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Making the best of a long-distance relationship – SEMO couples talk relationships
Relationships are challenging, whether they’re platonic or romantic. Communication problems, trust issues and betrayal, are just a few reasons why a relationship may end. Romantic long-distance relationships may add an extra roadblock for some, especially those in college. Many couples attend different colleges, graduate from the same college at different times or move to another city for work and school. Despite these obstacles, some SEMO students have found their “happily-ever-after” in a long-distance relationship.
Love at first sight?
There are a couple of ways to meet a potential partner: Through dating apps or in-person, whether long-distance or not.
SEMO English literature major Lainey Edwards said they met their partner at Edwards’ workplace, and they have been together for more than a year now.
“We met by bumping into each other at the gas station I worked at. It was close to both of our houses, so we were unknowingly neighbors, as well. He just kept popping up everywhere. And then one day, he responded to something I posted on Twitter. And then we were like, ‘Oh, it's you,’ and then never stopped talking after that,” Edwards said.
SEMO musical theater major Brecken Styles met her partner while they worked together in their hometown in Osceola, Wisconsin.
“We met [in] Summer 2020 working as lifeguards, and then we hung out like every day hiking. It was an instant connection. Now, we've been together for a year and nine months,” Styles said.
Spending time, together-ish
While in a long-distance relationship, a couple's biggest concern may be finding ways to spend time together.
SEMO education major Ciara Southard said she and her long-distance partner do virtual date nights over the phone.
“We try to do a virtual date night like once a week and do a phone call. Then, we'll start a show on Netflix at the same time. Sometimes, we sit and do homework together. We make sure we always have our next visit planned, so we always have something to look forward to,” Southard said.
For SEMO theater major Lexi Orr, gaming together is the best way to spend time with one another. Orr and her partner have been together for seven years and have spent the majority of it long-distance.
“We both like to game on our computers,” Orr said. “He built me my own computer, so I could play games with him. We plan our gaming ahead of time. Sometimes, we do phone calls, send stupid videos, Snapchat or send each other memes.”
Friends and family reactions
Friends and family may be the biggest critics of those in a relationship. Southard and Merli both faced criticisms of their long-distance relationships and have been with their partners in a long-distance relationship for almost three years.
“When I moved to Disney, I was not looking for a relationship. So, when I started dating, my family was a little bit hesitant, since I was so young, and [they know] how difficult long-distance is. My family has started to see we're going to make it work and have been making it work for the last two years. They’re on board with it, and my friends love him,” Southard said.
SEMO education major Jordan Merli said her family did not believe her long-distance relationship would last too long.
“It’s both of our first relationships,” Merli said. “Our relationship is long-distance, and both of us are in college. They said, ‘That's fun, good luck.’ My family did not think it was a blast, but here we are, three years later.”
Importance of communication
Every relationship has its unique challenges, as each has its own communication style. Overcoming this can be one of the biggest challenges.
Both Southard and Merli said opening up and having effective communication with their partners has helped to relieve tensions and insecurities.
“We both have had some issues with trust,” Southard said. “One thing we found is, if he's feeling anxious about where I might be, or if I might be seeing other people, I'll start sharing more details of my day or sending pictures of what I'm doing to help him feel a little more settled. I don't mind doing this, because I know it helps. For me, it's more feeling insecure. I communicate to him that I need extra support, and he responds accordingly. Being honest with yourself and with your partner is what you need.”
For Merli, effective communication with her partner helped to relieve any stress in the relationship.
“College is stressful for everybody. When we both get stressed, it's harder, I feel, to communicate over FaceTime. We get mad at each other for 30 minutes, and then we just talk about it and say, ‘I know you're stressed. I'm stressed, too, but we can't just ignore each other and pretend that we don't exist.’ Eventually, it is just putting everything else aside and having a conversation,” Merli said.
Long-distance relationships and the challenges that come with them can lead to personal growth.
Merli said she became more patient and understanding through her long-distance relationship.
“It's hard to find time to talk to each other and have those deep conversations. Sometimes, you just have to settle for surface-level conversations, being more patient and understanding that situations don't always work out how you expect them to be,” Merli said.
For Styles, the biggest challenge she faced was realizing the relationship she is in is worth it.
“The biggest hurdle was myself and coming to terms that I love this man, and he’s worth it,” Styles said. “The thought of not having him in my life was so terrible, and it was worth doing the emotional work to unpack why I felt like I didn't want to have somebody in my life. It was worth doing the work for this relationship.”
Advice in any relationship, long-distance or not, is crucial for couples. For Styles, paying attention to what is going on in her partner’s life, even if she’s not physically there with him, can help strengthen the relationship.
“I think the biggest [advice] is to remember names of people or important events. Assume everything they're telling you is important for some reason. If they're telling you they have a test coming up, you need to ask them how it went,” Styles said.
For Orr, knowing a relationship is not easy and putting the work in is all that matters in the end.
“It's not going to be easy. I think there's a big misconception that if you find the right one, it won't be hard. Long-distance especially is a challenge, but anything worth having is worth working for. There is an outcome that's worth it in the end,” Orr said.
Merli and Southard have both spent the past few years in their long-distance relationship and are deciding to get engaged after finishing college or are moving in together, ending the distance between them. For couples like Styles and Edwards, the timings are not in their favor, and they will continue their long-distance relationship.
For anyone in a relationship, whether it be long-distance or not, finding time to spend together and effectively communicating issues can help make a relationship stronger.