Long distance relationships at university: my experience

Moving off to university is a scary time for many reasons, but one major cause of uncertainty for large numbers of students moving far away from home is the prospect of having to leave behind a significant other.

I’ve spoken to many a student who told me they were terrified about moving away from their partners because they had got together after being “the boy/girl next door” and hadn’t spent more than two days away from each other for the last three years. When spending time apart was a totally new experience for them, this set them up with a worried outlook and made them ask, if they’d never done it before, could they even do it?

On the other hand, my own experience was the complete opposite and gave me a very different perspective. I met my boyfriend on a Facebook group chat for fans of The Hunger Games books at the age of 15 (yes, I was a nerdy teenage fangirl; this was totally among my finest moments in life…). From here I embarked on my very first relationship, entirely within an online medium. Our first nine months of “dating” consisted solely of messaging each other daily on various social media.

After almost a year together we finally started meeting up, but even then, with the long train journey between our homes and the cost of tickets, this was limited to every two or three months. But, because my boyfriend and I were in this way forced to constantly rely on social media to keep in touch remotely from day one, this made it easier to get used to this way of life. This was the first relationship that we had been in, and we’d never known anything different. As difficult as it sometimes was, this background made it easier to deal with living apart from one another.

My boyfriend, Rob, said: “the distance can be lonely at times, but all those feelings dissipate in that moment when you are next able to embrace.”

This of all things shows how the time spent apart can be worth it in the end, if you put in the effort and are patient until you see each other again.

Distance isn’t always a downside; it can also be a healthy test for your relationship. When I went travelling for four months, the only chances I got to speak with my boyfriend were the occasional two or three messages sent just before one of us fell asleep, stuck in opposite time zones. Not being able to engage with a person you’re usually so close to for an extended period of time can force you to answer uncomfortable questions. Do you really want to be with them? Is the relationship worth all this?

As brutal as it feels, if your answers are “no”, maybe distance could be the wake-up call you needed, to move on to what really matters to you. And if they’re “yes”, you now know that if your partnership is strong enough to withstand time apart, it can get through anything life throws your way.

So, don’t forget that distance does not have to be lethal. In fact, it can even serve to strengthen your bond with your partner if you put the effort in, focus on the positives and keep looking forward to that next time you are able to see each other – even if that seems far in the future.

Written by Sabita Burke

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