I didn’t plan to have a girlfriend when leaving for university, but I also didn’t plan not to have one. I suppose I was curious and, at the time, I wanted to have someone. We have been a long distance couple from the start despite what others have thought. It’s difficult to explain to people why I chose this path instead of the easier one. It is even more difficult to hear the pity in the people’s voice when they hear of my circumstances. You cannot help but notice the disappointment in people’s eyes that predicts doom and sorrow…
I believe that people still think of LDR as an anomaly even though statistics from various sources, studies and personal histories suggest otherwise. Perhaps in the university culture that is epitomised by appetite for partying, drinking, sex, pleasure and carefree lifestyle it is difficult to imagine a place for a long distance relationship. The campus has its own bubble where life is very different to the one outside of it and I am convinced that the image of love (and life) can be distorted by university culture. It seems impossible to associate the traditions of the university life with the foundations of the LDR that consist of maturity, patience, self-control and even accountability.
Moreover, your friends and family may discourage your relationship because of all the difficulties and struggles you will experience. Without a doubt university atmosphere and lifestyle greatly simplifies the quest for relationships and sex. It is understandable to wonder whether you should put yourself through the torture of abstinence and constant skype sessions when you could have the real (physical) thing right now right here. I understand when people question whether long distance relationships belong in the university life. Relationships are hard work as they are and with the added distance new complications and limitations arise.
I enjoy my relationship a lot, but yes it is difficult. You are devoid of intimacy and sex… Simple things like holding other person’s hand, a kiss on the forehead or even a hug after a long, tough day are unachievable. We communicate constantly through FB messenger and skype but it’s not the same. There is a constant lack of intimacy and comfort that is present in ‘normal’ relationships. It is, essentially, correct to compare LDR with being single with the limitations of the relationship but no benefits of a bachelor’s life…
Couples in the same university don’t understand how fortunate they are, not just in terms of close proximity but also in terms of independence. They can spend 7 nights a week sleeping in the same bed and do not worry about their parents. The same thing would not be achievable if they lived at their parent’s house. It is funny how with all this independence I still can’t enjoy it fully.
Have I ever thought of breaking up? Yes, in my first semester, because I saw how crazy everyone acted, like dogs let off the chain… I thought I wanted the same thing, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I had a girl who loved me and I loved her. Why fix something when it isn’t broken? There was no direct pressure to end my relationship, but university life is so structured that you feel the indirect influence to be single to truly enjoy the university life. Yes, I missed out on a lot of experiences that the bachelor’s life would have given me. Whether I regret it or not is not as important as realising that the price paid was worth the benefits.
I don’t know how many relationships end just because young adults go away to university, but I assume there are many. Going away to university does not mean you have to restructure your life, change your personality and cut ties with your ‘old life’. LDR can be as stable as a ‘normal’ relationship. It does not have to be a fantasy or a fairy-tale. It can be real and it can work. Unfortunately, there is a default expectation for it to end; expectation to be ‘that’ difficult; expectation to fail. It is very simple to be swayed by people around you and give in to the idea that you ‘should’ date someone close to you.
This is where the beauty lies in these relationships. What long distance does is it tests the strength of your bond and commitment. In a sense, you put up with this hardship so you’d know that your relationship is strong and stable. So when you put that ring on, you know it’s real. But I hear you, long distance relationships never last… except when they do. If couples stopped expecting these relationships to fail, maybe they would succeed. When you enter this type of relationships will all the fears, doubts and worries it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was never worried she’d be unfaithful to me nor she was worried about me. So how do you make it work? The key is to communicate and remain honest. You have to know one another and respond accordingly to each other’s concerns and emotions. You both have to be clear about the rules and expectations for this relationship on day-to-day basis. Keep each other regularly informed about your lives. Show genuine interest when you hear that 10 minute rant about a boring class etc. and support one another. Visit each other as often as you can and have an end date in mind, at least abstractly. Respect your partner and give sincere effort to make the relationship work. Moreover, remind yourself why you entered into this relationship because your mind (and eyes) will wander and you will need to differentiate between sexual desires and real feelings. It is also crucial to live your own life and focus on your own identity, character and your own friends.
Should you do it? No. But only because I’m not sure you would mean it. You need to trust another person completely otherwise it won’t work.