Ask a fifth-year: Don’t fear the long distance

Dear Will,

My girlfriend and I have been dating since sophomore year of high school. Now that we’ve both been away at separate colleges, I’ve been worrying that we’re starting to lose interest. I still feel like we love and trust each other fully, but I can’t help worrying about the nagging issue of whether or not we can make this work. Can high school relationships really last through college?

Longing in Landis


Dear Longing,

Maintaining a long-distance relationship through college, whatever the outcome, is a commendable and ambitious task. I have tremendous respect for those who have chosen to commit themselves to another without the expectation for physical intimacy. So, as long as you feel that your relationship is healthy at this point, I encourage you to take this challenge head on.

Best-case-scenario: You stay together through college and reconnect afterwards. I don’t need to say much about this—it’s the final goal of long-distance relationships and you’ll thank yourselves that you stuck it out through college.

You can start the path to this outcome by admitting to yourself that no relationship was, is or ever will be perfect. Love itself is perfect, but humans are not and should never expect each other to be. The struggles you face as a couple, including long-distance separation, have the potential to increase your appreciation and love for each other.

Making it work takes an incredible amount of devotion. Keeping good communication and finding little ways to be together on the phone or through Skype is absolutely essential. Reaffirming your commitment to your significant other often is very important. It’s not always going to be convenient or necessarily enjoyable for you, though, so keep reminding yourself of the reasons why you began the relationship in the first place.

Long distance relationships are a gamble—so very few of them last through college. In fact, not once have I witnessed a high school relationship last more than two separated years. Even couples that had the privilege of seeing each other every other weekend would eventually fall victim to the countless problems that people face in any other relationship.

Though painful, these break-ups are often justified. Cheating is obviously a deal-breaker for most people, and many are too impatient to wait for physical intimacy. Long distance relationships—as well as short distance ones—can foster unhealthy dynamics and cause severe anxiety and emotional distress. Most of the time, people are simply not interested in putting time and effort into maintaining them and avoiding these results.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, you’ll break up and get through it. Eventually, you’ll accept that decision and realize you’re happier because of it. Even further down the road, you’ll probably meet an even better someone who will make you much happier.

Many couples, however, don’t break up because of problems with the relationship. They break up simply because they’re afraid it won’t work and that they will have wasted their time trying. I often see sufficiently functional relationships dissolve just because of the fear that it will fail. Breaking it off because of this is senseless and cowardly. It’s only expediting the failure and eliminating all possibility for future success.

That fear of failure is a lack of trust—not just one’s trust for another, but self-trust as well. If you trust your girlfriend, great but more importantly, trust that your willingness to take the risk and give it your best effort will give you certainty in whatever you decide to do.

So, give it a shot! Take it day by day. Be forgiving and understanding. Don’t dwell on the fear of the likelihood that it won’t work out. You may end up with a broken heart, but trust in yourself that you’ll come out of this knowing that you had the responsibility and courage to figure it out.