Long-Distance Relationships & College: My Experience & Advice

By mid-senior year, I had decided that there could be nothing more idiotic than trying to “go the distance” your high school boyfriend after graduation, especially if the two of you had plans to go to different colleges. The new people, the new living space, the new way of life- who wouldn’t want to “be free” and experience all of that “to the fullest extent?” I certainly had no plans to be tied down to any man, thank you very much, not for a very long time.

            And then, in March of my senior year, I met the love of my life, and I’ve been eating my words ever since.

Photo Borrowed from Google Images

            In truth, Logan (my boyfriend) and I had known each other casually since I moved to my Houston high school junior year. We’d had the same English class together, and we ran in similar circles to the point where our friends dated each other, hung out together, and so on and so forth. We finally connected after all that time on a class trip to Europe. I held Logan’s hand on the plane home, we had our first date in the Toronto airport of all places, and the rest is history.

The last months of my high school career were utter bliss. Logan and I oscillated between complaining about our teachers, complaining about our parents, and making out in the back of his car, all the while enjoying the newfound freedom and respect, we were garnering as graduation got nearer and nearer. We were all bravado and misguided confidence, thinking we were so grown-up now. College was a daydream in our minds, something we thought of and talked about in the way you talk about other large life events when you’re young, like getting married and buying your first home. It wasn’t really apparent to me that we were going to have a bump in the road until Logan took two trips to tour colleges… out of state. Way out of state.

To make a long story short, it came down to a choice between the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and CU Boulder in Colorado. Logan chose CU, and for that I was relieved. I had idle thoughts about the notion of him being all the way in Boulder, but again, I wasn’t conceptualizing us going off to school like that yet. Mostly, I was just glad he decided to stay away from the East Coast; imagining him freezing his ears off as he walked to class in five feet of snow made my heart hurt, and Colorado is so much more beautiful than Massachusetts could ever hope to be. I knew he would be happier there, and I didn’t have to worry about him freezing to death if another polar vortex rolled through.

Summer came, and it was sublime. Logan and I were on similar work schedules, our parents were fussing over us as we prepared to go away to school, and everyone we knew was trying to pack in all the fun they could with their old friends before they went off to school. We spent nights crawling through suburbia in his car, listening to music and falling further and further in love every day. Somewhere in there, I began to picture our lives together, long-term. Living with him, watching him graduate from law school- all of this flashed through my mind, and it didn’t feel like some unrealistic fantasy or fairytale. It hit me one day that I officially had something to lose, and the thought was jarring. I had never been in love before, and, think of me what you will after I say this, but all of my past relationships had begun with an expiration date in mind. At fourteen and fifteen, I was smart enough to know that the boys I dated weren’t going to be the men I married, and I think that’s okay, even now. I was always a sweet, caring girlfriend- I just knew that it wasn’t that deep.

But like I said, my relationship with Logan put me on a plane of connection I’d never experienced before. Let me put it to you this way: when I daydreamed about my first boyfriends, it was always visions of them picking me up in their car (a boy who could drive- swoon!) for a date or taking me to prom. When I daydream about Logan, then and now, it’s the planning of our wedding, the birth of our first child- important heady things, things that make you scared and excited all at once. (But I’d be lying if I said that it’s all serious all the time. Yesterday, I thought about how nice it would be to go grocery shopping with him. Grocery shopping! That’s how you know you’re in love, people.)

Anyway, now that I’ve rambled on about how much I love my boyfriend, let’s get to the point: it is hard to be in a long-distance relationship, and it is definitely not for everyone.

While Logan and I are still together as of the time of me writing this, we’ve gone through a lot to get here. The first year was probably one of the hardest time periods I’ve ever had to get through, and this is coming from someone who was bullied horrifically during the front half of high school. When you and the person you love most move away from each other, it’s not all glitz and glamor and love letters the length of your arm, especially when you throw adjusting to college into the mix.

You need to be prepared to see your partners flaws in technicolor detail, because that’s what’s going to happen. You also need to be prepared to acknowledge your flaws, because this is a two-way street and you are not perfect, not by any means. For instance, I tend to take my stress out on other people, and I can be moody. I also know now that my boyfriend likes to complain, sometimes a little too much, but that’s okay. Again, neither one of us is perfect, and you have to accept that very quickly if this is all going to work for you. You also need to be able to apologize when you do something wrong or hurt the other person’s feelings, because while it’s okay to not be perfect, it’s also not okay to be a jerk. When you’re wrong, your wrong- admit it, and you and your partner will both be better off.

In that same vein, you must be able to communicate like adults. And I don’t mean just in proper sentences, I mean respectfully, and with open minds. You will feel so many emotions, especially those first few months, and you need to be able to talk about them. If you don’t, you’ll explode like a cannister of gas under pressure, and that’s never healthy, not for anyone involved. Logan and I routinely have conversations about how we feel, and we established long ago that we can tell each other anything and everything. Feelings, family problems, thoughts, opinions, points of contention- it’s all on the table, all the time, and we never shame each other for how we feel and think. Words have so much power in a relationship, especially when that’s all you have with your partner for the time being, and you need to be able to use them appropriately when you’re hashing something out with the person you love most. If you’re childish, petty, and unwilling to be told things you may not necessarily want to here, go ahead and stop right there. Save everyone involved the heartbreak and the trouble and just move along.

(It should be noted that Logan and I are never malicious or cruel. When I say that we tell each other the harsh truth, it is just our genuine feelings; we never make jabs or try to get a rise out of each other. We do not fight just to fight, nor do we ever want to make the other person feel badly about themselves. Whenever we disagree or say something that’s tough to hear, it is only to better our relationship. Expressing your authentic emotions is healthy; hurting someone you love on purpose, even just verbally, is abusive.)

I’m sure I’ve made being in a long-distance relationship to be horrible, but that wasn’t my intention. In truth, being away from Logan has only made me love him more. I know now that I can trust him implicitly, and our feelings for each other are deep and true. This is no figment of my imagination: we really do want to be together, forever. And this is the beauty of being apart! Coming back together is always so special, and always something to look forward to. Being long-distance is hard, but it’s almost rewarding in a way. You definitely learn a lot about yourself, and it makes you mature emotionally. That’s just the only way to get through it. You either grow up or shut up, and that’s that.

All of that being said, I want to end with this: it is okay if you feel like you can’t handle being long-distance with someone. Anyone who’s committed to doing it knows better than anyone how hard it is, and we don’t blame you for feeling like you can’t do it. Don’t limit yourself just because you feel obligated to someone. I think that’s the best indicator of when it’s time to give the whole thing up: if it starts to feel like a chore to keep up with your partner or talk to them, it’s time to end things as nicely and respectfully as possible. If you stop looking forward to seeing them, if you meet someone that you have more genuine interest in… end things before it gets ugly. At the very least, ask to go on a break and see how you feel. We are all just human beings, and the majority of us in college are very young. The world is a huge, vast place, and as the old saying goes, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. People break up all the time, and you and your partner will be okay if it happens, eventually. The only things that I could blame someone in a long-distance relationship for are stringing someone along and/or cheating. Those two things, in my opinion and in the opinion of so many other people I know, are heinous and disgusting. Remember, even if you drift apart from someone emotionally, it doesn’t give you an excuse to just destroy them like that.

Photo by Rebecca Pantallion

On that note, I think I’ve rambled enough. If you’re thinking of doing long-distance with someone, I say give it a shot, and if you’re already involved in a relationship like that, I’m rooting for you! Anything you think, anything you feel, myself and anyone else who’s long-distance with someone understands. Remember that you have someone in your life that’s as equally committed to your relationship as you are, and you’ll be just fine.