is their love and support. Since they can’t see that, I’m turning to you. Sarah, am I just being stupid? Should I date other guys while he’s gone? Should I confront my friends and family and tell them how I really feel?? Is it ridiculous to believe that we still be together after two years???
—Downhearted and Lonely in Utah
I’m sure your friends and family have the best intentions, but I get that their pushing you to see other people doesn’t feel very supportive right now. No one can look into the future and predict if your relationship will last, but I do know that there’s no automatic “off” switch on one’s feelings. I’m a believer in letting things develop naturally—I personally wouldn’t advocate dating people who I wasn’t interested in just for the sake of it.
However, if you are holed up in your bedroom with the shades pulled down spending all your time writing your guy emails, you should get out into the sun and live a little. Letting things develop naturally also means being with friends, going to parties, enjoying the things you used to do before your he went away. You might or might not meet anyone you want to date, but make sure you aren’t putting your whole life on hold for two years. He’s out in the world doing interesting and challenging things and you should be to. Over the next 18 months, both of you can see how that goes—how your feelings develop and change as you each of you grow as individuals. You’ll also feel less lonely and miserable.
If I were you, I’d think of a polite way of telling people that you might date someone else if they really wowed you, but that hasn’t happened yet. As for your mom, her story and attitude toward your situation sounds like the beginning of a very interesting conversation. If she went through the same thing as you but is encouraging you to date, she might have some wisdom to share. Approaching her with curiosity and an open mind might deepen your communication in good and surprising ways.
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