Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My 17-year-old daughter has been with her boyfriend for a year and a half, and he’s going to leave for college. She’s going to be a senior in high school.
She’s already planning to visit him “at least once a month” in college (no, I have not yet granted permission for these visits), but he’s going to be on the football team, and the college is eight hours away. I’m trying to help her realize that he’s going to have a lot of demands on his time and that it may be best to be supportive from a distance and give him the space and time he needs to succeed in school. I’m trying not to minimize her feelings that they’re “in love” and talking about a future together, because I know some couples who did indeed meet in high school and are now happily married. I just want to help her realize the relationship is going to change and it’s important for them at their ages to experience new things and some independence. Any suggestions?
Never miss a local story.
Eight hours away! Who’s paying for her travel?
That natural obstacle might get a lot more accomplished than your words can. And, if he has demands on his time, isn’t he the best messenger for that?
Plus, she will have her own work to do in school, which she can’t just dump to spend most of a weekend on the road.
Adding 1 + 1 + 1 = a strong possibility that you don’t have to do much here at all besides let nature take its course. If she pays for the trip, has all her schoolwork done in advance and he wants her to visit, then let her. Maybe if those planets actually manage to align once a month (obviously I’m skeptical) then you'll have to have the please-don’t-close-yourself-off-to-new-experiences talk, though even that comes with a caveat: If she hasn’t spent past weekends traveling 16 hours round-trip, solo, to a college campus, then this is the new thing, and staying home is the old one. Be ready for that when you go in.
Deep breathing in the meantime. If and when things do get bumpy for them, you can remind her the whole point of college is to grow and mature, and any change – in either of them – means the relationship has to change, too. Even when it hurts.
Re: Boyfriend at College: I left for college with my boyfriend in high school. It was too far for him to visit. I wish he had been able to, because then we would have realized sooner it wasn’t a good fit. Young people need to spend time together so that they can figure out if they’re a match.
Suitable for stuffing and mounting over the fireplace. What-ifs are powerful and paralyzing.
Re: College Boyfriend: If it is meant to be, it will work out. (1) Make it clear that all travel is on her. (2) All her schoolwork absolutely must be kept up. (3) No surprise visits … ever. (4) If she was in an activity last year, she still does it (unless she already indicated at the end of it that she didn’t like it).
Yes to 3 and 4, solid additions, thanks.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.