She Wants Time Apart

Q: I am in the army and she has just started college, and right now we live about 250 miles apart. We talk on the phone every night and we see each other on weekends. We have been together for a year and a half, spent so much wonderful time together with proms and dates, but just before she graduated from high school she started dropping hints that maybe we should see other people. She says that she doesn't know what she wants. Anytime we start arguing, she says "we need time apart." I eased up on the daytime calls and a lot of other stuff, just till she settles into college life. I really don't want to let her go but I don't know what to do. We have made it through more difficult times, me going through basic and all. We didn't even talk on the phone but once a month. What should I do? Should I let her go, try the time-apart, or just keep telling her we're gonna be all right? -- Mark, 19

Dr. Susan: This must be very hard for you, Mark. A year and a half during high school is a truly long time to be together. But then, sometimes, things change and life moves on. I suspect your girlfriend already knew that she didn't want to be totally tied down once she was in college. She knew she'd be having so many new opportunities and that maybe she would like to be free to date around. That is probably why she keeps hinting at, and directly asking for, time apart. I think, as hard as it is, you have to give that to her. If you don't, the arguments will only get more emotional until the relationship blows up. It's especially hard with you in the military and having much more limited access to meeting new women (even if you wanted to). You can't honestly reassure her that the two of you are going to be all right, when it's impossible to know. A lot of relationships don't make it across the border from high school to college or the military. Your best bet is to let her decide when to get in touch with you. Painful, but it's the right thing.

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