Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Q.My boyfriend leaves for college out of state in a month. I’m a senior in high school. My mom says we should break up now because we’ll never make it. My boyfriend says he’s not interested in anyone else. Neither am I. What do you think?

17-year-old

Mary Jo’s response: What an excellent question! My response begins with a series of questions. I’d like you to answer them with your boyfriend.

1. What is the most important goal of your relationship?

2. How committed are you to making this relationship work?

3. How do you think you will you handle a long-distance relationship?

4. Do you have a plan for connection (texting, social media, FaceTime or Skype)?

5. Define what being faithful means to you.

6. What will you do if you feel lonely while apart?

7. How will you share the joys and challenges in your lives?

8. If you feel as if you’re growing apart, how will you communicate this feeling to one another?

Communication is key to any relationship, but it can make or break a long-distance one. Only you and your partner know your level of commitment. How much do you want to make it work? Respect your mom, she worries about you getting hurt. Remember, though, breaking up because other people think the relationship won’t survive means you’re basing life choices on someone else’s desires.

Here are some hints:

  • Set ground rules for the relationship. How often will you connect? How will you react if you’re not able to text as often as you do now?
  • Be prepared to work harder at your relationship. What is your level of trust with one another?
  • Remind each other of the big picture. Why are you maintaining this relationship? What outcomes do you both seek?
  • Celebrate everything in your lives! Happy “first great grade on a paper day!” “Yippee! Your SATs went well!”
  • Share new experiences and new friends with each other.
  • Remember, you’re human. No one is perfect. If a text or virtual visit seems to go poorly, re-evaluate but try not to overreact.

Some of our peer educators are in long-distance relationships. I thought their advice was on target. Good luck!

Peer Educator responses:

  • Distance relationships are hard. You need a lot of trust and the will to make it work. If you really love someone, then try staying together. I live 30 minutes away from my girlfriend. We see each other every week if we’re lucky. We’ve been together for 19 months so far. It’s all about trust.
  • Do not break up unless you have a reason to. If you both want to stay together, do it! Your mother is only trying to look out for you and do what she things is in your best interest, but you’ve got to make your own decisions. Good luck.
  • I wouldn’t break up just because he’s going away to college. It may be tough, since high school and college are different already and putting distance between you could make your relationship more tense. Still, it’s better to try and fail than never try at all.
  • Long-distance relationships can be hard, but they can also strengthen the relationship itself. If you can get through the distance challenges, you’ll be golden to get through a lot of other bumps in the road. If it’s the right person, the distance won’t matter as much. There’s always Skype or FaceTime, and you can see each other during breaks. If you’re happy and you’re both willing to try and make it work, don’t worry what other people say.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email at podmj@healthyteens.com.

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