[maps]College often takes us far away from our homes, families, friends and significant others. Relationships you had in high school where you saw your boyfriend/girlfriend everyday in and out of school, suddenly seem too hard to manage when one of you decides to go to a college far away from the other. Perhaps you meet someone really great but they are from out-of-state or are leaving for an internship or a study abroad program soon.
These scenarios happen often among younger couples and in college atmospheres. Dr. Tawa Sina from the MSU Counseling Center often treats patients in long-distance relationships that develop adjustment disorder with a depressed mood. “We treat them all of the time,” Sina said. “A lot of freshmen think they are going to retain relationships but find that it is too hard to keep it together.”
Danielle Heming and Grr Hills found themselves facing a long-distance relationship after only being together for a short amount of time. Heming moved to London after graduating to pursue an internship opportunity in the film industry while Hills remained in Lansing.
“It is more difficult being in a long-distance relationship because you miss the presence of the person,” Hills said. “You feel separated from them and have to live with an idea as opposed to a person.”
Sina agrees that how far away you are from one another is a significant factor in the ease of the relationship. “The number one factor in a romantic relationship is proximity,” Sina said. “You have to be skilled and mature to have a long-distance relationship.”
Many people do associate long-distance relationships with being harder than other relationships. They are viewed as more frustrating, lonely and as being very hard. Though these associations are not necessarily wrong, long-distance relationships can be both healthy and happy when both partners come to some important agreements.
Andre Cross, relationship correspondent for AskMen.com agrees that couples must decide what they want when faced with a long distance relationship in his article, Long-Distance Relationships. “The couple must agree on how they will deal with this separation, and even if they will remain a couple at all,” Cross said on the site.
It is okay to decide that you do not want a long-distance relationship and to end things because of that alone. Making this decision early is better than not being absolutely sure you want to try long-distance and having things end up things badly with hurt feelings and resentment.
However, if both partners do decide they want to try to make it work there are some important things they should keep in mind. The Counseling Center at the University of Missouri-Rolla gives some helpful advice on their website.
The most important factor to keep in mind is open channels of communication. “It is important for both parties to be able to feel that if they need to talk or write to the other person, communication will be welcomed and met with active communication from the other,” the site said. “The quality of the relationship is more likely to increase if both people develop the ability to share feelings openly with each other.”
Working on communication is a large part of the treatment that Sina uses with students. “Primarily students need solution-focused orientation with psychotherapy,” Sina said. “We do the basics with them. How do you keep busy? Are you utilizing effective technology such as computer cameras, so that you can actually see your partner and not just hear their voice?”
Heming agrees that communication is key to keeping her relationship strong. “When in a long-distance relationship, all you have are words,” Heming said. “There is no time to be physical together so you can’t try to understand one another through body language. All you have is what you honestly tell one another.”
Commitment and trust are also important to consider for a long distance relationship to remain healthy. Both parties within this type of relationship may feel more vulnerable than they would be closer together. Having an understanding as to each other’s degree of commitment within the relationship helps to establish a solid base.
Besides having a strong communications, commitment and trust base, there are things each partner can do individually to help him or her avoid loneliness and frustration. Keeping yourself busy with school, extra curricular activities, volunteering and most importantly surrounding yourself with supportive people and places are also ways to stay strong.
“Having people rooting for you is important especially if they are people who have seen the couple together,” Hills said. “If they support your relationship and you can see it from other people’s perspectives that it is a good thing, then it makes you want to keep going.”
If you feel like you need help coping with a long distance relationship, call the Michigan State University Counseling Center at (517) 355-8270.

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