Going the distance: surviving long-distance relationships

Illustration: Olga Loza
Illustration: Olga Loza
Illustration: Olga Loza

Imagine a movie date night: two people watching a movie together, eating popcorn, laughing at the same things, commenting on the film. Seems pretty normal, doesn’t it? Now imagine doing this on Skype. Welcome to a long-distance relationship. You never know when and where love is going to strike you. It might happen over the summer far away from home or just when you are leaving for university. And sometimes long-distance is the only way that the relationship can work. The Saint talked with students who are going to distance, so to speak, about the challenges they face, how they overcome them and the things they do to keep the relationship going.

Anne Cavalleri met her boyfriend over the summer, and, as she puts it, “We just knew we were going to do long distance.” For them, “It just works.” Anna says that while they share mutual interests and are committed to each other, they both understand that one needs to support oneself, even if that means being far from the person you love.

However, a long-distance relationship is not without its particular challenges. She says, “We had a falling out a few weeks ago, which obviously was very hard to handle because you are not face-to-face. You are basically just arguing over the phone.”

Nonetheless, Anna believes long-distance relationships are not just viable but valuable. She takes a commendably low-key approach to the situation, saying, “If you don’t think of it [being long-distance] as a big issue in the first place and if you trust the person you are with and if you trust yourself, then there is nothing to worry about.”

For Philipp Ahrend, a less laissez-faire approach is what works for him and his boyfriend, whom he met while studying abroad at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during his third year. He also has no illusions about the specific set of challenges that comes with being in a long-distance relationship. “I would never say it is better than being together,” he says. “You are away [from each other] all the time, and you miss each other a lot. Then, when you meet up again, you are very happy. But a few days later you realize you don’t know that person very well. You know them more through the screen because you spend more time apart than together.”

Philipp hits on an interesting trend among millenials involved in long-distance relationships when he says, “You learn what the other person likes through social media.” A long-distance relationship in 2014 necessarily relies on social media, and a lot of what one knows and learns about one’s partner is through interaction with social media sites, is based on “what we absorb everyday,” as Philipp put it.

One of the opportunities provided by a long-distance relationship is that it forces an evaluation of one’s priorities. Philipp says, “If you are in love with someone and one of you is moving somewhere else, it doesn’t have to be the end. Think about what you really want and whether you are willing to compromise for a future with that person.”

Like Anna and Philipp, Lindsey Wiercioch has experience with long-distance relationships. While she has since broke up with her long-distance boyfriend, she still believes that, “If you both understand that you are far apart, it can and should work out. The relationship should be based on the person, not the place or distance between you. If you take it [the relationship] serious, it works out.” Yet she concedes that most of the issues she and her ex faced were because of the distance. Even though they spoke everyday, the lost physical connection was a constant challenge.

Toon Mojoham has been involved with his girlfriend for three years, yet they began the long-distance phase of their relationship three months ago. His advice for people considering a long-distance relationship is this: “If you are in a long-distance relationship, you have to have more of an emotional connection. You don’t have the physical aspect available to you, so you really [are able to] get to know them. I advise everyone who is about to enter a long-distance relationship to try it. Don’t end it before it happens.”

What’s one way that Toon and his girlfriend are able to keep their relationship going strong? “We do Skype dinner dates,” he says, and sometimes they watch movies at the same time while commenting and laughing about it over Skype.

Rafaela Neves met her Belgian boyfriend in France, though she was living in London at the time. Today, they both attend university in Scotland, though Rafaela is at St Andrews while her boyfriend attends school in Aberdeen. Like Toon, she has some wise words for those looking to give the long-distance thing a try. She says, “Sometimes you become more friends than [a couple] in a relationship. So try to make it special. Every once in a while, plan a trip. When you visit each other, it is sometimes weird because you don’t know any of his [or her] friends. So it’s nice to plan a trip together to someplace neither of you know.”

Emily Thompson met her boyfriend at a friend’s party, and they decided to continue her relationship after she accepted her offer from St Andrews. Though she admits that, “It is really hard when you have a bad day and realize [you can’t just give them a hug].” But at the same time she thinks she and her boyfriend “have grown closer being apart. We have to communicate better and keep the relationship going, which has made us closer.” As they say, absence makes the grow fonder. “When he came to visit,” she says, “we had missed each other so it made everything more special and intense.”

Everyone I interviewed has had a different experience being involved in a long-distance relationship. However, each of them shared that it is important not to be put off by the idea of being apart. And while long-distance relationships are sometimes more difficult than those that aren’t, they do have their perks. Remember: Adventures are great, especially when the person you love is your destination.


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