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Wednesday, April 17
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

OPINION: What I learned about love from long-distance dating

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I’ve been with my partner for over five years, and about four of those have been spent living a plane ride away from each other.  

Being in a long-distance relationship is undeniably challenging and isolating. Not being able to see your partner every day, hold their hand or go on dates is really hard, and it can feel like the world is playing a cruel trick on you sometimes. You finally find the person whose heart mirrors your own and then you’re forced to live apart.  

It’s the reality for many college students who study far away from home, though. And the anxiety of long-distance dating can also be what tears couples apart. When soon-to-be long-distance couples talk about their futures, many of them decide the distance isn’t worth the hardship and break up before their inevitable parting.  

Someone may have advised you to never start college in a relationship. You may have even heard someone’s horror story about how long-distance dating was a miserable disaster for them. At the end of the day, you are trusting that your partner is still going to feel as passionately about you when there are many miles between you and in-person contact isn’t an opiton. And that can be really tough. 

Despite the turmoil of long-distance dating, I wouldn’t trade a single second of the last five years with my partner for anything in the world. I’ve learned that a long-distance relationship is not only possible but incredibly worth it. Navigating the difficulties of living apart from each other has helped us build a better foundation of trust and connection that will only enrich our relationship when we live in the same town again.  

Of all the ways long distance has affected my relationship, none have been more fulfilling than the way it’s helped us become better communicators. Living apart makes it incredibly difficult to read someone’s body language. The limitations of long distance push you to open up about how you feel and if you’re struggling. Your partner can’t look at you and know you’re upset when you can’t be in the same place, so it’s important to FaceTime regularly, call each other every day and text each other without worry that you’ll annoy the other.  

Though living far away from your partner can also contribute to loneliness, you can choose to thrive in independence. Not having my partner physically by my side throughout college forced me to get more involved in on-campus activities and meet friends. It was also important that neither one of us choose where we wanted to go to school based on the other person, which allowed us to grow independently while still being together, cheering each other on every step of the way. It’s also shown us that while we can live apart, we never want to when college is over.  

Long distance also proves that the foundational friendship you have with your partner is more important than anything else. It’s going to be hard and you’ll lose yourself in a sea of isolation if you don’t have the mutual understanding and drive to meet each other’s emotional needs. You have to like your partner just as much as you love them if it’s going to work. When intimacy and physical touch are unattainable, what remains is just how much you want to talk to each other and be each other’s best friend.  

This isn’t to say that long distance is preferable or easy. It’s not. But if you want to make it work, it’s important to remember long distance isn’t just anxiety and time apart and loneliness. It’s also an unparalleled sense of vulnerability that makes me feel closer to my partner than anyone else. It’s the way my heart travels leaps and bounds when I see them after months of no physical contact. It’s every sleepy phone call. It’s knowing this love is real and true because their absence is a heavy stone on my heart.  

To love someone so much that it physically hurts when you can’t see them is a signal of a connection that can last a lifetime. Don’t let the prospect of a long-distance relationship stop you from achieving that emotional and romantic bond. Love is always worth the struggle. 

Erin Stafford (she/her) is a senior studying journalism with a minor in English. She dedicates this article to her boyfriend, Luke, who makes her feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  

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