The very first article I ever wrote for The Lawrentian two years ago was about why maintaining long distance relationships—whether among friends, family or a significant other—is worth the effort it takes to stay in touch. With the incredibly rare exception of people who go to school close to home and have had no individuals they were close to move away, everyone has had to communicate over distance at some point in their lives. While I still believe that continuing relationships despite distance in between can be beneficial and fulfilling, they come with many challenges—especially when that relationship is with a monogamous romantic partner.
I have been in a distance relationship with my significant other for two and a half years, meaning that—aside from two months—we have lived over two hours away from each other for that stretch of time. Last summer, I had the opportunity of living with him and his family and was able to spend quality time with them over reading period. Returning back to campus again this year after living with my significant other has caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting.
After all, it is nearly impossible not to ask yourself this question while in a distance relationship: “If I am so happy in my relationship, then why is distance hard? Why isn’t it always easy?” And that is because it is not inherently easy.
Before returning to campus over reading period, I was met again with the reminder that the time I had to spend together with my significant other was limited. This is essentially a more extreme variation of that feeling you get on a Sunday when you know that soon classes and obligations are about to resurface, because in reality that often ends up being tied together.
When you are a busy college student with a busy schedule dating another busy college student with a busy schedule, the windows of time available to drive for five hours and then spend a reasonable time together without conflicting with any responsibilities is very small. Not to mention difficult when you are short on cash. Therefore, it is often that it is not until a holiday or rare lull in a busy schedule that you get to see each other. Because let’s be real—both weekends and weekdays are regularly busy for a typical college student.
Seeing each other during free weekends and holidays is great. Super-duper. After all, there is not always an abundance of free time during the week to socialize, anyways. However, this makes it difficult during the times when you really want your significant other around the most. For instance, during a stressful week, when you are ill, are playing in an exciting performance that you are proud of or when you are simply having an off day.
There will be times that they can come and visit on these occasions, though it is incredibly infrequent. Friends are always around during triumphs and tough times, too, but nothing beats cuddling with your favorite human after a bad day.
Of course, with today’s technology, having the support from a partner while they are far away is still an option. There are countless of tools available to communicate with someone over distance through a computer or phone. In fact, distance relationships allow you to develop expert communications skills because good communication is a necessity while with a distance partner. The only way that either of you will be able to know what you are up to, plan visits with each other or find creative ways to “hang out” over distance is through maintaining communication.
Communicating through technology and not being able to spend time together in person has its flaws, however. Technology not only makes it impossible to receive essential human physical contact, but only being able to communicate can lead to over-communication. And in the case of a disagreement, it does not allow for a hug or playful nudge of a shoulder afterwards.
Missing being able to have these type of interactions in person, it can sometimes be hard to justify why staying together is worth it considering that there are “other fish in the sea” a much shorter distance away. We cannot help but to notice when we find another person attractive. And why sit around missing someone when that person you keep noticing in your math class might be sitting only two minutes away feeling lonely, too? Noticing and being curious about other people while in a monogamous relationship is simply human nature, but can be further illuminated while in a distance relationship due to its challenges.
All of these factors are only some of the many aspects that make dating over distance challenging. However, if two people have mutual interests in staying together, all of the challenges that come with distance can be overcome with open and honest communication. Do not be discouraged from a current or future distance relationship, but understand that it only works if two people are willing to communicate and work through it together.