Among the flood of advice given Yale freshmen, one suggestion is made again and again: Break up with your high school girlfriend. In my few weeks here at Yale, I’ve noticed that the discussion around long distance relationships, especially ones originating in high school, is dominated by this single point of view. Print publications made sure to warn me that, because of my high school girlfriend, my precious first year at Yale will be ruined by too many hours Skyping, worrying and refraining from hooking up (an essential part of the Yale experience, they said). In casual conversation, fellow freshmen and seasoned upperclassmen voiced their opinions that the best way to experience Yale is without limitations. The high school relationship should be dropped because this university offers, even guarantees, four years that will be packed with opportunities nothing short of life changing. My girlfriend would only keep me from enjoying Yale to the fullest.
Though Yale can provide engaging classes and lifelong friendships, Yale cannot promise a meaningful relationship.
Yes, some freshmen would be better off ending their high school relationships. For some, these relationships may be a relic of a different, bygone self. Others might be afraid of leaving that feeling of security that a relationship provides. So I understand that such advice is not without basis.
However, using this guidance as a general principle does not fairly acknowledge the reality that there are freshmen, like me, who plan on staying with their high school girlfriend for no other reason than love.
When I started dating my girlfriend the summer after my junior year in high school, neither of us planned for the relationship to continue into college. We did what I think most couples do: We took it day by day. Every so often, we asked ourselves, “Is this what I want?”
While I did occasionally imagine us in the future, all these thoughts were grounded in my immediate emotions, how I felt about her and us right then. Since we have no reason to break up — and all the reason to stay together — we are still dating to this day, even though I’m in New Haven and she’s in Cambridge (Relax. She goes to MIT).
Staying with her has not kept me from exploring and enjoying Yale. Yes, I do spend time calling her. Yes, I don’t go to Toad’s to participate in sloppy make-out-sessions (something I wouldn’t do anyway). I’ve been around campus and met many unique, interesting students. I’ve attended lectures by famous speakers and signed up for strange clubs. My long distance relationship has not hindered me or blinded me in any capacity. I still go out and socialize on weekend nights. I even still notice the attractive girls around campus.
And I’m not the only one. I’ve met many freshmen, more than I expected, who are continuing their high school relationships and are willing to put in the necessary extra effort. They don’t seem like naïve people to me.
I’m not suggesting that high school relationships should always be continued. Rather, a couple should not break up because of an unfair, overarching claim. And here, ironically, a general principle can be stated with certainty: Relationships should be evaluated circumstantially, because each one is distinct and deserves to be recognized independently of general trends.
After all, love is oftentimes irrational, and at the very least, it is definitely emotional. Even as a banal platitude, the saying “follow your heart” reminds us that we need to be mindful of our instincts and emotions, as they are essential in romantic relationships. Advice such as “break up with your high school girlfriend,” especially when so assertively expressed and carelessly generalizing, should not be the loudest voice in the discussion about a topic that is so personal.
Another side of the story needs to be told as well as heard: Meaningful long distance relationships can happen without diminishing the Yale experience. True relationships are too valuable to simply discard because of what popular culture seems to tell us.
Harvey Xia is a freshman in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.