GRACE WRIGHT | OPINION COLUMNIST | email@example.com
It’s the season of love.
No, not “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical “Rent.” It’s the Valentine’s Day season, a time of red roses, heart-shaped chocolates and, well, love. Some partners might exchange gifts or enjoy a romantic dinner, but for those navigating long distance, Valentine’s Day might be a day of longing, not celebration.
Valentine’s Day certainly isn’t the only day that poses a challenge to long-distance relationships. These relationships are a continuous commitment, and they might feel like college life in general: sometimes daunting, sometimes heartening and always unique for each and every individual. Within these unique experiences, however, we often share a lot of the same struggles, and through our common struggles, we can share tips and encouragement.
I say “we” because I’m in what you might consider a mid-distance relationship. I am only able to see my boyfriend on the weekends, and while I consider myself fortunate, sometimes that doesn’t make things any less difficult. This leads me to my first hard truth.
Distance is distance whether you’re 90 minutes or 10 hours away from the one you love. For me, this becomes especially evident when I see couples on campus meeting up for a coffee between classes and embracing before they part. We don’t have the luxury of these small moments, and on days when things get a little heavy, we have to go without our partner’s physical touch — something that can be so healing.
First-year accounting major Madison Bassett, who has faced long distance in her own relationship off and on for two years, understands how difficult it can be to provide comfort only through words.
“It might be challenging … to respond to each other’s emotional [phone] calls,” Bassett said. “It is hard to be unable to touch someone to comfort them.”
Virtual communication and in-person visits can also be tricky to coordinate. First-year theatre major Austin Bock has experienced this obstacle of conflicting schedules in his relationship.
“Virtual communication can be really difficult, especially when first getting used to it,” Bock said. “Another difficulty is figuring out how and when to see each other. Schedules are difficult, and it’s even harder when people don’t even live in the same time zone.”
Even when you are able to get that long-awaited quality time with your partner, the goodbye isn’t going to be easy — nor will it get any easier.
Sophie Waldvogel, a junior speech, language and hearing sciences major, finds that saying goodbye is one of the hardships of a long-distance relationship.
“[Goodbyes] seem to get more difficult each time,” Waldvogel said. “Every time [my boyfriend] comes to visit, I feel as though I become closer with him. He makes me feel more loved, more comfortable and more myself. I will always look forward to the day we don’t have to do that anymore.”
Long distance is not easy for anyone, but with up to 75% of college students experiencing a long-distance relationship at some point, there’s plenty of wisdom to be shared. The advice I have always been given is to simply communicate.
Although it might seem cliche, communication is absolutely key. Actively discuss when you are going to call or FaceTime and when you’ll be able to see each other next. This gives you something to look forward to, and by setting these expectations, you can avoid disappointing or upsetting your partner.
Communicating your feelings is also so important. Your partner can’t read your mind, and internalizing these feelings — especially if something is bothering you — might cause you to lash out, leading to even bigger problems.
Bock made a strong point in suggesting that such communication should be encouraging.
“It’s also super important to communicate how you feel in a constructive way,” Bock said. “Otherwise, it can come across as an insult to your partner.”
Keeping your spark alive even when you aren’t physically together relies on communication as well. Don’t be afraid to give that extra reassurance; it’s never going to hurt to tell your partner that you love and appreciate them, and never ever stop flirting with them.
Long distance relationships often feel like a crazy, impossible and delicate balance, but understanding that neither of you are perfect is really half the battle. The other half is trusting your partner and having confidence in your relationship, something that Bock also agreed with.
“As long as both you and your partner believe the relationship will work and is worth it, you won’t have nearly as much trouble working it out,” Bock said.
Something so authentic about long-distance relationships is the space it allows for you to grow as individuals. Becoming the best version of yourself makes you a better partner, but it also ensures that you maintain your independence. Bassett views this individuality as critical to strengthening a couple’s connection.
“Supporting your partner as they develop their own abilities and interests is one of the finest things you can do to encourage a solid bond,” Bassett said.
Amid this personal growth, distance also allows you to realize how much your partner supplements your life, and the miles between you don’t have to weaken your love — if anything, they strengthen it. This is something that rings true for Waldvogel.
“People have always told us that distance makes the heart fonder, and I genuinely believe that it does,” Waldvogel said.
A long-distance relationship — and the trust and growth it fosters — allows you to build a home with your partner before you ever share a roof, and even if it feels like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, the distance is going to end someday. You’ll get to come home to your partner after a long day. Your love will be safe under the roof of the home you built together, and it all will have been worth it.
Hang in there, my long-distance relationship friends. We’re one day closer to closing that distance.