By Michael Colton
My girlfriend and I have been together for six and a half months and are really compatible, but we’re both really nervous about spending the summer apart. I’m scared of us drifting away from each other, and she’s nervous that she’ll get in trouble if she’s on her phone while she’s working (at a summer camp). We’re really committed to each other, and to making this work, but it’s hard. How can we make this easier?
What one would give to be young and codependent; to be so devoted to your partner that you would admit in print, without a hint of self-awareness, that you’ve been dating since the second week of college. Unfortunately, every relationship has to go through the occasional stress test. It all depends on whether or not you two can set common expectations and work through it together. Based on your willingness to seek third party advice on this one, things don’t look great.
A romance like the one you’ve described (I’ll be reaching out to your girlfriend to corroborate) is the type of thing Hollywood stories are built on. A new love, given the test of its lifetime; a young woman, searching for her independence; a young man, totally unaware of what’s coming. The whole thing screams Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or at least the first ten minutes of it when Kristen Bell (her) breaks up with her manchild boyfriend, played by the ever-uninteresting Jason Siegel (you).
I’m kidding, of course–Jason Siegel is actually very charming at times. Anyway, the next couple of months may certainly be difficult, but they won’t be impossible. My first piece of advice is to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be in a totally different world than your girlfriend all summer long. For example, while you’ll be at home trying mushrooms and coaching youth baseball (an assumption), she’ll be leading team-building activities, immersing herself in nature, and getting to know the rest of the camp staff – which is probably made up of equal parts childhood crushes and beautiful European men. So, if you don’t talk for a couple of weeks, or if when you do talk, she tells you she did the Dirty Dancing lift move in front of the whole camp with a 6’6” Portuguese man, don’t be alarmed, it was probably platonic.
If you’re really struggling with the distance, I would also suggest changing the terms of your relationship to make things easier for you both. Maybe try opening up your relationship so that you both can get what you want out of this summer; you can get your occasional communication, and she can get the full summer camp experience, which is, to be clear, entirely based on having sex outdoors. (How do I know about the summer camp experience? 10 years as a star and instructor at the Interlochen Camp for the Arts). It might sound daunting, but it may be the best route forward. If it works out, you two will emerge stronger and more committed than ever, and if not, then you’ll both be better off. You’ll have learned a valuable lesson about relationships and personal growth, and she’ll have a new boyfriend who can do a backflip. It’s a win-win.
Most of all, you should not be discouraged at the difficult road that lies ahead, or take to heart that I am almost 100% certain that your relationship will end in the very near future. If you truly fight for who you love, there’s nothing that can get in the way of things working out. Except, of course, for the probable entrance of an absolute mountain of a man into your girlfriend’s life. In any case, whether your relationship ends, thrives, or is simply a bit strained, there is something you can do to make it all work out: send her no less than three letters per week, carefully written according to the templates I’ve laid out below. They are organized by the potential condition of your relationship.
If you keep dating:
Dear [First Name],
I have attached to this letter a half-dozen Polaroids* of me reading magazines in the nude. I hope they keep you company in my absence. I am so hopelessly lonely without you, but not in the type of way where I’m asking for more than you’re able to give. Boundaries are okay with me, and I am a good guy.
*It is vital that you actually do attach the Polaroids to this letter. Actual Polaroids, non digital.
If you break up:
Dear [First Name],
I have taken a lover, and have moved on from the pain and betrayal you’ve dealt me. But also, if you want to ever get coffee sometime and talk about getting back together, that’s cool with me. I also grew a couple of inches and can now [skill that you currently lack]. Did I mention I have a lover? She looks just like [Haim Sister of your choosing], and can sing like an angel. Please call me.
Moving on, [Your name]
If you keep dating, but you need to convince her to stay:
Dear [First Name],
Every waking moment is spent with you on my mind. Every sleeping moment, too. Just last night I dreamt that we were [doing an activity that she would find fun and dangerous] when [dead relative] entered and said “You two look so happy, I am sorry to have died and missed out on the wedding.” Isn’t that [adjective]? It’s almost like your dead [Grandmother, Uncle, etc.] thinks I’m a great guy who can support you way better than [beautiful European man’s name] ever could. Please take me back. I learned how to juggle a soccer ball so I can be more like him.
Sidepiece—I do truly hope these help your cause. Send them without restraint. You may have a chance of avoiding the inevitable: your girlfriend breaking up with you and studying abroad in Lisbon next fall.
Best of luck,