Leaving him for a semester abroad

Dear Meredith,

I am in my second year of college and currently in a relationship. After a lot of insecurity regarding guys (and lots of hookups that hurt my self-esteem more) I've been so happy to finally have a relationship with someone who respects me, laughs with me, and genuinely seems to love me. He was the one who asked to be exclusive, and also the one who asked if we can stay together when I go abroad to Europe next semester. He seems just as happy with me as I am with him. The only catch is that very shortly before we started hanging out, he cheated on a girlfriend whom he had been with for a few months. And I mean very shortly – just around a week, which of course has made me nervous about his sincerity and actual commitment to our relationship from the start.

Although we finally discussed his past infidelity a couple months into our relationship, our school is very small and I was aware of his cheating way before he finally talked to me about it. He didn't actually mention the fact that he had been with someone else right before we started talking until this discussion, despite their very public relationship. I've tried to move past the fact that he cheated and that he took so long to tell me, and I understand that he's grown from past mistakes. What worries me is how quickly he jumped from one relationship to the next. He left a relationship where he and his ex said that they loved each other and wanted to get married someday, and now he says those things to me. Does he feel that way about me or just need to have a girlfriend in his life? Before his most recent girlfriend, he was in a different relationship.

My boyfriend is considerate, affectionate, funny, and treats me in a way I've never been treated before. But he also got serious with me (asking me to go to doctor’s appointments, inviting me to his family's Thanksgiving) within a month of breaking up with a different serious girlfriend. I can't help but feel that he needs someone to fill a "girlfriend space" in his life. I'm scared that the distance will be too lonely for him, and that he's going to need someone else to fill that "girlfriend space" and will break up with me and find a new girlfriend. Or worse, that he'll emotionally cheat on me and find that affection elsewhere. I don't want to take a break with him while I'm abroad because I love him, and part of me has faith that this relationship will survive the coming semester. Still, I'm so worried about leaving him for a few months that I don't even feel excited to go abroad anymore. Is this actually a situation I need to be worried about? How do I keep us both happy while we're so far apart?

- Paranoid


"How do I keep us both happy while we're so far apart?"

If you believe this is all on you, that it's your job to keep him happy while you're away, you're going to miss out on a lot of wonderful experiences while you're abroad. Please do not spend your entire trip communicating with him so he's not lonely. You owe it to yourself to be present while you're having new experiences.

You say he's talking about marriage and taking you to doctor's appointments. I'm sure that feels ... nice? I guess? It probably makes you feel needed, at the very least. But this relationship is still kind of new, right? That's the red flag to me – that he feels the need to commit so quickly.

Don't get caught up in his pace. You can love him but tell yourself, "I don't know what will happen because we're still learning about each other – and ourselves." So much of this letter is about wanting to control an outcome, but relationships, even the best of them, don't work that way. He can't promise he'll love you forever, at least not right now. And you have no idea how you'll feel when you get to another country and have a new group of friends.

You're as committed as you can be, but that doesn't mean you have to have all the answers. Whenever you get stressed about this, remind yourself: "I don't know what's going to happen, but I have high hopes for this relationship." You can't know more than that.

– Meredith

Readers? How can the LW stay engaged with the trip without worrying about her boyfriend's girlfriend space?