Is casual dating/the college experience worth potentially losing a serious and very loving relationship?

Hi all,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 years now, and we are transitioning into our freshman year of college. We will be going to separate colleges, but want to stay together for a long-distance relationship. We love each other very deeply, and we both share an interest in sharing a life together.

However, he is nervous he will be missing out on potential college experiences. We are each other’s first relationship, and it turned into a pretty serious thing. He doesn’t know what it is like to date other people casually, and he doesn’t want to regret only having a high school-based relationship. But at the same time, he doesn’t want to lose me or what we have together, and neither do I. I don’t want to hold him back, but I also don’t want him to regret anything.

We’ve discussed having a “break” where we try just casually dating or being single for a few months at most, and then coming back to a serious relationship with each other, but that would only work if we were both interested in doing so. Because I don’t really see a point in just casually dating, and I don’t like the idea of him being with someone else, this wouldn’t work. We also don’t know if coming back together would make us awkward or unstable.

Is the risk of casual dating worth ruining something so special?

Could I have some advice on how to deal with this? I’m willing to do anything to make something work for us.

This is such a painful situation and one that many go through, as you know. All I can say is that I know many couples who separated for a period of time, dated others, and when they came back together were stronger for it. But coming back together was not planned, it happened naturally.

Do you have someone to talk to about this, besides your boyfriend?

I am hoping you two can continue your relationship during this time of transition. Most of all I think that amidst COVID and going to college and leaving home, that maybe you should put this issue aside temporarily and talk about it when you are both settled in and comfortable in your new situations.

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I know many young people going through the same struggles as you OP, including my daughter. I was never able to maintain a long distance relationship and didn’t meet my life partner until I was in grad school. One of my closest friends married her first boyfriend (and they are one of the happiest families I know) but they never had to live far apart. You are both about to embark on a period of great personal growth. It will be hard, and you and your boyfriend will be growing while apart from each other. Your paths might continue to converge or (this is the most likely I’m afraid) they will start to diverge. You will both change. Your relationship will change. Try not to define this change because you will inevitably become disappointed. It’s hard, I know. I feel for you.

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Just like @compmom said, this situation is so hard. And I also know of couples who came back together after being apart - but it happened organically, not as part of a rumspringa type thing.

What I’ve seen with a couple of my daughter’s friends who have tried to maintain a long distance relationship going into college, is they don’t go all-in at their new school/home. They skip social events to get back to their room to facetime, they go home if there’s a long weekend, they always seem to have one foot at school and one with that far away person they’re dating.

If you decide to stay together, I hope you give each other the space to develop friends and a life in your separate colleges. And if you decide to break up, be grateful for a wonderful first relationship and who knows what the future will bring. My only real advice I guess is make sure whatever you decide, you’re honest with each other. Jealousy, suspicion, mistrust - all feel lousy.

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I had put “be honest with each other” in my post as well , and deleted it for some reason. Good advice from @packacards .

The effort to plan and control what happens is natural when you are trying to hold on to something so valuable. But life teaches us to let go. Letting go may mean staying together or growing apart, so I just mean a state of mind .

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Break up & move on.

If you both reunite, then you do, but you will both be different people.

It’s over.

P.S. There is nothing really magical about love; it’s just timing.

FWIW My relationships have been long relationships of over 3 years, 5 years, and about 35 years.

Casually dating means that you just don’t “do it” for him at this time. Fine. Go through the emotions & move on.

P.P.S. It is not special if your boyfriend wants guilt free romance & guilt free sex with others. You are his security blanket. All first relationships are special & magical.

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i was hoping i would find someone that has been through the college life, and could give me advice for how to move forward, but i have not found this person yet.

Most likely, you find this person at your college.

With respect to advice moving forward: Be yourself.

Wow, that’s a little harsh to say so bluntly to a young and sensitive person even if there MAY be some kernels of truth.

Personally, I knew I wanted to travel the world and have many kinds of adventures (not just romantic ones) before settling down, and so normally my advice to young people would be…don’t get tied down and committed too early.

However, I sympathize…my daughter is going through this too, though it’s a little different (both she and her boyfriend are wanting to stay together for now. They have been best friends as well as boyfriend/girlfriend since middle school). There are different kinds of people, and different paths to a happy life. There are those who met a partner early and have no regrets.

One thing I do know is that you can only know and control what YOU think, feel and want, but you can’t control another’s…in this case, your boyfriend’s feelings. Whether this will work for you both long-term or not, he obviously does feel a need to learn what it’s like to date others. Even if he would suppress that to please you, there would always be a place in him that would wonder “what if”. What you DON’T want is a long-term relationship in which he carries a hidden or not-so-hidden sense of resentment over what he didn’t “get” to do. A commitment really does have to be mutual or there will be problems sooner or later.

For you, if you don’t want to date around, don’t (or at least unless/until you do). Be generally open to all kinds of life opportunities). Throw yourself into college life and try to take the boyfriend issue off the table for now. Join clubs and activities, make friends of all stripes without necessarily thinking about a romantic relationship if you don’t want one. Get comfortable with the idea of uncertainty about some aspects of life. Keep your boyfriend n your life as a friend for now ( if you want) but let him go if that’s what he needs to do, and see what happens. You may decide a complete breakup is better for you, or you may learn to be OK with the idea of a possible future later, but you can’t, and shouldn’t control him. I know, easier said than done. Growing up is not easy! Feel all of your feelings, happy and sad, and above all, embrace your life. Sometimes things will be hard, and yet good things will happen.

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Just my opinion but if he wants to casually date and you are open to trying that then go ahead. If you are doing it only to make him happy then you are setting yourself up for an enormous amount of heart ache. My HS boyfriend and I went to the same college and tried the “freshman break” and ended up dating until we were seniors in college. We didn’t end up together. However, one of the boys I dated casually during that break has been my husband for 20 years. We went out, were crazy about each other, but he was leaving to live about 1,800 miles away so the timing was terrible. Three years later, we reconnected and dated across 3,000 miles. All of this to say, if you want to make it work you can and sometimes even when you aren’t separated it doesn’t. Follow your gut on this one.

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The realities of life are often harsh.

OP: I am doing you a favor. How will you feel if your boyfriend brings an STD into your relationship from his casual dating ?

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neither my partner nor I want to break up, and neither of us is interested in pursuing a serious relationship with someone else. The only issue is his potential curiosity of what it would be like to casually date or be single in a college setting. He doesn’t know if he even wants to pursue this at all. As a person, I don’t believe he would have the capacity to cheat on me, at least without me knowing. Should I become more flexible, and let him experience these things, knowing that I could be uncomfortable with it? Or should we continue with our plans of being committed and serious, yet not constrained?

You are not the first person to experience this type of situation. Ask your boyfriend to be honest with you; ask him to be a man.

He may want you as a security blanket if he cannot get someone better.

Consider speaking to a therapist.

Be direct & honest with your boyfriend.

If you continue to romanticize this, you may experience a great deal of emotional pain in the near future. Simply put: Your boyfriend wants to date & experience other girls.

There is no such thing as breaking-up halfway. This does not mean that your boyfriend is a bad person; it just means that he is normal & wants other women at this very young stage of his life.You have no choice in the matter; he is going to venture out and experiment whether or not you give your consent. Most likely,he hopes that you will break up with him to save him from feeling guilty about hurting you. Trust me, I know. Folks who sugarcoat this are not doing you any favors.

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Try this approach - we want to be together but if presented with an opportunity that is too good to pass on we will tell each other first and assess where we are at that point. This falls in line with another poster… that opportunity may not come in the form of a date. Maybe it is an international trip, an internship, or maybe it is a burger and bowling with another co-ed. Open, honest communication is the only way through this. If he is already indicating he feels “held back” then please just be careful because resentment is a powerful emotion that is not easily overcome.

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he hasn’t indicated that he feels “held back” but i’m worried that i would be if we tried staying together without experimenting with other people. He isn’t even sure what he wants at the moment–he’s just curious to see what it would be like, and he’s wondering if casual dating is really even worth it. The only thing he knows for certain that he doesn’t want to break up for good.

The only thing that he knows for certain is not what you think. Please stop fooling yourself.

P.S. I asked my wife for her opinion. She said “he’s young. Just break up with him. Consider it to be a no-fault divorce.”

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My mom told me I should share here. I’m not telling you what to do, I’m just telling you what happened with me. Me and bf were together my junior and senior year in hs and were best friends and decided to stay together in college. We were apart for a month during summer before college while I was a camp counselor and it went ok. I was only allowed to use my phone really on my days off, so there was no expectation to like talk to him a lot, and I think that actually helped. But when we went to school, it was totally different. We missed each other a lot, but I was trying to make friends and he was too but like he wanted me to call and check in more. When you’re a freshmen there are tons of activities because everyone is a little homesick and trying to make friends so they plan a lot of ways for people to get to know each other. And I was trying to be involved and still stay connected to my bf but he ended up kinda getting mad at me - I wasn’t even hanging out with guys really, I was just trying to be involved and meet people. (Since then, he’s said that he was just sad and it just came out as mad - which isn’t right, and he’s apologized, but it sucked.) Anyway, he ended up hooking up with someone, kind of out of the blue, and that sucked too. It was all a mess and awful. We’re pretty much friends now, but I guess if I were to do it over again, I would’ve broken up before going away to college. Even if you don’t end up dating people, you’ll just be free to make new friends and be open to all the experiences of college and you might preserve being at least friends with your bf. It’s not like I’m this totally different person than I was in hs, but a lot happens in college, and you just want to take advantage of all the opportunities that come to you without worrying about how they’re going to effect someone at home. But that’s just my experience. Ultimately, you gotta do what’s right for you. Just don’t let a guy make you feel bad when you haven’t done anything wrong! Be true to yourself! (I’m a junior in college btw)

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His FOMO tells you he is not likely ready to make a long-term commitment to you (or anyone else).

I would tell him he is free to date and live his freshman year in all the glory he has dreamed of. If you are meant to be, it will happen. You can choose to do what feels right for you.

He has been honest that he wants to date other people.

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You should write for Hallmark😀

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no offense, @Publisher but you’re making some big assumptions about guys and even that the OP is a girl. No one can really know what the OP is feeling or the boyfriend of the OP except them - and they might not be totally sure. But @gummyvites I’d say there’s some really good advice here and some, well, big assumptions. You’re going to meet all kinds of really great people in college, be honest with each other and be honest with yourselves. It would be great if you could have all the security of a safe, loving, committed relationship AND all the excitement and broadening of horizons and potential of dating new people - but unless you’re poly, I don’t think you get both. Or at least, I didn’t. Good luck!

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