To be or not to be... single?
Originally Published: April 11, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 2, 2012
I am a 23-year-old college student who has been in a five-year relationship. For the last year, our relationship has been long distance (three states away). We have been on a constant five-year emotional roller coaster and now I am tired of it. I deeply love this man of mine; he was my first love and I've known him for nine years. Some days I feel I want to salvage the relationship, but other days I just want to be single and enjoy life. Just recently, I have been noticing and finding myself flirting with this guy in one of my classes. I find myself daydreaming about this guy and sometimes I think I'm in love.
My situation is that I want to experience a single lifestyle, but I don't want to lose my boyfriend in the process because he might be the man I want to marry... someday... Can you give me some friendly advice about my situation?
Dear Sincerely Single?,
You and your boyfriend were young when you met. People change dramatically in their late teen and young adult years. It wouldn't be at all extraordinary for you and/or your boyfriend to have "outgrown" one another. If, in your heart, you think the relationship is serving mainly as a safety net or security blanket for you, then you'd be doing yourself and your boyfriend a disservice by prolonging the relationship. Five years is a long time to stay on an "emotional rollercoaster." If you're tired of it, it's okay to let go.
Sometimes the best thing to do when you're feeling uncertain or "on the fence" about a relationship is to take a break from it. This is not to say that you and your boyfriend need to take a break from each other and see other people. You can consider, say, a month of no contact and see how it feels to be on your own, specifically promising not to see or date other people (and agreeing on what this means). This would give each of you time to consider your relationship carefully, to see how it feels to be apart, and, maybe, most importantly, to have an opportunity to be on your own, experience some independence, and conquer any fears you may have about not being in a relationship that may be standing in the way of your viewing your relationship clearly. At the end of the month, meet with your boyfriend (in a neutral place where it isn't likely to get physical or overly emotional) and discuss your lives without one another. What did you both learn? How are each of you feeling? Does it make sense to go forward as boyfriend and girlfriend, or do you think you would feel more comfortable as friends? Or do you, perhaps, need more time apart — maybe another month — to further clarify your feelings? You may or may not like this idea, but it is clear that you would like to change something because the way your "five-year emotional roller coaster" relationship is now doesn't seem to be working for the two of you.
Another thing that can help when you're having difficulty making a decision about whether or not to end a relationship is to get some support and perspective. You may want to visit your school's counseling service, talk with a dean, or meet with a clergyperson or therapist. Such a person can help you sort out your feelings about your boyfriend as well as face any fears you may have about being on your own. Columbia students can make an appointment with a professional counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or the Mental Health Service (CUMC).
Hope that helps. Good luck with your decision and with getting what you want.