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 meant to be 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 is hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
There’s no need to break up and throw in the towel simply because of the miles between you.
Having a fulfilling long distance relationship while in college is not impossible, and if you mean the world to each other, then you owe it to yourselves to give it a chance!
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.Nate, Lasting The Distance
- Statistics of Long Distance Relationships in College
- Staying Positive!
- Actionable Tips For College LDRs
- Now It’s Your Turn!
Statistics of Long Distance Relationships in College
According to research from the Journal of Communication, up to 75% of college students have engaged in a long-distance relationship at some point. According to a Cornell study, 25% of college students consider themselves to be currently in some form of a long distance relationship.
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.
9 Tips For Long Distance Couples Going to College
1. Don’t Make Any Quick Decisions About Breaking Up
Now is NOT the time to decide to break up with your partner. Not:
- This week
- Next week, or
- Next month.
Give yourself some time to catch your breath. You are going through a season of huge changes—you’re off to college (a brand new adventure) and you’ve left behind your family and your partner at the same time!
That’s massive, and changes like these are stressful even when they’re also exciting.
All of your feelings are super-charged right now, and you are not in the best state to make a sensible decision about your relationship with your boyfriend. So take a deep breath, hang in there, and wait to see what you are thinking and feeling down the track a little.
2. Set Expectations
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?
Wondering whether this is something you can do without? Think about this quote:
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.Benjamin Franklin
If these things are sorted out ahead of time, it will be much easier for things to stay on track.
3. Trust It Will Get Easier
Remember that this is a time of really intense emotions. But you know the funny thing about feelings?
They come, and they go.
They change and shift over time, even when our circumstances don’t change all that much. Emotions are transient.
So, remember, how you feel today is not how you’re going to feel every day for the next four years, even if you stay together-but-apart for that entire four years.
You will feel happier again.
4. Prioritize Schoolwork & Studying
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.
5. Getting The Most From Video Chat
This goes without saying, 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.
6. 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”.
Scheduling visiting time is also important.
Let’s 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!
7. Lean Into Change
You are in a season of massive change. All of your old rhythms and habits are up for renegotiating. from:
- Who your friends are
- What you eat for breakfast, and
- What time you go to bed.
You’ve gone from seeing your partner every day and having them be your best friend, to being without them and feeling quite alone.
Your whole world has shifted and changed. Your relationship will change during this season, too.
It will help to lean into that change rather than resisting it.
You’re in a brand new stage of your relationship, and that’s going to mean new patterns and habits need to be formed—a talking, texting, video-chatting rhythm that works well enough for both of you for now and also leaves you time to focus on other new things in your lives.
Things are going to feel awkward and “second-best” at first. Finding a new groove is like that.
Hang in there and try to focus a bit more on finding the new normal and a bit less on grieving the way things were.
8. Put Time & Energy Into College Friendships
You are the college you wanted to attend. A place of new learning and new adventures. The place that (for better or for worse) will become an important chapter in your life story.
You will be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t start focusing on building a life there.
I cannot even begin to tell you how important having friends is, and college is a fabulous place to make new ones.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily easy to make new friends, even at college.
But it’s easier.
Everyone is in transition at college. Everyone is forming new relationships and friendships.
You should be, too.
Find people who spark a certain interest in you. People you share some interests with. People somewhat similar to you. Make friends with these people. Keep showing up and spending time with them, and it will happen. With some of them, at least.
9. Keeping Jealousy in Check
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 new friends 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.
How Will You Navigate College And Your LDR?
Let’s Put The Plan Into Action
- Talk together and make sure that staying together is what you really want.
- 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. Implementing the tips above is a step in the right direction that will help to further strengthen your connection when miles apart.
Want the support of a like minded and inclusive community? Join our LDR Support Group and let us know what tips you’ve put into action!