After seeing their significant other practically every day over the school year, how will couples survive three months of long distances and short visits? It turns out there are many ways to keep the flame lit during the steamy summer months.
“Your relationship matures in leaps and bounds by living separately and independently,” Dr. Doug Ruben, a marriage and family therapist in Okemos, said. Ruben also said that there are pros and cons to staying together over the summer months. “[But] the smallest disagreement may destroy the relationship since you have limited ways to do repair work.” According to Ruben, communication is the key, along with trust. “Set up regular times to communicate,” he said. “Be loyal and don’t date other people when you get scared, and be flexible.”
[mature] Certifed social worker and certified IMAGO relationship therapist in Ann Arbor, Carol Kirby, said that different levels of commitment are a major factor on how well a relationship can survive over vacation. “Before the summer is a good time to sort out how serious they are,” she said referring to couples preparing to spend a summer apart. “If they need to break up, that may be a good time.”
Most students facing this summertime dilemma are relying heavily on technology to pull themselves through those long, hot months apart. Rashelle Boensch, a pre-veterinary freshman, has been dating her boyfriend for a month and a half. She lives in Birch Run, and he lives in Belleville. “We’ll probably go visit each other every so often,” she said, “and talk on the phone or online.” Instant messaging seems to be a godsend for many students, couples especially, who will be apart for the summer.
Michael Gallagher, an economics sophomore, has been with his girlfriend since November, and will have state lines between them when they leave in May. “We’ll probably call each other and instant message each other,” he said. “Primarily calling, though. I’m not too concerned.”
But not all MSU students feel the same way as Boensch and Gallagher when it comes to maintaining MSU-based relationships. Maureen Scarff, a Spanish sophomore who currently is not involved with anyone, wouldn’t want to keep a boyfriend over the summer if they lived in different cities. “I would break up,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust a guy to stay faithful, and I wouldn’t want to be tied down.”
Although, Scarff’s opinion is not uncommon, Ruben notes breaking up every year can lead to problems in future relationships. “An emotionally needy person magnetically attaches onto a similar type of partner that he or she had in the past,” Ruben said. He calls this Serial Partner Attraction Syndrome. “At first the relationship feels excitingly different, but within weeks it feels déjà vu.” He also pointed out that people who experience this syndrome have problems with commitment and are prone to cheating.
[past] Ruben said that when summer approaches, there could be a “freedom syndrome,” where rebellious and adventurous feelings develop, which might lead to trying new things, such as meeting new people. “Some of these summer people are replacements for the absent partner, and some are the ‘new-and-improved edition’ of past partners,” Ruben said. “No matter which step forward is taken, summer is not a static time. Without ongoing communication with the existing college partner, people drift away from commitment and feel strange restarting the relationship when school resumes in the fall.”
The best way to keep a relationship strong over the summer months is to plan ahead. Ruben suggests working out an agenda in advance of face-to-face, email, telephone contact times or plan for mini-trips you can take together. “You take more control because you made your lives overlap predictably,” Ruben said. “Prudent planning is safer, healthier and reduces the shock of unwanted surprises that can ruin your summer and start the fall semester on a bad omen.”
Like Ruben, Kirby suggests to keep in contact daily. “If it can’t be that frequent, agree on how frequent the contact should be,” Kirby said. “With the technology of today, an old fashioned love letter or a card can warm the heart. It has a surprise element.”
As with everything, it’s hit or miss when it comes to keeping relationships over the summer. The key is to communicate, trust and be prepared. “Prudently preparing for the long break of separation will save you later hours of agonizing over feeling abandoned,” Ruben said.
While it’s always possible for your flame to extinguish, if the relationship’s worth it, give it a shot. Besides, while the phone and computer can keep you somewhat connected over the three months of summer, imagine what it will be like when you finally get to see that beloved face again during move-in week.

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