How to Have the Convo with Your Partner About Continuing Your Relationship After Graduation

For those of us who are seniors or are dating seniors, graduation is finally here. If one or both of you are graduating, this momentous next step in your life will likely cause some changes in your relationship. Being on the same page with your SO about dating after graduation is important, but it can be scary to discuss your long-term hopes for your relationship – especially if you haven’t been dating for all that long.

Graduation is a big step in your life, and now that school isn't tying the two of you together, your paths may diverge. Maybe you're heading off to grad school in a different city while your partner is excited to work with their dream company a few streets over from your university. On the other hand, this life change may bring you closer together. For example, if you're both staying in the same city, maybe it's time to discuss moving in together

No matter the situation, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some ways to go about having this vital discussion with your partner to figure out what comes next.

1. Start the conversation sooner rather than later.

Now is the time to start thinking about how you want this conversation to go down and what you hope to get out of a potential future with your SO. Start evaluating your relationship and thinking about whether or not you want it to continue. Maybe you came into this relationship knowing that you wouldn't want to continue after graduation – are you still feeling that way? Maybe you just started dating and you have no idea what will happen in the next two months. No matter the scenario, find a time to sit down and get on the same page.

Audrey Lent, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had to think about her future earlier than usual after her boyfriend graduated and moved six hours away. “We decided to go long-distance, but it took a long time and a lot of planning for us to come to that decision,” she says. “If that’s what you want for your relationship, start talking about it at least a couple of months in advance.”

There are just so many things to consider that you really can’t fit it all into one conversation the night before commencement. Expect to have multiple conversations to really work out what each of you wants. Communication is key to a good relationship, so starting this tough conversation early will only benefit you both.

2. Figure out your own goals first.

Before talking with your partner, figure out what your goals are for the future and whether or not you have a definitive plan. Chances are, your SO has their own dreams they’re hoping to follow, whether or not they’ve talked those through with you yet. It’s important to be able to compare your next steps after college and see whether they are compatible or not.

While in college, your relationship was most likely based on shared experiences and interests. While this is certainly important to have, there are more things to consider for post-graduation life. Do you want to get a job in a new city after graduation? What are your feelings about living near family? Have you always dreamed about going to grad school? It’s vital to realize that your SO might not have the same aspirations as you, and that’s okay. But it could make it harder for the relationship to last if you see yourself living in a small town, married and with a dog in five years if they want to travel the world for the rest of their life. 

When Lilah Keegan, a senior at Northeastern University, began dating her SO this year, she wanted to make sure they were on the same page goal-wise. "When we first started dating, I mentioned post-grad jobs, and he asked if I wanted to stay in Boston, which I do. Besides that, our goals do match, and I don't foresee any issues, besides a change in my schedule."

No matter what the end decision may be, having this talk will clear the way and help you feel secure in your decisions and, hopefully, in your relationship. 

Related: How to Start Deep Conversations When You Want to Get Closer with Your Partner

3. Consider whether you are willing to try an LDR.

In that same vein, chances are that if you want to stay with your SO after graduation, you soon could be in a long-distance relationship. As each of you graduates, you’ll be getting jobs, continuing onto grad school, or taking a gap year to figure things out. In a lot of cases, these opportunities won’t be in the same location. Therefore, it is important to consider whether you feel positively or negatively about being in a LDR.

A few things to ask yourself are: What your feelings about exclusive relationships? How often do you need to see your SO? How long can you spend apart from your SO? How are you at online communication?

Once you have some idea of how you are feeling about an LDR, you can talk with your partner about their views. If neither of you are willing to be long-distance, then that could indicate it’s time to separate depending on what’s next. This could be a hard conversation to have, but a necessary one if you really feel like you don't want to start off a new chapter of your life in an LDR.

On the other hand, many people have really successful LDRs post-college and it could be a great way to bring you too closer emotionally, though you may not be seeing each other as much in person. If you want to try making it work, just realize that it will take a lot of effort, communication, and commitment on both of your parts. You’ll both need to put in equal amounts of effort in order to truly make your relationship work, but it could lead to a great future together that is worth all the hard work. 

4. Be realistic about how your relationship might change.

No matter how the conversation with your partner goes, you’re sure to encounter some changes in your relationship dynamic, purely from the experience of graduating and starting life as newly-minted adults in the real world.

Chances are, the two of you haven't lived together before and maybe now you have to get used to having your SO as your roommate. Maybe you two will be living apart and now can only communicate via Skype, long phone calls, and the occasional weekend visit. Or maybe you are on two very different pages and it seems like a future together might not work out. 

No matter the situation, be open to this change and realize that things happen as they are meant to. If the change feels like it's too much to handle, talk with your friends and family about it; chances are they are going through, or have gone through, the same things you are. It’s better to figure out what each of you wants now, rather than dragging out a complicated relationship for years into your young adult life. 

Related6 Conversations to Have With Your SO Before Graduation

Dating post-graduation is very different from dating in college. While previously you could always rely on seeing them around campus, now you two are entering adult life, which means more responsibility. Chances are, your relationships will also get more serious, especially as you get older and start to think about whether you want to get married or have kids. 

Sometimes this talk will end in a breakup, which can be really painful, especially if you've been with someone for a few years throughout school. You've shared so much together, but now it's come to an end; however, realize that this may be for the best as you start out a new chapter in your lives. 

For some of you, this may be an easier conversation. Maybe you set an "expiration" date on your relationship and are now just reaching the end of your allotted time together. If you were both on the same page when you started this relationship and are still in agreement about this, then, while it may hurt a bit, you also had time to prepare yourself for entering this new stage.

Finally, this talk can also bring you closer together. Whether you've been dating for a few months or a few years, if you both see a future together, having this talk can really solidify those feelings and get you ready to start a new life together, whether that be physically moving-in together or beginning an LDR. 

If you or your SO are graduating soon, it’s time to have a conversation to talk about the future. While it may seem like an intimidating topic to broach, you will be happy you did it sooner rather than later.