As we finish finals and return our rented textbooks, we not only check-in to summer mode, but also enter the most dangerous period for romantic relationships.
Now is the time when things either get serious or fall apart -- the relationships we have tried to maintain throughout the semester face a three-month summer sabbatical. Graduating seniors approach new adventures in love and life, and this period of great change is often the catalyst for breaking up with college partners.
My friend Alexis recently broke up with her college sweetheart, recognizing that their relationship had no future after they both received their diplomas next week. Her period of grieving is lost amongst the approaching wave of change -- no longer a student, she now progresses towards adulthood free to explore any and all options. Though she certainly misses the familiar comfort of her college beau, she is beginning to embrace her newfound independence -- making plans to travel the U.S. before settling into her entry-level career this June.
And while the break-up was necessary for Alexis to transition into the next chapter, some of my friends find strength in their partners during this period of rapid change. Sarah, who entered into a long-distance relationship with a man from her D.C. internship last summer, is embracing the opportunity to commit fully to her partner -- making plans to move in together and start new careers as a cohesive pair.
Though I see value in both Alexis and Sarah's decisions, I also recognize that every relationship has its own conditions. So as we navigate these final days on campus, here's some guiding principles for maintaining balance in love this summer.
Don't try to force the pieces together: After accepting an entry-level job on the east coast this month, Alexis realized that her relationship with her west coast based boyfriend faced an uncertain future. Recognizing the inevitable, she decided that ending things was the best option.
Summer is a time for personal growth, and it is important that we embrace this growth without the challenges of maintaining a romantic relationship. We travel abroad or accept intern opportunities in foreign cities--a time to leave our baggage on campus and accept the change. Meeting new people is inevitable; my friend Sarah met her current partner at an internship last summer. Like-minded individuals from across the nation are bound to surround you in the coming months. Who knows? Maybe a summer fling could turn into the real thing.
Pause monogamous thinking: For those who are returning to campus in the fall, the challenge of maintaining a long-distance relationship over the summer may seem cumbersome. Rather than sticking to a monogamous contract, it's best to leave expectations of your partner at school. Summer love, fleeting and sexy, is a warm embrace worth indulging in.
Opening your relationship up to the possibilities of new sexual partners may seem difficult; however, the expectations of monogamy are often far too demanding. Summer is a time for freedom from the rigid constructs of the institution, and that should include the institution of your relationship. I suggest that those leaving for the summer have a frank and honest conversation with their partners before boarding the homeward bound plane. When opening up a relationship, it's important to make boundaries and be clear about who and what types of affairs are acceptable. You can always return to the committed model come fall.
Lock lips with summer love: There is nothing that can compare to the exhilarating feeling of a summer fling. Unbound by the worries of a future -- because you know there is no future past August -- summer love is a means to test the waters of different types of partners. Rather than stick with the type of person you would date at school, try out different types of individuals. Meaning, forget the frat boys with daddy's AmEx and try out a sensitive artist type. Exploration is the only way you learn that you prefer eating tofu rather than beef.
When navigating summer love, communicate clearly that the affair has to end come fall. Without the worries of a future, you may enjoy the peace of a purely indulgent summer love.
Overall, summer is a time to learn more about who you are, where you're headed and what you hope for in a partner. So grab your sunblock and shades, and leave your romantic anxieties behind as you approach a brighter future.