Should You Break Up With Your High School SO Before College?

Young couple holding hands.
Young couple holding hands.

To LDR or to not LDR? That is the question. And it’s one that many soon-to-be collegiettes in relationships have to start asking themselves as high school days quickly start dwindling. Why? That’s when you and your SO may find yourselves heading off to colleges in different directions. Should you break up and seek new experiences? Stay together and try to push through? Which is the right decision? How do you know?

Option 1: Break up

How to tell the relationship just isn’t for you anymore

Sure, no one really likes a breakup, but it can oftentimes be the best thing for you as you transition to a completely new part of your life.

If you’re not sure what path you and your partner should take post-high school graduation, ask yourself which aspects of college you’re most looking forward to (besides academics, of course!). Parties? Greek life and formal dances? Meeting new people and becoming a more independent version of yourself? Now, ask yourself: Are those things going to be affected if you stay with your current high school SO?

“I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I realized we weren’t serious enough to make it long-distance,” says *Joanne, a junior at Notre Dame. “I couldn’t see myself missing out on classic college experiences to stay in and Skype with him or take a weekend away to visit.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decision to stay with or break up with your SO. After spending part or all of high school together, you may feel like no one could ever understand you more than the person who was always there for you. But what if you start feeling like you want something more?

“It is simply human to not want to lose the person [who] has possibly been your best friend throughout high school,” says Rhonda Ricardo, a columnist, screenwriter and author.

If you’re starting to have doubts about the future of your relationship, you are just like everyone else. “If your romantic feelings for your high school sweetheart have faded by graduation, you are in the over ninety-percentile of all teenagers on the verge of adulthood,” says Ricardo.

If you are starting to resent the fact that you are going to miss out on new college experiences or if you simply find yourself not feeling the same way towards your SO as before, the relationship may not be the best thing for you. “I started to feel differently weeks, if not months, prior to breaking up with my boyfriend,” shares Lucy*, a sophomore at John Carroll University. “I think the main thing that made me realize I needed to end the relationship was that I wasn’t excited for the future anymore. We were both going to different colleges that were very far away from each other, and all I could think about was how difficult and time consuming it was going to be. I kept thinking, ‘This really isn’t worth it.’”

Lucy adds that not everyone will have these thoughts so far in advance; many people will suddenly realize even the week before they leave for school that this relationship isn’t what they want. The most important thing is to trust your gut and do what’s best for you, no matter when you realize it.

When should you break up?

How would you feel if the night before you left for college, your SO dumped you totally out of the blue? Hurt? Angry? Confused? Completely depressed and totally not in the mood to fake being all smiles and sunshine at tomorrow’s orientation? We thought so. Lesson: Don’t do that to him if your only reason is that you couldn’t bring yourself to do it earlier. After what was hopefully a great relationship, why hurt each other?

While that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break up before graduation or even before summer, it does mean that you should seriously start thinking about what you want to do well before it’s time to pack your bags and head in separate directions.

This was a lesson Karina Reddy, a recent graduate of Boston University, had to learn the hard way. “I dated someone for my junior and senior year of high school, and we broke up when I went to the East Coast for college (I'm from Washington state),” says Karina. “I would suggest, if at all possible, to break up with enough time to allow yourself to adjust to being single again before you have to jump into a new environment. This will also keep you from feeling held back when you're immersing yourself in your new college life!”

Then again, if you have a strong sense of what your heart wants well in advance, there may not be a point in wasting any time. “I broke up with my high school boyfriend before graduation,” says Joanne. “We ended things before summer even started because I didn’t see the point in staying in a relationship when I knew there was an expiration date.” While there is no real deadline by which you have to break up, you should definitely be thinking about your options before ‘breaking up’ takes your SO by surprise.

How to communicate a break up

Communicating your thoughts about potentially breaking up with your SO is a touchy subject, especially if you still aren’t sure of whether breaking up is definitely what you want to do.

Ricardo has found that the best thing to do when talking about potentially breaking up is for both parties to take a moment and think about the future, rather than getting caught up in the emotional situation they’re currently in. When you see your potentially future ex-SO at your high school reunion, do you want things to be awkward because of how things were left, or do you want to continue to have a great relationship?

“Simply be kind, loving, caring, friendly and respectful of the relationship you have shared,” Ricardo shares. “If you use the exact words and actions you would want your high school sweetheart to employ while breaching this tender subject of parting ways with you, you can be confident that you treated your sweetheart with your very best and that your friends will also know that you handled the breakup honorably.” That’s especially key given that you likely have shared high school friends, and you don’t want to lose more than one person in this breakup.

Lucy agrees: “Communicating a breakup, or a potential breakup, is all about respect. Let your partner know that you are simply thinking things out in a rational manner, and that you want to have a chance to lay everything out on the table and know exactly where each other’s heart and mind is on the topic.” Failing to do this will result in very hurt and confused emotions later down the road.

Making sure that both you and your partner have had the chance to share your feelings on the possibility of staying together through college is key; don’t just avoid the subject until you both go to your separate colleges and try to figure it out from there.

How to get a fresh start for college

A breakup can certainly take a toll on you as you begin your first year at college. Being surrounded by new strangers who you are trying to befriend and attempting to pass classes you never knew could be so hard can make you start thinking about those carefree high school days when you were head over heels for your ex-SO.

One of the best things you can do for yourself before you transition to your new college life is to get some emotional and physical distance from your ex.

Karina shares that although she and her SO had broken up when she left for college, they would still remain close in contact. “We continued to text constantly and tell each other ‘I love you’ until he got a new girlfriend about two weeks after I left,” she says. “And then a horrible breakup ensued, along with the transition to living on my own across the country from my family, trying to make new friends and navigate college classes.”

“There are so many new people to meet when you get to college,” Karina adds. “It's hard enough to adjust to a new place where you know no one. It's even harder when you're going through a breakup.” Getting some distance from your ex and focusing on some ‘you time’ after the breakup is imperative.

Plus, a fresh, drama-free breakup can actually benefit you later on down the road! “When your first college crush asks you about your last breakup, your story of a drama-free friendly breakup will warm his heart and give him the confidence to trust you will treat him with honor too; which is a key to a long-lasting romance!” says Ricardo. Sounds good to us!

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