Dear Wendy: “Should I Dump My Boyfriend Before I Start College?”

I’m an eighteen year old girl about to start college. I’ve had a boyfriend for a year and I’ve really enjoyed our time together. He was my first boyfriend, therefore he is very special to me and basically all I have ever known. Very soon, we will be about two hours apart during college. This is hard for me to even fathom because we see each other almost every day. He has become a best friend to me, and I just don’t know what to do without him. On the other hand, I am interested in dating other people. A part of me wants to see what is out there and have new experiences, but I am so afraid I will make the wrong choice and be unhappy without him. I can’t even picture him with another girl — the feeling makes me a jealous monster. I honestly feel stuck. What should I do? — College Conundrum

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If picturing your boyfriend makes you a jealous monster, quit picturing him with another girl! Instead, picture yourself in your first year of college, enjoying all the new experiences you’ve been dreaming of: new friends, a flexible schedule, fun parties, weekend road trips, interesting classes (it’s possible…), and yes, dates, too. Eighteen is so young to be tied down to one person — especially one person who lives two hours away. This is the time for you to explore and have fun, not feel tethered to someone simply because you’re afraid to be without him. It’s OK to be afraid — it’s totally natural — but don’t let fear be your guiding emotion. When you let fear guide you, you close yourself off to so many important experiences — experiences that will reward and enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine yet. And as cliché as it may sound, if your high school sweetheart is the one meant for you, a few years of independence when you need it most won’t keep you apart forever. Going your separate ways now — while you still have good feelings toward each other — doesn’t have to be a permanent move. He’s still going to be there in a year or two or four and you can always see if your connection then is just as strong as it always was. If it is, then great. And if it isn’t, well, at least you didn’t devote some of the most exciting years of your life trying to keep a doomed LDR alive.

Related: Dear Wendy: “Is He Only Interested in Me for Sex?”

I have always struggled with giving my girlfriends advice about their boyfriends/guys they’re dating because it always turns into a fight. I think all girls have this issue amongst their girlfriends. They call you crying or tell you a story and really what are you supposed to say, because when you give your opinion and it’s not what they want to hear it ends up in an argument and they get defensive. So my question is what are we girls supposed to do when a friend calls crying or tells us something that happened and you don’t really know what to say if what we have to say is not what they want to hear. — Trying to be a Good Girlfriend

First of all, not every girl is like the girls you apparently are friends with. I have plenty of female friends who value my opinion and advice even when it’s not what they want to hear. Maybe you’re still young and your friends haven’t matured beyond the desire to be placated. Or maybe you just run around with an exhausting bunch of ladies, but I promise you, the behavior you’ve come across is not indicative of females in general. That said, you need to know how to deal with your friends, and your friends obviously don’t take criticism of their boyfriends or relationships well — even when they seem to want honest feedback. So, since you can’t change their reaction to your words, you’re best bet is to change your message. Rather than telling them what you really think, I recommend simply listening to them and saying sympathetic, non-judgmental things like: “Wow, that sounds really difficult, I’m sorry you’re going through that” and “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”

Many times, people don’t want solutions to their problems; they just want to be heard and sympathized with. Since it seems your friends fall squarely in this camp — give them what they want. What difference is it to you? You don’t have to lie about your opinions, but you don’t have to be as forthcoming as you have been. If your friends straight-up ask you for advice, rather than give them the one option you think is best for them, simply talk through a variety of options with them. Let them make their own decisions and don’t be so pushy about what you think is right.

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