I have been with my boyfriend for about three years now. He is my first real boyfriend and my first real love. We have a wonderful relationship; he treats me so well, and is incredibly loving. Everyone we know always says that he is one of the best people they’ve ever met. So what’s the problem? He’s been enlisted in the military for almost our entire relationship, and we see each other about four times a year. Right now, he is deployed in Afghanistan and won’t be back till September, so communication is extremely limited. I love him so much, but I often find myself frustrated with our relationship because of the distance. I’m in college, and I sometimes feel like I hold myself back from having more fun because I have a boyfriend who I rarely see. When he’s home, I am so happy and I know that he is someone that I could spend my life with. But every time he leaves, I find myself in the same place. I feel like I can’t talk to any of my friends because they can’t relate to what I’m going through, so I feel stuck. I’m still young, and I feel like a “military wife” when I don’t want to be. Should I give up the love of my life to feel more my age? — Lonely in Minnesota
You say he’s your very first real boyfriend and that almost your entire relationship has been long distance? Oh, LIM, don’t cheat yourself of some great experiences! You’re young; you’re in college. Go out and date around for a while. You can still keep in touch with your guy in Afghanistan, but tell him that you want to date other people until he’s safely back home and you can actually spend time together and build a real relationship based on shared experiences. You may truly love and have a connection with him, but without having had much face-to-face interaction, your relationship doesn’t have much of a foundation at this point, something you really need to help deal with the challenges of being a military girlfriend or spouse.
My worry for you, if you don’t take some time to date around and see what else might be out there for you, is not only your general lack of perspective but your growing resentment that you might be missing out on some of the experiences your college friends are having. Those experiences may not be ones you’d enjoy or that would fulfill you, but you owe yourself the chance to find out. I’m afraid if you don’t take the opportunity now for a little exploration, you may always wonder what you might have missed out on. Sure, in agreeing to see other people you take the risk of losing the “love of your life,” but, look, the likelihood that he’s going to find someone else while he’s deployed in Afghanistan isn’t that great. And if he loves you and cares about you, he should understand that you deserve to have a normal college experience and not be tied down to some guy you’ve seen all of about 12 times or so. But even if he can’t understand that’s the case, I really hope you do.
Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.