Relationships. The one challenge in life where you either have it all figured out or have been and will forever be looking for the right answers. Everyone longs for that one person to share everything with, from sitting on the porch in the pouring rain watching a thunderstorm to trying to beat one another in a quick game of Word Trek. Although many say high school is the time and place to find your life-long pain in the butt, college relationships spark just as high of a success rate. My parents of 21-years and now, to my greatest fear, my younger sister and her fiancé, met and dated through high school. I on the other hand was not so lucky.
I have been in two long-term, long-distance relationships, one while in high school and one while in college and let me tell you, they were both extremely different relationships.
According to an iVillage study, the average miles between lovers in a long distance relationship is about 165 miles. Mine were both close to 200. The average time for a long distance relationship to break up if things don’t work is 4.5 months. Both of my relationships lasted over two and a half years. Forty-percent of all long-distance relationships usually fail because of lack of communication and physical engagement, a statistic that I surely fell into. It took two very hard and very different long-distance relationships for me to realize that I was looking at dating, at how I should be treated or how the other person should be treated, oh so very wrong.
Having just broken off a three-year relationship, I look back at it now and realize the many things that I did wrong. Yes, I did come to college as a single chick and hoping to find the bond that my parents and my little sis have, that connection with someone that when thought of always brings a smile to your face. Honestly, I thought I found that with the last guy. I truly did. I was one figure in the 63 percent of women who hope to meet their spouse in college, and yet again falling into the statistic that one of the top reasons college couples break up is cheating.
Here is where we have the heart to heart talk: long-distance relationships, I feel, are like a part-time job. You must put in more effort to communicate, to show you care and establish dates to visit than couples living three doors down the hall from each other. My parents scolded me when I first started college, telling me to focus on school and stay away from the drama, focus on my health and maintaining a job. Well for three years I maintained a 4.0 with a double major, three jobs, and fought tooth and nail to be in a relationship that I look back on now and realize was supposed to be only temporary, something to help me through the hard times and to let go when the time is right.
Long-distance relationships are blissful, they allow the moments spent together to mean so much more, but this is where doubt and fear can easily bare their pointy teeth and dig into your perception of self-worth and tear you apart. Once trust is broken in a long-distance relationship, especially if by cheating, please, if you are in a relationship right now where you have been cheated on or lied to, get out. Heck yes it’s going to hurt, it’s going to put a huge hole in your heart for a while, but unless you pull an Elsa and just let it go and trust the guy or girl again, don’t put yourself through long dreadful nights of wondering who he or she is with, why they haven’t replied, or if they are lying to you again.
It took one long, painful relationship scarred with three restart sessions and many fights through angry emojis and all –caps for me to finally open my eyes and realize that the distance between him and I was purely that: distance, and distance for me to let the relationship go and start anew.
If you are willing to fight to keep the distance between you and your love measured through surprise care packages rather than when you both last fought and got back together, do so with integrity and passion, demand that the effort you put forth is given back.
Don’t believe that because you have been in the long-distance relationship for so long that time validates commitment, that because you both have been making the distance work for three years that it validates the lies, the fights, the doubts and fears. Long-distance relationships, I feel seem to last longer because it takes longer for each person to learn about the other, to truly bond and date. A couple living two apartments down from one another could date and talk as much as a long-distance couple will, but in half the time.
If there is anything that I learned from only dating long-distance is that you miss out on a lot of the memories, the silly, random dates and spur of the moment surprises that come with dating someone close by, especially in college. College is the best time to set free and truly explore the options that are out there, to try new things, to figure out what you want in a relationship and what you are willing to give up for it.
In my previous relationship, I wasn’t ready to give up a connection with my family for a guy that I couldn’t allow myself to trust due to my own insecurities and doubting of my self-worth. For so long I thought that it was because of the distance that I had to bug him to do cute things or make plans, that because I was a romantic at heart, it was ok for me to go out of my way so much and give up pieces of myself because the distance and doubts were wearing us thin. Reading this now I just want to slap myself.
So the lesson: long-distance relationships can work. College is a prime time to be in one, it allows you to find out for yourself if such a challenge is easily overcome. However, don’t let distance take the blame for your own weakness and struggles in relationship. Distance will cause some yearning, but not the constant fear that your love is cheating on you again or that you will never be good enough because he left you three times before for something close by.
Be open to new things. Distance makes the heart grow founder, but for me, it made mine weaker. Once I was free of such a distance, I was able to open my eyes and see that sometimes, the true relationship that you are looking for, the relationship that truly shows you how you should be treated and that there is no need for doubt or worry, is simply sitting in the back corner of the restaurant where you work.
Sometimes distance isn’t what you need in a relationship, but rather to give yourself a chance at a new beginning, at letting go of the struggle, stop fighting against the distance in miles and in heart, rather than handing out chances to someone who doesn’t deserve them.
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.)