Long-distance love: luxurious or limiting?

Anjli Mehta

It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday night, but before my high heels hit Sixth Street, I have a date. I carefully check my hair, my makeup and my internet connection. With a couple of clicks, Skype displays my date’s face against a surge of sunshine that briefly disorients me. Even after nearly a year of long-distance Skype dates, the 13-hour time difference catches me by surprise every time.

In a 2005 study of long-distance relationships among college-aged individuals, communication professor Laura Stafford of the University of Kentucky-Lexington showed that long-distance relationships are fairly common, constituting 25 to 50 percent of relationships. Some reasons for this might include the mingling of in-state and out-of-state students during school and prospective post-graduation jobs in new places. Since 2005, technological advances that allow face-to-face interaction and inexpensive cell phone plans make a modern-day long-distance relationship more manageable.

With two long-term, long-distance relationships under my dating belt, I can say from experience that long-distance relationships have the tendency to be complicated. In fact, usually the only simple thing about a long-distance relationship is the attraction you feel for that person.

These relationships are not nearly as glamorous as Nicholas Sparks and his repertoire of romance novels want you to believe. A long-distance relationship takes more emotional involvement than a standard same-city relationship. In the same weekend, you can go from the happiest you’ve ever been, rushing into your love’s arms at baggage claim, only to hit your deepest low as you bite your lip before that last bittersweet kiss at airport security.

There are certain rites of passage that come with every long-distance relationship: the carry-on bag hanging off your door ready to be packed at the unexpected notice of a three-day weekend, spending more time in an airport than with your partner, paying the unreasonable parking garage fee just so you can kiss your boyfriend or girlfriend at the gate. When it comes to long-distance love, we’re willing to put up a bigger fight against dating hurdles than if we were dating someone who lived just a 15-minute drive away. When someone isn’t within reach, you don’t take them or the little time you spend with them for granted.

But just as absence can make the heart grow fonder, it can also fade the memories you have of being attracted to someone. While regular visits are a key component to any long-distance relationship, it’s even more important to have a consistent communication schedule between in-person visits. Surely Skype foreplay has nothing on the real thing, but the effort you put in while you’re apart will make you forget the distance while you’re together.

Additionally, long-distance relationships are largely based on trust. It’s imperative that you build a stable foundation of trust before you begin a long-distance relationship that can easily fall victim to the vicious wrath of jealousy and insecurity.

Ideally, a couple should place a tentative timeline on how long they expect to be long-distance, but with an uncertain job market, it’s difficult to predict where your life could lead you.

Last May, when the guy I was dating graduated a year before me, he was lucky enough to get to follow his dream of being a photojournalist in Cambodia. As I finish my last semester with only a slight idea of where I’ll end up geographically, I can’t imagine the two of us in the same city, much less the same hemisphere, anytime soon. But as long as we’re happy just seeing each other on a computer screen, we do our best to ignore the 9,200 miles between us.

Although I’m unsure of how much longer he’ll tell me goodnight while I tell him good morning, there is no doubt in my mind that our relationship has grown stronger through the distance. For this reason alone — the hope that distance will only test and strengthen a relationship — many college students continue to commit to long-distance love rather than settle for someone in town. 

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: Distance can strengthen relationships