1. I met my partner at college, but I’m worried about what will happen post-graduation. We’re from different states with different plans for the future. How do you navigate the possibility of a long distance relationship as a fourth-year student?
This is a tough one — and there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, unfortunately. The best course of action will vary depending on you and your wants and needs, and that of your partner as well.
You’ll hear a lot of philosophies, ranging from addressing the issue immediately to enjoying the time you currently have before the seemingly impending doom of the problem you’re facing arrives. Only you can make the call on what feels right here. However, it’s clearly on your mind and so it’s understandable to want to address it sooner rather than later.
Perhaps you try to broach the subject gently by discussing your plans for post-graduation. Open the floor for conversation and see how they respond. If you want to be direct, ask your partner if they have given any thought to continuing the relationship despite the difficulties of long distance, be it whether or not they would like to try it, or how best to make it work. The upside to raising your concerns early is that it gives you time to talk through them and discuss what could best ease both of your discomforts.
On the flip side, a lot can change in nine months, and there’s only so much that pre-planning and stressing can do. I suggest allowing yourself to enjoy the moment and live life in the present first and foremost, while being protectively proactive. Refrain from letting thoughts of long distance dispel your current happiness. Instead, perhaps you choose to think of it as a new adventure you’ll embark on together, and allow the twists and turns to excite you — not scare you. There’s something beautiful about watching your partner blossom as an individual, and the time you will get to spend together as you grow might make you that much stronger.
You can be as methodical as you’d like, making pros and cons lists and weighing your options, but love is often an immeasurable, unpredictable science. My parting advice to you is this — sometimes, even when it’s hard, it’s better to get to love someone from afar than to not get to love them at all.
2. How can I get over a fear of first dates?
I get it. Putting yourself out there can feel scary, if not downright impossible at times. First dates seem as though they put you in a uniquely vulnerable position – you’re trying to put your best foot forward, carry a conversation with a stranger and search for signs of a spark all at the same time. The good news, though, is that they are often lower stakes than we might think.
At best, first dates are a first step on an exciting new journey. When they go well, they open the door to new connections and opportunities to grow socially, romantically and even, in the best relationships, individually. When the nerves turn to butterflies after a successful first date, they suddenly don’t seem too bad.
More often, first dates are neutral playing fields on which you can practice conversing and connecting, developing your skills for the multitude of first dates that will follow. Over time, you might gain confidence in your ability to take a leap, setting yourself up for success when you meet “the one.” Or, at least someone you’d like to see a second time.
Even when unsuccessful, an embarrassing first date can still make a funny story. When we learn to laugh at our not-so-serious misfortunes in the adventure that is dating in your early 20s, the projected seriousness of it all disappears. We can unmatch our failed attempts on Tinder or avoid them in the dining halls, but at the end of the day, we’re all the same. The search for love and our mishaps in finding it are a part of the shared human experience, and our ability to bond over dreading that first awkward “hello” has an unexpectedly beautiful way of bringing us together. So really, what’s there to be scared of?
Heart to Heart is a regular column written by Life columnists Katherine Schwartz and Jenna Onetto. To submit a question, fill out this form and our columnists will do their best to address it in an upcoming issue.