Keeping in Touch from Far Away: Long Distance Relationships

The day I left for Gettysburg, my boyfriend came to send me off early in the morning. He helped my family pack the car and gave me a long hug goodbye. After getting into my mom's car as he stood at the curb, I couldn't help but burst into tears. I don't know how our relationship was going to last the time apart.

Months prior, we had discussed the future of -us-. I thought breaking up before college was the right decision. It's what everyone expects you to do. I felt like if we didn't break up, I would be setting us up for disaster. We didn't break up, we ultimately decided to "see how it goes."

Many of the people I met and knew at Gettysburg were in similar situations, and we bonded over the agony of not being close to our partners. I was under the impression that people would think I was silly for starting an LDR, but according to research conducted by Amber Roberts and M. Carole Pistole, 75% of college students have been in an LDR, and 35% of college students are in one at a time.

I'm here to tell you this: It's not so bad. It takes work, like all relationships, but I feel stronger in my relationship than I did before I left for college. In the coronavirus era, it's more likely than not you are separated from those you love, whether it's friends, family, or a significant other. I wanted to share some things that I feel improved my relationship and allowed me to have fun with friends, relax, and study during my first semester.

  1. 1. Weekly Check-Ins

    Woman with curly hair waving and saying hi to someone through her laptop.

    I found this to be a healthy way of communicating our feelings and letting each other know what to expect for the upcoming week. Every week, we would take 10 minutes or so to talk about how we were doing. Feel free to incorporate this into any relationship you have, to make sure you are both on the same page.

    1. Compliment each other! As you get busier and busier, it may become harder to sneak in, or even acknowledge a compliment. You can take some time each week to discuss moments that stuck out to you or you admired. For example, “I’m impressed that you were able to score a 95% on your midterm, I know it was for a really hard class.” 

    2. Thank them for something they did this week, to let them know that you notice the little things and that they are still a priority. You could say, “Thank you for being patient with me yesterday, I know I was late to our FaceTime call.”

    3. Ask them what their main stressors this week have been. Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them, to make them feel more comfortable, loved, or alleviate their stress. 

    4. Let them know what your schedule looks like for the upcoming week. Do you have a midterm? Let them know that you may not be as available to talk. This way, you are both on the same page and can take advantage of your overlapping free time.

    5. What activities can we do more of? There are tons of virtual activities to do, and more on that later

  2. 2. Study Date

    computer with tea and two notebooks

    If you find that your schoolwork is eating up your free time, studying on FaceTime or a similar platform could be a great way to spend some passive time together, while also motivating you both to do work.

  3. 3. PowerPoint Night: With a Twist!

    Woman working at laptop outside with coffee

    if you have some free time, I recommend setting time aside to present PowerPoints to one another, but on something that your long-distance partner is an expert in! My boyfriend is a huge baseball fanatic, so I created a PowerPoint on all things baseball, rules, history, players, and some personal tidbits. We thought this was a lot of fo fun, and it allows you to get to know something they love a little bit more.

  4. 4. Date Night

    A man and woman standing in front of a oven cooking.

    Every two weeks we dedicated the evening to a date night. You can use Teleparty for a movie night, eat dinner together, take a virtual museum tour, solve a virtual escape room, play online games like Among Us, Minecraft, Jackbox games, crosswords, anything you can think of, or would enjoy! It’s fun to do something new and exciting, instead of just sitting on the phone like usual.

  5. 5. Swap Dinners

    skillet mac n cheese

    Do they know about your favorite Gettysburg restaurants? Do they have a favorite where they are? Or maybe recommendations? Set up a day and a time to eat dinner together, but you order the other person a mystery dinner of your choosing. I ordered my boyfriend my absolute favorite Mexican food in New York City, and now it’s one of his too! This is a great way to shake up the usual dinner date.

  6. 6.  Find people to relate to

    three women holding each other and smiling and laughing

    Having friends that were in a similar situation to me made me feel way less alone. We got to talk about how we were feeling, and it was a great bonding activity to get to know the people around me.

It's hard to be away from the people you love, whether they are family, friends, or partners. There's good news, however, Laura Stafford, author of "Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships" assures that, long-distance relationships are usually more stable than those that are face-to-face. Like any relationship, LDRs take communication, dedication, and trust. From these suggestions, I think that you and your partner can build upon all three!