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Relationships over a distance

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

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Christina Swan

Long-distance phone calls become the backbone, as well as a major source of tension, for freshmen in long distance relationships.

Does absence really make the heart grow fonder, or does out-of-sight ultimately translate to out-of-mind?

Many freshmen arrive at college each fall still in relationships with their high school sweetheart. Armed with photo albums and cell phones, they endeavor to make the distance. Whether that distance spans just the city or the entire country is often irrelevant.

A semester later, after months of new people and new experiences, some freshmen are finding that the task is not as easy as they had planned, and the trip home for winter break often highlights where the relationship has gone wrong.

Long distance relationships are notoriously difficult, and many couples, in expectation of the possibilities of a new school and new temptations, break up with their significant other soon before arriving on campus.

"I decided to break up with my high school girlfriend because I thought being tied down away from school would limit my college experience," says Jon Pearsall, CSOM '08.

"Primarily, I did not want too many distractions from my schoolwork, and having a girlfriend can be very time consuming. Secondly, I did not want to be put in a compromising position where I would have to decide between my high school girlfriend and a person that I recently met."

Sometimes even the best intentions toward commitment are thwarted by the inevitable adjustment to college life. Myjanou Jean, A&S '08, and her boyfriend broke up a few weeks after coming to school. Although she originally planned to stay with her boyfriend, who was in the army at the time, there was "a strain on the relationship because I was in college, and also the distance." She also says that "there's a bigger pool of men here." She's been very happy with her decision to move on and meet other people at school.

Even the couples who endeavor to keep their relationship intact have doubts. Julie Wei, CSOM '08, was with her boyfriend for over two years before coming to school.

"I'm afraid that, like people say, college is a time to experience new things, learn, and have fun, but if you're tied and that person isn't even here to share these things with you, you can feel like you're being held back," she says.

Wei also points out that "I go home and see him almost every weekend and people make friends and stuff during that time ... you worry about stuff like, 'am I being left out?'"

Although it hasn't always been easy for her, she is still with her boyfriend and is determined to "see what happens and not force it." She adds that, "Relationships are hard work - but the work is half the fun. If you don't have a solid foundation its harder to keep it strong ... two years was almost not long enough."

The effort of a relationship - from marathon conversations to regular weekend visits off campus - can prove to be detrimental towards creating close friends at school and becoming involved socially. Adjusting is always hard - hence the innumerable programs designed to make the transition easier. When both people in the relationship are at different places (for example, one is still in high school or with a job, or they have different experiences at school) it becomes harder to relate and easier to grow apart.

"There really aren't many advantages of a long distance relationship," says Chris Brown, a junior at University of Connecticut who has been dating a Boston College freshman since July. "It takes more effort, more phone calls - and lets face it, talking on the phone is great but it's just not the same as being there. The only positive is that it tends to make you really take advantage of the time you have together - the ups and the downs are more pronounced."

The context of the relationship shifts when translated from high school to college, changing from an everyday constant to phone calls that seem longer than healthy - "Be ready for [huge] phone bills," Brown warns.

While in September freshman anticipate some difficulty, it's hard to predict the specific problems that distance instigates.

"I didn't know what to expect, but, yeah, I figured it'd be tough. It's definitely way harder than I thought it would be," says Tim Lewandowski, A&S '05, who has a girlfriend at St. Louis University.

"The hardest part [is] being able to talk to her over the phone, but not actually see her. It's tough because we spent almost everyday together and now we're lucky to see each other every other month."

The paradox of long distance relationships is that they serve to strengthen the bond or end the relationship, and often there are no external indications of which will apply. "I'm so happy [my girlfriend and I are] still together," says Lewandowski. "It's harder than anything I've ever done, especially since before going away I didn't even think we'd be able to do it ... but I can't imagine myself with anyone else. It's true what they say - distance does make the heart grow fonder."

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