Dear Dr. Date,My high-school sweetheart and I recently separated. Besides other differences, we both needed time off. Things have gotten hard for us with the distance between our schools, even though we see each other every weekend.Neither of us had long-term, serious relationships before, and we decided we both needed more experience, but we eventually want to end up together. Well, when I visited him last Saturday, we could not control our physical attraction. We are back together, but we have not resolved any of our differences. I am worried that our relationship will be based only on the physical aspect, which is great, but as far as I am concerned, this is not a healthy relationship.How can I approach this issue when I am walking on eggshells every time I talk to him? I do not want to upset him because I know we are good for each other, but I think we were right when we separated that we both need some more experience, and we are not ready to be totally committed yet.Any advice would be greatly appreciated!— Inexperienced
I think what you are doing is fantastic. It shows me both of you have thought clearly about who you are and what you want out of life. Most importantly, you recognize that at this point in your life, you don’t know what you want, and the only way to find out what you want is to go out and look for it. That’s great!
The downside is what you are trying to do is also very hard. You can’t expect to prematurely end an otherwise functioning relationship without lingering passions that will periodically erupt. You still love each other, right? This is bound to happen.
My experience with similarly structured relationships has been mixed. Some went smoothly and others did not. The relationships that worked out well were the ones in which my partner and I had clear expectations. This way we weren’t disappointed. Your problem is that your relationship with your ex (but now current) sweetheart is too open-ended. You might end up together again at some unspecified time when both of you “know” it’s right to be together forever with each other. This is too vague and will only lead to problems like the ones you are experiencing now.
I have two bits of advice for you. The first is to expect problems and realize that they aren’t all that bad. The second is to set clear rules, such as the following. When you are together, have a great time and don’t think about the future too much. I’d also suggest not discussing any of your respective experiments.
(Question: Have you ever been in a relationship like this? Tell me your story.)