I have been dating my girlfriend, Sydney, since Valentine’s Day in the eighth grade. Yesterday marks our seven-year anniversary. (There were two relatively short breakups mixed in there, but we don’t have to talk about those.) You’d think that asking a girl out on Valentine’s Day is corny, and you would probably be right, but eighth-grade me thought it was quite clever and that it would be an easy way to remember any anniversaries.
By the time we got to our senior year of high school, we didn’t really know what it was like to be apart. Not only had we barely spent time apart from each other during the four years we had been going out up to that point, but we were family friends who had lived just three blocks away from each other our entire lives.
At the end of senior year, after I had committed to Hopkins and Sydney had decided to attend Quinnipiac University five hours away in Connecticut, we started to think constantly about what maintaining a long-distance relationship was going to be like.
In just those first few weeks of freshman year, we learned so much about the difficulties of being in a long-distance relationship.
Little fights could turn into big ones so easily. As we started to go out and meet tons of new people and grow accustomed to being away from home, we kept fighting about things that we should never have wasted our breath over. Text messages could be so easily misconstrued, and solving relationship issues was so much more difficult to do when we were 300 miles away. Our problems only worsened.
Before college, when one of us started a pointless argument, several years together had taught us that it was generally because one of us was hungry — an easy problem to fix. Unfortunately, we knew that facing our problems when we were apart would not be as simple.
At some point, we took a step back and tried to figure out where all the fights stemmed from. Neither of us could even remember. That’s when we realized that nothing we were arguing about was worth it. We realized that there was no point in wasting the minimal time we had to talk to each other by fixating on the little things.
Not that it’s a great excuse, but the real root of those fights was the fact that we missed each other. We were frustrated that we wouldn’t be able to see each other for so long. Since so much of our time spent apart was focused on these frustrations, it was often challenging to keep the relationship exciting.
The best and easiest way that we found to avoid feeling like the relationship was stalling or getting old was to just make time for each other. Whether that was by calling each other randomly throughout the day or scheduling times throughout the week to FaceTime, we kept each other updated on what was new in our lives, which helped us keep the relationship exciting.
We never felt the need to do cheesy things. As much as we could, we tried to treat our relationship as if we weren’t apart. The only difference was that we put in the extra effort to make up for not being able to spend more time together.
We learned to make the most of the time we got to spend together while visiting each other or meeting up at home during college breaks. That is time we definitely never took for granted, time during which we tried to make up for the weeks lost when we were apart.
One important consequence of long distance, though, is actually a positive one. Being away from each other allowed us to grow as individuals. Being together for so many years before we went to college, I hadn’t truly realized how significant a part of me and my life Sydney had become.
Coming to college with a clean slate, I felt like I was starting most of my life over again. I met so many new people and explored so many opportunities that weren’t available to me in high school. But the best part of this experience for me was knowing that no matter what I chose to do, I had someone to support me and give me advice whenever I needed it.
Regardless of how independent we are when we’re apart, Sydney and I are still a huge part of each other’s lives, to the point where we’re also a part of each other’s friends’ lives. As many of my friends can attest, I keep them updated on what’s going on in Sydney’s life as much as I do mine.
Spending time apart is difficult, regardless of how long we’ve been together. Instead of dreading the rest of the time we have to spend in a long-distance relationship, we try to focus on how excited we are to see each other again.
Undeniably, the process is extremely challenging. But the ability to push through those challenges is what makes the entire experience worthwhile.