BEING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER IS THE HARDEST PART OF A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP.
ART CREDITS: CAROLINE MCNALLY
Story by Morgan Yuvienco
Tammy Taller arrived at Chapman University with big ambitions, an open mind, and a boyfriend of almost four years. They both were aware of the struggles of getting into a long-distance relationship, but they still wanted to give it a try. But being countries apart took its toll, and the pair started to feel further away from each other than the miles between them.
“It just felt like a relationship put on hold,” said Taller, a sophomore public relations and advertising major. “It felt more disconnecting than I thought it would.”
Sometimes, high school sweethearts turned college-long-distancers go through the “Turkey Drop” their freshman year of college – a term for the predicated breakup during the Thanksgiving holiday back home – but sometimes they power through the time apart, growing stronger as a couple.
A 2013 study in the journal Communication Research finds that as many as half of college students are in long-distance relationships," and up to 75 percent will be at some point."
Physical separation may challenge a couple, but it can also strengthen and enhance their connection in a way the couple has never experienced before, the study says.
A recent study from Chapman University’s Journal of Communication Studies cited “physical embracement (physical contact, such as kissing and hugging), self-disclosure (revealing information about oneself), and positive communication (communication that relies on the positive side of situations, instead of the negative)” as important to couples in long distance relationships
Speaking on a consistent basis helps keep each other present in each other’s lives, research from the Gottman Institute, a research, training and counseling center to promote better relationships, states.
“Talking about nothing is what sort of cements the relationship in terms of intimacy, so that they can talk about more intimate issues as they need to,” said Robert Navarra, a therapist for The Gottman Institute in an article by U.S. News and World Report.
Communicating regularly – about anything and everything – is vital in a long-distance relationship. It gives a couple a feeling of immense importance to one another, and a chance to gauge each other’s emotional stance at all times, creating a sense of intimacy.
Sophomore business major Brittany Yeh is two years into a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend of seven years.
“Our first semester apart freshman year was extremely difficult because we were so caught up in our new lives at different schools that we barely made time for each other,” she said. “But it's really important to show the other person that you care about them and that you are always thinking about them.”
It’s a dedication to one other and an understanding of the situation. It’s wanting to have those late night phone calls, confiding in one another about current emotions and happenings, and remaining constant in each other’s lives as best as possible.
The success rates for these relationships are really up to the people in it. To maintain a healthy long-distance relationship, it’s crucial to keep the most important aspects of the relationship in mind: trust, time, effort, communication, and understanding.
Why so many college freshman experience the “Turkey Drop” can ultimately be because of a lack of these things.
“During the first semester of freshman year, we would text but we wouldn't call each other for several days at a time,” said Yeh. “We realized that pattern was really unhealthy for our relationship so we worked on figuring out a better schedule because we were both really busy with school but we also knew it was really important to make time for each other.”
Communicating with text messages or video chats can be helpful, but these forms of technology only give a small, sometimes puzzling glimpse into the other person’s life, The New York Times pointed out.
A relationship can be doomed to fail because of a lack of trust and an abundance of jealousy: constant questioning about new, suspicious people appearing in Instagram posts, or paranoia over that flirty neighbor in their dorm hall.
Distance can be also be hard on those who feel a lack of physical intimacy, said Taller.
“I think something that makes relationships successful is the physical aspect – and I don’t even mean like kissing or sex, just being there with you helps that connection grow so much,” she said. “For some couples, I think not having that physical being there and not sharing in the same environment and the same experiences can really weaken a relationship.”
Couples may also stray from the long-distance relationship because the involvement keeps many from fully embracing their own campus. By clinging so tightly onto that high school sweetheart, some students experience a harder time finding their niche in college – new friends, activities, and opportunities.
Taller and her ex-boyfriend went into college with this understanding, and started undergoing emotional detachment.
“When I was in a long distance relationship, I had just started college, and we really didn’t want to take away from that experience,” said Taller. “We didn’t want to be constantly texting, but it kind of got to a point where we weren’t relevant in each other’s lives quite as much, because we weren’t on each other’s minds.”
However, the reason why long-distance relationships are so prevalent is because of a couple’s determination to adjust to their difficult situation – and this is easier to do, now that technology exists.
Some Chapman students think it’s reassuring to see each other on phone screens, and to build that sense of intimacy and inclusion in each other’s lives from miles away.
It’s important to continue communicating as much as possible, to work with each other amidst busy schedules, and to always keep each other in mind.
Though there tends to be a stigma surrounding long-distance relationships from those in doubt of their sincerity, Chapman students remain positive about their long-distance relationships, and embrace what is learned from them.