Break Up With Your High School Sweetheart Before College

One of the most difficult things I went through as a teenager was when my high school sweetheart and I parted ways for college. The day we broke up, I shuffled through our old pictures together, my face puffy and covered in tears as I felt completely lost and helpless. The last three years of my life consisted of me seeing him on a near daily basis, occasionally hanging out with his family and loving him unconditionally. But just like that the relationship was over, and I felt as if I was left with nothing. I ruminated on our old conversations about wanting to stay together forever. It seemed like we stuck together through every stupid fight, argument and disagreement we ever had. So when the breakup came, I simply could not comprehend why it even happened. 

“You want to see other people in college? Really?”

I remember hating him. I felt as if the last couple years of my life went to complete waste. I swore him off, believing he was selfish, cruel and that he never actually loved me if he ended things with me just to see other girls. At the time I did not want to imagine myself loving another guy as much as I loved him. I stubbornly believed that he was the only one for me, and that any other guy that I would encounter during my college years would only be a worse version of him. “I’ll never love again,” I would dramatically think to myself.

I never thought I would understand why he ended things. But after a while, I not only understood where he came from, but I also became a firm advocate for leaving your high school love before you enter college. Some years later, I am able to look back on this breakup as one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

I believe that dating in high school is important for two things: learning relationship etiquette and setting the standard for what you want in another person. But that’s about as far as it goes. I don’t think anyone should date in high school with the intention of meeting their soulmate, which I’ll admit is a huge mistake I made when I was younger. That is because high school relationships lack a key component that allow relationships to thrive: maturity. Young love is raw, beautiful and unlike anything you’ll ever feel, but it is usually built on something that has a high potential to turn toxic; comfort. When you are young, you aren’t looking for someone who will challenge you, support your life goals and dreams or encourage you to be the best version of yourself. Teenagers will typically enter relationships only to have a stable figure to confide in, explore intimacy with and have someone to take to school dances. The whole point is to find someone you feel comfortable doing all of these things with. Given the time and circumstances, that’s appropriate. since the teenage years are the time during which one is still on a journey of self-discovery. You aren’t picky with who you choose to be your significant other because you’re not thinking long-term. It’s really just whoever’s available, who you’re decently attracted to, and most importantly, someone who seems willing enough to be by your side. Even if the relationship is unhealthy, teenagers will usually stay because at the end of the day, it represents something familiar and comforting.

Things will take a very drastic twist when college starts, as the next several years are meant for you to re-discover who you are as a person. You will suddenly learn that you have a plethora of goals, ambitions, and projects you want to pursue. You will also realize that as you mature, your expectations for the people you surround yourself with will change drastically. You will start becoming more selective with who you allow into your inner circle as you slowly begin to accept your worth and realize that you hold the power to associate with the people you actually like. During this time, you will likely realize that your perceptions of romantic relationships are shifting as well. You might suddenly see that your significant other from high school no longer aligns with who you are as a person. Whether you like it or not, college will change you a lot. It is completely normal and healthy for people to part ways during this time because this shift in values represents necessary growth. Something that I emphasize is that your soulmate when you are seventeen may no longer be your soulmate when you’re twenty-three. Qualities that you may have loved in another person in your teens might be something you grow to detest a few years later, and that is okay, healthy even. You learn to appreciate the time you spent with your person, but also realize that it’s time to move on. You feel like there are people out there that are better compatible with your morals, expectations and values. And trust me–there are. There are billions of people sharing this floating rock with us, so don’t settle for one person from your hometown. The odds that you found your  “once in a lifetime” in high school are nonzero, but extremely slim. 

As you get older, you will begin to realize that you need to be with someone who encourages you to be the best version of yourself. If you find yourself in a relationship in college, it is important to pursue a partner who isn’t only independent, but also someone who encourages ambition, sacrifice and risk, because that is the only way we grow. Things like codependency, clinginess and any controlling behaviors should not be tolerated because these qualities will bring nothing but toxicity to relationships. Unfortunately, these patterns are extremely common in high school relationships due to a lack of basic stability and maturity. However, you can choose to leave this part of your life behind as you realize that the very last thing you need during this critical time in your life is someone who holds you back. You don’t want to spend your Friday nights confined to your dorm room fighting with your long distance partner on Facetime because they miss you and can’t deal with it. Your college years are there for you to make friends, make the best memories, learn, mature and live your life to the absolute fullest. Take advantage of this time, and don’t allow yourself to be held back by someone who is jealous, insecure and doesn’t want you to experience these things. It is essential that your partner will be someone who will selflessly support you through the most important point of development in your life. You cannot expect to have a happy and successful future when the person you are closest to is selfish, problematic and only cares about having their needs met. 

College stripped off the rose colored lenses I viewed my high school relationship through and showed me the reality of how things really were. And the simple truth was that my ex and I were different people who wanted different things from life. We fought, argued and disagreed on things way more than we should have. His morals differed from mine. Our personalities were like fire and water. Our interests did not align in the slightest. Our perceptions and expectations of our relationship pointed in opposite directions. Neither of us were in the wrong for what we wanted, but the bottom line was that his life was headed into a completely different direction from mine, which I saw but refused to accept. We stayed in the relationship not because we loved each other for who we were, but because we loved how comfortable we made each other feel. And that is wrong. Had we stayed together through college, I know that he and I would have burdened one another to the point of irreconciliation. We simply wouldn’t have been able to thrive and grow into the people we are today. I don’t even want to imagine how miserable we would’ve been if we had gotten married like I hoped we would have someday. Neither of us needed that because at the end of the day, we both deserve to be happy. So when college came around, it blessed us with the opportunity to find people who would love us exactly for what we were. 

With that said, I will be eternally thankful for the years my high school sweetheart and I spent together. I will never again look back on that time of my life and think that it was in any way “wasted” or “pointless.” Being with him for that time allowed me to grow, change and learn lessons that I still hold close to heart. But that relationship no longer serves either of us. Its purpose is to stay in the past, where it belongs. He was perfect for me when I was sixteen, but I am not sixteen anymore.  If you are having fears, doubts or anxieties about what college has in store for your relationship, I feel you. I was once in your shoes. I once feared college more than I feared my own death because I was that scared of losing my ex. But here I am two years later writing this article. Pain and heartbreak exist for a reason: they help you see the bigger picture. Not only does it help you see the bigger picture, but it also helps you mature and realize that some people are placed in your life to help you grow, and that their presence was never meant to be permanent. If it gives you any peace, just know that everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t see it right away. Additionally, if your love is meant to be, it is meant to be. True love knows no heartbreak, distance, status or time. It will prevail through all, and if it has to travel thousands of miles to find you again, when the time is right, it will. What is meant for you will always find you. And even if it doesn’t, the right heart will come to you. Rest assured, we will all find that special person who will make time stop and who’ll always give us butterflies in our stomachs. Every single person on this earth is worthy of raw, pure and unconditional love, and yes, that includes you.