Finding a boyfriend in college who treats you well and makes you happy is a rare but fortunate discovery. The caveat that is sadly attached to guys of this caliber reveals itself near the end of your senior year, your romantic summer, or spring semester, when you and your lad are graduating and finding homes in separate cities (a caveat that yours truly is currently avoiding), heading home to different states, or heading back to separate schools. Unfortunately, long distance is a demanding beast that love cannot always conquer, so some couples inevitably decide to choose the somber but realistic alternative: breaking up.
Choosing to end the relationship by a certain date, however, is full of its own charming pitfalls and problems. Knowing that you’re essentially counting down days until the end ruins fantasies about you and your man’s future, which is part of the fun and excitement of relationships. Despite this unfortunate occurrence, it is possible to find solace after making this joint decision.
When to Break It Off
Once you and your boyfriend have decided to avoid the tumultuous road that can be long-distance, the next step is to “consciously end it,” advises Daphne Kingma, relationship advisor and author of Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours. Rather than wait until the last day of college to make your break-up official, choose a date a few weeks before so you can ease into the change, advises dating expert April Masini of AskApril.com. “If you break up and then go home within 12 hours or even 48 hours of the break up, it’s hard to feel like it’s real because so much has changed at once. It’s too much for anyone to process easily,” she says. “But if you break up while in college, with a few weeks of class to go, you can get used to being single without changing so much at once.”
With this in mind, accepting your single status doesn’t have to be awful and awkward, says Masini, but acceptance can initiate the healing process. “If you break up before college ends, it gives both people a chance to really say goodbye over the course of a few weeks,” she recommends, adding “This makes the break up less surreal.” Accepting your soon-to-be single status doesn’t have to be spent crying every time Derek and Meredith kiss during Grey’s Anatomy or you pass your boyfriend’s favorite spot on campus. Many collegiettes™ anticipate the fun activities and gorgeous weather that are exclusive to the spring, so try not to waste this time away in angst over the great relationship you had last semester. This way, you can look back and happily recollect your final days of college.
What to Do About Boundaries
To avoid further angst, set boundaries for you and your beau’s post break-up interactions. Your college town doesn’t have to be divided by pink and blue regions, but your phone transmissions should be. If your relationship was fortunate enough to turn into love, then “it’s very hard to stay friendly with an ex until you’ve both moved on,” notes Masini. For this reason, she doesn’t recommend continuing talking, but completely ending communication can become especially challenging when you share friends or favorite spots. Be kind but brief if you cross paths. “Say, let’s e-mail once a week just to say ‘how you are doing,’” suggests Kingma.
No matter what the boundary, be plain and honest about what you believe you’ll be emotionally capable of handling. If consistent or any interactions are too much to handle, Kingma proposes you say that you need to move on to your new phase, but “ten years from now I can talk and that will be great.” Considering the terms of your romance’s end, this is probably a dual sentiment. That being said, be amiable if you run into each other at the laundromat or text a simple “Happy Birthday” when it’s appropriate, as long as you both know and respect each other’s limit.
In our tech-centered generation, late night texts and nostalgia-prompted phone calls aren’t the only masochistic actions that people use, but Facebook is apt to cause a lot of pain as well. Checking the activity on his wall, wondering whom the redhead in his new album is, and reading his every status can be tempting post-break up. If you have little to no Facebook self control, de-friending your ex or removing him from your newsfeed may be a necessary precaution to avoiding these late night self-torture sessions.
How to Recover
“Obsessing over what could have happened doesn’t do you any favors—it just makes you feel worse,”advises Michaela. This advice is admittedly much easier said than done, but it induces a mentality that will eventually lead you to resolution. Indulge in the warm weather and clear your mind with a nature hike or a girl’s night out (both can include a pint or two of rich ice cream for good measure). Surround yourself by positive friends and family and remember that you have other loves in your life.
Even further, Kingma advocates a grieving process that can be done alone or with your boyfriend. “The important thing is to talk about it and let it be a thing that is a part of the relationship,” she urges. “And some of the things in that ceremony are to talk about the things that you enjoyed the most in your relationship, what you’ll miss the most,” she said. Masini agrees, adding “be clear that this is the end of the relationship so your partner doesn’t waste time pining for someone who isn’t available,” adding, “Tell your partner that you’ll always hold a special place in your heart for him, but that it’s time you both go your separate ways.” According to Masini, consider prompting this conversation during the day, so he can contact his “support people,” and giving time before exam week so he can focus on his finals.
Another part of this process is to decipher why the relationship truly ended, “Because there is always a reason more just than school went over,” notes Kingma. Whether you don’t believe yourselves to be long-term compatible or know that you’d rather have a career-centered focus after graduating, “it’s important to connect with what that [reason] is,” Kingma says. Personally channeling this “new level of awareness” is a part of the grieving process. Lastly, “don’t be afraid to feel the grief to have the tears, even if you can’t have them with the person.” Because you can no longer look to your boyfriend to hold you during this emotional stressful period, spend it with your support group, whether that comprises of your family or girlfriends.
For this reason, try to consider graduation exactly what it is: an exciting occasion. If you spend all of spring thinking of this ceremonial mark as an expiration date for your relationship, the official day, time, and year that your relationship spoiled, it’ll do little for your spirit. “We’re young, and whether you stay together after the end of the time period or not, things will work out for the best,” optimistically suggests an anonymous contributor to Her Campus.
Break-ups are always difficult, but choosing to break up because of distance certainly earns a ribbon for being one of the most heart-wrenching reasons. “It’s much harder to say goodbye because college is over and two people who respect each other, have decided to go separate ways,” notes Masini. There is surely a corny, but charming, Hugh Grant film that ought to be quoted here, but I’ll dodge that tempting choice. Whether moving on now or later, embrace a “better to have loved” mentality and work through your personal grieving period. Through it all, try to stay excited about your future and the love you have yet to experience.
Daphne Kingma, relationship expert and Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours
April Masini, dating and relationship expert, author of AskApril.com
Keely, University of Pennsylvania student
Michaela, UNC sophomore
Anonymous HC contributor