Long Distance Relationships: What’s Love Got To Do With It?


Does absence really make the heart grow fonder for col­lege stu­dents? Accord­ing to a study by Sta­tis­tic Brain in 2012, nearly 15 mil­lion peo­ple in the United States were in roman­tic long dis­tance rela­tion­ships and nearly one-third of those cou­ples were col­lege students.

A long dis­tance rela­tion­ship, or LDR, occurs for a num­ber of rea­sons such as liv­ing in dif­fer­ent towns or states, attend­ing dif­fer­ent col­leges, or if one part­ner is in the mil­i­tary. Alas, 40 per­cent of these cou­ples break up within the first five months, usu­ally for sim­i­lar rea­sons. Accord­ing to reachout.com, the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges of long dis­tance rela­tion­ships include phys­i­cal dis­tance, lone­li­ness, jeal­ousy, and inse­cu­rity. “It’s a rela­tion­ship times ten,” said UWS stu­dent Sami Cross, 21, about her per­sonal expe­ri­ence. “It takes a lot of trust, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, flex­i­bil­ity, and just hard work…. If they’re not will­ing to put that extra effort in, then the long dis­tance isn’t going to work.”

Those who decide to par­take in LDR’s face many per­sonal chal­lenges as well. It is often that peo­ple in long dis­tance rela­tion­ships feel emo­tions such as depres­sion, frus­tra­tion, impa­tience, anx­i­ety, jeal­ousy, temp­ta­tion, neg­a­tiv­ity and doubt, which place a great deal of stress on their part­ner and the rela­tion­ship as a whole. “That was really hard to get used to,” said UWS stu­dent Ser­ena Urban, 20. “I would always think ‘what if, what if?’ and I would have to tell myself I was just being crazy about it.” This type of fear is a com­mon­al­ity for most. “I know I shouldn’t have fear but that’s part of a long dis­tance rela­tion­ship,” said UWS stu­dent Michelle Organ, 18. Urban and Organ also explained that see­ing local cou­ples express­ing pub­lic dis­plays of affec­tion can also sting, and the high cost of trav­el­ing to see their part­ners is challenging.

The aver­age amount of time to expect to be sep­a­rated before an LDR cou­ple can move closer together is 14 months, so what is needed to make it to that point? “Trust is num­ber one,” said UWS stu­dent Nick Free­man, 21. “If you can’t trust them then there’d be no rea­son to be in a rela­tion­ship with them… you’re not going to be there with them 100 per­cent of the time and it’s not like you can put a track­ing device on them.” Using a track­ing device may seem a bit extreme to most, so as a sec­ond option it is cru­cial to main­tain reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This is because upward of 70 per­cent of all human com­mu­ni­ca­tion is non­ver­bal. How­ever, whilst in a LDR nearly all com­mu­ni­ca­tion is strictly ver­bal and there is often very lit­tle to no phys­i­cal con­tact. “Phys­i­cal con­tact is a huge deal in rela­tion­ships and most peo­ple take it for granted,” said Urban. “Not being able to hug them when they’re sad or some­thing just tears at you.” Urban dis­closed that stay­ing in con­tact by any means nec­es­sary such as daily tex­ting, phone calls, Skype, and social net­work­ing sites are what made her LDR successful.

Despite the obsta­cles, Sta­tis­tic Brain reports that nearly 33 per­cent of all col­lege rela­tion­ships of 2012 were described as being long dis­tance. So why do col­lege stu­dents fight to be together regard­less of the dis­tance? “When you can only see each other for days at a time it really builds that emo­tional response to each other rather than the sex­ual side, which I really think is way nicer,” Sami said. “You really fall for the per­son because you know them.” They try because they have a his­tory with their part­ner. They care. They want a future together. They try because over­com­ing such a chal­lenge is a token of the strength of their rela­tion­ship. Above all, col­lege stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in long dis­tance rela­tion­ships out of love. “You have to really, really love them,” said Free­man. “I wouldn’t sug­gest being in a long dis­tance rela­tion­ship, but if you really love the per­son then it’s not impossible.”

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