How to care less about what other people think & make decisions based on your desires?
Hey guys, hope all is well.
Today’s question is as follows:
“Hey Arnav, I am a college freshman. I am currently dating my high school sweetheart, but we’re long distance. I am struggling with whether the two of us should continue/whether I should experience the single life. I love her and we’re good. Obviously, long distance is tough and has its adversity, but I want to stay with her, even though it’s tough.
All of friends here at school, want me to be single and experience that. They continue to bring up the idea that I’ll regret not experiencing being single if we ever do breakup, that these years of being in college never come back. I’m curious if you had any thoughts on approaching this situation.”
1) First thing I would say is, and it’ll sound contradictory — just because the majority of people are doing something, doesn’t mean that that something is the right thing to do.
I’ll explain what I mean.
Here’s what most people would give as theoretical advice in the dating world — date several people throughout your life, maybe get into a couple different relationships so you understand what you like and don’t like in terms of what you want in a partner, and then after that, when you find that person that seems to match all your desires and wants from a partner, make a commitment to that person. That sounds like a very solid advice, right?
The thing is, what’s interesting about this advice, let’s just say hypothetically, that a person meets “that optimal person — thhe person that seems to match all their desires and wants from a relationship” in the first person they ever get into a relationship with, right?
As an individual, you have these wants and desires and characteristics of your life partner, and this first person you’re in a relationship with, matches all of them and/or is willing to work on the things you may want improved, right?
That’s a possibility? It’s a smaller chance possibility, but it could happen? And in that scenario, if it does happen, theoretically, you don’t need to ever date anybody else.
All tis is to say, if you feel like your partner has the potential to be your life partner, then I would recommend you should stay in the relationship. I think the majority of us would conclude that finding your life partner can be a struggle so when someone has the potential, you shouldn’t take it for granted.
2) Second thing we need to understand is not everyone needs the same theoretical life experiences.
M for your friends, they value wanting to be single and experiencing the single life.
But maybe, you’ve already had enough “experience and perspective on being single” from your time before you and your girlfriend were in a relationship. You know what that’s like, and you enjoy being with your partner much more than that, you don’t want to go back to that.
Different people need different things and I think we have to be okay with that as society. There’s right a way to live for you, and a right way to live for your friends. Neither is “wrong”, it’s just what’s right for the individual.
Some people might need to date many people before they’re comfortable deciding on committing to someone. Some people, if the right person comes, they know and they’re good and that’s why you have stories of high school sweathearts that get married young and stay married for 50 years.
The advice friends are giving comes from 2 places 1) they would just rather all their friends be living the same lifestyle so they don’t have question anything 2) from insecurity.
You represent a different way of living, and in some ways that’s a threat to their life perspective. They want college to be about being single and having fun. And you’re bursting that bubble. And it’s tough, because it forces them to reflect, on a different way of life.
And really, as an 18 year old, you don’t have a ton of maturity, but your friends will later, the best friends are the ones who are accepting, who can say you may have a different perspective or lifestyle than me, but I’m still your friend.
You may not drink and I drink, but I’m still your friend. You may be a Republican and I am Democrat, but I’m still your friend.
To me, it sounds like your friends are projecting their insecurities. For them, they wouldn’t be able commit to their high school sweatheart. That doesn’t need to apply to you. Your different human being with different life experiences then them.
3) Understand independent thinking/living a different way is hard
It’s not going to be easy. As you navigate through these 4 years, everyone’s gonna tell you, you should enjoy college through being single.
You’re gonna have to develop a tough skin about yourself that you’re confident in your values and your decision making and the choices you’re making.
Again, when you’re against the grain, it’s hard.
I remember reading a psychology study, where I think they had the participant in an elevator, and people would be facing the wrong direction (away from the door). And basically, as the number of people increases in the elevator facing the wrong direction, more often the participant ended up just facing the wrong direction (i.e. when it was just 1 person facing the wrong direction, the participtant would face the right direction, but when it was 5 people facing the wrong direction say, the participant would then actually face the wrong direction).
4) Who are you getting the advice from?
That’s something to reflect on.
What level of maturity do your friends in college have?
And think about, have you gotten advice from older people, people that have graduated college?
What do they have to stay? Make sure to diversity the advice you’re getting so it’s not all from one demographic/one mindset of thinking.
5) Finally, in terms of the regret aspect, here’s what I’ll say.
There’s a certain amount of things in life, where you have to live and learn.
There’s a big push nowadays to really live a mistake free life, that’s just not possible.
Hindsight/wisdom/lessons from life only come after living.
There’s a chance, you guys stay together until your junior year and break up.
There’s also a chance, you guys stay together for the rest of your life.
All we can do as human beings, is control the present. If in the present moment, being with your girlfriend is the best decision for your life based on all your judgments that you can make, then stay with your girlfriend.
If in the future, things change, you know, obviously your perspective will change. All you can do is make the best judgment/best decision today based on the existing parameters.