Although it is by no means the norm, I never realised the prevalence of long distance relationships until I started university. But then the age old question rears its ugly head: can a relationship spanning counties, countries or continents survive, and even outlive, university? The two of you were happily walking down parallel paths, when, one day, they suddenly diverge, leading off into unfamiliar, different, disparate directions, and you don’t really know what to do. There’s no doubt that it can be extremely difficult and tough at times; no matter how many “How to” columns you religiously read, you can never properly prepare yourself for the reality of a long distance relationship. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but do long distance relationships really deserve such a skewed, negative reputation?
Whenever I mention that I’m in a long distance relationship, I have noticed that there are a couple of stock responses. The first involves a chorus of “Awww”-ing, with simultaneous looks of approval and admiration. Whereas, the second involves a showering of supposedly supportive, but incredibly hackneyed, inspirational quotes (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “absence makes the heart grow fonder” bandied about in conversation) but with a strong waft of skepticism – as if they’re giving your relationship only 3 months to live, maybe 4 at a push.
However, a recent study, published in the Journal of Communication, highlights that heterosexual couples who are in a long distance relationship are equally as stable as their counterparts who have the benefit of geographic proximity. The researcher Dr Crystal Jiang states that “While the public and the science community hold a pessimistic view towards long distance, this research provides compelling support for the opposite side – long distance is not necessarily inferior to geographically close dating”. Although far-flung couples have considerably less daily interaction, they are more likely to participate in more meaningful interactions and, as a result, they feel emotionally closer to one another. Jiang states that “If being geographically apart is inevitable, people should not despair”, as the research suggests that it can even strengthen your relationship.
Although pangs of nostalgia do inevitably strike (think somewhere along the lines of Summer Nights from Grease and Bridget Jones over New Year), university is a time of personal growth and self-discovery; it is a completely new, exciting chapter in your life. Having a little bit of time and space to yourself to decide whether ultimate frisbee or bell-ringing is your thing can only be a good thing really! You get a degree of independence and freedom within the framework of a relationship; you get the opportunity to spend some time working on yourself without ever really being alone.
Truthfully, whether your other half lives five minutes or five hours away, any relationship needs work and commitment. University is a intense time of change, which could result in an incredibly strong long distance relationship that can adapt and overcome anything; we just need less negativity.