Hello, this is my first time sending one of these letters and I feel that you are going to help me out the most, as I typically agree with your opinions in your column, blog, thing.
I think what I do is best referred to as a "clog."
So, here is my situation. My boyfriend and I have been together for over two years and I’m convinced I love him more than I could possibly love anyone ever. (Yes, I know stupid teenaged girl declaration.) However, these last few months have been straining our relationship as I have been doing some college classes in our home town and he has been up north at an University. Now, however, have just received an acceptance letter to THE best school for my chosen career path, unfortunately it is not the same college he is going to. He is not handling this news well and seems to want me to forgo this amazing opportunity to go and be with him… I just don’t know how to reassure him that my going to this college will not harm our relationship and calm him down… in your opinion, am I doing the right thing in choosing this amazing college and career opportunity? How can I help reassure him that everything will continue to be fine as we now have this long-distance thing down pat and the universities are still in the same state? Any advice you have on this will be greatly appreciated! Also I hope you have a nice day.
Your HIGHLY confused Sparkler
P.S. He’s also joined the ROTC program at his school… does this have anything to do with how he’s acting? Please help!
Okay, for starters, in response to your wanting to convince him that this won't harm your relationship, and your question about whether or not you're doing the right thing, I'm going to say something that Whiny Teenage Jono would want to punch me for: it really might harm your relationship, and you should do it anyway, because it's the right thing. I feel safe in giving this advice, because I am way bigger than Whiny Teenage Jono, and he would just ineffectually slap at me and then run away to write some poetry about it.
There is a point to my making fun of Teenager Me: back when I was a dude of your dude's age, I believed that ~True Love~ was all that mattered, and that all other things, including permanent career decisions, were of secondary importance. Of course, I also believed that a girl would fall in love with you if you hid in her bushes for long enough, because I was a complete goon. Furthermore, "True Love" was defined as "whoever I am in love with at this particular moment." Now that I am an actual adult who can sort of function in society, my outlook is the opposite of that; I think this guy is holding you back from doing something that you should definitely do, but I also totally understand where he's coming from. And he's not entirely wrong to be worried.
Long-distance relationships can work, but I don't think anyone agrees on the particulars of how that happens. A dude is not a gallon of milk, and he doesn't come with an expiration date, after which he will Go Bad (hurl his nude self at the nearest female within hurling distance). The fact that you two would be in the same state is promising, but that matters a lot less than how often you would actually be together physically. I don't mean to sound like a disapproving grouch, popping out of the nearest garbage can to tell you that everything sucks and your relationship is doomed. These things can work. I just want you to understand that the odds are probably against you.
But with that said, how many perfect schools for your major are there in the universe? One, apparently. How many boys are there? Like, infinity billion, if you count boys who are aliens. I'm not saying you shouldn't even try to keep this together; if you are genuinely IN LURVE, then maybe you will prove my grouchy self wrong and I will retreat, defeated, to my garbage can. All I'm saying is that, if you have to pick between School and Boy, one of these things is more lasting. Going to your perfect school influences your entire career, and thus the rest of your life. Boys are less important. We're everywhere, and we smell pretty bad and usually eat all of your food.
I keep pointing out that Life > Boy because I want you to get that even in the worst-case scenario, the one where you have to pick one thing to the complete exclusion of the other, you should choose the path that's best for you over the path that preserves the relationship. But of course that's not even what you asked me. What you asked was how to reassure him, and I think the best way to do that is to have a serious plan for keeping this thing together, one that you both discuss out loud and committed to. Here are some things you should both agree on:
1.) Communicate often.
I have been in... let's say 1.5 long-distance relationships, and the only reason that one of them almost worked was that we were always, always calling or messaging or whatever. But then it didn't. The main reason the relationship failed was probably that I was the one in it, but the point is that communicating often is crucial.
2.) Don't get mad over nothing, and don't hang up mad.
We derive meaning from body language and other non-text cues; they say as much as 80% of what we communicate comes from that stuff (that stat is disputed, but you get my point). This means that texting and e-mailing are really prone to misunderstandings. Imagine, for example, that he's in a huge rush, sprinting to get to some class on time, hopelessly trying to remember material for a test he didn't study for, frantically dodging around pedestrians, desperately trying to decide which wire to cut (in this scenario he is also trying to defuse a bomb for some reason). Then you text him and are like "Hellooo, I saw a duck outside and it was cute! :D" and he doesn't respond, or he texts back "cant talk now" or something. And then you're like "Huff! Boggle!" becoming huffy at his carelessness and boggling at his jerkitude. This situation will immediately escalate, you'll get mad, he'll get madder, and the bomb will explode and probably kill the duck. If you want a long-distance relationship to work, you have to both commit to fighting these impulses. Always choose to be understanding rather than thinking "But I'm busy too, and I make time for him!" (Just so you don't think I'm aiming this lecture at women, in my LDR, I was the one who got huffy over dumb nonsense.)
3.) Meet as often as humanly possible, on a schedule.
Here's the thing about humans: we are big stupid animals. Sure, we write a lot of poems about how love is like a sexy bug or whatever, but ultimately we are very simple and primal; the thing that engenders feelings of closeness is physically being close. Being literally together is the thing that will keep your relationship together. The more you can commit to visiting each other (ideally with both of you making the effort in equal measure), the better your chances.
I hope I was at least somewhat helpful; in the end, the only way to reassure him is to go into this LDR fully committed to making it work. But please remember that freshman year is where long-distance relationships go to die. I hope you prove me wrong and make it work, but whether or not it comes to that, my advice is that you should definitely make the decision that's right for your career and life. If you sell your future short for the sake of the relationship, you may very well wind up with a nice boy and a terrible job that you forever resent him for. "If only I had gone to The Perfect School," you'll think to yourself every day, and then go back to your snail-wrangling.