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Going the Distance—Long Distance Relationships in College

After high school, some couples call it quits and agree to go their separate ways in college. Other couples decide to stick it out and try long distance. It’s not easy. Many couples that try long distance fall apart for all kinds of reasons: jealousy, mistrust, infidelity, or simply because they can’t handle the constant separation.

However, some couples manage to stay together even though they’re many miles apart. If you and your significant other truly want to be together and are willing to put in the effort, it’s entirely possible to stay together despite the distance.

I talked to real CMU girls to find out their long distance relationship stories, and towards the end of the article, I’ve compiled some tips for making long distance relationships work.

Profiles: Real CMU Girls in Long Distance Relationships

1. Not all long distance relationships last forever, and some of them fall apart due to reasons other than distance.

Tamar Feigenbaum, a junior at Carnegie Mellon, tried long distance with her high school boyfriend. The couple lasted for three and a half years, from sophomore year of high school through most of their freshman year in college.

Tamar conveys how hard it is to describe what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship to someone who hasn’t: “Especially in college, it’s hard for people to understand why anyone would want to be in a relationship at all, let alone one where the physical component has been removed most of the time.” In addition to having trouble justifying her relationship, Tamar said that it was especially painful to be around other couples. “The absolute hardest part of being in a long distance relationship was seeing other couples walking around doing couple-y things when all I wanted was to see my boyfriend, especially after a hard day,” Tamar said.

Tamar and her boyfriend did not break up purely due to distance, but she admits that distance escalated the problems they were having. Her ex, who attends Emory University, wanted her to transfer to his school despite the fact that she had no desire to. He also had a jealous personality and was unable to cope when Tamar befriended guys that he couldn’t monitor. Despite the difficulties, she said that it was all justified when she did get to see her then-boyfriend. “Even through we’d spent so much time apart, it felt like nothing changed,” she said.

2. If there’s an age difference, you might find yourself leaving your significant other behind as you enter college.

Ari Swerling, currently a junior at University of Delaware, dated his high school girlfriend up until midway through his sophomore year of college. She is two years younger than him, so while Ari was a sophomore, she was still a senior in high school. “She wasn’t familiar with my current experiences and therefore often worried about things that I knew were okay,” Ari explains.

Ultimately, Ari and his girlfriend began to grow apart. They decided that they couldn’t commit to “forever” without experiencing other relationships first. Ari doesn’t regret any of the relationship and still maintains a positive attitude towards long distance relationships. “I know long distance can work, but only if the couple is truly dedicated, as we were.”

But don’t let these stories discourage you. While some couples do inevitably break up, others are able to withstand the distance.

3. For some couples, the distance between their respective schools is relatively easy to travel, whether it be by car or by train.

This is the situation that Jessica Zarrillo, a junior at Rutgers University, and her boyfriend Eric, a senior at Lehigh University found themselves in. “I’m very lucky—I get to see him almost every weekend.” Jessica said. It’s a difficult plan— Jessica notes that sacrificing time with friends and family is especially taxing—but she says it’s worth it.

During the days she’s not with Eric, Jessica finds herself missing him most at night. “Your thoughts (and a piece of you) are always somewhere else,” she said sadly. Jessica describes long distance as heart-wrenching, but being with Eric is more important to her than any number of miles. The feeling of seeing her boyfriend after a few weeks apart makes all of the heartache instantly vanish. “The look on his face at the start of every visit is enough to keep me going,” Jessica said.

4. Sadly, not all long distance couples are able to visit each other that often.

Sometimes the distance is too great or the transportation too expensive to make frequent visits feasible. But just as Jessica and Eric make their relationship work, couples in this situation can get along too.

My boyfriend Brian attends University of Delaware, a school that’s almost 300 miles away from Carnegie Mellon. We started dating in June 2008 when we were sophomores in high school. Now we’re both juniors in college, and we’ve been sticking out the distance for over two years.

There is no easy (or inexpensive) way to get from Pittsburgh to Delaware, especially without a car. Brian and I rarely get to visit each other. I won’t sugar coat it—going months without seeing my boyfriend is emotionally taxing. If you’ve never been in a long distance relationship, it’s a hard feeling to describe. It’s a constant longing. It’s easy to feel bitter when you watch your friends cuddle up with their significant others, but you have to work at taking your mind off of it. Just talking to your partner can help. If I feel lonely, I can just shoot Brian a text, and he’ll be there with a dumb joke or a picture of a puppy to make me smile. It’s important to cherish the little things, like the silly inside jokes that you and your partner have or the way you can hear them smile when they’re on the phone with you. It’s tempting to wallow in the sadness that comes with missing someone. But do your best to focus on the positives. It’s cliché, but it’s true: It’s all worth it when you finally get to see them again.

There are no right or wrong things to do in a long distance relationship. What works for one couple may not work for another. A relationship is a very personal thing, and you and your significant other should figure out what works for you. That being said, a lot of people ask me how I’ve stayed with my boyfriend through more than two years of long distance. Here are some ways that I’ve managed to survive the complicated, emotional world that is a long distance relationship. If you’re currently in a long distance relationship, I hope these tips can offer you a little guidance.

Tips for making a Long Distance Relationship Work

1. Communicate. Communication is important in every relationship, but it’s especially important when you don’t get to see your significant other every day. Make an effort to talk to them every day, even if it’s just a short conversation. Always let your partner know when something’s bothering you. Normal fights will seem ten times worse when you can’t just kiss and make up. Distance puts a strain on relationships that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Be aware of this strain, and do your best to talk out problems before they escalate into full blown fights.

2. Skype. Video chatting is as close as you can get to being with your significant other without physically being with them. It’s obviously not the same as physically being with them, but seeing their face and hearing their voice helps ease the pain.

3. Visit each other, if you can. If at all possible, I suggest trying to see your significant other at least once a semester. The stretch from the beginning of fall semester to Thanksgiving break somehow seems a lot more bearable if you get to see your partner just once. In the spring semester, see if your spring breaks are the same. If they’re not, visit your significant other during your break, and they can come see you during theirs.

4. Meet each other’s friends. You’re both making a lot of new friends at college, and getting to know your significant other’s friends can help you feel closer to them. Plus, you’ll understand all the stories your partner tells you about them! Meeting each other’s friends can also help alleviate any jealousy you may be having at the girls/guys that are hanging around your significant other.

5. Talk it out. If you and your significant other discuss your expectations for your long distance relationship, it can prevent a lot of hurt feelings. Figuring out details like how often you’ll visit each other is a good way to keep both of you from feeling let down.

6. Occupy your time. Don’t spend all of your time wallowing in sadness. Join a club, get a job, take up a sport. There are a million different things to do on every college campus, so start doing them! When you’re busy, you’re less likely to find your mind wandering to how much you miss your significant other. Doing new things also gives you interesting things to talk about with your significant other!

7. Surround yourself with supportive friends. When you’re in a long distance relationship, you’ll find that some people are skeptical. Don’t let yourself become surround with people who have negative attitudes about long distance. Find friends who respect your relationship, and you’ll be a lot happier.

8. Take advantage of the opportunities that college has to offer. Don’t let your relationship discourage you from doing something that you want to do. Study abroad or apply for that awesome internship. College is the only time that you’ll have a lot of these chances, so don’t sacrifice them for your relationship. A strong relationship will be able to survive whatever path you take, even if it means spending more time apart.

9. Do what makes you happy. This one applies to pretty much all relationships. If being with your significant other makes you happy, then be with them, even if it means enduring long distance. If you find that you’re no longer happy in a relationship, talk to your partner. Sometimes you can fix what’s wrong; other times you can’t. But at the end of the day, do what’s best for you.

I will be the first one to say that long distance relationships are really and truly difficult. But I’ve made it work, and you can too. You just need some patience, dedication, and two people who truly want to be together.

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