Why staying with my HS boyfriend in college was a mistake from day one

It’s hard to make good decisions about love when you’re convinced your life is still going to be a fairy tale. I suspect that’s the real reason why so many of us make the mistake of trying to stretch our high school relationships past their expiration dates.

I should know. I was one of these misguided optimists.

I tried to make a long-distance relationship work with my high school sweetheart and I ended up cheating on him and then watching him write a break up letter to me on the card he’d gotten me for Valentine’s Day.

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His name was Andrew and he was tall, dark, and way, way, way skinnier than me. He was a nerd who liked musical theatre, but that’s okay because I did too. It was an awkward phase I would grow out of and he would… well, I have no idea because I deleted my Facebook so he might as well be dead for all I know.

Our relationship was mostly good, but I remember being mad at him a lot, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that he lived 45 minutes away from me and didn’t have a car. Or a license. Or any intention of getting either. If I wanted to hang out with him and we weren’t already at school, I had to physically go get him. And then I had to drop him back off at his house whenever we were done.

But he was my first relationship that lasted longer than a week and a half, so that didn’t matter. I loved him for loving me back and for doing very high school things like making me a mixed CD chronicling his entire relationship with women, from his first ex up to me.

It was supposed to explain a lot and at the time, I thought it was a sweet, thoughtful gift. But looking back, it just explained he spent a lot of time listening to the Beatles and had some unresolved feelings about his exes.


In the weeks before Andrew gave me that CD, we were both struggling with the question all high school sweethearts still together after graduation have to ask themselves: should we break up now or try and make this long-distance relationship thing work?

I knew I wanted to try and make it work, and he knew he wanted to think about it.

But the CD was supposed to be his answer. And after listening to it, I knew he’d decided we should try long-distance too.

Well, actually I was kind of confused, but I was listening to it next to him, and he told me what was up.

Again, it seemed a lot cuter at the time.

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And right from the start, staying together was a mistake.

The first night I showed up on campus, I passed all of the other theatre majors sitting on the grass, playing guitar and singing their little hearts out. I was intimidated, but I introduced myself to them and they warmly invited me to sit with them. And while now the thought of willingly submitting myself to a musical jam sounds nauseating, back then, I was into it.

But there was one big problem. I had promised to call my boyfriend that night.

As I told my classmates I was busy tonight, I assured myself I wasn’t missing out on anything because there would be plenty of other nights where we could all hang out like this. And to be fair, there were. But I always had plans with my boyfriend. And slowly, I stopped getting invited to stuff, because nobody knew me.

And that only added to how isolated and lonely I felt from being away from my boyfriend. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a lot of friends I could turn to. I had just managed to find three.

But that was alright with me at the time, because I was still convinced my boyfriend was “the one.” So whatever sacrifices I had to make to hold on to him were justified. And one day, when we were in our 30s, sitting down at the dinner table with our two children, we would laugh about these years.

I don’t remember when things started falling apart, but I know him joining a fraternity and an a capella group didn’t help.

He wanted to have a life at college and I still wanted him to be my life. And I resented him for making time for so many people who weren’t me.

He said it wouldn’t change anything between us, he just wanted to make more friends, but as these activities started sucking up all of his time, it seemed like they were his way of replacing me.

We started to fight more and talk less and even seeing each other for a full week during winter break couldn’t fix what was happening between us.

I eventually cheated on him while wearing a “Barack your world” T-shirt. (It was 2009.) My boyfriend wasn’t really talking to me, and he hadn’t been for a while. I just wanted to feel wanted again, so when a shaggy-haired boy I didn’t know started hitting on me, I leaned into it. As he pushed back my hair and started to kiss me, I knew I should pull away, but I didn’t want to. So I let it happen for a few seconds first.

Afterwards I grabbed my jacket and left the party, immediately calling my boyfriend to tell him what happened. I begged him to forgive me while simultaneously texting that shaggy-haired boy about meeting up later, only to ghost him when he asked which dorm I was living in.

My boyfriend forgave me, but things were never the same after that. How could they be?

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We ended up breaking up on Valentine’s Day. I had booked the bus trip to his college weeks before, but right before I was supposed to leave my dorm room to go to the station we had a big fight over something I don’t remember anymore. Probably the fact that I was jealous of the time he was spending with this girl from his a capella group. A girl that for the record, he ended up dating shortly after we broke up.

Although before you start thinking what an awful monster he was, remember, I had cheated on him. You really can’t blame his heart for wandering.

He told me that maybe I shouldn’t come up to visit him, but I did anyway. We broke up immediately, then we got back together, and then the morning before I left, we broke up again.

But before I grabbed my stuff, he told me to wait. He put on a live version of Andrew Bird’s “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” and I sat there on his floor while he wrote a break up note on the card he’s bought me for Valentine’s Day.

Which again, seemed sweeter to me at the time than it does now.

And then I spent the next month pining after him, which is exactly why I didn’t want to break up with him back in August before school started. Because I didn’t want to spend college missing him. But guess what? That’s all I did while we were dating anyway.

Because when you’re dating somebody you can’t be with all the time, all you do is miss them. It’s like a full-time job.

And it gets in your way of getting to know other people, because when you’re so focused on maintaining one relationship, it’s hard to make time for anything else.

While I don’t regret trying to make things work, like I said, it’s a life lesson we all have to learn, I can’t pretend like it wasn’t a mistake. I wish I’d had the good sense to break things off that summer so I wouldn’t have spent my freshman year missing out on college because I was too busy missing a boy.

They’re never worth it.

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