Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Maintaining a long-distance relationship in college

Candid of John Watchorn and his girlfriend, Justine. Photo courtesy of Jaci Wendel.

By Jaci Wendel

News Editor

For the past four Valentine’s Day weekends, I’ve driven five and-a-half hours to the other side of the state in order to visit my boyfriend, who goes to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Tolls and gas are expensive, the other drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are annoying and often the winter weather makes it hard to make the journey. Then of course at the end of the weekend, we have to deal with what I call “sad day:” Sunday, when I inevitably have to go back to DeSales.

Many people in long-distance relationships will find this scheme very familiar to them. According to the website Long Distance Relationship Statistics, nearly 14 million couples in the United States are in a long-distance relationship, and a third of that number are college relationships. If you are currently in or have ever been in a long-distance relationship, you were probably at one point discouraged from it. My boyfriend and I have been dating ever since we went to the same high school, and when it came time for me to decide where to go to college, many people told me that I shouldn’t take my boyfriend into consideration and that we should even consider breaking up.

Candid of Jenni Miranda and her boyfriend Dan. Photo courtesy of Jaci Wendel.

These people all meant well: maintaining a long-distance relationship is hard, especially during the formative college years when self-discovery is supposed to take place. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. There are plenty of ways to make your long-distance relationship in college work.

Junior Brian Hayhurst has been with his girlfriend for approximately eight months, and they live three hours away by car from one another.

“The hardest part of being in a long distance relationship is simply not being able to see each other face to face. Even with all the new video chatting, nothing is the same as seeing each other in person,” said Hayhurst.

But this difficulty doesn’t mean that he’s not willing to put the effort into his long-distance relationship. His most important advice to other couples in a long-distance relationship is to make time for one another.

“Never let the other person in the relationship feel lonely or like you aren’t there for them just because you aren’t physically together,” says Hayhurst.

John Watchorn, a senior who has been in his current long-distance relationship for a little over a year-and-a-half, deals with similar cons in making his relationship work, and says the hardest part of being long-distance is “the distance itself.”

“[It’s] not being able to see her… and just not being able to be there for her when she needs me, and also that feeling of like fear that if something were to happen to her, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it because of how far away we are,” says Watchorn.

The two biggest things that Watchorn stresses in a long-distance relationship are communication and trust.

“When you’re talking with the other person… just like [in a] text or an email you just have the words out of context, so unless you’re on a very good level of communication with your significant other then it’s going to be real easy to take things out of context,” says Watchorn. “The second is also to trust your significant other… by nature I’m very protective and it’s hard for me to let people that I care about go and make decisions on their own because I feel then that I’m less of a factor in their life… you have to trust that wherever they’re going whatever they’re doing they’re going to take care of themselves.”

Jenni Miranda, senior, has been in her long-distance relationship for eight-and-a-half months. It takes her two hours by plane to see her boyfriend in New Lennox, Il. Her relationship actually started out as long-distance, which has been formative in their communication.

“I think for us, since our whole relationship has been a long-distance relationship, we have had to challenge ourselves to know each other more thoroughly just by active and constant communication with one another because there’s no other way to get to know one another,” says Miranda.

“The hardest part is not being together obviously because it’s not being together and being able to see his reaction when I tell him a funny joke or when I tell him I love him or just like seeing his face when he’s proud of me for doing something,” adds Miranda.

In the end, though, as most people would say, putting up with the difficulties that the distance causes and putting in the extra effort to continue a long-distance relationship is worth it.

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