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Long Distance Relationships at University
Long distance relationships involve three categories of people: family, friends, and romantic partners. Coming to university will inevitably have an impact on the ties you already have with people at home. Over a period of three or four years, your established relationships with people outside of university will change. Some of these changes may be welcome; others may be more difficult to manage.
In your first year, maintaining connections with old friends and family members can be helped by:
- Keeping in touch. Email, text messages, and phone calls will keep you connected on a day-to-day basis. Strategically planned visits on weekends, holidays and special occasions are also important. Planning a date to go home or see friends may help curtail impulsive returns, which can sometimes interfere with your focus at university.
- Being clear about your expectations. When you do arrange a visit, be sure you communicate clearly. What plans do you intend to make? How available are you? What are the expectations of the various people involved? The clearer you are, the better the visit will be.
- Remembering that all relationships, whether new or old, are subject to change. This is an inevitable part of life. Some may become stronger and deeper while you are at university; others may become more distant or even fade away. Being aware of the changes and shifts in relationships will help to reduce potential conflicts and allow you to appreciate old friends and family in a new way.
Maintaining a Long Distance Romantic Relationship
Maintaining a long distance romantic relationship can pose special challenges. Many students are able to enjoy solid, happy and successful relationships despite being miles apart. It isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Success relies on these key elements:
- Effective communication. Email, text messages, and MSN all have their place, but it’s essential that you be able to share deep feelings openly with each other. Sometimes telephone calls or letters are more effective ways to communicate.
- Commitment. This will mean different things for different couples, but a demonstrated commitment to the relationship does have to be shared by both parties.
- Willingness to take risks. Being so far apart can be a challenge because there are no guarantees that the relationship will survive. If safety and security are huge issues for you, a long distance relationship is probably not for you.
- Trust. Because long distance relationships mean taking a risk, there needs to be sufficient trust between the two people. The trust needs to be strong in order to help each person cope with occasional feelings of loneliness, jealousy and insecurity.
- Independence. The relationship will need to combine a healthy balance of independence and dependence so that each person can comfortably spend time apart yet still grow and change as an individual.
- Clear expectations. It is important that you clarify these for yourself and discuss them with each other. Otherwise the danger is that each person will be working on a very different long distance relationship, and misunderstandings will soon multiply.
Strategies for Coping: Pro-active things to do for yourself.
- Get involved in your new life. Put energy into people and things other than your long distance relationship.
- Make sure there are supportive people, places and routines in your daily life.
- Counteract any tendency to withdraw, i.e. don’t stay alone in your room. Take a walk, go for a coffee, see what’s happening in the lounge/kitchen/corridor.
- Call, visit or drop in on a friend (or a new acquaintance).
- Do something physical, e.g. make toast, wash up, have a bath, sort out the laundry
- Arrange to meet someone on campus for a chat, see a film at The Picture House/Odeon, find out what’s on at the Phoenix Arts Centre
- Write a long letter to your partner, whether you send it or not
- Find ways to pass the time when loneliness strikes, e.g. play music, keep a journal, do Sudoku, volunteer with Community Action, create something artistic
- Arrange to introduce your partner to your new friends, but make sure he or she isn’t your only topic of conversation!