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College Polish

How to Do the Long-Distance Thing

High school–sweetheart relationships are dropping like flies, but yours doesn’t have to. There’s this crazy thing called a “long-distance relationship,” and with a few simple tricks you can make it work.

Ah, high school graduation—a time to say goodbye to people you probably won’t care about in six months’ time. But what if there’s someone you do care about? Someone who courted you in economics class, or swept you off your feet when he let you have his extra slice of pizza?

About a month before graduation, my friends invited my crush over for a movie. We watched 8 Mile because Eminem’s musical excellence really sets the mood. About an hour in, I made the move. His hand was begging for holding—so I went in for the kill. The handhold was cupped because lacing fingers would be too scandalous. One very awkward conversation about dating later, and he was hooked on me, or that’s what I like to think. Together, we went to prom, studied economics (both micro AND macro), and discovered we would both give our lives for our cats.

But I graduated high school and he, a year younger, was stuck in senior-year purgatory. At the end of that Grease-like summer, all I could think of was that line in Les Misérables (I have a thing for musicals, OK!): “But he was gone when autumn came.”

We thought about breaking up just because everyone told us we should “live our lives,” “enjoy college,” “experiment,” and all that crap.

But I realized I would never find another guy as strange as me. I wrote a poem about my cat and he thought it was really good. He didn’t think it was weird when I told him I was writing “Politics: The Musical,” with hits like Obama Mia,  and that I’ve caught myself thinking about cake for over an hour.

So, we decided, we were to embark on a journey that no man—or at least, no one we knew—had ever successfully done before: a long-distance college relationship.

Now, on year four, I can tell you that it is absolutely one of the most horrible situations on the planet. But you learn to deal because that Romeo to your Juliet or Brad to your Angelina is worth it—no matter the wait.

How did I do it? Honestly, I can’t say. But I do know what helps.

First, keep in touch. I know, I know, what revelatory advice. But really, it isn’t as obvious as you might think. When this thing called life happens, it becomes difficult to find time for Skype dates and phone calls. There have been moments where I’ve realized I have absolutely no idea what he’s doing, what state he’s in, or what his major is. (Currently: sleeping, Florida, neuroscience … I think.) Keep in mind that despite your huge biology exam, a little chat every once in a while makes all the difference.

Try to do activities together that can be done apart. My favorite is getting hooked on the same TV shows. When you have something to get excited about together, you bond even though you’re miles apart. We both started watching Homeland and would collectively freak out whenever there was a crazy episode. The shared interest was one more thing that kept us close. So thank you, Claire Danes, thank you.

Third, you won’t get very far if you don’t trust each other. Yes, he’s at a party. Yes, there are probably girls there who are prettier, funnier, skinnier, and smarter than you. But they aren’t you—keep that in mind. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself being attracted to other guys or thinking “what if,” either. You aren’t superhuman.

Most importantly, make your own separate friends. Going to different colleges or living in a different state is the perfect situation to do so. We all know that person—the girl who gets a boyfriend and never talks to her friends again. RIP Nancy, you think. But this is the exact reason why you should do long distance—it’s actually a gift. You’ll have more time to make and keep those great friends from college.

Finally, enjoy the time you do have together. Make plans, have countdowns of when you’ll see each other next and celebrate when you are together. We may fight about the stupidest stuff, like if he asks me too many annoying questions about a restaurant menu. But when you’re in this type of relationship, it’s important to get over the small stuff and appreciate the person you’re doing it for.

And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

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