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Tough Decisions Now Determine Tough Decisions Later

Dear Harlan: I’ve been in a 3-year relationship with a woman I would like to marry. She is still in college and has one more year to go. My problem is that I got into a prominent graduate school across the country. I also got into grad school at my current school. The program on the other side of the country is clearly better. It was a hard decision, but I decided to go to the better school. My girlfriend was disappointed and hurt. I have a hard time understanding how she could be upset with me doing something that will help our future. She can move out to be with me next year. It’s not for the rest of our lives. She is having a hard time with the long-distance thing. I want to be with her, but I also want what’s best for my future and our future together. Her reaction makes me question the relationship. She can’t see my side and is talking about breaking up with me. I’m now questioning everything. Please help.

— Second Thoughts

Dear Second Thoughts:  She’s in love and scared. She doesn’t want to lose you. Long-distance relationships are hard, but they’re also a test of a relationship. Give her permission to be scared. Let her feel what she needs to feel. Once she’s had time to process everything, talk about the plan for next year. Be specific. Talk about when you’ll visit and how you’ll communicate. Be confident. Ask her what worries her beyond the distance. The more comfortable you can make her, the easier it will be for her to see what you see. I know it’s painful to think she doesn’t want to support your passion, but maybe she’s been hurt in the past. Maybe you moving triggers a fear of abandonment. There could be other issues that are making her scared (divorce, past breakups, family issues). The only way you’re going to find out the real answer is to make it safe for her to explore all these feelings. If you have dreams of marrying her, this is the perfect time to practice working through big life decisions. This is just the first of many big ones in your future – assuming you have one together.

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