Long-distance relationships as a college student feel like taking two doses of a reality check, one right after the other. You need to figure out how to be present in your relationship—often through the phone—while being present in actual life. Many significant others struggle to0 find this balance, understandably so. But like anything else, it gets easier with time—the longer you’re together, the less difficult making it work becomes.
The secret? You need to master three things to make your long distance relationship go the distance.
Relationships take up a lot of time. LDRs? Not as much. Sadly. But that’s the long-distance portion of it. However, they do require better compartmentalization. When in a LDR, the loss of time together becomes a race to make it up over the phone.
Stop racing. Regardless of the type of relationship you’re in, time will always be a concern. We’re human. Focus on using the time you have dedicated to your S.O. wisely. Find the time between your classes, jobs and most importantly “me” times to have detailed conversations that may not be possible over text. “Because we were both dedicated, somewhat overworked students….we were able to keep up a nearly constant stream of conversation while working,” said New York University junior Annesha Sengupta, who was in an LDR for five years. “Those were the most effective days of our relationship because we were on the same schedules, with the same goals.”
If one of you finds out about a summer internship that gets in the way of plans you had with each other, don’t let them know over text. Talk about it. Similarly, it could be an emergency or even just a fight—verbal communication is always more conducive to solutions.
But don’t sacrifice your “me time”—aka your down time to yourself. My “me time” involves watching Suits, getting ahead on work or hanging out with friends. I choose to dedicate some of my free time to myself instead of giving every waking second to my boyfriend. Everyone needs this time. Work around it. Believe it or not, it’s actually easier to do that when in an LDR. Prioritize and organize. You’ll make it work if you both put in the effort.
Not being physically near your SO is the worst part about LDRs. Go through your grieving and frustration until you accept that yes, you want to stay in this LDR. Now figure out how to give each other the same attention you would in person, despite being apart.
You have different class schedules, different study times and habits and definitely different leisure plans. How do you make sure you now you’re still thinking about them? “The key is having complete trust in the other person, so that when you’re going through a period of not talking a lot, you don’t angst or stress about it,” said Emerson College junior Mollie Bloom.
Texting throughout the day to maintain a sense of consistency. Do special things over FaceTime or Skype, like watching a movie or Netflix together. “There are days when we haven’t seen each other for awhile, but are both swamped with homework. To compromise, we Skype and do our homework in essentially silence,” said NYU junior Catherine Foley, who is currently studying abroad in Spain. “It sounds weird, but it’s a good way to see each other and occasionally chat without devoting all of our attention to each other at once,” she added.
Instead of focusing on your separation, plan activities and trips for the next time you see each other. Doing this lets your SO know you’re thinking of him. Whenever my boyfriend comes into town, I have an activity lined up that I want to do together and one that he wants to do together. Last spring break, I took him to a New York Knicks game and then we went to see The Lion King on Broadway. We both experienced what the other likes in our prospective cities, while still keeping the attention and focus on each other.
How do you maintain presence without a hologram machine? You’re here. They’re there. It seems impossible. Your friends want you to go out, but it’s the only time your SO can video chat today. Pressure from both parties, along with the pressure of doing what you want, can really make staying present—while apart—extremely difficult.
The answer? Do what makes you happy. Not what anyone else does. “It takes a bit of bending over backwards, sometimes staying up a little later than intended, while still remembering to love yourself first,” said NYU junior Natalia Maverakis.
If you feel like you’ve talked pretty consistently that day, skipping the video chat would not be the worst thing in the world. And definitely not the worst thing for your relationship. Or take the night for you and bae. You’re with your friends most days of the week—how often do you see your bae? NYU senior Kimberly Howland said, “There are moments when I feel like I have to take myself away from my friends to be with him, actually or over text, but you learn to balance and you learn to pick and choose the moments where you prioritize one over the other.”
Bottom Line: The relationship is only as happy as the unhappiest person in the relationship. So find a way to feel happy together. But be happy with yourself first. This especially applies to an LDR that isn’t working. NYU junior Kayla Clifford ended her three-year relationship after one year in long distance. And she came out a much happier person. “I finally faced my fears and broke it off with him for good…but at the end of the day I wasn’t equipped at the time to handle his emotional reliance on me and he wasn’t supportive.”
The most important step to master? Love yourself the most.