Does Absence Make The Heart Grow Fonder?

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Sure, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  It also makes the five minutes in between text messages seem like an eternity. Long distance relationships can work if you and your partner are truly committed to each other, but they are not without their challenges.

With students going abroad every semester, and summer vacations that change a five-minute walk between dorms into a cross-country struggle, college relationships have a lot of challenges to overcome.  But it’s always been my strongest belief that if two people are really in love, their relationship can bridge any gap.  As it turns out, absence not only makes the heart grow fonder. It also opens the door to a better understanding of both your partner and yourself.

It’s easy to spend every waking moment thinking about how much your significant other would enhance an experience.  “Ugh, Sara would love this restaurant.” “Jake’s favorite band is playing! If only he were here!”  This reaction, although normal, is often a romanticized version of reality.  It makes sense to assume that sharing these opportunities with your loved one might make them better; However, instead of pouting that your partner isn’t with you, celebrate this chance to have your own adventure.  There’s something to be said for discovering a new great burrito joint on your own, or wandering an art gallery with no need for witty remarks or side commentary.  With no pressure to entertain or engage, you’re free to learn a lot more about yourself; a long-distance relationship can be a rare and wonderful window for self-exploration. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but not every event has to be made for two.

With social media accessible in a matter of seconds, a lot of people are content sending their day-by-day itinerary via text message to their significant other, instead of just going and experiencing it themselves.  The issues with this habit are simple. You’re not fully grasping your own reality when you’re forced to explain it in 160 characters or less.  Much like spending your entire vacation behind a camera can cause you to miss out on the actual trip, if you’re constantly trying to fill someone else in on what you’re doing, you’re wasting valuable time that could be spent doing it!  Learn instead to treasure phone calls and Skype chats.  These can really strengthen a relationship.  If you’ve been filling in your girlfriend on your whereabouts all day, you’ll have nothing to tell her when you talk to her on the phone.  Think of it like pausing an online video to allow it to buffer; it’ll be a lot less awkward and a lot more fun waiting until the end of the day to catch up wit each other.

Relationships can truly grow when the physical aspect is temporarily placed on hold; while a touch or kiss can take the place of dialogue when expressing emotions, relying solely on communication can bond you to your partner in a deeper and more intimate way.  So instead of using your phone to text your beau, try something more intimate, like a letter. This will provide you with the opportunity to truly think about your words before sending them.  Some of history’s greatest thinkers and leaders give us amazing examples of letters written from the heart. Napoleon Bonaparte signed his letters to his beloved wife Josephine with “a thousand loving kisses,” Lord Bryon described one of his many lovers as “the light of love, the purity of grace.” Sure, today’s modern men might need a little coaxing before they whip out their quill pens and parchment, but the payoff is certainly worth it.

Don’t underestimate the power of a random postcard, either.  One of my best friends was having trouble getting through to a guy she liked, so we devised a silly plan: we taped a nickel to a postcard, and mailed it to him as a “donation to his party fund.”  He loved the ingenuity and creativity, and the random surprise of receiving mail made him appreciate her; this tiny gesture made her stand out, and it cost her less than $0.50.  If postcards aren’t your style, try a tiny package instead.  Send a small note with a funny picture and a little tchotchke that will remind your partner of you.  If your girlfriend calls you “honeybear,” try finding a tiny bear and mail it to her.  Sure, the adage “it’s the thought that counts” might sound cheesy and useless, especially when it’s used to describe the socks your grandma gets you for Christmas.  But when it comes to surprising your boyfriend or girlfriend, a simple thought can make all the difference.

It’s understandable to be saddened by long-distance relationships.  But don’t forget that everything is temporary; the relationship won’t always be long-distance.  If you two really care about each other, the days spent wishing you were together will seem like a silly thing of the past once you’re reunited, and the time spent apart is just a chance for you to get to know yourself and your partner better.  To love someone with your whole heart and soul, you must first love yourself: this is your time to do that, so don’t miss out.

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Magazine Journalism > Syracuse University

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