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My College Long-Distance Relationship Expectations & Success Strategies

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Springtime marks the closing out of a school year, and along with it, some life changes. This whirlwind feeling is normal in transitional periods such as April and May. For many people, especially those in relationships, the subject of long-distance is no stranger. Many couples are having critical conversations to plan out the duration of their relationship as we speak.

But never fear, I am here. Hello, I’m Maggie, a freshman at Florida State University who has walked in the shoes you stand in today. I know the dread of approaching long-distance, and boy, do I know it well. As soon as my partner (who goes to the University of Central Florida) and I established we would try long-distance, I had so many anxieties, questions, excitements, emotions, feelings, worries — ah! Breathe with me for a moment. Long-distance isn’t a negative thing or a destroyer of relationships.

I want to walk you through the expectations, what-I-wish-I-knews, and success strategies for college long-distance relationships. Of course, these worked for me in my relationship, and you know yourself best. By no means am I a love coach, but after one successful school year of long-distance, I feel there’s so much I’d love to share.


“Long-distance is hard.”

You never really know what to know, how to discuss it, or how to even paint the picture of your life without the person usually tied at your hip. The typical adjective of choice when discussing long-distance relationships is “hard.” But what is hard? And is long-distance hard or just different?

It’s a different kind of effort

One of the main things to expect from long-distance is a shocking amount of time consumption. Many people may dismiss long-distance as not being time-consuming since you rarely see your partner, and oh, that’s wrong! Expect a whole different kind of effort with long distance.

The effort is no longer planning dates and hangouts but rather keeping in touch and making sure the other person feels valued from afar. This requires a significant amount of emotional effort. Some people struggle with this, but it’s all about how you tackle it together.

Long-distance is something you have to battle all the time, every day, constantly. It takes tremendous amounts of emotional and communicative energy to make it work. Yes, some days are easier than others, but it’s not the walk in the park you’re used to. Break down the expectation now that it can be like your current relationship, yet maintain an optimistic demeanor that this change will be for the better (see “Perception is Everything” below).

Battling negative thoughts

The long-distance aspect tends to take up more space in your brain than usual. A lot of that worry can be from not knowing what your partner is up to. But with a foundation of honesty and openness in a safe space, it’s possible to live your life without that unnecessary anxiety. Most of the time, this specific anxiety stems from other horror stories and not your own life experience. Block out the standards of different relationships, and don’t let it control how you perceive yours.

Facing other couples

One of the more interesting feelings I faced was sadness and loneliness. Whoa, I know, I got deep on you there, but it’s so important to normalize. Florida State has a culture where finding temporary and long-term partners is quite common (if you catch my vibe). Don’t let the “college experience” mindset sway you; be prepared to see it everywhere you walk. There are constant reminders that the person you want by your side most isn’t with you, but you must reshape this mindset.

I’ve learned to transform the sadness of being alone into two positive channels: appreciation for personal independence and appreciation for love. For independence, learn and grow from being alone. You can discover so much about yourself and your values in this time.

For love, the next time you see that adorable couple picnicking on Landis Green, reframe your mindset into being happy to see true love blossoming around you. It makes it easier since we long-distancers tend to love loving.


Perception is Everything

Don’t have a negative perception. It’s over the second you think of your relationship as a “negative situation” instead of a transformational one. I’m not naïve. No one would willingly pick this relationship style. However, it’s all in the perception of it. Develop positive mindsets with your partner and choose language that has motivational connotations when talking to your person.

Long-distance isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a thing you must do to be with the person you love. To me, having the privilege to love someone so much that you don’t allow distance to be a factor is a blessing. How lucky are we to be loved like this?

Not to break the fourth wall on you, but as I write this piece, I wanted input from my boyfriend on what he considers the biggest piece of advice. He agrees that it’s optimism. Don’t consider the periods between visits as, “Oh great, I have four more weeks until I see them,” but rather, “I can’t wait to see them in four weeks!”

Establish a Realistic Foundation Early

Something I’m glad my partner and I did before we stepped foot on our respective campuses was to establish some ground expectations. The foundation of a relationship is everything. We talked through realistically how often we needed to see one another (we landed on once a month), how much we needed to call or have quality time (which I will get into) with the other person, and boundaries on what we are comfortable with the other person doing.

From that experience, we found out that we perceived long-distance differently. That conversation was essential to us as it formed a strong foundation. It took compromise, breaking down mental barriers, and facing a lot of difficult conversations. But this foundation holds firm in my relationship today.

Understanding Love Languages

I think it’s also critical to understand your partner’s love language. We learned this lesson midway through the year, but when you can’t spend time in person, you need to know how to make your person feel loved. Talk with your person through the five love languages to get to know them best.

I’m someone who needs words (words of affirmation girlies unite). You can FaceTime me for hours, but I feel most valued by a reassuring or engaging conversation. My boyfriend is quite the opposite; he needs quality time. We felt more connected despite the distance as soon as we discovered how to best show love.

Closing Thoughts

As you walk into this next transitionary period of life, I want to leave you with the wise thoughts of journalist Harlan Cohen. Enjoy your time with your person. While active communication is important, appreciating the love and time you have is also important. Go forward with knowledge and love in your heart.

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Maggie Metz is a Staff Writer in the Florida State chapter. She is a freshman who is majoring in Advertising and minoring in Sociology with an interest in working with an advertising agency in her future. She enjoys a hot latte, social media, nature walks, yoga, and Legos.