the lowdown on long distance relationships

We were watching an episode of Friends (forced by yours truly) right after Christmas of 2015 when I finally got the nerve to ask the dreaded question: what are we gonna do once college comes around? I think independently, Jake and I had already thought about this question and came up with an answer of our own. I also think that we both anticipated each other’s answer, but none-the-less, it had to be talked about.

Our relationship had always kind of moved fast, I mean we started dating after two weeks of knowing each other. We never had that “thing” phase that so many high school relationships were comprised of; we were never “just talking” or anything. We kind of jumped the gun from meeting to dating, but I don’t regret it one bit. It was just one of those things that felt right. That’s why, just two months and a half months after the beginning of our relationship, we were already talking about college — a thing that was eight months away. Despite advice from friends telling us to wait until the very last minute to discuss in order to save the months building up to the dreaded good-bye, here we were talking about it over an episode of Friends just over two months in. The conversation went a little like this:

N: So…what’s going to happen to us when I leave for college?

J: What do you mean? You wanna break up with ME?! (Jake has a habit of over-exaggerating his sarcasm during serious moments)

N: No! I mean, if you want to? I don’t know…like I don’t want to? But if you want to…? I don’t want to, though. But I don’t want to make you feel stuck if you do want to! I just… (I have a habit of babbling on and on and on during serious moments)

J: No, I mean, I definitely don’t want to. I never even thought that we would.

N: Okay, well I don’t want to either.

J: Then it’s settled.

And that, my friends, is how we decided our fate today. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing.

us-with-tree

This decision was met with a lot of support, and also a lot of negativity. My older brother managed to make a long-distance college relationship incredibly successful so I knew it could be done, but a lot of people continue to remain doubtful of the concept. When I told a girl I knew in high school, she nearly spit out her drink upon hearing, then continued to exclaim in disgust “You’re staying in a LONG-DISTANCE relationship in college? WHY?!” as if I had just confessed to murder or something.

Although her reaction was unsettling, it isn’t an opinion out of the norm. A lot of people view long-distance relationships as too much work, as a waste of time, as a prevention of fun, as robbing you of your college experience, as not worth it. But let me tell you — it’s definitely worth it.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s work that pays off. Since Jake and I don’t have the luxury of seeing each other every day, or even every week, we’ve definitely had to adjust to the distance. We’ve gotten a lot better at communicating with each other; when your only interactions are comprised of FaceTimes and texts between class, you quickly realize that there’s no time to waste for fighting. We’ve gotten really good at getting to the point, avoiding the silent treatment, and fixing fights even quicker than they were started. It’s helped us put everything into perspective — why are we going to fight during our few moments of talking when we could be enjoying each other?

jake-fall

You’ve got to find other ways to spend time together. Jake and I are both really sentimental people, so we knew we were going to face the challenge of keeping up our little traditions during the years in college. Luckily, we found a way. We (try to) do goodnight FaceTimes every single night. We spend a minute or two telling each other about our days, then we say goodnight to each other face to face. No matter if I go out or he goes out, we still find some time to say goodnight and say “I love you”. It’s just a little way for us to feel connected despite the hundreds of miles between us. We reschedule our monthly cheese fry dates. If you know Jake and I, you know our unhealthy obsession with cheese fries. I couldn’t even tell you how it started, but at some point, Jake and I decided that on each of our month “anniversaries”, we would go out and get cheese fries. We’ve even compiled a list of the best cheese fries we’ve eaten and the best components to cheese fries (best fries, best cheese sauce, best seasoning, best gourmet fries, etc., etc.). Since we’re not always with each other on our month “anniversaries”, we make it a point to get our monthly cheese fry as close to the real date as possible. Sometimes that includes more than one cheese fry date a month — I’m not complaining :). We have Skype dates to watch our shows. For as long as I can remember, Jake and I have always had a show that we watch together. Unfortunately, distance sort of gets in the way of cuddling up with some homemade popcorn and turning on the TV. If we find that one night we both get done with everything early, we’ll snuggle up together via Skype and turn on an episode of whatever show we’re watching. Yes, we’ve become pros at “Okay ready? Press play in 3,2,1”. Our little traditions are what keep us feeling close and the feelings of distance at bay.

cheesefries
Us  with one of our dozens of cheese fry plates.

Long-distance has made us mature. Being in a long-distance relationship really puts your life into perspective. It’s made me strive to be better, it’s made me more serious in my endeavors; the last thing I would want to do is waste Jake’s time or mine. If anything, I think this maturity has been a blessing. It’s helped me prioritize my time at college, keep my goals in mind, and remain well-balanced — all things that can be hard to achieve while away at school. It’s made us more trusting. I honestly think that this is one of the biggest perks. Long-distance relationships require an immense amount of trust, trust that continues to evolve throughout the relationship. I left home for school confident with the amount of trust we shared, but college has only made that trust, and our relationship stronger. It’s made us more aware. Everyone is always shocked by this, but Jake and I have said many times that, if given the opportunity, we wouldn’t want to go to college at the same school. Now, whenever he visits and I get to spend time with him on campus, that statement gets harder and harder to maintain. But at the end of the day, that statement never falters. We’ve become aware of our relationship dynamic — we spend a LOT of time together. We both agree that going to the same college would be toxic; we would end up spending so much time together that we wouldn’t grow and evolve as individuals. We wouldn’t end up maintaining relationships with friends, we wouldn’t grow into our own person. To those who maintain relationships at the same college — all the power to you, you rock! We just know each other, we know that we want to grow throughout college, and we agree that the individualized time to grow is important for us.

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No, it isn’t taking away our college experience. Yes, I still know how to have fun! I still go out with my friends and have fun, but I also always know that I’ll have Jake to give me a virtual kiss good night at the end of the night. Being in a long-distance relationship kind of makes you reconsider your fun too, some nights I consider a Skype Netflix date more fun than any other thing I could think of. Do you know what’s even more fun? Visits!! Especially the surprise kind. Long-distance relationships give you the opportunity to show your new home to one of the closest people to you; it gives you the opportunity to live vicariously through the eyes of a visitor while sharing your favorite spots and best kept secrets with them. I have never once been spiteful of my relationship while being in college — I’ve been thankful for it. It’s made me appreciative and grateful for the time we do see each other, we make the most out of it.

soma

To all you couples out there making long-distance work, keep doing  your thing! For all of the couples debating on long-distance, I’m begging you to give it a shot — it’s one of my best decisions yet.

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