To be honest, long distance relationships kind of suck. By that I mean that you don’t really know how difficult they can be until you’re in one yourself. I found that out as my own relationship progressed. No amount of movies, no amount of Dear John, was enough to prepare me for the miles between us. 1,082.7 miles, exactly.
When I first arrived at Colgate University my freshman year, love was not one of my top priorities. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of dating, and when I was told that dating didn’t exist at Colgate—that the hookup culture was too deeply embedded apparently—any lingering thoughts about forming a relationship disappeared. But alas, I was foolish. I should’ve known that you don’t get to choose when someone special might walk into your life. Sometimes you run into them at the park or something. Other times they’re sitting in front of you at Don’s with a Chicago Cubs baseball cap on while your friends decide what ice breaker to use. Coincidentally, the question was “What do you look for in a partner?”
Fast forward a few weeks later and we’re watching the “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” episodes about our hometowns. He tells me about winters in Chicago and I tell him about how it never snows in Houston. He tells me about the Art Institute and his sister who plays golf, I tell him about the Rodeo and my brother who plays baseball. Fast forward even more and we’re talking to each other one morning—Queer Eye playing in the background—when the conversation turns to our feelings. It doesn’t take long to establish that we’re officially dating. Time flies by and each day we grow more and more used to being around each other. Thanksgiving break flew by somewhat quickly and winter break was even harder to handle. And then summer break happened.
1,082.7 miles. That’s how far Houston is from Chicago according to Google Maps. That’s how far we are when we’re back home. Granted, I know it could be farther, but we went from seeing each other every day to not seeing each other at all. I couldn’t hop on the next train and go see him. In a way, he too had become my home and I was homesick. The distance was hard on both of us. We had to get used to not having one another nearby. We had to learn how to communicate knowing we couldn’t be face to face. There were times when our FaceTime calls were short and other times when we’d talk until we both fell asleep. We’d text each other often, sending memes and dog pictures throughout the day.
Perhaps one of the most annoying things were the comments I’d hear coming from people who found out I was in a long distance relationship. They typically ranged from a “good luck with that” to a “my boyfriend went on a road trip once and he was away for three whole days.” I quickly grew to understand that for some, that was their way of comforting me and for others, well, others were just hating. Maybe they weren’t willing to try hard enough, learn to adapt to a loved one’s absence or re-teach themselves how to communicate effectively. Maybe once it had ended, they were left with a lingering bitterness, believing long distance relationships to be a waste of time.
At the end of the day, it was up to us to make it work. Relationships in general require effort, but if you and your partner happen to be away from each other for long periods of time, that requires even more effort. You have to learn how to trust your partner more deeply and how to communicate more transparently. You have to find ways to make up for the miles between y’all—FaceTime calls and care packages are a few ways to do this— and appreciate the times that you are physically together. So yeah, long distance relationships do kind of suck, but time spent with someone you care about, regardless of the miles between, is always time well spent.