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.”