Long distance relationships, be they friendships, romantic entanglements or family correspondence, are extremely difficult in college. You have less free time and more distractions. Between classes, assignments, club events, extracurriculars, midterms, midterms, and more midterms, it can be hard to find the time to set aside to catch up with your loved ones. That distance can be hard enough for couples who are both in college, but when your S.O. is a year or two older and has already graduated, the distance between you feels greater than just the mileage.
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and found helpful.
Make time for meaningful phone calls and video chats.
Texting throughout the day is great if you can manage it, and a short phone call before class to let your S.O. know that you’re thinking about them can be really impactful. If they have a big job interview or performance review at work, quickly let them know that everything is going to be okay before you have to rush off to your next class. But you need to be able to set aside good chunk of time to have an actual conversation—maybe not everyday, but every few days at least.
Share what makes you laugh.
If you find a video, and article, a meme that makes you laugh, make it a habit to send it to them.
Start a two person book club or watch a show together.
Commit to watching one episode of Parks and Rec every week at the same time. You’ll have something new to talk about, and an activity that still feels like it belongs to the two of you. It’ll take you a long time to get through all eight seasons and it’s not like you wouldn’t be watching Netflix anyway.
Send little care packages if possible.
Embrace your inner grandma and bake some cookies to send. If you know that they’re forgetful, send them some cute post it notes. If they’re obsessed with bubble tea, send them a package with the ingredients so that they can make it at home. Send them a toy version of their favorite animal or a collectable from their favorite show or movie —a Leslie Knope bobble-head maybe. You could even start a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants thing if that’s what you’re into. There’s no better feeling than opening up a present from a loved one. Just ask this kid who was totally thrilled by this banana he got as a gift…
Remind them to have some fun.
Life after school can be totally dominated by looking for work, rent and scrounging up money for groceries. Let them know it’s ok to have a little fun! They can take a night off to go out to dinner and drinks with their friends. They can have a night alone with some wine and a bath and a whole pizza for themselves. Whatever form their self-care takes, and whatever is most fun for them, remind them that they have the ability and responsibility to let go every once in a while.
Don’t pressure them.
When you do find some free time to sit and talk with your S.O. try not to pressure them about work or rent or life after graduation. Going from the relative stability of life as a student, to life as a new adult is a long and difficult transition. It’s kind to want to help them settle down and to ask them all about post-grad life, but if you think you’re under a lot of pressure now to answer questions from your family about your future, imagine how bad it’ll get after you’re out of school.
Don’t pressure yourself.
Take your education seriously. Don’t pressure yourself to make future plans before you’re ready. Take the time to enjoy your life as a student. Focus on getting the most that you can out of your college experience. If your relationship becomes a major source of anxiety for you, or you find yourself spending less time on your work and more time worrying about your relationship, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Find the fun in balancing interesting classes, your social life and your relationship. Chances are, your S.O. is going to be busy too. Plan your life according to what makes you comfortable and excited about your future.
There will be times when you feel on totally different pages. You will wonder if things are getting too hard. You’ll begin to think that your S.O. would be better off focusing on adult life, or that maybe you should cloister yourself away like a hermit to study. You may go a week or more without talking to your favorite person, and then wonder if they’re currently trying to think of ways to break up with you. Take a step back. Breathe. If this person really cares about you, supports and celebrates your successes, and if being with them enhances your life, then you’ll find a way.