DEAR ABBY: I'm a 19-year-old girl in my third semester of college. My boyfriend, "Tom," attends a community college nearby. Both of us live with our parents. I have had only three boyfriends in my life, and Tom was my high school sweetheart.
Tom just proposed. I immediately accepted, but now I'm second-guessing my decision. We're just starting our adult lives, and I'm still learning what that entails. I want to study abroad during college to enhance my experience of the world. Also, because neither of us has ever moved beyond our childhood homes, I think we should both have more exposure about the world beyond.
Everyone is supportive of us, including our parents. I will always be committed to Tom and I trust him completely, but I feel that by prematurely locking ourselves in, we're setting ourselves up for failure. Am I overreacting? -- FLEDGLING FIANCEE IN LOUISIANA
DEAR FIANCEE: Not at all. The points you have made in your letter are well-reasoned. You are very young to be making a permanent commitment, and you're both entering a period of growth -- and possible divergence in your level of life experience. Tom may have proposed because he was afraid if he didn't, he might lose you now that you're attending different schools.
Tell Tom you care for him deeply, but think you jumped the gun. Make it clear that you would like to keep seeing him, but on a nonexclusive basis until you return from your studies abroad. I agree that by prematurely locking yourselves in, the odds of the relationship not lasting are high. Be sure Tom understands that you aren't trying to end the relationship, only postponing the engagement.