Being a college student is hard. Being in a long-distance relationship (LDR) is hard. Put them together and sometimes the combined pressure feels intense.
Making such a commitment isn’t for everybody, and these lessons aren’t ones that can only come from being in an LDR. However, I feel as though this experience was needed for me to grow as a student, and more importantly, as a person.
About a year ago, I published a blog post about being in a long-term relationship (which you can find here). I still firmly believe in the three takeaways (keeping boundaries, maintaining communication, and improving each other). However, being in an LDR taught me that the extra physical barrier takes those takeaways up a notch. It gets difficult knowing that you can’t give your partner a hug after they had an excruciatingly difficult day or recharge at the end of the week by having a coffee break on the weekends. If I could add to the lessons I have learned, here are some more takeaways:
Have a life outside of your relationship. In a way, it’s easier to; you’re — quite literally — miles apart. It’s far easier to see your friends and classmates than it is to see your partner. However, it can be just as easy to get caught up with the heartache of not being able to spend as much time with your partner. Sometimes, it’ll be tempting to spend all day thinking about how nice it would be if your partner could be there experiencing whatever you are rather than enjoying the moment yourself. As harsh as it can sound, there’s a world outside that keeps going. Realize the sun rises each day and continue to chase after your ambitions. As important as your partner is, you and your goals are more so.
Have trust. This is true for any relationship, but when you can’t regularly see your partner, communication and trust becomes that much more important. Have faith that your partner is also investing in their goals and not ignoring you. Have space. Figure out a schedule that works with both of you; sometimes calling frequently isn’t nearly as good as giving each other space to pursue responsibilities and ambitions.
Enjoy milestones. This past week, we had Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I exchanged gifts and opened them during our video call. I sent him a puzzle-piece keychain that fits with the one I have, and we recently scheduled to see each other during our respective spring breaks. We catch up about weekly through Skype to update each other on our antics. Even if we can’t do “normal” couple things in-person like celebrate anniversaries or frequent little coffee dates, we value the time that we do have together and look forward to enjoying the future dates we have planned out.
Have fun. Cheesy, but behind every cliché is a grain of truth. As college students, we already have enough stress in our lives. Juggling school, social lives, internship searches… we don’t need relationships that don’t make us happy. Realize what you want and need. Stay true to your goals and what you need to achieve them.
Again, I find that these lessons also carry through my other kinds of relationships with people who don’t live nearby: my family (who still live in Alabama) and my friends (who live all over the world) also showed me this. Regularly maintaining contact to help the distance feel smaller while understanding that we all have our respective lives to carry has been vital in ensuring healthy relationships. As each of those relationships I have with those people is unique, so is my relationship with my boyfriend. As time passes and I build upon these interpersonal relationship skills, I hope to be able to improve myself and those I surround myself with.