Well, not all relationships. There are parts of being in a relationship that are wonderful: the intimacy, the thoughtful surprises, the much-needed weekend companionship. Then there are the sucky parts: The delayed phone calls, the lack of emotional expression after the honeymoon period, his pesky female friends.
While all these things can weigh heavily on the state of your relationship at school, imagine dealing with all these things when you and your boo are hundreds of thousands of miles apart. That will be the reality of many young women who pack up their compact Escorts and Camrys to head back home to mom and dad for the summer, or choose to stay at school while their boyfriends go home.
And you thought your relationship was hard before.
Facebook and free nights and weekends minutes make it easier to maintain a long distance relationship these days, but an AIM smiley face kiss isn’t as fun as the real thing. Live and in person. So can a relationship built at school survive when it’s tested for three grueling months? Two women going through it temporarily and indefinitely set the record straight.
In a study done by E.M. Sahlstein in 2006, it was found that long distance relationships are of course, a lot less satisfying than relationships where your partner is nearby. But Sahlstein says long distance relationships can work, as long as partners don’t begin to date people that happen to be nearby and convenient.
Vanessa Wells, 20, is a junior at the University of Cincinnati, where she met her boyfriend Bryan. Their relationship has remained strong after a year and seven months of dating, but after her quarter ended at UC in March, Vanessa left for Northern California for an interior design internship. While she’s only working there for three months, it’s safe to say that the major gap in space and change in communication has cramped Vanessa’s style.
“It’s just kind of hard,” she says. “From being with someone everyday, to not being involved in what he’s going through with school.” While Vanessa says they Skype constantly, she misses the intimacy of having her boyfriend around. However, she acknowledges the fact that the space can also be nice. “It’s good to have that alone time,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just good to have a break and be on our own.”
But Candace Stampley, 21, a senior at the University of Missouri, is sick of space.
Candace and her boyfriend have been together for three months, but have known each other since they were in middle school in Hawaii. Stampley and her boyfriend, Jamelle, fell out of touch after her freshman year of college, but were reconnected after she found him on Facebook before the start of her senior year.
“This year, something sort of clicked in my head and I was like, 'I've got to find him, I need to get back in touch with him,” she says. “He's someone I've known for a very long time and he's one of those people you can't forget about. This year in August when we first got back to school, I decided to look one more time. I typed his name into the search friend finder and like, he was the first person to pop up, so I added him."
Luckily for Candace, Jamelle felt the same way that she did, and a relationship that she had waited years for was finally blossoming. Her first.
But Candace is in Missouri and Jamelle is in Hawaii. To make things worse, after her freshman year of college, her parents decided to move to San Antonio, Texas. She hasn’t been back to Hawaii since.
“Most days I feel like I have a relationship with my phone,” she says. “I have to make sure my phone is charged at all times and that I have it with me at all times. It's not the instant gratification you need from someone. It sucks when I call because I have something exciting to say or have had a bad day and I really need to talk, and no one picks up on the other end.”
But things aren’t all bad for both ladies when it comes to their distant lovers. While they haven’t been in long distance relationships before, they’d say their pros at doing what they can to make sure they maintain their connections with their boos. Each in drastically different ways.
“We do a lot of activities together,” Vanessa says.
Get your mind out of the gutter.
“To get back in shape, we do 100 crunches a day and we just make sure we keep doing it together. We share music and if there's little things I want to say during the day, I text it to him. I get to “see” him so it's not that bad.”
Now put your mind in the gutter.
To keep the fire in their relationship, Candace and her boyfriend try and provide the sexual intimacy necessary from far away.
“When I do feel like I wish I had someone here, I just bug my boyfriend,” she says. “That's the only way I can resist any other temptations. It's all about communication and being open with your partner. It's a lot of give and take.”
While some worry that distance creates infidelity, both women believe they have their boyfriends on lock.
“He knows if he does anything, I can’t take him back after that,” Vanessa says. She says that Bryan was “promiscuous” in the past. To get the elephant out of the room, she asked him to pull up his partners on Facebook so she wouldn’t have to wonder, and would know who to watch out for.
“It’s not something that crosses my mind. I don’t worry about him, but I worry about other girls.” As for her own temptations, Vanessa’s also confident in the fact that she hadn’t found anything out there worth ruining her relationship for. Especially since her prospects in Northern California have so far turned out to be old fogies. “The people that I see that try to interact with me are in their 60s. [laughs] Not really interested, she says.” “I know I wouldn't do anything to hurt him.”
Candace wasn’t as confident when it came to the idea of her boyfriend straying, but she believed that their communication is clear enough where other females wouldn’t be a problem. Whether other people believe it or not.
“I feel weird when I talk to other people about long distance relationships,” Candace says. “Other people automatically assume that he's off doing his own thing. But I know him and I know his personality and that's not him at all. Maybe I'm just being naive about it all, but that's one of those things that's hard to know.” She on the other hand, is sure that Jamelle is the only man for her—at least right now.
“I try to be really good about staying committed,” she says. “I don't go out looking for male companionship just to fill that void.”
The stresses on their relationships are evident, but both women believe that their relationships, while long distance for the moment, can be long term.
“Personally, I think it can work out, but we both have to be working towards our own personal goals while we're apart,” Candace says. “If we work on our own personal goals while we're not together, when we come together with things figured out, it will make being in a serious relationship that much easier.”
“I think that we're past the point of scoping things out,” Vanessa says in an assured voice. “I'm pretty sure that we're going to be together for a while. He's met my family and I've met his and we've been through a lot together.”
If they are sure about anything 100 percent, it’s that they’re not fans of long distance relationships. They miss the hugs, the dates, the all-around presence of the man in their lives. But both women know the distance is only temporary. Yet, the distance has helped them pinpoint the things they love most about their boyfriends, and vice versa. And in that way, their relationships are stronger each day. So if you and your boyfriend aren’t in the same city for the summer, don’t fret. Take it from these gals. Get a Skype account, keep the lines of communication open and be faithful. That way, he’ll back in your apartment, annoying you like he does best, in no time.
Solutions for the Dearly Departed
- Skype. So who doesn’t hate seeing people silently Skyping during class with people that are only across campus? Use this software application for what it was intended for. Skype allows you to make calls to people over the Internet, sort of face-to-face. Think iChat, but upgraded. That way you can still have an argument with your boo, and make sure he’s listening from far away!
- Get out with your gals. I’m sure you’ve in some way neglected your female friends while you’ve been in seclusion with your boyfriend, especially in the newlywed stage of your relationship. Now that you’re at home with the girls that came before your guy, take your mind off of the distance by strengthening those female bonds. Best way to bond is a trip to Forever 21…
- Don’t be a pest. He misses you. Don’t text him 300 times a day, or stalk him if he doesn’t pick up your late night phone call. Take it from Vanessa: If you have something to say during the day, text it to him and leave it at that. Don’t create a thread that could last a whole week. Once again, he misses you. LET HIM MISS YOU.
E.M. Sahlstein, (2006) The trouble with distance; Relating difficulty: The processes of constructing and managing difficult interaction
Vanessa Wells, student at University of Cincinnati
Candace Stampley, University of Missouri