Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

14 Tips for All 14 Year Old Girls

My dear younger sister Maia is turning 14 this week and we’re all making a big deal about it. I keep making jokes about her growing womanly body, much to her chagrin. I can’t believe how old she’s getting, and I keep thinking about what it was like to be her age. Fourteen was an emotional age for me (as were many of the subsequent and earlier years) and I wish I’d had someone to tell me these things about life, love, and growing up.

So for Maia, and for any other teenagers out there who might read this, here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Boys suck. Especially ones who are your age. I don’t know if they get any smarter or nicer, but here’s hoping they do. Instead of spending all your time thinking about boys (not accusing you of anything, but I definitely used to do this), forget about them. You’ll have plenty of time to fall in love and get your heart broken several times over, so save that for later, when you and your future partner will be much more mature and better equipped to handle all the mess that comes with committed relationships.
  2. Your identity as someone’s girlfriend isn’t an accurate measure of your worth.  I used to think that I wasn’t pretty, wasn’t desirable, wasn’t good enough for anyone because nobody asked me to date them in middle school. Do you realize how incredibly stupid that is? As if I were any less of an awesome person just because no 14 year old boys asked me to be their girlfriend! I hope you do realize how stupid that was, and never think of yourself in those terms. Just because you’re not in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re not attractive or desirable. It might mean that boys are too intimidated by your coolness to even approach you. Or it might mean that nobody knows you well enough to see what a catch you are. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The only opinion about you that matters is your own.
  3. Don’t change who you are for anyone. There will be many times when you will want to pretend to like what everyone else likes, just to fit in. But let me paint a picture for you: you are no longer in high school, you don’t have to see the “cool kids” anymore, and you are free to do whatever you please without anyone caring. This is real life, beyond the drama-filled teenage years you’re going through. Although it might seem important to act, talk, or dress a certain way just to make other people like you, don’t sell out. Be yourself, and the people who matter will appreciate your genuineness, and the ones who don’t appreciate you are the ones you don’t want to keep around anyway.
  4. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than the amazing person you are. There are always going to be those girls with their designer handbags, their makeup done to perfection, their shiny hair, their I-couldn’t-care-less attitude, blah blah blah. I always felt like a loser around those kinds of girls in high school, and I still catch myself feeling bad around them today. Then I remember, it’s stupid! So what if they dress better than I do? That doesn’t make me any less of a great person, and the same goes for you. (See #14 on this list)
  5. Be nice to your sisters and brothers. I remember being so angst-y (for no real reason) in my early teens. I always wanted to be either alone in my room or blocking out the rest of the world around me with my earphones (because listening to Green Day was way more important than anything else). Thankfully I’m at a less angry point in my life, and I’m much closer to my siblings now than I was when we actually lived together all year. I wish I’d made more of an effort to get to know them as people when we were younger, and hopefully you can learn from my mistake of being a hermit for a few years.
  6. Be good to your parents. (refer to the previous angst-y teenager description) I shut my parents out a lot because I thought they were lame, because even though my parents are actually really cool, TV and general society told me that parents are sooo lame. But that isn’t true! I was too self-involved to think about it before, but I realized later that my parents were always so supportive of me and even paid for me to go to Japan for student exchange, even when they were making a lot less money than they do now and had other kids to care for. I truly love them for that and everything else they’ve done for me. Someday you’re going to regret it if you disrespect your parents, so be good to them and appreciate all that they do for you.
  7. Stick to your passions, even if all your friends think it’s lame. I used to love reading when I was a kid. Up to this day, people I only knew in elementary school remember me as the kid who loved Harry Potter more than anyone. Then when I got to middle school, my world turned upside-down. Apparently sports were cool and reading sucked! I failed at all sports, but the real failure was when I stopped reading for fun like I used to. Eventually I got back into it, but it took awhile for me to realize that you shouldn’t stop doing something just because everyone else thinks it’s uncool. You know what’s really uncool? Quitting on something you love. Whatever your interests may be, forget what everyone else thinks, and keep doing what makes you happy. You’ll never be happy if you spend all your time trying to make everyone else happy.
  8. Friends who make you feel bad aren’t really your friends. In my freshman year of high school, I ended up hanging out with the bad girls group — the girls who smoked pot/cigarettes, had sex, cut themselves, etc. I’m not sure why I even stayed friends with them because we didn’t have anything in common besides an interest in music (which everyone has). They made me feel bad about stupid things, like being too skinny or dying my hair (although in hindsight, the dye job was really gross and they were right about that). I didn’t realize until later that these girls weren’t really my friends, and sought out a new group of girls who I’m still close to today. Even if it’s inconvenient, try and find friends who share your interests and values, even if it means going out of your way to do it. You’ll be much happier in the long run once you ditch the people who are toxic in your life.
  9. The most embarrassing times in your life aren’t all that bad. Believe it or not, I actually appreciate the embarrassing things that happened to me. They’re the funniest stories I have to tell people! At the time, I didn’t enjoy it when I got dumped over Facebook or Myspace or text message, or the time I dated someone with the same first and last name as my grandpa, but it’s hilarious now. So don’t worry about the times when you feel so embarrassed you want to dig your way to China — those are going to be your most treasured anecdotes someday.
  10. Your body is beautiful. Sure, you’re going through that awkward transition between little girl and sexualized woman. As awkward as you might feel, love your body anyway. I remember feeling horrible inside when we had to change our clothes in the locker room for P.E. — I felt like the most flat-chested girl there. It took me a long time to come to terms with being happy in my own skin, maybe because I didn’t have people telling me to embrace the body I had. Instead, I had people teasing me about my tiny boobs. But you know what? You’re beautiful. F*ck everyone who says otherwise. Look at yourself with love and you’ll grow to love yourself.
  11. It’s never the end of the world when you think it is. I felt like I was dying inside when I got dumped at 15. I even cried to my Geometry teacher after class because I had to explain to her why I was too distraught to do my homework the night before. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that it gets better (and there are much worse times to come), and that he’s not even worth crying over anyway. So when something bad inevitably happens to you, just know that it gets better (although there are also much worse times to come), and that pain is temporary.
  12. Keep a journal. I went back and read through a bunch of my old diaries from high school recently, and the entries were priceless. It took me back to those years and I remembered exactly how I felt. Those journal entries reminded me of what kind of person I was back then and made me appreciate how much I’ve grown into the person I am now, and I want everyone else to have that same gift too.
  13. Don’t waste all your time on Facebook even if everyone else does. When I look back on my early teens/tweens, one of the parts I remember most clearly is being on Myspace 24/7 (yes, I’m old, and Myspace was to me what Facebook is to you). That’s pretty unfortunate, because I grew up on a sunny island with beautiful beaches, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I actually went to the beach in high school. I wasted so much of my time stalking crushes on Myspace or deciding which gross selfie to use as my default picture that I didn’t get to enjoy life as much as I could’ve. So put down your phone/laptop for a sec, and make the most of your teens, because YOLO~
  14. You may not always think so, but you’re awesome. I truly wish I could’ve known this when I was a teen. There were so many times when I felt like a total loser, but looking back, I wasn’t all that bad. Maia, you are one of the most genuinely kind and thoughtful people I know. You have a good head on your shoulders and you take care of all of us, even if you’re not the oldest. Always always always remember that you’re awesome and that I love you.

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–Chloe