Posted by Some Dude on May 6, 2011 at 8:20 am
Hi all! You may know me as a prolific commenter on HarvardFML; this is my new and improved means of doling out relationship advice! Got a question you want to ask, or a situation you want thoughts and advice on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch this space for my answer! Today, I’m going to talk about The Graduation Breakup.
Keeping a relationship going after graduation, especially if the parties involved are geographically separated, is very difficult. To do it, you need to have no doubts and very strong commitment. It’s a high bar, so it’s understandable to want to bail at graduation. That will be a tough decision for one person and a painful experience for the other. How to navigate it?
First, should you break up? Graduation breakups happen for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that it’s a natural (ahaha) breaking point for relationships gone stale. Another big one is that indefinite long-distance relationships are not practical, so good relationships may end so that the parties can pursue incompatible plans.
If you don’t both have conviction that you will make it work out, don’t compromise your own plans for your future. Do what will be best for you. You’re still going to have a future whether or not your significant other is in the picture – and the same goes for them.
On the other hand, there are many college couples whose relationships are built on solid foundations who break up for more avoidable reasons. A common one is when one person starts talking about marriage before the other is ready to contemplate it. Talk of marriage spooks a lot of people, because it’s not something that’s assumed people do right out of college anymore – the median age of first marriage in the US is 27 for women and 29 for men. (Whether that’s a good thing is a separate issue.) That’s not to say that, if you want to marry your significant other, you should give up or stay quiet – as the piece from Psychology Today I linked to parenthetically attests. But you will need to be very careful about how the idea gets introduced. I could go into more detail on that, but this is a post about breakups, not marriage – let me know by email or in the comments if that’s something worth doing a separate post on.
Next, how to break up? If you think you need to break up, the common wisdom is you should do it in person, and you should be as considerate as possible. That can be a problem with graduation breakups; if you’re the one doing the graduation breakup, there are basically two approaches:
- You can break up before graduation, which you get to do in person, but that casts a pall over the graduation itself.
- You can break up after graduation, which you usually have to do remotely, which is dickish.
This is a lesser-of-two-evils situation. I’m in favor of the post-graduation option. I think it’s more considerate of your soon-to-be-ex to allow them a happy graduation – that’s a big life event, one they’ll want to remember fondly. Better at least a happy ending to college if not a happily ever after, especially since the alternative is neither.
But what about the dumpee? Surprisingly there’s good news if you’re the one being dumped: moving on is easier in this situation than in almost any other. You can completely avoid your ex and nearly everything associated with them, which helps tremendously. That’s not to say it won’t be painful or that moving on will be easy in absolute terms, but there is that silver lining. You can help it along by blocking them on Facebook and anywhere else you’d see what they’re up to, and embracing the new chapter of your life rather than clinging to the last.
Special thanks to Game of Thrones, Father Ted, Gail McKay, and the iPad 2. Email Some Dude at email@example.com.