Making Long Distance Relationships In College Work: Including Our 5 Step Action Plan
Long distance relationships in college seem like the opposite of what we define as the typical college experience. Between the partying, late night studying, spring breaks, and sporting events, you’re set to be out there meeting new people and having a crazy time.
What doesn’t come to mind is that you may be missing or worrying about your partner who's miles and miles away.
Not everyone goes to college single ready to mingle. Whether you left your sweetheart back at home while you went off to college, you and your partner decided to attend separate colleges, or you met someone who happens to attend a different university than you.
Lolo and I met while on student exchange at San Diego State. Unfortunately I was only enrolled for one semester while Lolo was there for two! This was the start of what would become a challenging 18 month long distance relationship.
Lasting The Distance
There’s no need to break up and throw in the towel simply because of the miles between you. Maintaining a long distance relationship in college is not impossible, and if your partner means the world to you, like we know they do, then you owe it to yourself to give it a chance!
It’s More Common Than You Think
Journal of Communication
Engaged in an LDR at some point.
Cornell University Study
To 1/2 consider themselves in some form of LDR.
Even though it can feel like you are the only one in a long distance college relationship, know that you are not alone. According to research from the June 2013 Journal of Communication, up to 75% of college students have engaged in a long-distance relationship at some point.
According to a Cornell study, between a quarter and one half of college students consider themselves to be currently in some form of a long distance relationship. That’s a pretty high number! On average, the participants were:
- Just under 21 years of age.
- Had been in their relationships for around two years.
- Had been living apart for 17 months.
They noted that even though couples who lived apart had fewer daily interactions, the interactions they did have were longer and more meaningful.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives of a long distance relationship, especially for those of you in college who are already going through many life changes. College life brings its own set of challenges such as trying to decide what you want to do with your future, becoming your own independent adult, exams, financial instability, and more. It can be hard to meet your partner’s needs while you’re settling into your new life.
But there are benefits to having a LDR in college as it will force you to be independent, become great at planning, and have a relationship that is more than just physical, which is uncommon to today’s “hook up culture”.
Both studying? Another positive is that your partner is going through the exact same situation and you can offer each other support in this time of uncertainty.
If you are in or are about to be in a college LDR don't despair, we've put together five 'must do' tips that will help you go the distance. Lets get stuck in!
Long Distance Relationships in College: 5 Must Dos
Prioritize Schoolwork and Studying
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First and foremost, you decided to attend college to earn a degree and better your future. Yes, your relationship is one of your top priorities, but your education is number one.
If an important project or test is coming up, you may need to focus all of your time on that rather than your partner, and that’s okay. Remember that you're paying a lot of money for your education and you don't want to put that in jeopardy because of your LDR.
You might have the urge to 'wing it' because it can be hard to talk about these situations. But for the benefit of your relationship you need to make sure you have clear expectations for you and your partner. Here are some basic topics to get you started:
- How often will you speak to each other?
- Should you set designated times to check in with each other?
- What methods of communication do you prefer?
- How often will you visit each other?
- How will you manage changes if study issues come up?
Have others we should add? Let us know in the comments below!
Wondering whether this is something you can do without? Think about the quote from Benjamin Franklin: "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.".
If these things are sorted out ahead of time, it will be much easier for things to stay on track.
Getting The Most From Video Chat
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This goes without saying for a LDR, but there are many ways to use technology to simply spend time with your partner over video chat. Having that visual connection can help ease any separation anxiety as it can help to make it feel like you are both in the same room.
Maybe you use Skype to have a study date together. You can even quiz your partner since they won’t be able to cheat and see the answers on your end! Or maybe you have date nights together by watching a TV series or movie in sync.
Have a roommate? Make sure you're keeping them in mind while video chatting. Whether it be by using headphones or going to another room.
Schedule Chat & Visiting Time
Although technology is great for communication, make sure you aren’t constantly choosing to chat with your significant other rather than building a healthy social life at school. Scheduling times to chat will allow you to be consistent, but also have the freedom to go out and create new friendships.
Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out believes it’s important to strike a balance because it can be “really hard to choose the awkwardness and the insecurity of not having a lot of friends at your new school over being with someone who's familiar to you".
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Scheduling visiting time is also important. Lets be honest, the majority of us aren't able to visit our partners every weekend, as funds are usually tight and studies take over. You need to make the most of the time you do have available, such as holiday breaks and long weekends.
If you can agree on seeing each other at specific times, you've now got a goal to work towards. It'll also make it much easier to manage your time and save the necessary cash, which will make the time you do spend together fun and less stressful!
Keeping Jealousy in Check
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Making new friends and building a social life are a big part of the college experience so it's easy to see how it can be tough to think about your partner making friends of the opposite sex, experiencing new things, or just going out and experiencing new things without you.
This needs to be taken as a positive rather than a negative. Being supportive instead of bitter about your partner making new friends and expanding their social circle is going to help you grow as a couple and as individuals.
This doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about you or wishing you were there. If your partner happens to miss a phone call or not reply in a timely manner, try to give them the benefit of the doubt before letting jealousy and anxiety take over.
Now It's Your Turn!
Let's put what you've read into action.
- If available, talk about your class and study schedule(s) to see when you're both free.
- Set some expectations based on our example questions or some of your own.
- Pick a time to study together or set aside a little more for a special date night.
- Start to think about your next visit. Who will be visiting who and when?
- Agree with each other to see old friends or meet new ones and reflect on it together.
LDRs in college can be a positive experience for both partners. Trying some of the above tips is a step in the right direction that will help to further strengthen your connection when miles apart.
Comment and let us know if you’ve put any of the above tips into action and how they’ve helped you, or if you have any tips we haven’t mentioned let us know!