Defeating the distance, one day at a time
I have been in a long distance relationship for all of college. My boyfriend and I have been dating since we were 16, and the last almost five years together are ones I wouldn’t trade for anything. However, being six hours away from each other was not easy, but I think it’s safe to say, with only a little over a month left apart, that we survived it. So yay!
Not that making it all the way through college makes me an expert on the subject, but in my four years in this LDR, I have learned many, many things, and have come up with key ways to survive the time apart, and embrace fully the time spent together. Whether you are just starting this difficult journey, or are almost done with it, I hope these tips help you.
How I survived the college LDR (dos and don’ts)
10.) Don’t feel the need to use all technology to communicate, if it doesn’t work for you. My boyfriend and I learned early on that Skype has many flaws: you have to set aside time to Skype, friends often are coming in and out of the background of your conversation, and most of the time you can’t multi task. If you’re like me, and you’ve been busy since day one of college, it can actually be harder to make time for Skype. Also, I discovered Skype was difficult because I could see my boyfriend but he wasn’t actually there (may seem sappy, but this was actually so true). Texting and phone calls were much, much easier for us. Skype may be the best thing for your long distance relationship, or maybe phone calls are. Find the mode of communication that works best for you and your relationship, and don’t feel guilty if one form is better than another and you don’t communicate in every way possible.
9.) Do remember to make time, in any way that you can. Whether or not you have time to Skype or talk on the phone, just make sure you’re staying connected in any way that you can. A quick phone call on your way to class or a “good morning” text means a lot more when you’re long distance than it did when you were near each other. The daily reminder that you’re on each other’s mind is essential.
8.) Don’t let your relationship become a burden. If remembering to give them a call or send them a text is something you dread or forget about often, you may need to either reevaluate your relationship or reevaluate how you put the effort in. The minute your relationship becomes work is the minute things can start falling apart. Long distance is work, but your actual, overall relationship shouldn’t be. If you can’t find a place for this person in your college life, self, or schedule, it may be more trying than rewarding to stay together. Pay attention to signs of your significant other becoming a burden, or you becoming a burden to them, and recognize if it is time to talk it out, or let go completely. Don’t suffer through this if there’s no future there. Not that you need to know if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with this person at 18, but if you go long distance and don’t miss them, think they don’t miss you, etc., don’t force yourself to make it continue. There’s no need to put the time and energy it takes to make an LDR work if you’re relationship isn’t steady. It will consume your college career and will become a large part of your identity, so if you’re not ready for that, don’t force yourself.
7.) Do remember to have fun. As much as it can be difficult, remember that, despite being without your significant other, you are in college, and you need to make the most of that experience. You only get this time in your life once, so make sure you aren’t letting the relationship damper the chances at these experiences. And talk to your significant other about this if it’s an issue with them, don’t just ignore their feelings. Don’t sit in your dorm room sulking every single weekend; this helps no one, because your significant other can’t be there, won’t be there, and wouldn’t be happy knowing you’re sitting around just being sad.
6.) Don’t make visiting each other a hassle. Gas is expensive, weekends get busy, and life happens. If you are close and lucky enough to get to spend some weekends together outside of breaks, make sure you consider the things that make this possible. If you or your significant other can’t afford the gas, don’t get mad about that. If they have six weekends in a row jam-packed with stuff going on, understand that it is college and that’s to be expected. Sometimes, making these visits possible can be stressful, and can lead to arguments. Don’t let trying to spend time together become a heartbreak in itself: expect that these things happen, and appreciate fully the next time you get together. In this same breadth, compromise is essential. Even though you’re in a relationship, your lives are separate right now, so compromising your time, together or apart, is necessary.
5.) Do spend whole weekends and breaks together. Some will say that if you hang out with your significant other everyday of the summer or Christmas break that it will be too hard to go back to being in a long distance relationship. However, I found that all I wanted in the world was to spend time with my boyfriend when we actually could. Sure, my friends at home rolled their eyes and said they wanted to see me too, and yes I saw them, but I went home for him and my family, primarily. These days and weeks together really are what make the months apart worth it, so make the most of them.
4.) Don’t listen to people who don’t understand, or doubt, your relationship. I had many friends tell me that trying to make a long distance relationship work was dumb, not worth it, would be too much work, etc. “What if there’s someone for you in college?” “What if he cheats?” “Don’t you just want to be single?” were common questions I got. The truth is, if someone who has never been in a relationship or attempted long distance tries to push you down, you really can’t listen. They don’t know what you’re trying to do, and they don’t know the extent of your feelings for that person. You have to remember that only you know yourself and your relationship – no one else does. If you are confident in your relationship, your significant other, and your decision to stay together, let that be enough proof that you can make it work.
3.) Do remember the little things. Even though college gets busy, remember keeping the relationship alive is directly connected with keeping the small things about your relationship alive as well. I am constantly sending my boyfriend articles and funny things I found online, and he sends me letters in the mail. These little things make it easier, and can reaffirm why you’re going the distance.
2.) Don’t let daily frustrations affect your relationship. My boyfriend and I have gotten in countless tiffs about incredibly insignificant things, and about halfway through the fight recognized that we are stressed about something else, or about being apart in general, and are just taking it out on each other. Though recognizing this is good, and can help, recognizing it before you yell at your significant other when you’re really mad at your professor/roommate/or latest test grade is even more important. Think twice before calling your significant other when crabby, unless it is just to vent about said situation (which can be glorious when they don’t go to your school/don’t share your exact experiences – they provide an excellent outsider’s point of view).
1.) Do remember that there is an end date. Whether you count down to every break or visit, or have the grand countdown for the end of the LDR for (hopefully) forever, (45 days for us!!!!), keeping this in the back of your mind can help you stay stable throughout the time you’re apart. Knowing that you’ll be back with them again eventually helps keep overwhelming emotions at bay significantly, and always gives you something to look forward to even if school is kicking your butt or other issues at college arise. The light at the end of the tunnel is always a great thing to look to, and can save your relationship.
Of course, there are other things to keep in mind, and no relationship is the same, but regardless of if this helps you or not, take away this: long distance relationships take work, time, and effort on both sides. If you both put that in, you can do this!
Special thanks to @h13joejoe for his help on this list.
Any tips that I missed? Want more advice on this? Tweet at me, @jlbungert