The 411: Off to college - time to break up? | May 30, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - May 30, 2008

The 411: Off to college - time to break up?

by Katharine O'Hara

As the school year comes to a close, many high school couples are beginning to confront the conflicting decision of whether to end their relationship or stay together as one or both parties leave for college in the fall. Lately, the issue seems to have resurfaced time and again as many of those around me weigh the pros and cons of such a heavy decision.

On one hand, it seems logical that a couple would break up before starting college. College is the time for young adults to take advantage of their independence, clear their slate, and maybe even reinvent themselves. Entering college in the midst of a serious relationship has the potential to sidetrack one from wholeheartedly pursuing goals and developing as an individual. When so devoted to another person, it becomes more difficult to focus on personal identity development (which is still very much going on during young adulthood). It is possible that one would not make an effort to meet new people in college if they brought their significant other with them or were romantically involved long-distance. College should be a time for experiencing new and different types of people, and growing and changing, not being bound to the past and to what is comfortable.

"When you move to a new place you do all those typical things - meet new people, discover new places, new events and ways to spend your time. You interact and you change," said San Ramon Valley High School senior Andrew Gibson. "But change isn't something two people in a long-distance relationship can necessarily do together. You have to ask yourself whether you want to change and evolve, or stay mostly where you are. Kids just need to learn to say, hold on. To say, I'm going to get to college and I'm going to embrace it."

On the other hand, why give up a perfectly satisfying and stable relationship because of physical distance?

Jillian Armstrong, a senior at SRVHS who has been involved in an eight-month-long relationship, will likely attend the same college as her boyfriend in the fall.

"At this point we feel like there aren't any better people out there for you," she said. "I like the support and comfort of having someone to take care of me. And, we will still have plenty of time apart as we have decided not to live in the same dorm area, and are both involved in athletics."

SRVHS senior Cati Wuest, who will be attending a different college from her boyfriend of nine months, says, "A lot of it's about opportunity: how much I expect to get out of my college experience vs. how much time I will have to give of myself to sustain a relationship. As of right now it doesn't seem fair to me and to him if I cannot give our relationship the attention it deserves, trying to focus on my studies, new friends, etc."

At this juncture for teens, the decision is based on finding a balance between sacrificing yourself for another person, and making the decision that is best for your personal development.

With the expanse of education and career opportunities (especially for women), fewer people now choose to marry right out of high school. As a result of this shift, it seems like the nature of high school dating should change accordingly. Instead of serious and intense romantic relationships (which may have been relevant during a time when high school dating more frequently yielded marriages), perhaps the goal of high school dating should be to establish platonic relationships that allow individuals to share their ideas and philosophies, and encourage individual growth - not inhibit it.

When high school relationships assume such seriousness and intensity - especially when sex is involved - and marriage is not the obvious next step, it is easy for adolescents to make decisions that don't necessarily serve their best interests (especially those pertaining to the college experience) based on their attachment and passionate feelings. Upon entering college, everyone is bound to change; those involved in a relationship must accept this and allow themselves and their significant other to do so. College is about further consolidation of personal identity and preparing a foundation for stability and satisfaction in work and personally. Then it will be time to share it with someone else.

The 411 offers information and insight on the teen scene by Katharine O'Hara, a senior at San Ramon Valley High School who spends her free time going to concerts, enjoying her friends, and playing the piano. E-mail her at