My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for a little over two years, but we have never spent more than three months together in the same state. I’m going to school in Cleveland, Ohio, and he’s at school in Princeton, New Jersey. That’s about 400 miles, an 8-hour car ride, or a $300 plane ticket. We see each other a few weeks during Winter Break, two months in the summer, and a week or less for fall/spring break.
When I tell people that I’m in a long distance relationship, the usual responses I get are, “wow, I’d never be able to do that” and “is it hard to do?” My responses to those are, “You never know what you’re capable of until you actually try” and “yes, but it’s actually not that bad either,” respectively.
Now, I can go on about how hard it is to be so far from someone I love for most of the year, but I would rather look on the bright side of things. I can’t say there haven’t been moments of anxiety, uneasiness, or loneliness, but I can say that I’ve grown and learned so much because I’ve gotten to experience this relationship.
I’ve used my time away from my boyfriend to become my own person. We have our own lives while we’re at school. I have my friends, and he has his friends. They’re my friends because they like me for me and not because I happen to be dating their friend. I think I’m fortunate in that I am not defined by my relationship like many of the other long-term couples I’ve met. When I receive an invitation, I know it’s because I’m wanted there and not because my boyfriend and I are some kind of “package deal”. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time to develop my own interests, take my own adventures, learn from my own mistakes, and make decisions about my life on my own. We’ve used our time apart as an opportunity to become our own independent individuals, and when we do get to spend time together as a couple, the “me” and the “you” don’t get smothered by the “us”.
Being in a long distance relationship has also given me time for self-reflection and thinking. I grew up as an only child with parents who worked until 7pm almost every night, so I’m no stranger to being alone with my thoughts. I spent most of my childhood in my own little world, coming up with wild dreams and plans and adventures – and I thrived on it. And while it might be lonely to come back to an empty room every night, sometimes it’s nice to put the world on mute and reflect on myself and who I want to be without any distractions.
For any of you girls out there in long distance relationships, the single best piece of advice that I can give you is to find the bright side and to not let others discourage you. Most people will be supportive when you tell them you’re in a long distance relationship, but sometimes, they’re secretly betting on how long you can last before you break up.
I feel like I’m constantly bombarded with stories of how long distance relationship didn’t work or TV shows and movies about cheating partners. Yes, all of my friends who came to college in long distance relationships have since become single. Yes, sometimes watching movies about happy couples or seeing my friends in geographically close relationships makes me sad. But the distance shouldn’t be a setback. I believe that the only reason a couple should break up is if one – or both – of them are not in love anymore. As long as you still love each other, there’s always a way to make it work. And while it’s probably easier if I just find someone physically closer to be with, I wouldn’t trade my relationship for anything.
Over the last two years, I’ve loved, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve grown so much as a person. And it’s all because of those 400 miles.
– image credit: Daryn Bartlett