Like most high school grads, Kendra Stowe had a lot to deal with the summer before her freshman year in college. She had just started to get serious with her high school boyfriend, only to go their separate ways, both to different states, for college. So, she chose the only option she thought was available: to break up.
“When I was a freshman right out of high school, I never anticipated that we’d stay together because I had never heard of any long-distance relationships that had worked out,” said Stowe, a 22-year-old graduate student at Winthrop University in Rock Hills, S.C. “I thought that you always just said goodbye to your high school sweetheart.”
Each summer, many young couples are faced with the same obstacle to stay together or tough out a long-distance relationship while they are away at college.
Greg Bever and his girlfriend, Claire, of Bay City, Mich., are experiencing their first year apart. She’s at Fordham University in New York while he attends Albion College in Albion, Mich.
“It’s harder to be there for each other when things get tough or you get really stressed out,” he said. “You can talk on the phone, but the phone only helps so much.”
Keeping in touch
Luckily for long-distance couples, today’s technology makes staying in touch much easier than ever before. Distanced loves at the turn of the century relied on hand-written letters, while today’s youth have cell phones, e-mail, and Facebook.
Despite the breakup between Kendra and her boyfriend, Jeff, before they each left for college, solid communication, primarily over the Internet, kept them so close that they got back together within just a few months of being apart.
“We actually grew closer over the course of my freshman year” she said. “We talked all the time about the things we were going through, like dealing with roommates and exams.”
Finding a new life
However, finding time to communicate can be challenging. College life puts students in new situations where they will grow, meet new people and often become very busy.
“(A long-distance relationship) becomes a problem because when you come to college so much of your life is different,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kincade, a licensed psychologist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.
Students may, at times, feel guilty or unfaithful for hanging out with new friends or experiencing the aspects of college they know they cannot share with their significant other.
However, limiting your social life will only cut you off from having new experiences or meeting new people, two of the many important aspects of college life.
“If you’re putting all your energy into a relationship,” said Kincade, “you miss out on being where you are and don’t take advantage of all that college offers you.”
Finding room to grow
“In some ways, a long-distance relationship can actually be a helpful thing,” Dr. Kincade said. “People who have a relationship back home are not looking for that in college, and it allows them to focus on their studies, make new friends and take some risks that they might not have.”
Staying together means growing together. Take time to have a quality conversation once a week, remember important dates and events in the other person’s life, and don’t hold yourself back by constantly longing for your long-distanced love.