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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024
The Observer

Long distance love and (possibly) pain

The transition out of high school and into college is difficult for almost everyone. We’re forced to release attachments to teachers and friends, and many of us will say goodbye to our first-ever love interest. Serious or not, losing this relationship can cause a lot of hurt for a teenager. At least for me, although I didn’t enter my relationship until a few days after high school graduation, I was encouraged to give up on my feelings and move on so I would have the opportunity to enter college single, without an obligation to anyone. 

At first, I understood. I knew it would be difficult to maintain a relationship on top of classes, clubs and friendships. However, my boyfriend and I decided to continue our relationship, with hopes that we could manage a commitment to not only school, but also to one another. What made this even more complicated, however, was the fact that my boyfriend and I would be around three hours apart. 

Pursuing a long-distance commitment was never something I had even considered when I envisioned my college life. I think the reason why I was comfortable with continuing our relationship was because we had built a great foundation of trust, communication and most importantly, friendship. I have to admit, though, I knew distance would be the true test for us, and those around me reminded me of this regularly.

After my first full year of college, I know I made the right decision. 

College caused me to feel an abundance of emotions. I was experiencing a multitude of things that were unfamiliar to me. Sometimes I felt alone or dispirited, and sometimes I felt like I was going to fail. I soon realized everyone else was also as confused and lost as me. Despite this, I found it difficult to be vulnerable with people I had just met. What brought me the most comfort was knowing I had someone to call and talk to when I had a rough day, when I needed to confide in someone, or even just if I was bored. 

Although I had and continue to have a rather good experience, I understand the hesitation many parents have allowing their child to continue a long-distance relationship while entering college. Many girls I met at Saint Mary’s had also chosen to continue their relationships and did not have great experiences. Some of their relationships caused them stress or distracted them from their studies, some girls couldn’t depend on their partners and some girls found themselves in situations where their significant others were caught being unfaithful. I feel great sympathy for anyone who endured this pain while simultaneously transitioning into college life.

I encourage everyone to analyze their relationship before taking the next step. Is your relationship stable? Is it built on friendship? Do each of you put in an equal amount of effort? Can you trust your partner even if you couldn’t physically see them? If the answer to any of these questions is no, I encourage you to consider ending your relationship before college. 

If you can answer yes to each question, I recommend you stick with it. It might be hard, but it’s nice having a built-in best friend only a call away. 

If you do choose to continue your commitment to one another, I have some tips to help your relationship become stronger while miles apart.

1. Know that a relationship isn’t 50-50. It’s 100-100. 

We all know that each party in a relationship is responsible for an equal amount of effort, but in this case, it isn’t just 50-50. Although I can agree it takes two halves to make a whole, don’t forget to be whole all on your own. The other 50% you give should come from within you. Strengthen your religious identity, join clubs, go to events, make friends and do things that fulfill you. Find your own interests. You do want to be able to depend on your partner, but not so much that you become solely codependent. 

2. Listen more than you talk. 

Everyone has rough days. Always be willing to listen to your partner because they’re experiencing something equally as confusing and nerve-wracking. Be the first to ask, “How was your day?” Just a simple question can make your significant other feel like they aren’t alone. 

3. Don’t be afraid to take breaks. 

I’m not talking about breaks like breaking up. Be willing to take days where you and your partner can both agree to spend the day without texting if it helps you to get work done. College assignments can be stressful, and they can be more stressful when you have someone texting you expecting you to have an engaging conversation with them. 

4. Communicate. 

If something upsets you, don’t be afraid to get it off of your chest. Don’t be afraid to express your boundaries or tell someone you’re hurt. Being both physically and emotionally distant from your partner will cause the demise of your relationship very quickly. Oh, and also, the silent treatment never works. 

5. Make time. 

Before classes start, share your schedules with one another. Take note of the times when both of you are in between classes. Even if it’s just a phone call on the walk to another building, it might mean the world to the person you’re with, and it’ll be extremely comforting to know you can expect a time to hear from them. 

6. Mail each other surprises. 

Even if it’s just a letter or a drawing, send each other mail without telling one another. Having something tangible from the person you love feels so much better than a text or a phone call, and it shows how much they care for you. 

7. Stick with it. 

Lastly, stick with it. Even when it’s hard. Be willing to work through the rough days. Your 43-year-old self might just thank you one day.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.