Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it’s not easy — relationships take time and hard work. On that same note, we all know college is difficult — it, too, takes time and hard work. If we plug this simple math into an equation it looks something like this: relationships = time + work and college = time + work, therefore relationships + college = double time + double work. So, what could be more difficult than having a relationship in college?
How about having a long distance relationship in college? Whether you and your high school sweetheart attend different schools in different states or you and your significant other go to the same college together but spend summers apart, you know that maintaining a long distance relationship can be one of the most difficult tasks assigned to you during your college years.
According to a study performed by The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships (yes, this place exists), 25 to 40 percent of all romantic relationships among college students are in some way long distance. If you’re in college, it’s not unlikely you’ll have a long distance relationship to manage at some point. These 10 tips may help ease the stress of maintaining your long distance relationship while you’re in school.
- Plan for the Future: We know this may sound scary. We’re not suggesting that you plan the date of your wedding or the name of your first kid together. We’re just recommending that you establish a common goal you and your significant can strive for. It’s safe to say that if you enter a long distance relationship, you don’t plan to keep it long distance forever. Establish clear guidelines for one another about how long you plan to be apart one stretch at a time and how long you plan to be apart before you can live in the same area. This will make it easier for each of you to remain satisfied with the relationship and understand each other’s needs. Try using a tool like Google Calendar to help organize your next visit with your long distance significant other. Google Calendar can help each of you keep track of when it’s time to see each other without letting the visit interfere with an upcoming test or paper by keeping everything organized.
- Establish Trust: Trust is essential to any relationship. In a long distance relationship trust can be especially tricky. It’s easy for couples to doubt one another when they can’t see what the other is doing. If you truly want your long distance relationship to succeed, you have to trust your long distance significant other. According to statistics provided by The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, 37% of long distance couples split up in the first 3 months of a relationship compared to 21% of traditional (proximal) relationships. However, if a long distance relationship can last the first year, only 8% break up after the first year compared to 25% of traditional relationships. This shows that long distance relationships have the potential to survive longer if a couple can make it through the first few months. The key to surviving the beginning of a long distance relationship is establishing trust. Don’t flake on phone dates or cancel trips.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage: As a college student in a long distance relationship, your computer and cell phone will become your new best friend. Talk to each other regularly using all of the different tools available to you. In the modern world, there are countless ways with which you can stay connected to your long distance significant other. You can send text messages, make phone calls, talk online using instant messaging, use your computer’s web cam, send emails, and use Skype, just to name a few. Skype is a perfect communication option for college students who need to watch their spending. Talking on the phone for hours with your long distance loved one can really do damage to your phone bill. Skype is free and allows you to see your boyfriend or girlfriend while you talk with one another. Treat your conversations with one another as if they are dates. Don’t be late or forget and (try) to never cancel.
- Use Snail Mail Once in a While: Although modern technology has made it easier for long distance couples to stay in touch, a little ‘old school’ communication never hurts. Sending a letter or gift via postal mail shows you really care. By putting a little extra effort into it, you show your long distance significant other that you are thinking about them just as much as they are thinking about you. You can send something as simple and romantic as a hand written card or something as elaborate as flowers or a gift. One great choice is sending your significant other an edible arrangement of fruit and chocolate put together to look like a bouquet of flowers. This is great for girls and guys alike.
- Actually Communicate: As we’ve established, talking to your long distance significant other is essential to building and maintaining a strong relationship. However, if your communication with them isn’t entirely honest or sincere, no amount of talking can save you. When talking with your boyfriend or girlfriend be it through email or over the phone, you have to really talk. Tell them how you feel and what you’re thinking. Tell them about your dreams and fears (even though it may feel really lame). However, also remember that people in a relationship with one another learn about each partially by observing one another in different situations. Because couples in long distance relationships don’t have the ability to see their significant other in many different situations, it is important that you share this with them. Tell stories from your day and explain how you dealt with different situations. Ask them about specific scenarios from their day and listen to how they dealt with them. Share everything.
- Visit as Often as Possible: We know this one can be particularly difficult for couples in college. When you’re living with a college student’s bank account and a college student’s schedule, finding the time and money to visit each other can be nearly impossible. It all goes back to our little equation: college + relationship = double work and double time. You’re just going to have to make it happen if want your relationship to work. Try to physically see each at least once every other month (or more if possible). Plan weekend trips ahead of time so that you can manage your school obligations more smoothly. For a more cost efficient way to see your significant other, look into booking your trip through STA Travel, which is a company that offers student discounts for travel and hotel stays. When visiting, be sure to meet your significant other’s friends and explore their usual hangouts. This way, when you talk on the phone with them you can better imagine your partner’s life and feel more a part of it.
- Make it Special: Just because you and your significant other can’t physically be with each other all the time, doesn’t mean that you can let the romance slip. You must remember to go on dates, send gifts, and put in a little extra effort into things to make them special. Treat the times that you talk to each other on the phone or web chat as a date. Get dressed up. Bring flowers (yes, even if those flowers are just going to sit on your desk for the next few weeks). Send care packages or home (dorm) baked cookies. Any little bit of extra effort you put in will show just how much you care. One of the most difficult aspects of long distance relationships is not knowing whether your significant other is thinking about you and missing you as much as you are them. By making each little gesture special, you show just how much they mean to you and just how much you think about them. One fun thing to try is ordering your boyfriend or girlfriend takeout from their favorite restaurant and having it delivered to their dorm room or apartment. Takeout Taxi will pick up food from nearly any restaurant in several cities throughout the U.S and deliver it to nearly any location. This way you can plan a romantic dinner date with your significant other even from hundreds of miles away.
- Distract Yourself: It’s important to be independent when in a long distance relationship (or any relationship). When your entire relationship basically revolves around impersonal communication, it can be easy to fall into the habit of staring at your phone or email inbox all day waiting for your boyfriend or girlfriend to contact you. In order for a relationship to work, you have to be able to function alone. By keeping yourself occupied, you keep yourself from missing each other too much. College is an important time to learn about who you are. In order to grow in college you must meet new people, do new things, and stretch beyond your comfort zone. Don’t just sit around and become depressed about your loved one being far, far away. Try to pursue common interests with your significant other even if you can’t do so together. See the same movies or get involved in similar groups. This way you will have more things to talk about with each other that you know the other is interested in. One great way to distract oneself (and boost your college resume) is getting involved with volunteering. Try visiting Serve Net, a website that helps college students locate volunteer opportunities in their area.
- Avoid ‘Dangerous’ Situations: As we mentioned before, trust can be particularly difficult for a long distance relationship. It is essential that you and your significant other trust each other completely if you are going to make your long distance relationship work. However, another aspect of trust is being smart. You have to learn to avoid potentially ‘dangerous’ situations when you are in a long distance relationship and away at college. There are a lot of temptations involved with being in college. Setting boundaries with your loved one is necessary to feeling comfortable with one another while in this stage of your lives. Try to avoid situations where temptation might get the best of you. If you are able to have this discussion openly with your loved one, you will better establish a clear set of rules and bolster your trust in one another when faced with difficult situations.
- Stay Positive: This tip is possibly the number one most important thing to remember when maintaining a long distance college relationship. You have to assume that your partner loves you and cares about you (which shouldn’t be hard if you remember Tip #5 and actually communicate with one another). If you think you hear something negative in his tone of voice over the phone or you feel a negative vibe in her email, don’t read too much into it. Stay positive and express your concerns to your significant other. Chances are you are just being paranoid or there is a larger issue at hand. Good communication can solve almost any problem. As we saw earlier from the statistics calculated by The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, having a long distance relationship can have long term benefit. Only 8% of long distance relationships end after the first year, whereas, 25% of traditional relationships split after the first year. Long distance relationships are difficult, but the challenges you face in one only strengthen a relationship and intensify your love for one another. Stay positive.
Special Contributor: Jennifer Lynch