The week of New Student Orientation at Stanford is, for many, a blur filled with vague recollections of trying too hard to impress new peers, attending ridiculously boring lectures on which classes to take or avoid, and coping with the new sense of freedom and loss offered by college. It was during New Student Orientation, not yet a week into college, that the idea of long distance relationship struggles was first introduced. “Being in a long distance relationship,” an advisor said to a group of us eager freshmen, “is like taking another 10 unit class.”
My senior year of high school, I fell for the boy who always yelled out answers, mainly incorrect, from the back of the class. He had messy hair and a goofy smile. I was 17. I laughed when my psychology teacher reminded the class that two people shouldn’t date if they don’t live in the same place, even if they at one time did.
In college, I was already having difficulty adjusting. I had known my friends from home for 13 years, since kindergarten, and they knew every detail of me. The people I found myself surrounded by in college had known me only weeks, and didn’t yet have the time to get to know me, just as I didn’t have the time to know each of them as individuals.
The messy-haired boy from my psychology class and I continued dating. We had been together for almost a year when I left for school, and I was comforted by the notion that there was a person who cared about me and who knew me.
This kind of reliance may be dangerous, as, in my case, it made me far less concerned with building relationships with individuals outside of my long distance relationship. But, as I adjusted to school and my new life, I began to realize that the ties to my past were no longer as necessary.
The first time I brought up the notion that we wouldn’t be together for the rest of our lives was in the spring of my freshman year of college, when I asked him if it was fair to ask another person to miss someone as much as I missed him. We both cried. Afraid of losing one another and the ties we had, we carried on. My growth as an individual was further put on hold. I had confused the idea of where I belonged with the idea of with whom I belonged, convincing myself not only that they were one and the same, but also that he was both.
Long distance relationships, whether they span a distance of 500 miles or 3000 miles, are not easy. That is no secret. They require more effort than relationships where the other person is in the immediate vicinity. They require more fidelity, more commitment, and, often, more patience. Arguments had over the phone are not as easily resolved as those that are had in person. These relationships can work, there is no question, but there are reasons the majority of them do not. In order for such a relationship to work, you must allow yourselves to grow as individuals, while also growing as a couple. In such a relationship, you are focused on the long-term. You are awaiting a time when you two will not have to be in different places anymore, generally four or more years away.
After over two years, I came to the conclusion that I had done all the individual growth that was possible for me while still being in a relationship, and we had done all the growth we could as a couple. I wasn’t ready to have the next three years of my life planned out. We had learned together, laughed together, comforted one another and loved each other.
But the simple truth is that love is, sometimes, not enough.