XIA: Don’t just dump your high school girlfriend

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 harvey.xia@yale.edu.


  • The Anti-Yale

    The sad truth is that we outgrow people.

    • Branford73

      More like people planted in different places often grow in different directions. My best friend in high school went to Dartmouth. Our high school girlfriends both went to the same good state school back in Ohio. I broke up with mine (she broke up with me actually) the summer after freshman year. My friend married his after college graduation and they are still married, by all observations happily so, 35 years later.

      There is no one right or wrong answer. No “should”, just “is”.

      [Just read my earlier reply to Taylor’s “Ditch Your High School Girlfriend” column which produced Xia’ article here. My reply there was virtually the same as I gave here, including the Dartmouth friend example. At least I’m consistent.]

  • TDLion

    You aren’t wrong, but I think most upperclassmen would tell you that there are quite a few people who feel the way you do at this point in their freshman year, and the vast majority of those don’t make it all the way through freshman year, much less all of college. The advice regarding breaking up is not meant to apply to everybody, because some people really are in love. However, many more simply change over time or decide that they don’t have enough time to keep up a long distance relationship, and then regret that they spent so much emotional and physical energy on a relationship that they probably realized was destined to end long before it ever did.

  • The Anti-Yale


    It is 90% of “relationships.”

    When the gestalt of high school melts away, little is left but memories. When a new gestalt establishes itself at college, if your emotional partner is establishing another gestalt elsewhere, or is living in the purple haze of the dissolved high school gestalt, there are fewer avenues for conversation.

    I have retained two active friendships from high school, one from college, none from three graduate schools. 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Hamden High School.

    As far as I know, no reunion is planned.

    (If anyone reading this knows of one I’d be moderately interested in having the information.)

  • JamesF

    Who knows, you could keep the high school girlfriend, do the long-distance relationship thing for 4 years, get married right out of college, and have 5 kids before you reach your 11th anniversary. May not work for everyone, but it worked for me!

  • The Anti-Yale

    That’s good to hear.

  • fletot31

    New Haven to Cambridge Mass isn’t a long distance relationship.

    • joematcha

      Perhaps if you are affluent

  • yalemarxist

    We must never give up on the dream of a long-distance relationship between oppressed workers, all around the world.

  • basho

    The most useful thing in the world is college advice from someone who’s been there for 8 weeks

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