By Julia Furmanek
Growing up, I was always presented with a dichotomy on how I should approach romance: on the one hand, the only valid form of a relationship was one that would last forever, and on the other, I was supposed to explore and experience new people in order to find this sense of ‘true’ love.
Regardless of how well-functioning my relationship was at the time, I felt a sense of mourning over a breakup that had not even occurred yet, already in fear of an end to a young relationship and the invalidation that this would insinuate. How could all of this happiness someday come to an end? How could someone so important at this stage of my life ever say goodbye to me?
This was a concern I harbored with particular distress throughout my first serious relationship, and, as expected, the end came for us eventually. It was ugly, unanticipated, and painful. For a long time, I felt lost. How could someone I’d loved and trusted for years suddenly cut me out? And, in the same token, how could I betray him out of my own thoughtless curiosity as I had?
Considering how easily things unraveled, it seemed as though every happy memory we shared, the strong bond I felt with him, was also a facade. Entering my next serious relationship, I found myself harboring a lot of the same fears. We could not break up, otherwise, this would become another waste of time.
Going to separate colleges and having to spend so much time apart only exacerbated these concerns, as I saw all of the ways our relationship could self-destruct. What if we no longer shared as true of an understanding of one another after living in such different places? Or contrastingly, what if by staying together we prevented one another from growing into our true selves?
Our earth-shattering summer had come to a close, and in a very real sense, many of my fears had now come center-stage. The unknowns had become overwhelming for me as I looked ahead into our next few months, but there were also a few concretes for us to hold on to. The facts: we loved one another, we had inextinguishable fun when we were together, and we were not ready for it to be over. We headed into the great unknown of long-distance relationships with these great truths in tow.
We have been living apart for six weeks now, and space has drawn us closer together, as cheesy as that may sound. In stripping away the conventions of how a normal relationship should function, we have been able to put greater emphasis on aspects of our bond that are most important to us. I am living a long-term fear of mine, and yet I feel more secure than I have ever been.
In omitting much of what social conventions taught me about how young women should experience love, I have been able to use both wounds from past relationships and the love exchanged in my current one in a way that has made me grow as an individual. I began to see successes in what had once appeared to be failures in love.
Relationships between college students may not always lead to long-term commitment, but the practices of self-sacrifice and communication they demand are pivotal. Any time you enter a new one, you make the choice to be vulnerable and allow another person to truly know you.
All of these outcomes are valid ones that can bring someone closer to happiness. Perhaps in living by the gifts our partners do give us rather than their shortcomings, we can all become more connected with the present moment at a wonderful time in our lives.