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Long Distance Love? Couples Share Secrets to Surviving Separation

When thousands of students conglomerate in an idyllic, coastal town, falling in love might seem inevitable.

One in 10 St Andrews students will marry a fellow student, a former principal has claimed, and the school has taken on the unofficial title of “Britain’s top matchmaking university.” The romantic sparks start to catch as early as first year, when the University randomly assigns students to accommodations, bringing them into contact with brand new names and fresh faces.

But many new couples have to cut their honeymoon phase short when spring turns to summer and students with some 145 different nationalities flock to homes across five continents. That introduces an anxiety-inducing foe that lovers have long lamented: long distance. But two couples say the impasse has done little to languish their love. They offered some tips for those who might be aspiring to join the tenth of twosome that make the long haul.

It was freshers week in Macintosh Hall when second-year Lindsay Martin saw her. She compared it to the scene in the film Bigfish, when the protagonist, Ewan McGregor, meets his future wife. “It [was] like that scene in the circus tent where the popcorn freezes midair,” said Martin.

Martin started dating Rowan Blacklock a week later. In September, they celebrated their one-year anniversary.

The two had been inseparable, they said. But when summer came, they went from being two floors apart to facing a near 3,000 mile separation.

Martin, who left her family in Sweden to attend boarding school in the U.S., imagined that she had prepared herself to naturally adapt to the distance.

“You think that would prepare you, but it really doesn’t”, said Martin. “Familial relationships or friendships are an entirely different thing to your partner.”

Martin spent her summer in Delaware, and Rowan spent hers in California. But the two said they weren’t bothered by the three hour time difference between them.

“I am a hermit and go to bed early”, said Blacklock. “And she worked late, so we both went to bed at the same time.”

But the duo’s busy schedules posed a more arduous challenge. Martin worked two jobs and Blocklock took on an internship. That meant they had to actually schedule times to interact via call and text.

“In the beginning of the summer, I had been working, and like, not really responding as frequently, and not always having time to call”, Blacklock said. “I had diverted my consciousness in so many directions that I was like, unconsciously putting Lindsay on the backburner.”

But they were able to navigate the rest of the summer with an essential ingredient: communication. The couple noted that spending “quality time” manifests itself in a variety of ways, including sending letters, taking Buzzfeed quizzes on FaceTime, and even sending one another confectionary goods in the mail. “Making sure you’re always making time for your partner”, said Blacklock. “That is the most important thing.”

The couple’s virtual romance, however, took a much-needed break in late July, when Martin flew across the country to spend a week with Blacklock in California. Since they have been back at school, they have gone back to hanging out nearly every day.

But having survived their first round of being apart, they said they’re more prepared for what might come ahead, including the prospect of both of them taking a year abroad and eventually graduating.

“We have a lot ahead of us”, Martin said.

Another second year-couple, Clara Curtis and Paul Chester, had what some might call a uni-accomodation ‘meet-cute’: Curtis needed help carrying her recycling outside and Chester gave her a hand.

The two have since been together for around ten months. To make it past last summer, they had to deal with being an ocean apart: Curtis is from the U.S. and Chester from the U.K. But there wasn’t any discussion of whether they were up for the task.

“It wasn’t even a question of, like, if I was gonna do it,” said Curtis, “It was just, like, okay, how am I gonna do this? Because, like, there’s no other person I could wait for like that.”

That didn’t mean it wasn’t hard though.“Once I passed, like, the six week mark, it was terrible”, said Curtis, “Like a month was doable, but it got unbearable.”

The separation started to bubble into tension and small quarrels. They missed each other. “It’s kind of equivalent to being on your period”, said Curtis, “[And] knowing that what you’re upset about isn’t you.”

“Neither of us are overly emotional people, I’d say”, Chester added. “But over long distance, I think we became overly emotional.”

Curtis also stressed the importance of what she called “frequent communication about literally everything,” adding that they almost “overly communicated” to combat any risk of misinterpretation.

But the five hour time difference between them was harder to manage. Curtis spent nights alone, and Chester mornings. But sometimes that wasn’t a bad thing.

“I feel like you need a bit of independence from each other, just so you’re not in each other’s way all the time”, Chester said. “I could just wake up, do my own thing, and then wait for [Clara] to wake up.”

“I think the way that I dealt with it was being happy doing what I was doing, but knowing that I could be happier if, like, Paul was with me”, Curtis added.

What both couples stressed is that, when hurdles are ahead, it’s important to be up front with each other.

Martin also urged the importance of a foreseeable “end in sight” — whether it be the next time they see one another in person or the ultimate goal of living a life together after university.

“A lot of the time in my head, [I] was like, we’re doing long distance so we can go back to the way we were together”, said Chester. “You have to have that memory of you together.”

But the university, as each couple has come to realise, is full of students who are facing the same challenges. Blacklock, though, insisted that St Andrews students possess a certain resilience that prepares them to take on the challenge. If they’re brave enough to go to an international university, she asked, why would they not be able to take their romantic relationship long distance?

Blacklock concluded with a final piece of wisdom to any couples teetering on the edge of deciding whether or not to take on the challenge: “Don’t let the possibility of long distance scare you off from being with someone you love, or someone that you potentially could love”, she said. “It’s so worth it.”

Illustration: Jordan Anderson

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