Strength. Endurance. Perseverance. Commitment.
No, this is not the script for a Wheaties commercial. But it is a list of the necessary qualities for a successful long distance relationship in college. Let’s add a miracle to the list, too.
It may seem nearly impossible for college relationships to sustain any sizable geographic distance, but they don’t have to be doomed. However, it may take a special type of couple to have healthy, lasting long-distance love.
[heather]“I think that long-distance relationships are easier for people who are more independent,” said Heather Hyatt, a sophomore at Schoolcraft College. Her boyfriend, Frank, attends Central Michigan University. “You can’t be very insecure or have a lot of doubts because then it will never work. You also have to have trust in the other person or you will constantly think that they may be cheating or doing something that you disapprove of.”
According to Stephen Blake, author of Loving Your Long-Distance Relationship, an overly dependent need or a lack of trust in either partner can combine into a string of worries that are potentially fatal to the relationship. He also believes that to keep the relationship in tact, two things must be assumed. In reference to his girlfriend Amanda, he wrote, “The first is that Amanda loves me and is committed to us. The second is that no matter what happens while we are apart, we will both work on maintaining our love and commitment for each other. Unlike conflicting travel plans or a phone argument, trusting her love is the basis of our entire relationship.”
For couples who dated in high school and now attend different colleges, it is often assumed that long-distance relationships are especially impossible. Mathematics and physics sophomore David Krcatovich and his girlfriend, Erin Sergison, a student at Eastern Michigan University, are a prime example of a couple that does not fit the mold of the relationship doomed to breakup after attending different schools. Due to continual effort and commitment, they have been successfully maintaining a relationship for over three years despite being over an hour apart for two-thirds of that time.
“I think some relationships fail because the couple either is just not suited for each other but stays together to ‘have someone’ or because they simply do not know how to be or are not unselfish with their significant other,” Sergison said. “A long-distance relationship is, like any relationship, made better with time and effort. Regardless of how far apart you two may be, as long as a couple continues to connect in a way that works for them, the relationship will work. Constant communication and making the effort to really talk, not just about our day, but about things that are important or interesting to us [makes it work].”
Time apart at school has its obvious downfalls since couples cannot see their significant other every day, but it also forces them to truly value their time together and might result in realizing how much they mean to one another. Arguments are patched up as quickly as possible, more detail is given to daily events that would otherwise be boring, and usually both partners look forward to seeing each other. “When you see someone every day, they’re easy to take for granted, but when you have to be separated from someone you care about, that’s when you realize how much they mean to you,” said Krcatovich.
Unlike their time together in their hometown of Livonia, a lazy afternoon of playing cards or watching MacGyver reruns is just not an option when Krcatovich is in East Lansing and Sergison is in Ypsilanti. “Not having someone around to spend my free time with is worse than any other thing I miss,” said Sergison. “Having nothing to do when I’m with somebody is fun, usually, but alone is just lonely.”
This lonesomeness can often cause trouble between distanced couples. Although it is only a myth that long-distance relationships are impossible, like any other relationship, they do fail. It may be hardest in a college atmosphere not only because of the distance, but also because of the vast number of fellow students that can serve as prospective mates, and fill the loneliness caused by the distance.
[jon]“You (need to) communicate clearly with the person you care about and (make sure you) are very honest and optimistic,” said Jon Kempston, a music performance senior, whose girlfriend, Sofia, lives in Hungary. “You can’t take anything incredibly serious and can’t let emotions take hold of you immediately. Be steadfast. Just because you have a long-distance relationship doesn’t mean you don’t still love the person. If you both want to do it, you just do it.”
Packaging sophomore Andy Rushlow learned this problem the hard way during his first few weeks at MSU in the fall of 2004. His ex-girlfriend from Wayne State University broke it off with him for someone new. “I wasn’t there and she just met someone she connected with really fast and easily,” he said. Food industry management sophomore Kristin Pawlowski thinks that when long-distance relationships at different colleges fail, it is often because “they don’t trust each other with the college lifestyle,” namely with drinking partying.
As Sergison mentioned, communication is important because it can be a huge barrier that can stop a long-distance relationship dead in its tracks. Instant messenger helps Krcatovich a lot, and also helps keep his phone bills from getting too outrageous.
Hyatt also feels constant communication is key to keeping the relationship healthy. “I think if you don’t talk to your significant other daily it makes it hard to connect and really know them or what is going on in their life because if you go a few days without talking to them and not seeing them, then you will miss out on parts of their life, even indirectly,” Hyatt said. “Plus, it’s always good to share your feelings about your life situations and talk about things. Anything. It doesn’t even have to deal directly with your relationship. You can get their advice on what is going on in your life. So, basically, it’s the same as if you didn’t have a long-distance relationship because you talk to them everyday, you just don’t get to talk face-to-face.”
Communication, trust and commitment are the key factors for these couples when it comes to forming the foundation a long-distance relationship needs, but what else can a couple do to ensure that their relationship is still strong and growing? Both Krcatovich and Pawlowski often drive an hour or more away from East Lansing just for a weekend together with their partner. “I call him like every night, and every other weekend I go home or he comes up,” said Pawlowski. “If I don’t work I will go home. If he has Monday off, he will come visit me here.”
For many, driving long distances is not an option, especially if their partner is more than a feasible weekend drive away. So how else can they connect? One alternative to explore is phone sex. Although it may not compare to the actual physical contact with your significant other, it is often better than allowing your sexual frustrations to build up, and unleashing them with someone else. A major problem could be the presence of roommates when getting intimate over the phone, which many students have to deal with as well. “I have no stories,” Pawlowski said of phone sex, “Long distance isn’t THAT bad.”
For those who wish to be sexually adventurous, yet are afraid of being caught on the phone, a quieter and more subtle approach is virtual (cyber) sex. Since just about every student on campus owns a computer, and it’s quieter than talking on the phone, this may be the better route of the two to take. Via instant messenger, email and various chat rooms, virtual sex could be anything from a back and forth description in a private chat to an elaborate story of lust told and sent through cyberspace. When taking the story approach, one can also write it by hand and mail it to their partner to keep up the anticipation. If a little more privacy is available and both people have a web cam, that could serve as the juicy medium between phone and the previously mentioned forms of virtual sex. It’s a wonder what visuals can do for some people!
“It is a lot more stimulating on web cam than over the phone,” said Kempston. “Its nice to be more sexually aroused by your partner. You get to see the person\’s face talk and smile, taking off clothes at some point. I feel that it is a natural and healthy thing to do as far as interacting sexually. It’s still frustrating though, because it gets you closer, but you’re still far away and not actually with them.”
Some couples may not be so daring. “You might be a little shy about it at first because you’ll be using words and phrases that one doesn’t often use in the course of normal conversation, but there are huge benefits to getting past that shyness,” said Kimberli Bryan in her book, Loving Your Long-Distance Relationship for Women, which Blake also participated in writing. “Not only will it greatly enhance the excitement of those solo flights and make them much more satisfying for you and your partner, but learning to talk in a sexually explicit manner with your mate is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your sex life will still be exciting 10 or 20 years down the road.”
Both Blake and Bryan agree that there is no definite cure from worries of what your partner may be doing hours away, but with trust, communication and maybe a little midnight rendezvous over the phone or internet, long-distance relationships do not necessarily need a miracle to survive through college. The methods to keep the relationship strong are there, and good friends or counselors can help when problems arise.
“Long-distance isn’t the end of the world,” Blake said “If you have the desire, you can be just as happy apart from your loved one as when you are together.”
Strength. Endurance. Perseverance. Commitment.