Before I started university, I always heard everyone insist that it’s a terrible idea to come to uni in a relationship. During freshers week, when someone would admit that they had a boyfriend or a girlfriend it was nearly always met with disapproving looks and ‘good luck mate!’.
The common consensus seems to be that it will ‘hold you back’, having to get on a train every couple of weekends and spend hours on the phone. It can be really fun though, you get a whole new group of people to hang out with, and if you’re not going to uni for loads of casual sex then how can it be a problem, right?
The issue is that long-distance is evidently really hard, but I do know some people who’ve managed to make it work. That being said, most of the people I know who came to uni in a relationship are no longer together; I remember a spurt of break-ups all happening one after the other around Christmas time. Some of them seemed to have a new lease of life afterwards, whilst for others it wasn’t really all that different.
I met up with two people who came to university in a relationship (not with each other!) to see if the myths were true.
Firstly, how long were you in a relationship for before coming to uni?
Angus: I think it was just over a year.
Amy: We’d been together for a year.
How long was the distance, and how often did you end up seeing each other?
Angus: The distance was Bristol to Cornwall, so not too far. We actually didn’t see each other that much though, maybe three or four times between September and December. I think that was a problem.
Amy: It was Bristol to Liverpool. We saw each other probably once a month, twice if we had the money.
Were you worried about your relationship holding you back, or about what people would say when you told them you were in a relationship?
Angus: No, because lots of people are in relationships. At the time I didn’t think it would hold me back, though now I think maybe it did.
Amy: No not at all. I felt like my relationship was a massive priority at the time, so I wasn’t at all concerned about that kind of thing.
Did you ever consider breaking up before you came?
Amy: No not at all.
And are you still together now?
Angus: No, we broke up in December of first year.
Amy: No, we’re not together. We actually managed to get through the whole of first year and sadly broke up over summer.
Do you think that long-distance had a lot to do with the break up?
Angus: Yes one-hundred percent. Because before I went, we were both so worried that long-distance was going to break us up, and she was really worried that things were going to change so I kept reassuring her that they wouldn’t. So then when I felt like things were changing, because I loved her and I didn’t want her to be upset, I just didn’t tell her.
Amy: Partly yeah, but also he was just a massive dick. I guess the distance put a lot of pressure on our relationship and caused issues we didn’t really realise it was causing. We were just not as close anymore; obviously we didn’t see each other that much. The relationship was either all-consuming or it wasn’t enough. We didn’t get our balance right with the distance and it just became really unhealthy.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
Angus: Not seeing each other, and feeling like I was speaking to someone who was living a different life to me. It wasn’t the same, it felt like she was just a person in a phone.
Amy: Dealing with someone who was jealous that I was having a good time. That’s a piece of advice: make sure your partner has their own life, you both need to have fulfilling lives. Because it’s not fair to be made to feel bad for having a good fucking time.
After you broke up, did you feel your uni experience changed at all?
Angus: Yes I do. I think I was much less worried, which meant I was much more myself and I made way more friends. I was way less worried about making friends with girls as well, because I was worried my girlfriend would think it was crossing a line.
Amy: Yeah definitely. It wasn’t like last year being in a relationship was a burden or anything, but this year I feel a lot more free. I can do my own thing, I’m not glued to my phone, I feel like I’m investing more time in my friendships. People have commented that I seem more present this year.
Do you regret not being single when you first came to uni?
Angus: No. It wouldn’t have been the right time to break up, because everything was great when I first came to uni.
Amy: No not at all. It’s obviously a different experience now, but if you’re in a relationship for the right reasons then moving on to long-distance shouldn’t affect your staying together.
So would you advise other people to do the same?
Angus: It can be done. I would say you need to communicate very well, and see each other as much as you can. But it’s hard because you need to be so at ease with each other that you wouldn’t worry if you didn’t speak for a while if you’re busy. Don’t think you have to talk all the time. Be honest, and make as much effort as possible. If you feel like something’s wrong, you should tell the other person. Don’t bottle it up, because I think that’s what went wrong.
Amy: Absolutely try to make it work, because you can make it work. You just need to figure out the best way to do that. Do not fucking text all the time. Make time to call each other once a day or every couple of days to properly catch up. Because then you’re both living your own lives, rather than trying to be part of each other lives constantly.