4 Ways to Keep Your High School Relationship Alive in College

OK, let’s just be real here. There is no real way to put a positive spin on long-distance. It just isn’t great. If you and your SO are in the midst of the college transition and focused on making the most of your last months of pre-college life, you’ve probably started to consider the strain that college will put on your relationship. Whether you are attending schools 30 minutes away or across the country, the structure of your relationship will inevitably change when you are no longer living in the small high school bubble together.

If you’re serious about staying together in college, which is no small task, there are a few ways you can give your relationship a better chance at overcoming the college transition and the distance. 

1. Set some ground rules.

First things first: Before anyone hops on any planes or drives off for move-in day in the fall, you’ll want to lay out a basic plan with your SO for your expectations. Some factors that you might want to consider are whether you will remain exclusive or not, and what you both qualify as “cheating.” Even though in high school your SO may have been your rock and favorite person, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong to feel curious about what else is out there, especially as you are about to enter a whole new environment and dating pool. With Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter at your fingertips, a whole new arena of "emotional cheating" emerges, a relationship gray-area that constitutes no actual physical cheating, but involves a borderline romance with a third party. Unfortunately, it is way too easy for the lines of what constitutes cheating in a relationship to get blurred, so check in with your SO to make sure you are both on the same page.

In college, which is a notorious breeding ground for casual hookups and no-strings-attached flings (often combined with alcohol), the draw of infidelity can be far stronger than in high school. That said, it’s also not a bad idea to check in about how your SO feels about you participating in the party scene on campus and vice versa. Now, it isn't to say that your SO should by any means dictate when you do or don't spend a night out. That is so not cool. However, if you are really in a mature enough place to keep this relationship going through college, you may want to get into less comfortable hypotheticals like, “What if one of you has an accidental, drunken hookup with someone else?” or, “What if you notice a plethora of new, hot girls in their Instagram follows?”

This isn’t to say that your relationship is inevitably doomed on account of college hookup culture. Just make sure that you have a thorough chat to know that you’re both on the same page when it comes to what is and isn’t cool in terms of being with other people when you aren’t around.

2. Communication is key.

Though two weeks after orientation, you’ll likely be dying to reconnect with your SO and spill all the details about your dorm room, roommate and the soft-serve in the dining hall, make sure you keep the level of communication between you up even after the initial Welcome Week craze and newness fades. So, what’s the best way to make sure that you don’t end up going 10 weeks without calling? Plan. Ahead. Now.

Once the school year really gets rolling, you will be overwhelmed. Guaranteed. When you have a political science paper to write or a bio exam hanging over your head, your mind won’t be on bae, and rightfully so! Instead of waiting until you are both swamped with assignments, pencil (or type) each other into your calendars. Try to set up weekly chats over FaceTime and follow through with them. By staying consistent and establishing a solid routine for checking in with one another, you’ll be better able to keep the connection between the two of you strong and to remind your bae that you’re still thinking about them. On the flipside, if you begin to find these weekly talks more of a chore than a pleasure three months down the road, it may be time to re-evaluate your feelings.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Relationship Work When You're Both Busy

3. Craft a bucket list.

One of the ultimate blessings of college is long holiday breaks. Back in high school, with a barely-two-week winter break, there was hardly time to get into the holiday spirit before you were taken right back out of it right after the new year. However, you will likely have close to a whole month off in college, which means it is time to get planning!

To have something fun and exciting to look forward to when you are reunited over Thanksgiving or the holidays, start putting together a checklist for all the activities you are dying to do together back home. The holidays are practically made for couples’ activities. Take the traditional, yet classically romantic route and go ice-skating or sledding, bake cookies and drink hot chocolate, watch seasonal movies and sing along (or hum) to the Charlie Brown favorite, “Christmas Time is Here” or go hunting for some mistletoe. There is nothing like a cute winter date to brighten your spirits, rekindle the spark between you and bring tidings of comfort and joy.

4. Send mail (yes, the snail kind).

In college, it is easy to feel more than a little disconnected from life back home. Everything is new and fresh, and while that can be exciting, it can also understandably make you miss the people who you love most and who remind you of home. Though a text goodnight or a shared link to a hilarious meme from your special someone is always nice, there is nothing quite as heartwarming as receiving a good, old-fashioned letter or care package.

Maybe it is the Mr. Darcy-loving part of us all, but there is something crazy romantic about opening up a handwritten paper (especially when it’s in cursive, swoon) addressed to you. Before you shoot off another lengthy message on your phone, grab a pen and put your feelings down on paper. The letter doesn’t have to be about anything monumental or life-changing. In fact, some of the sweetest thoughts you can share with your SO may just be about all the little things that you miss about them and how eager you are to see them soon. Trust us, when they get that letter through campus mail, it will make their heart swell and serve as a gentle reminder for why the trials and tribulations of long distance are worth it.

All other tidbits aside, what matters most when it comes to stretching a high school relationship into college is how serious you and your partner are about each other. The amount of effort that the two of you put into keeping things special and genuine is exactly what you will get out in the long run. There is no special formula or recipe to the long-distance game, and it’s pretty clear by now that no one has all the answers. If nothing else, make a pact with your SO before you ship off come fall that you’ll be true to yourself and honest with each other, and move forward from there.